Rob and I are cinematically simpatico to a frightening degree for two 30-something heterosexual guys in committed relationships, but where we draw our respective battelines is at our preferred ’80s slasher cheezfests. While Rob mumbles excuses for the continued existence of the unfunny/unscary tedium that is the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, I could be found camping out at Crystal Lake.
Jason Voorhees is pretty much everything I ask for in a murderous cinematic maniac: yes, there’s a back story, but fortunately it’s not that important and takes a backseat to an endless parade of nubile camp counselors blundering blindly into machetes and spear guns after smoking a bowl and boinking a coed. Jason himself is an implacable force of bloodthirsty nature. There’s no bad one liners, no monologuing while the survivor girl comes up with a brilliant plan and he’s been resurrected more times than Aerosmith’s career.
And it’s that resurrection that leads me to ponder whether Mr. Voorhees should be invited to the zombie family reunion. So I turned my attention to Jason Lives, the sixth film in the Friday the 13th franchise, Jason’s fourth starring turn and the first appearance of the undead murderer that’s become ingrained in popular culture.
The case for: Things start off promisingly putridly enough as series staple Tommy Jarvis digs up Jason’s body to prove to himself the slasher is actually dead. The be-webbed, maggoty remains of Mssr. Voorhees pass the Fulci test gracefully. Jason’s reanimation, his first run as the undead and not just a backwoods retard with a bag on his head, comes courtesy of a bolt of lightning in cinematic Frankenstein fashion (the town general store is also named Karloff’s for extra Frankenstein-iness). We’ve previously dubbed Ol’ Frank a key root in the zombie family tree but decided he just doesn’t make the cut on his own. Jason's first shuffling steps out of the grave are certainly zombie worthy, but fairly quickly he's back to his traditional implacable stride as he mows through his victims. Speaking of the victims, Jason Voorhees is even smart enough to chop the phone lines to the camp when he comes a-callin’, which actually speaks to his zombie bona fides. Remember, Romero’s rambling dead were also smart enough to cripple the phones in Night of the Living Dead. But that does raise a question about ….
The case against: Jason is far more comfortable with tools than I generally expect from my undead assassins: the signature machete, a belt full of knives and even chucking an arrow. And pausing fresh from the grave to don his signature hockey mask is more sartorial acumen than any zombie has a right to claim. While Jason shrugs off bullet wounds like his zombie kin, a point blank shot to the head—a sovereign remedy for zombies—doesn’t halt him either, which is a serious breach of the Romero Rules. His prudish disapproval of promiscuous sex and recreational drug use also represents more moralizing than a zombie’s festering brain can handle.
The verdict: Not a zombie by reason of utility. Jason’s just too handy with his … umm … hands to take a place among the living dead. While writers continue to find flimsy excuses to dredge his carcass from the bottom of Crystal Lake for another killing spree and the accompanying box office receipts, Jason exhibits none of the botched science experiment/viral outbreak symptoms we’ve come to expect from a canon zombie. Combined with his intelligence, skill with weapons and single mindedness, Mama Voorhees’ little boy just doesn’t make the cut.