Jason Voorhees is a huge horror icon today. His character in the Friday the 13th franchise is a very unique one as well. However, some things needed to have taken place for Jason Voorhees to be born. His story comes from inspiration of a lot of different movies and characters. There are many individual events and causes that created Jason. There has been a lot of character development of Jason over the years, yet, if it weren’t for other films, there may not have been any inspiration for the creators of Jason to draw from. If it weren’t for them, we might’ve never gotten the story of Jason! Thank goodness these all happened, these are the causes of Jason. There is also a really good tie-in Jason has with one of Cohen’s Monster Theories.
One of the biggest influences or causes for Jason Voorhees is Michael Myers from the movie Halloween (1978). During the late 70s and early 80s, there was a big boom in horror titles that were in the slasher category. In 1978, the film ‘Halloween’ was created and birthed the famous character of Michael Myers. He was a masked killer that had a tendency to kill savagely. This led to many more characters in the future with the same concept and some really similar ones too. For example, for Jason to have the tendency to kill recklessly, Michael Myers’ story of mental health was needed. This story allowed Michael’s killing to be somewhat justified because he was unstable. This allowed Michael to kill over and over again. The same thing could be said for Jason. For his killing to be justified he had to undergo some trauma. Some of the trauma that Jason experienced was drowning in the lake at camp with no one to help him out. Then later as a spirit or ghost, he experienced the death of his mother when she went to kill in his name. The experience of trauma was needed for both of these masked murders to go ahead and kill the way they did. So the cause of Michael going through trauma is how we got a similar story in Jason.
Now what was needed for Jason to have the mask? Well that was really based on the times the movies were filmed. In the first Friday the 13th, Jason isn’t the killer, his mother is. He then goes onto kill in an older state in his life in Part 2. He has a burlap sack covering his face in the films. This is due to the embarrassment of his deformed face. Jason goes on to Part 3 of the franchise where he then adopts the infamous hockey mask. However, even though Jason is sporting some kind of mask or covering, he isn’t the first to do it. The main movie that started this trend was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). This had the main character, Leatherface, take the faces of the victims and put it on his own face to hide his identity. Which then led to Michael Myers, the next horror movie in that time frame, to pick up a mask and go forth in killing. This then caused Jason to go ahead and put on a burlap sack in the Part 2, and finally the well known hockey mask in Part 3. One fun fact about this hockey mask is that it wasn’t completely planned into the story of Jason. The director at the time was really into the sport of hockey and suggested the usage of the hockey mask. This decision had no back story it was just spontaneous.
One of the questions that people ask about Jason is on his weapon of choice. Why would he use a knife or machete when there are other more devastating weapons out there? One of the most famous things about him is that he is very slow and uses a melee weapon to take the lives of his victims. But why? He is so slow and he would benefit from a firearm, or even throwing knives for that matter. Yet, Jason only having a machete stems from the various horror moves from around it’s time. For example, these movies consisted of ‘Halloween’, ‘Psycho’, and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, these movies all have the main killer sporting a knife. However, in all these movies the killer is using a just a basic kitchen knife. Its concept can get old very quickly and that’s where the inspiration of Jason’s machete came from. The evolution of these films likely inspired the use of the machete because it’s much more menacing. If someone is rushing towards you full force, with a long machete that can slice through anything like butter, it’s most likely that anyone would be scared.
One monster theory that relates to Jason is ‘The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference’. This is because as Cohen says, “The monster is difference made flesh, come to dwell among us. In its function as dialectical Other or third-term supplement, the monster is an incorporation of the Outside, the Beyond- of all those loci that are rhetorically placed as distant and distinct but originate Within”. This applies to Jason because he is very different from regular human beings. He is of demonic descent. He has some sort of paranormal aspects to him because he is half human and half demon. Yet, he is an undead human. This is because he his skin and flash is rotting. There’s really no way to kill Jason. While there are ways to kill him, he keeps on resurrecting and coming back. In a sense because of his demonic background he is immortal. He is really different from a regular human being. So he is going against the norm and ‘dwells at the gates of difference’.
As was mentioned earlier, Jason’s story was caused from a lot of different movies and characters. There was a lot of influence from films like Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween. These films really helped to shape the story line for Friday the 13th. Each of the films had an input to his character development. This is evident in his appearance, physical characteristics, and actions. These films allowed for the creators of Jason to pull from many ideas. So in short, these films and characters caused Jason Voorhees and helped develop him.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” From Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
Renee, V. “The Birth of Jason: The Inspiration Behind the Iconic Mask and the Title ‘Friday the 13th’.” No Film School, 2015
Interview. Barkan, Jonathan. “ Sean Cunningham Reveals the Inspiration for Jason’s ‘Friday the 13th’ Hockey Mask!” Bloody Disgusting, 2015.