Disqus for Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise




Ah, and There is No Betty: The Wobbly Canon Of The Friday the 13th Franchise, Part 2

The first three installments of the venerable Friday the 13th franchise enjoyed the advantage of having very little back story. Screenwriters needn’t have spent much time worrying about continuity, since there was almost nothing to contradict. As the series continued and events piled up, keeping the ongoing story consistent became more of a hassle.

Or, actually, it didn’t— but should have. Paramount’s red-headed-stepchild view of the franchise, as well as its mandated quick turnaround schedule for each new installment, guaranteed that little concern was placed on getting the details right. It’s easy to imagine an early meeting: executive to screenwriter, “Get them in the woods, get them naked, and get them dead. That’s it.”

It’s no shock that inconsistencies began to appear with more frequency beginning with Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter.  Amusing, then, that the film opens with a strikingly precise recreation of the moonlit aftermath of the previous film’s climatic barn fight. Except… Friday the 13th Part 3D ends with sole survivor Chris being escorted by police from Higgins Haven in daylight. This opens up two equally unlikely scenarios: either the police waited a full day to remove Jason’s body, or they arrived at night but kept Chris at the scene until morning. Considering the urgency with which the first responders act (helicopter, lights bars, etc.), it seems more plausible that the scene takes place the same night as the murders, not 24 hours later. But then where was Chris during all this? Given the series' tradition of unreliable “chair jumper” dream sequences, its equally likely that she spent the night in a canoe on the lake as it is she re-entered the main house (where we see her exiting and being escorted to a waiting police cruiser). Since the character's story does not continue in the film, its a minor detail overall, but it does lead to a small, secondary concern: does the loose trilogy of Part 2 through The Final Chapter take place over the course of four days or five? A definitive answer is impossible without knowing when the police arrived at Higgins Haven.

The body of Jason Voorhees is transported to the local morgue, presumably alongside those of his victims. It would be safe to presume the morgue to be busy that night, given the sharp rise in cooler occupancy over the previous few days. Instead we see only a minimal police presence and a graveyard shift. Axel is bored enough to watch public broadcast exercise videos. You'd think that three nights worth of processing murder victims would make for a substantial workload. Once revived and back on the hunt, Jason makes his way back to the vicinity of Crystal Lake. Without a limp. And with no noticeable spinal damage. Then again, if the fractured skull and colossal damage to the left hemisphere of his brain doesn't slow him down, this probably isn't much of an issue. The series silently embraces the idea that Jason can survive anything here, ironically in the installment that wished to convince us that he'd be killed once and for all.The characters of Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter function perfectly well for a self-contained movie, but not realistically given the context of the previous films.

Mrs. Jarvis, Trish, and young Tommy don't mention the two massacres that have wiped out their neighbors. In fact, Mrs. Jarvis goes jogging around the lake with her daughter, presumably past two recent mass murder sites, and chats mindlessly about her ex-husband. The newly arrived partygoers don't even get a customary Crystal Lake prophet of doom warning. Abel is clearly not a competent replacement for Crazy Ralph.

Rob arrives looking to avenge his sister's death. Assuming the “Sandra” he refers to as his sister is the character portrayed by Marta Kober in Friday the 13th Part II, she’s only been dead a only few days. He's a quick mover, putting together weapons, supplies, and press clippings. He's remarkably quick dealing with grief, too, since we never see him particularly upset. The odds of Rob’s “Sandra” being a different character are thin, since Paul makes it clear that his Camp Counsellors in training were the “first” to re-enter Jason’s domain since his mother’s death. While it’s possible that Paul might have been unaware of an earlier murder, there’s no reason to believe that anything other than sloppy screenwriting is at play here. At least Barry Cohen and Bruce Hidemi Sakow bothered to research a character’s name from the earlier film, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

Instead of grieving for his dead sister, Rob hangs out with Tommy and bats his eyelashes at Trish. Mrs. Jarvis doesn't object to her children bringing a stranger into the house, which would be a normal reaction given recent local events. She even flippantly asks Tommy what he’d do if a serial killer walked through the front door he’d left unlocked. Trish suggests challenge him to Zaxxon. Pretty cavalier attitudes considering the bodies piling up all around town.Instead of challenging Jason to video games, he buries a machete in his skull. Why this would be a more effective method of killing the resilient killer is anyone’s guess, considering the wound is arguably no less or more fatal than the hanging or ax blow from the climax of Friday the 13th Part 3D. But it is.

