Friday the 13th: Jason's Curse
One of my earliest memories was how I first learned about the near indestructible Jason Voorhees. It was from a neighbour who was a year older than me and with parents more inclined into horror than mine ever were. The legend, as it was told to me, was that there was only one way to defeat Jason, should we ever cross him in real life (and at that age, probably 4 or 5, I certainly thought it a possibility) Ė you had to remove his mask. That made him human, he told me, and that was when you could kill him. Looking back now, my friend had probably watched Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter in secret over his parents shoulder one night, not really catching all the plot points but making up scarier ones in his mind. The facts were wrong, since Jason never even got his mask until halfway through the third film, and even in that one the mask stayed on, but it made sense to five year old me. And it apparently made sense to Eric Morse, too.
After Paramount had cut ties with Jason at the tail end of the 80s, the ďFriday the 13thď brand as we had known it appeared as if it had sunk in the sewage with Jason in Jason Takes Manhattan. The TV series was cancelled around the same time as well, but there was still one last hope for franchisers in 1994 Ė the written word. Previously, there had been novelizations written for select Friday films (Two for Part 3 and then versions of 1, 2 and Jason Lives), but as far as original stories went, well, there werenít any. Enter Eric Morse and what would become branded the ďCamp Crystal LakeĒ series of young adult novels. There were 4 in all, but for those looking for another way for Jason to keep killing at Camp Crystal Lake, apparently even the writers were all out of ideas. What Eric Morse did instead was try to canonize the very idea I heard whispered on the playground growing up Ė the legend of the haunted hockey mask. From the first novel, Motherís Day to the last, Road Trip each was about a someone finding and being possessed by a hockey mask. Jason was there in spirit, but like with the maligned Jason Goes to Hell, Jason wasnít really there.
An eBay win and the help of a few Horror Digital forum members later, Iíve finally gotten my hand on one of the books, the second, Jasonís Curse. As someone starving for new stories from my favorite horror mythology, and someone who recognizes the higher ups at Paramount, New Line, Platinum Dunes or whomever has the rights to Friday the 13th right now havenít got a clue how to handle this franchise, Iíll turn a page back to these books. Iím not expecting Gatsby, but ghastly would be nice. Can T & A translate well in prose? Read on, fellow fanboys, as we carve through this short little novel.
Thereís a retarded boy out on the water at Camp Crystal Lake, but it isnít Jason. His parents, Gabe and Ruth Gleason, refer to him affectionately as ďBig RedĒ because of his size. He may be in a hulking manís body, but heís got the mentality of a child thanks to a traumatic childhood accident. Heís had a few of them, actually. Child services must not exist in Crystal Lake (although A New Beginning informs us they do have a halfway home) because Big Red has brain damage from being hit in the head with an iron by his father when he was still an infant, is missing a leg from an unsupervised chainsaw accident at 14 and was shot in the eye with an arrow(!) by his dadís drunken friend when he was 12. And you thought Jason had it bad. Anyway, this big oaf finds Jasonís mask on the end of his fishing line on the lake (wonder if the sewer lines run there from Manhattan?) and does what anyone would do and tries it on. His glass eye starts to glow and then rage enters his body.
Big Red isnít the only one cursed by Jason. Our hardened heroine, Kelly, is haunted by Jason a different way Ė he apparently killed her brother, Boone. He was out camping at the cabins in Crystal Lake when he met a man with a mask and was hacked up moments later. Kellyís never had closure for Booneís tragic death, so she elects to travel out to camp to face her fears head on. She wonít be heading up there alone, though. Much to her chagrin, her friends: boyfriend Doug and couple Miguel and Tina, see the trip as an idyllic getaway for an otherwise lazy weekend and pile in the car with her. Sex, drugs and alcohol are the last things on Kellyís mind though Ė brandishing a pistol sheís ready to face the legend.
Possesssing Big Red, Jasonís legend is very much real, and it slowly coerces the naÔve to start slaughtering all those who wronged him as a child. His father for giving him that V-shaped imprint on his skull, his mother for letting it happen, the drunk who used him as target practice and anyone who ever laughed at him and his misfortunes. When he starts running out of people to kill he sets his eye (red and glowing) on Kelly and their friends. For it was teenagers like them that made his life a living hell growing up. Heís mad and he has an ax, but Kellyís got a few tricks up her sleeves. Sheís got the camp booby (heh heh) trapped and an open grave with Jasonís name on it!
