Making Sense of the Friday the 13th Franchise


I’m a weird dude. I’m a minister who spends a lot of time thinking about horror movies. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Friday the 13th Series.

Back in the eighties, it was nearly a draw between the Halloween franchise and the Friday the 13th franchise. Since then, I have become more of a Halloween guy but I still love Friday the 13th.

I’ve also been re-listening to Horror Movie Podcast’s coverage of the movies that made Jason Vorhees famous. Yet, the lack of continuity in the movies is something HMP hits on that has also driven me crazy for decades.

Once upon time, I owned the various novelizations of the films. I lost them many years ago and they are out of print. A used copy of the Friday the 13th Part 2 novel now goes for more than $2000 on Amazon!

I found bits of these novelizations online and have been revisiting them. Many of them were written after the fact (the first two were published in 1988). The author, Simon Hawke, does a fair bit of retconning to be sure but it is interesting how he tries to make sense of the movies.

I’m going to focus on the first sequel because it is my favorite F13 flick. I saw it first and it scared the crap out of me. In my opinion, it also features the best characters and the strongest “final girl.”

One of the many objections many have to the 1981 film is that no explanation is give for Jason’s existence. Everyone from Sean Cunningham to Betsy Palmer to Tom Savini have all raised red flags about Jason. Betsy Palmer stated in interviews that the first movie makes no sense unless Jason is dead!

So, how does the novelization deal with it?

Hawkes writes that Jason crawls out of the lake unsure of how long he was under the water. He is tired and disoriented. He staggers into the woods and falls asleep. Once he awakes many hours later, the camp is empty. In the interim, Mrs. Vorhees has been taken to a hospital and has been sedated because she was hysterical. The camp has been cleared because of the tragedy.

Jason expects his mother to return even though he is afraid she will be extremely angry. He takes shelter in the camp eventually he comes to believe that his mother will never return. He also notices that his face has been extremely maligned by time under water. He is ashamed and finds a sack to hide his face.

He lives off the land as he has been taught during his time at the camp. He doesn’t see his mother again until he stumbles upon her being beheaded. He cradles the head and carries it back to his little shack that he has adopted.

He planned to attack Alice for killing his mother but the cops show up before is able to finish the job. But, in the novel he is grown, so what about the final scene of the original?

It is a dream sequence, however, according to the novel, he did really attack her but she imagined it was a boy. It was actually a grown man but he retreated back under the water when he saw the police arrive.

The novelization opens with Alice. She is not in San Francisco but has returned to Crystal Lake. She had travelled home to California but her therapy was going nowhere. She decides to confront her fears directly by returning to the original scene of the crime much to her parent’s objections.

She drives to Crystal Lake during the day and walks around the campsite. Jason spots her and recognizes. He searches for a weapon and goes to assault her but by the time he gets back she is driving away. He notes her car and begins to spend night after night searching for that car in the nearby town. Once he spots it, it is game on. He enjoys killing her so much that it sets him off on his murder spree.

The novel also paints Ginny as an unreliable narrator. She uses a politically incorrect term to describe Jason’s mental capacity. Yet, the novel insists that this is a myth. In fact, Jason is very smart even though he has always been very quiet, withdrawn, creepy and quick to heal.

I know the novel (which, lawsuit aside, should not be out of print…Kindle anyone?) doesn’t solve every problem. But I like Mr. Hawke’s attempt to solve some of the problems. I hope that once the lawsuit is settled and either Lebron James or Blumhouse reboots the franchise that they take note. Personally, I’m for a Netflix series ala “Haunting of Hill House” running from background to Mrs. Vorhees to the hockey mask—but that’s just me.

Matthew Rawlings