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Sultan of Slaughter

Fangoria #63
By Chas Balun

It's dark and it's raining, with an occasional lightning flash punctuated by a rumbling thunderclap. No one is out. It's one of those nights.

Inside the cabin, illuminated moodily by a blazing fire in the fireplace, lay two naked teenagers who, by all available visual evidence, are both fornicator and substance abusers. The wisecracking yuppie stud shuffles off to the bathroom. His girl friend is slipping into her robe when she hears something hit the door from the outside. She is startled at first, but soon becomes curious. She slowly open the door, tightening her robe about her waist, and calls, "Anybody there? Who's out there? Hey, c'mon..."

She cautiously slides out on the covered porch, anxiously searching for...what? She's not sure. She calls out again, only to be answered by a bellowing clap of thunder. She doesn't have a flashlight. She's without shoes and sense, and tonight's her first night at camp so she doesn't know her way around. But this adventurous teenage pinhead has a destiny to follow...Tch ...Tch...Tch...Ha...Ha...Ha...Tch...Tch...Tch...

She leaves the porch, venturing further from the warmth and safety of the cabin, still calling furtively, "Hey! C'mon! Who's out here? What do you want?" Lightning flashes. She thinks she hears something directly behind her and turns suddenly and...You wake up in a frenzied sweat, unable to recognize and place this scene in the Friday the 13th series, although you've seen each one of 'em at least five times! You can't even remember if it was a pitchfork, machete, axe, corkscrew, road flare, spear gun, butcher knife, or 70mm armor-piercing shell that eventually wasted our reckless little post pubescent princess. If this has happened to you, don't fret. It's just the Holiday Teen Camp Massacre Blues that at momentarily clouding your better judgment.

But still, you can't shake the feeling and all your friends rely on you to be an absolute authority in matters of this kind. Was it Part 2 or 3? Or was it the latest one where Jason returns after a year's sabbatical as an electro-charged Italian cannibal zombie? These slightly blurred periods of recollection are absolutely unforgivable for the conscientious gorehound and Friday the 13th aficionado.

You've already committed to memory all the other essential Friday the 13th slaughter trivia, including: Highest Body Count (Part V: A New Beginning with 18 murders and three dream killings): Most Repeated Murder Method (a tie: big knife, axe, and machete): Most Inventive (Jason's slide down the machete in The Final Chapter and the kid whacked in half while walking on his hands in Part 3): and Stupidest Murder Method (Tommy Jarvis trying to chain a big rock to Jason and drown him in Crystal Lake!)

If you still are unable to place this aforementioned scene, relax, bunky, for sometimes life is stranger than you could ever imagine. If this scene causes you any difficulty, then you probably don't even know what Jason does between movies (does he fish? hike? arts and crafts?); or even why he's still pissed off after slaughtering 40 or 50 people. How about the real explanation (provided your reviewer by a highly-placed source who must remain nameless) on the focusing-meditational -mind control techniques used by Jason Voorhees to survive multiple axe, knife, and drownings, not to mention being buried alive for two-and-a-half years?

Jason is, indeed, one puzzling dude! Perhaps we'll never ever really know the truth about the man who has apparently survived through six blood-drenched episodes. Hell, think about it. It only took three installments of The Omen to kill the anti-Christ!

What does it all mean, then? Is Jason Voorhees a psychoanalytical archetype personifying a remorselessly evil Id, or does he represent a sudden resurgence of right-wing Nixonian reactionary politics where various anti-social, rebellious acts (adolescent sex, foul-mouthedness, alcohol and drug abuse, truancy, disobedience) are severely dealt with? Perhaps teens of today are learning the perils of irresponsible sex, pot smoking and flippancy of attitude not through serious, cautionary lectures and slide shows in Health Ed classes, but from the Friday the 13th series! They know what happens to luckless teens who are too quick on the zipper or too long on the bong! They don't merely get pregnant, acquire a social disease, go insane, or get a terminal illness. No way! Nothin' that easy! They die horribly, suddenly, and preferably painfully at the hands of a hockey-mask avenging angel! Such irony. More queer twists in life's rich, ever-changing pageant. That's the Voorhees legacy for you. That's our Jason, the Sultan of Slaughter.

It's difficult to focus precisely on the enormous appeal that a brain-damaged, misshapen, machete-wielding Momma's boy can have over a receptive public. But, hell, who knows for sure 'bout anything these days? Jason could be a modern embodiment of some primeval, vengeful spirit that haunts the wicked or he could be simply an agent of catharsis, acting out our deepest, most deranged and violent desires. Through his bloodletting, we are purged and relieved of the homicidal tension building within us. Really, who hasn't thought of cork- screwing their boss/teacher/boy friend/girl friend's hand to a cutting board, burying a meat cleaver in their forehead, or nailgunning their whimpering butt right to the wall?