Friday the 13th fans have never flocked to the series because of its riveting stories, and this book is certainly no exception. Written with a sort of 8th grade simplicity, this novel certainly isnít probing prose. Sentences are short, descriptions are meager and the focus seems intentionally shallow. At least with the movies, any shallowness of story could be offset by a roving camera or a great effects shot, hell, even some boobs. None of that is on display here. The gory details, as it were, are quite literally omitted from the descriptions, which is a mite disappointing considering Writer Eric Morse does effectively setup a few murders. The most memorable kill is probably when Doug picks up the local waitress and has her go back to his bunk. When he goes to see her, he finds her leg seductively strewn over the top bunk. He then notices her other leg is in the bunk below. Great visual, setup and payoff for teenagers doing the wrong thing, but Morse spends so little time describing the carnage here, and in the remainder of the kills, that itís tough for any of this violence to stick. Big Red massacres an entire household, including some kids, but the description of the deaths are done almost in passing, instead focusing on Redís internal anguish. Imagine a Friday film where instead of watching Jason hack off a camperís head we instead stop to see how heís feeling deep down behind that mask. It still amazes me to this day that with all the writers that have taken cracks at the Friday films in the post-Paramount era, none seem to understand the simple delights of the franchise. You donít need to overthink this stuff, which is why a simple businessman like Sean S. Cunningham was able to deliver such a memorable film. The Friday the 13ths are all just about delivery.
Making the focus of this book, and the later books, on a cursed mask rather than Jason is just that sort of overthinking that has left this series up lake without a paddle since the 80s. Itís clear that Big Red is meant to be a not-so-subtle stand-in for Jason Ė both are bald, retarded, victims of negligence and of hulking, impenetrable strength. The problem is that Redís story is just so ludicrous itís tough to see him as a victim and more just as some kind of example youíd see in a child services PSA. To be brain damaged, missing an eye (from an intentional bow and arrow shot from a family friend) and a leg is just too much to accept. The more Morse devotes to describing the plastic leg, the more laughable it all seems. If you thought Jason in the movie was slow, imagine a half-blind dude with one leg running after you. The only thing more funny would have been if Morse had called Big Red ďLuckyĒ instead.
While much of the fundamentals of this story are severely flawed, Eric Morse at the very least tries to to capture his teenagers in the moment, dating the book, sometimes embarrassingly, in the 1994 mileu of its creation. Miguel is always laughing like Beavis (ďHeh-heh-hehĒ isnít nearly as cool written as it is spoken), reference is affectionately made to a Spin Doctors record (remember them? Thought so) and the lead seems to mope as if she smelled like teen spirit. One of the things I really liked with the original Fridays is that they were made with such regularity in the 80s that they eneded up serving as a wonderful time capsule of the attitudes and styles of the time. Jasonís Curse offers the reader far less than that, but there are at least some amusing references that slice into 90ís teen life.
For all its faults, though, Jasonís Curse is a quick read, and as it gets along the body count rises exponentially. The last few chapters are pretty entertaining, with
Jasonís Curse is printed on a coarse, yellowed page that provides a stipple that negates excessive glare from direct light. The font is slightly larger than your average novel and the line tracking is high enough to facilitate a quick read through this often vapid material. The paperback spine exhibits fine glue and hold and yet is still versatile enough for a decent bend page to page. I found when I put my reading glasses on there was excessive sharpening that made the text seem somewhat unrealistic, but otherwise the printing was of good quality and without any noticeable aberrations. Kudos to the artist for the front cover, who gives us a pretty tantalizing image of two lovers on a lake with the hockey masked man ready to attack behind them. Too bad that doesnít happen in the story, and that rendition of the killer (this one smaller and with hair) couldn't be further from Eric Morseís description of Big Red in the book. The only time two teens are in a boat in the book, itís the Spanish Miguel and the dark-haired Tina. So yeah, the cover doesnít even approach a level of continuity here.
Thanks to the coarse parchment used, this Camp Crystal Lake novel exhibits a gratifying wrustle as pages are handled, encouraging longer reading sessions and greater reading activity. Sound is disappointingly limited to only the front of the face, but given that this novel is nearly twenty years old, one can overlook the limited directionality.
While some of the other officially licensed Friday novels would include a few pages of stills from the movies, this one is sadly bare. The front cover does have text embossing, so at the very least it presents well.