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning has the dubious honor of containing its first logic problem within its title. The phrase “New Beginning” is endlessly derisible, given that all “beginnings” are— intrinsically—“new”. I suppose the producers could have simply reused the opening scene from one of the previous four films to avoid the problem. But then, at best, the film would need to be retitled Friday the 13th Part V: A Very Familiar Beginning, since a “beginning” cannot, by definition, be “old”.

Considering how the movie does begin, perhaps replaying Barry and Claudette’s death scene WAS the better option. The film opens with Tommy, a year older, watching as two punks attempt to exhume Jason’s body. He might as well be watching himself and Hawes from the next installment, but that, of course, would be far more interesting than what we get. The grave robbers dig down half a foot or so only to be killed by a lightly napping Jason. It’s a dream sequence, so the scene doesn’t need to conform to any sort of logic. Convenient, because it doesn’t. Then again, the remainder of the film— not a dream—doesn’t fare any better.The previous films may have played loose with the calendar, but here the timeline completely disintegrates. If the first film is said to have taken place in ’79 (as established by Mrs. Voorhees tombstone in FINAL CHAPTER), and Paul’s “five long years” campfire speech is accurate, that would place the action depicted in of PART 2 through FINAL CHAPTER in 1984. If Tommy is 13 in the fourth film and 18 in the fifth, that means A NEW BEGINNING takes place in 89. Of course, nowhere is Tommy’s age stated explicitly, but the math is close. The music and fashions of the movie are horrifically off base. New Wave was all but dead by ’89 and African-American culture was certainly no longer following Michael Jackson as a fashion icon. A minor point perhaps, since the film couldn’t hope to predict future clothing and radio trends, but it nevertheless paints the proceedings with an amount of inauthenticity.

Ignoring the dream sequence that opens the film, Mayor Cobb and Sheriff Tucker’s banter makes it clear that Jason Voorhees’ body was cremated after his demise in FINAL CHAPTER. In the next article in this series, I’ll explore JASON LIVES’s handling of the idea. But for now, the real question: what would have happened to Jason’s remains? If we accept, based on the evidence found in the original film, that Crystal Lake is in New Jersey, the answer is absolutely not. Each county in the state has the responsibility of handling indigent deaths, that is, funeral arrangements for those who die without means. Because legal “next of kin” status is often difficult to resolve quickly, New Jersey opts to perform cheap, ceremony-less burials so as not to potentially offend the religious convictions of any family that comes forward afterward. In short, Jason would NOT have been cremated in New Jersey.

The population of Crystal Lake continues their strange (and, from a storytelling perspective, convenient) amnesia in A NEW BEGINNING. Young lovers Eddie and Tina don’t hesitate to rush into the forest for sex- and the Pinehurst staff don’t seem alarmed by the behavior, even though college-aged kids having sex in the woods has never really worked out well in the town’s past. Likewise, Ethyl has no more suspicion or anger about a vagrant coming onto her property than she does Eddie and Tina, even though a homeless man living in the woods (who else fits that description?) would seem to be a bad omen in the neighborhood.

You really must marvel at the kind of town fathers that would be comfortable allowing a half-way house for the mentally unstable to be run in the same town where two separate murderers went on horrific killing sprees. It’s possible that Pinehurst was founded before the murders… but if so, they certainly haven’t done much to reassure their neighbors that proper security measures have been taken. The inmates come and go largely as they wish. Vic could have gone into town, ax in hand, and taken out an entire candy store full of chocolate bar lovers had he wished.And then, there’s Roy. Sigh. Roy’s profession as an ambulance driver would have had him responding to at least four sites of multiple murder over the course of the last week, as well as having two of his co-workers at the morgue murdered on duty. Between cleaning up the deaths and causing new crime scenes himself, when did this man have the time to sleep, eat, or visit the bathroom? I think it’s fair to say that Roy was the busiest man in town. Nevermind the inexplicable photographs in his wallet, the real question is how he kept his energy up in a time before Five Hour Energy Drinks.

Roy is dispatched by the most arbitrary lawn-equipment accident in film history and life returns to normal in Crystal Lake. Not that any of the residents of FINAL CHAPTER or NEW BEGINNING would likely notice. You’d think that after five films worth of murder, the town of Crystal Lake would maintain a formidable, well-trained, and heavily armed police force. Can you seriously imagine THAT ballot initiative failing?
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