Friday the 13th: Vintage TV Spots!

You know what today is, right?

FRIDAY THE 13th. One that’s occurring smack dab in the middle of the HALLOWEEN SEASON.

Don’t squander it, guys. Calendar blessings like this won’t happen often. I’m mandating that all of you watch at least one of the Friday the 13th movies today. I’d be happier if you watched more than one, but since Dino Drac partially appeals to people very far removed from horror circles, I’m managing my expectations.

As Friday the 13th is my favorite of all scary franchises, I wanted to do something special today. For some reason, I kept coming back to this idea of stealing total strangers’ YouTube videos.

So yeah, today, FRIDAY THE 13th, we’re gonna take a look at the original television spots for each of the first ten movies. (Which is the whole “original” franchise. Freddy vs. Jason technically belonged to Freddy, while the 2009 remake started a whole new chain.)

I didn’t crawl out of the womb loving Friday the 13th. As a kid, the series was only something that I was aware of. Cautiously aware, because I was young, easily frightened, and wouldn’t have been allowed to see those movies even if I wanted to. I dressed as Jason Voorhees for several Halloweens and loved the time he went on Arsenio, but for so many years, my only real exposure to his movies was through television commercials.

I’m roughly the same age as this franchise. When it was a baby, so was I. As I grew a little older and gained a better understanding of that “TV” contraption, nearly every year brought a new batch of Friday the 13th commercials along with it. Hardcore fans would recognize some of these ads as cutdown trailers with added voiceover, but since I didn’t see any of the F13 trailers in theaters, the comparatively shoddy TV spots mean so much more to me.

Only in retrospect can I consider these memories “fond,” but I distinctly recall the feelings I had whenever a F13 promo came on the TV in my old bedroom. It was mix of complete dread and total intrigue. Every boy my age knew Jason and claimed to love Jason, but so few of us had actually seen his work. What we imagined wasn’t far off from the truth, but looking back at these promos, it’s safe to say that I envisioned films that were way, waaaay gorier. Hey, when you let kids fill in the blanks, the results are always going to be extreme.

You’ll enjoy these promos even if you didn’t grow up with them, but I think they work best if you imagine them through the eyes of a child.

Release Date: May 9th, 1980
Synopsis: When camp counselors turn up dead, people point their fingers at a boogeyman… but totally ignore the boogeyman’s mother.

Simple, effective, and very “hinty.” You won’t learn much about the movie from this, aside from the fact that random people are being stalked and/or killed. But I guess you don’t need to know much more than that.

Going the “hinty” route was especially useful for the first movie, since it had no legacy to rely on. They got people into those theaters by letting their imaginations run wild.

You knew by the screaming girls and the “R” rating that this was going to be one hell of a horror movie, but beyond that, you had no clue. And what was the best way to satisfy your curiosity? By buying a ticket! SNEAKY.

Release Date: May 1st, 1981
Synopsis: To avenge the murder of his mother, Jason Voorhees starts his killing spree for real.

Since the ads from the first movie were arguably just as remembered as the film itself, it made sense that they’d continue the same campaign for the sequel. (Which came out less than a year later!)

So, the countdown (count-up?) continues, but this time, you get a much clearer impression of what you’re in for: Murder, gore, and a killer who was definitely NOT an otherwise charming middle-aged woman. Indeed, since any appearances of “Young Jason” in the first film happened in flashbacks or dreams, Part 2 marked the very first “live” appearance of Jason Voorhees!

The promo is pretty basic, and even “lifeless” when compared to most of the later ones, but this is still my favorite Friday the 13th film. It’s rarely the one I tell new fans to start with, but it’s the only chapter I can watch ten times in a row, anytime.

Release Date: August 13th, 1982
Synopsis: The mayhem continues, but this time, it’s in 3-D!

The core tenets of Friday the 13th were well-established in the first two films, but Part III is the one that made Jason Voorhees who he is. (The character’s general ambiance changed a lot for this film… but it really didn’t change much after this film. Hell, Part III is where Jason found his first hockey mask!)