This book never won the Nobel Prize, nor even probably the bathroom reader of the week award, and even die hard Jason fans arenít probably missing much by skipping this tacked on entry into the lore of Crystal Lake. The writing is simple and shallow, the murders, while sometimes well calculated, are conveyed without the gory detail that fans of such a franchise should expect. The haunted mask slant I can go with, but the killer in this one is such a calculated misfire it is tough to stay engaged. If nostalgia is your kick, you probably wonít like this one eitherÖNOT! Iíll at least give it that. If youíre starved for new Jason content like I am, you could be worse off, and at the very least it makes for an easy read when the home theater setup is out of arms reach. Too bad Eric Morseís understanding of why we love the Friday the 13th stories seems just as far away.
Oh, wow! I just re-read this book last week. Currently reading The Carnival.
You have to keep in mind that these books were written in the wake of Jason Goes To Hell (hence the mask plot and no Jason) and that they were geared toward a young adult audience. I was that age when the books were released, and picked them up off the shelf between copies of Fear Street and Christopher Pike novels. With that in mind, I thought they were adequately gruesome, certainly more so than your typical young-adult fare.
I also think given the constraints set by Jason Goes To Hell, Eric Morse did a really good job with these. Having read and watched Crystal Lake Memories recently, it was clear that Cunningham wanted nothing to do with Jason and wanted to drastically depart from the formula. But had the movie followed this idea instead, I think Jason Goes To Hell would have been much less of a hot mess. Despite the lack of Jason, the books do deliver a group of teens at Camp Crystal Lake being offed by a hockey masked killer.
I agree that the Big Red plot really bogged this one down. That aspect is even worse in The Carnival. The Boone aspect (he was a character in Mother's Day) also casts a dark cloud over the "fun-loving teenagers" we expect from the series. Also thought a kill involving leeches was a missed opportunity, considering you have a killer wandering around camp. There are also several other very un-Friday The 13th elements about the books, such as the use of guns by the killer.
But all things considered, I do think it's a really fun book. Mother's Day and Road Trip are better, with The Carnival being the worst of the lot by far.
Although I have to say I prefer the Halloween young adult series by Kelly O'Rourke that was published around the same time. I plan on re-visiting those next. The Old Myers Place was my favorite book of either series. But those are much more rare than the Friday The 13th books. The Mad House is currently selling for $4,789!
Thanks for the informative post, HOOK. I'm reading Carnival now myself -- so far I'm actually enjoying it more than this book, but it's just starting to settle into gear with the mask finally on and taking over the killer. I'm still looking forward to tracking down the other books as well.
Cool about the Halloween books, but yeah, they aren't cheap. Have you read any of those Jason X books? Amazing that they made so many of them considering the film was such a bomb.
Regarding The Carnival, I just found the main girl Maxi to be extremely unlikable. Also didn't like an element of the book involving tattoos (won't elaborate to avoid spoilers). It also felt a bit slower than the rest of the books. I'm only half way through the book now, and it has been years since I last read it, so I don't remember much about the second half. I will be curious to see your review when you finish.
Yeah, the Halloween books are expensive. It's weird that The Mad House is the most costly, because it was my least favorite of the three. The Scream Factory and The Old Myers Place are both tons of fun though.
I have one of the Jason X books called The Experiment, but I never read it. Wasn't a fan of Jason X, I just bought it because it was like $1 or something at a wholesale book store. But I know that same publisher did a line of regular Friday The 13th books, as well as a line of Final Destination books. I've never read any of those, but I always thought the Final Destination ones could be fun.
Awesome review. "Mother's Day" is my favorite of the series, though. And the Halloween young adult series is good but pretty cheesy dialogue and character wise. "Freddy's Tales of Terror", was also a pretty good young adult series, although Freddy usually appears in just the beginning and end, with a reveal that he possessed one of the characters.
Dood, that picture of Jason on the cover - lol.
Nice catch, dave. :lol: Wish I could take credit for that as a Freudian slip, but I don't think I've ever even written that word in my life prior to this. Blame it on laptop typing on an airplane.
Like CPT_HOOK, I was the target age when these came out. I picked them up and (mostly) loved them. Perhaps because of that I still have a fondness for them. I really like Mother's Day and have read it several times since. Probably, Road Trip would be second with Curse third and Carnival last. I did read The Carnival a second time and remember being pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as bad as I had remembered.
I also have the Halloween books, and enjoyed them very much. I haven't read them since, perhaps I should sell them for $4,000! Yeah, probably not going to happen.
On the front cover it looks as if Screech from
Saved by the bell put Jason's hockey mask on. It's all I can see now.
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