14 May 2011


Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Two

Leave it to my marvelous meme to combine my two month of May themes of motherhood and the movies. Last week, I featured a film set entirely in a modern high school, the divorced single mother of almae matres. (See Locus Focus: Take Fifty-One.) Today, I give you a setting from a genre not immediately associated with mothers--although they are a major trope--and a franchise that only got off the ground because of a mother--although she has since been overshadowed by her more famous devoted son.

Crystal Lake
Friday the 13th Franchise

Alice: The boy--is he dead, too?


The boy. Jason.


In the lake, the one . . . the one who attacked me . . . the one who pulled me underneath the water.

Ma'am, we didn't find any boy.

But . . . then he's still there.

I can't remember which director of a Friday the 13th film gave us the understatement of Hollywood history by telling cast members who wanted to do multiple takes to get their scenes just right that there was no need to do it because they weren't filming The Godfather. But that's probably just as well, because what he said is the perfect preemptive strike against any sort of artistic criticism of any of the movies in this franchise.

Nevertheless, there is one genuinely beautiful moment in the first Friday the 13th movie, which no other installment has ever matched, although Part 3 very cleverly homaged it.

Until this frame, one of the very last in the first Friday the 13th, I don't think any viewer realises just how beautiful a setting Crystal Lake and its surroundings are. It has been a place of shadows and terror all the previous night and an unremarkable lake like any other all the first day. And of course, even before we even see it, we learn that the locals don't look kindly on it--that they might even fear it. So when the next morning finally dawns and we see Crystal Lake in all its natural glory--a state with seemingly nothing to do with human evil--it can take our breath away.

A few seconds later, it takes our breath away again . . . for a completely different reason. =P

Ah, don't you hate it when incredible beauty is just a mask for something else?

Pamela Voorhees certainly did, on the first morning she realised she would never be able to look at Crystal Lake again without remembering how her son died--and how the counselors failed him. And it is her lust for vengeance that has made her Mother of Sorrows to a whole Horror franchise: a demonic reversal of what Christianity has done for the primordial Mother and Child.

Leave it to Horror to take the idea that a mother's love can change the world and give us a mother whose hatred has claimed a lake. As several groups of counselors, campers and other unlucky characters all learn, in the worst way possible, the pristine beauty of Crystal Lake has been poisoned forever by the legend of Jason Voorhees and the bloody legacy of his mother.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Locus:

George and Martha's House in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? @ Birdie's Nest

Image Sources: a) Friday the 13th poster, b) Friday the 13th Part 2 poster, c) Friday the 13th Part 3 poster, d) Crystal Lake screencap


Birdie said...

Wow! That was really interesting. I haven't seen any of the Friday the 13th films because I can't handle slasher movies, but I'm interested in the way that horror films, as a genre, are largely conservative. That is, they preserve the norms society prescribes (and hence the Scream series and the Scary Movie franchise were able to work off of them and spoof them so well).

In that sense, horror films are like murder mysteries...in most of them we see the need for a re-establishment of a social paradigm and the punishment or death of the people who trespass those boundaries.

Enbrethiliel said...


Having watched the first five Friday the 13th films virtually back-to-back and understanding perfectly why a friend calls them a "Slasher Salad" . . . I don't know if I'd call this subgenre of Horror "conservative" as much as "puritanical." Yes, the young people are awash in sexual sin . . . but at least they get killed for it! =P

It's a slightly sick way to have your cake (the titillation of sin) and eat it, too (the swift punishment for sin). Did you know that one major reason Friday the 13th is such a successful franchise is that early fans (and presumably all who followed) ended up identifying with Jason Voorhees? You'd think they'd identify with the other characters--who are, in a sense, based on them--but no: they eventually get behind Jason's gory mission. Then it becomes just another way to make the world a better place. ;-)

The Scream franchise is closer to the world of Murder Mysteries than any other Slasher films, though. Yes, they're still quite graphic, but I recommend them to anyone who thinks he knows Slashers and wants to be thrown for a loop--especially the latest, Scream 4! =D

Thanks for linking up this week, Birdie. =)

Kate said...

Whoa. I really need to see these movies. I missed the peak by a few years - my parents also really believed in movie ratings - and just never got into them. I wonder if I can find that at my library? And why does that feel slightly wicked??

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, dear. Did I seem to be recommending them? =P

I guess there's no (permanent) harm in seeing some of these early "classic" Slashers, just so you see how the genre has evolved in the last thirty years or so. =)

While watching them again last week, I was surprised at how dissatisfying I found them, after the intellectually demanding mind games of Scream. Moreover, Team Voorhees is nowhere near as creative as Freddy Kreuger (whom I was more familiar with)--and I actually felt bored by the kills after a while.

The individual movies are of mixed quality, but one thing I appreciated was the real attempt at continuity in the franchise. I hadn't expected a Slasher series to bother with that sort of storytelling. Since the sequel premiered almost three decades ago, Jason has grown from a mentally challenged man who just wants revenge for the death of his mother to the personification of Evil That Just Will Not Die. On the one hand, awfully simplistic; on the other, primordially profound.