Owing to the hottest movie gimmick of its era, Part III arrived in 3-D. Unsurprisingly, the TV promo made a huge deal about that. I’m mostly impressed with how they limited the “3-D example shots” to strict horror territory. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it’s full of shit like 3-D yo-yos. Thank you for knowing that yo-yos wouldn’t boost ticket sales, Ancient Promo Producer.

Release Date: April 13th, 1984
Synopsis: Jason Voorhees finally gets in over his head… or so they said at the time.

While it’s only my second favorite F13 film, if I’m being objective, this is the granddaddy of ‘em all. If you’ve never seen any of them and can only go by reputation, Part IV is exactly what you’d expect a Friday the 13th movie to be. It’s the one where trends became hallmarks, and it’s the one where Crispin Glover danced like an ant-covered crazy person for 42 seconds straight.

If I’m remembering the story correctly, the notoriously brutal MPAA backed off on this film, happy enough that the “tasteless” Friday the 13th movies were finally ending. (Boy, were they in for a surprise.) As such, the sex is sexier, the gore is gorier, and the kills are, um, killier. Despite that, Part IV still strikes me as the most mainstream-feeling of all the F13 films. Maybe I’m just blinded by Corey Feldman.

As the promo indicates, the hook for Part IV was all about seeing Jason Voorhees die. I mean, REALLY die. Sure, he came back later, but if you’ve seen that shot of Jason’s bare head slowly sliding down the length of a machete, you’d never say that they weren’t at least intending to end things there.

It may be my favorite of all ten promos, if only for the neat shot of Jason’s busted mask see-sawing on the title page.

Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Synopsis: If Jason Voorhees is “dead,” how is he still killing people? We may need a closer look under that mask…

I’ll let the cat out of the bag and hope the uninitiated won’t mind being spoiled. Outside of a dream sequence, Jason Voorhees does NOT appear in this movie. In his place is a vengeful ringer who uses Jason’s reputation to shield his identity.

That’s just one of the many things people complain about when it comes to Part V. Arguably the most aimless chapter in the series – and definitely the crudest, production-wise – it isn’t an easy movie to defend. The most positive thing I can say about it is that there’s a scene where a guy dressed like a Thriller-era Michael Jackson sings a duet while shitting in an outhouse.

But Friday the 13th movies are 100% Teflon. Even when one of them fails artistically, it’s still enjoyably bad. And if you were gonna turn any Friday the 13th movie into a Rocky Horror deal, it’d probably be this one.

That aside, I love the mood of this promo. It’s dark, it’s mean, and it perfectly captures the feeling I described in those too-many introductory paragraphs. You know, the ones you skipped?

Release Date: August 1st, 1986
Synopsis: Resurrected in hilarious fashion, Jason Voorhees is back… and he’s PISSED.

Jason Lives marked a turning point in the series. Depending on where you land, your image of Jason is either from “before this movie” or “after this movie.” The differences are subtle, but trust me, they’re there.

With the “principles” of Jason Voorhees now firmly a part of pop culturedom, there’s a weird bit of whimsy in this film. It has its blood and it has its kills, but there are also plenty of “winks.” I don’t know that Jason Lives was made to scare as much as it was made to create really noisy movie theaters. Does that make any sense?

Course, you’d never guess at that self-awareness from this promo, which fit right in with the older ones. I’m especially fond of using the backlit mask on the title screen. It hinted at dialing things up a few notches, even if the movie really didn’t do that.

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Synopsis: Nothing can stop Jason Voorhees… except maybe telekinesis.

The New Blood is another one of my favorites. From the script to the direction to the Lar Park Lincoln, there’s a lot to love about it. To me, The New Blood feels not like a big huge theater release, but more like a direct-to-video thing. I mean that as a compliment. It’s just a straight-up Friday the 13th film, one that seemed free of the burdens of its franchise’s evolving reputation.