Jason as myth, hmm...let's think a moment here. This guy couldn't possibly survive all the machete mayhem, hatchet-whacking, and other attacks upon his person without some sort of supernatural powers. There's much, much more to this lump-headed, gap-toothed King of Carnage than one could ever guess. Maybe Jason is a sort of renaissance man in reverse, a return to the basic primal urges in man while forsaking our techno-modern utopia that negatively reinforces our hotheaded ambitions to pitchfork our neighbors to death, disembowel the cocky creeps and howl in the moonlight over their freshly flayed and gutted corpses? Never thought of it in quite that way, huh? Maybe you should. Maybe you ought to be mucho thankful that your neighbor's kids see the movies, buy the magazines and 3-D posters, and only collect Jason-related slaughter memorabilia.

Or maybe you would like to remember the time you gave the kids some grief about how loud and stupid the music they were listening to was or the other time when...Tch...Tch...Tch...Ha...Ha...Ha... It's night and very dark. It's raining hard. You've stepped into a deep puddle. Your shoes, socks, feet and ankles are soaked. Lightning cracks, thunder breaks. You've just been fired from your job, your girl friend is making the beast with two backs with your former best buddy, and, quite simple, you've had it up to HERE! Grasping the wet, cold machete by the blade suddenly seems quite comforting. You ease along the bushes, quite sure no one could ever see you, let alone recognize you. It's begun to rain even harder...Tch...Tch...Tch...Ha...Ha...Ha...

Jason indeed lives...in all of us. Perhaps we faithfully attend these films in order to exorcise our own demons. Or, more likely still, it continues to remain quite gratifying to witness all of the colorful ways in which wise-cracking, sexually active, braindead teens can be slaughtered, too.

The Friday the 13th series has been as ever-broadening canvas upon which various talents have left their indelible brushmarks. Through the ever-changing face of our anti-hero, each successive director has attempted to explore, define and coalesce the various elements involved in Jasonmania.

The first Friday the 13th showed us the wrathful, vengeful mother, ever cognizant of the fact that irresponsible, careless teens fornicators directly caused the death of her baby boy. This lady, equipped with size 14 hunting boots and husky hands any linebacker would be proud of, really knows how to play exterminator, too.

In Part 2, it's Jason standing in for his decapitated mom, not yet wearing his trademark hockey mask. Instead, he's stylishly coiffed with a burlap sack, capitalizing on the then-currently Elephant Man hysteria that was sweeping the nation. Jason showed us a glimpse of his vulnerable, sensitive side by building a cute little altar with Mom's head as the centerpiece.

Jason knows that those teens are up to in their rooms after hours, too, and he harpoons a couple of twits who are fervently making whoopee. Jason sort of dies in 3-D at the climax of Part 3, but revives in the morgue in The Final Chapter before greasing the edge of a machete with his brain pan at the film's conclusion, not to mention receiving a good half dozen machete blows after he's down.

Jason played worm food in Part VI: Jason Lives as a zombie, but George Romero and Lucio Fulci have little to worry about. These people in this latest installment are painfully hip to all the hooey.

The Friday the 13th series may be near its ultimate end as Part VI began a conscious slide toward self-parody with the grave-digging guy directly eyeing the camera and spouting oh-so-hiply, "Some people call this stuff entertainment." Where was Jason when you really needed the guy, huh? That smirking, condescending bravado allows too much unneeded commentary and not enough carnage. Give us our daily blood and forgive us our trust in splatter cinema.

We all know Jason could never have succumbed to the bogus drowning and outboard motor evisceration at the climax of Part VI, so now what? Rumor has it the series will continue through 1993, and then there's a weekly non-Jason television series. Oh, boy, can't wait. Can you imagine if Jason had made it on prime time, wasting teens while Bill Cosby nurturing them on another channel? Would they even stoop to using Jason as some commercials dupe selling God knows what? "This Sears battery has just been cut, chopped, broken, and burned beyond recognition, but there's not a car it can't start!" Oh, Lord, no! Spare us! Give us our rightful Jason! Give him back to us, you wanton blasphemers. You mocking, scornful philistines! Give him back to-

It's dark and raining. (That's better.) The new, pretty camp counselor slips into her negligee as she hear a sudden thump coming from the shower room. (Ah, now you've got it.) She buttons up the remaining two clasps on her robe, tightens her belt, and...Tch...Tch...Tch...Ha...Ha...Ha...Something is moving very quickly down the hall towards her as she...Whooaa boy! It's the Man! Lookout missy! He's gonna getcha!

Jason lives. He's here to stay and slay. We really wouldn't have it any other way now, would we?

 

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