If you look at the series as a whole, The New Blood seems like a step backward. But in a GOOD way.

I do wonder how people responded to this promo, though. I’m not sure that anyone was dying to see some random girl get positioned as a match for Jason, y’know?

On the other hand, something just occurred to me. This film came out just a year after the fabulously successful Dream Warriors, and between the heroine’s blonde hair and the fact that she had superpowers, I’m wondering if this was meant to capitalize on it. If that’s common knowledge, forgive me. If it isn’t, am I right?

Release Date: July 28th, 1989
Synopsis: After a long (loooong) adventure at sea, Jason makes his mark in the Big Apple.

Since Jason Takes Manhattan was the first F13 movie that I made the deliberate choice to see, I’m loyal to it. And I’m completely willing to overlook the fact that Manhattan was only onscreen for five seconds.

I remember this promo very well, specifically because of that one waitress’s unforgettable line, “Welcome to New Yawk.” That, my friends, is DELIVERY. On a similar note, I think this promo has the best voiceover work in all ten of ’em. There’s just something about the way he gets gently quirky when he says “Friday the 13th.” I love it. I love every noise in this promo.

Trivia: As much as I’d like to watch every Friday the 13th movie tonight, I’m not going to have time. On the short list of F13 films I must watch before midnight, Jason Takes Manhattan sits right on top. I have no idea why. It’s far from the best of them, and in many ways, it’s among the worst. I guess I just want to reconfirm that this film’s version of “unmasked Jason” really did look like rotting pumpkin meat.

Release Date: August 13th, 1993
Synopsis: With his mortal body blown to pieces, the spirit of Jason Voorhees jumps between a series of surrogate hosts and… what?!

Jason Goes to Hell was a much different sort of Friday the 13th film. It didn’t necessarily trample the established canon, but it sure added a lot of funky stuff to it. Despite any indications made in the promo, Jason Voorhees only appears as himself for a small portion of the film. His disembodied spirit spends most of the movie hopping from one host to another. I’d need to watch it again to definitively state my opinion, but I’ll at least say this: When I’m in the mood for Friday the 13th, I almost never mean Jason Goes To Hell.

Still, it’s a great little promo. Jason Goes to Hell was the only chapter released in the ‘90s, and man, this promo FEELS like it. As they say in France, “Izzy this that Spawn ACKtor?”

Seriously. The fire! And the chrome! And the music, which sounds suspiciously like the theme that plays whenever the Undertaker’s druids march out from the backstage area!

It’s all so ‘90s. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that Jason Goes to Hell was so different. Times had changed. Horror had grown more “gothic.” They weren’t going outside the box – they were just trying to fit the fuck in.

Release Date: April 26th, 2002
Synopsis: Even in the very distant future, Jason Voorhees is still Jason Voorhees.

Not gonna front: I dig this movie. This is how you do a spoof! What I loved most about Jason X is that it didn’t lose sight of its roots, even within its attempts to be funny. I mean, you stick Jason Voorhees on a spaceship in the distant future, and I’m sure there’s a temptation to take it so far that it seems more condescending than earnest. They knew just where to draw the line.

What could’ve easily been a thing that diehards called “blasphemy” was actually a send-up without ridicule, and though its strange flavor makes it something I’ll only occasionally watch, I always enjoy it when I do.

The TV spot did little to hide the movie’s goofy nature, nor did it need to. It’d been a decade since the last Friday the 13th movie, and even longer since the last “real” one. The people behind Jason X weren’t playing to the old crowd; they were after an audience who mostly knew Jason Voorhees as a pop cliché. People who were more familiar with parodies of Jason Voorhees than the real thing. Given that, the promo’s tone – much like the movie’s – was perfect.

And now, an admission. I’ve written this whole amazingly long thing on three hours sleep. If it was incoherent, now you know why.

Please make the most of your Friday the 13th. Thank you!

Ch ch ch zz zz zz zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

PS: Check out some inspired F13/Nintendo madness over at Dr. Terror!