Changing the Map: Crystal Lake

Lakes exist all over the horror map, but there is none as famous as…

(Ominous music crescendos.)

OPENING SHOT: HELICOPTER AERIAL CAMERA PANNING OVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORESTS, WHITE CAPPED MOUNTAINS, SUMMER ASPEN GROVES AND PINES. TREE LINE LOOMS HIGHER WITH SCRAGGLY TREES, AND A DARK STORM ROILS DOWN, CAMERA FOLLOWING.

CAMERA PANS DOWN, FOCUS TIGHTENS TO A DEEP DARK MOUNTAIN LAKE. GIRL SCOUT CANVAS TENTS LINE THE SHORE. AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE AS IT FALLS INTO NIGHT, A DARK SILHOUETTE, AND A GLIMPSE OF A SILVER BLADE.

INTERIOR TENT. THREE GIRLS ARE PLAYING KEEP AWAY WITH A TATTERED PAPERBACK COPY OF “DRAGONSONG” (BY ANNE MCCAFFREY). THE FOURTH GIRL TRIES TO SNATCH THE BOOK BACK. HER EYES ARE TIGHT AND A MURDEROUS RAGE IS BLOOMING IN HER TEN YEAR OLD HEART. SUDDENLY, SHE STANDS.

CALIE

“If you don’t give me my book, my cousin Jason will get you.” (She does not quite know who the relative is, but knows he has gruesomely killed many at a campground by a lake.)

MEAN GIRL 1

“Who’s Jason?” (With sneer.)

CALIE

He lives by Crystal Lake, a lot like this, at a camp much like this, and he’s an evil, revenge-seeking, machete-wielding lunatic. He will murder you in the shower!

(She is clearly making this up, and has obviously not seen the film at this point).

And he’s my cousin, so give me my book back! (Yelling defiantly in the circle of MEAN GIRL faces.)

MEAN GIRL 3

(Quaking in fear. She tosses the book back.)

You’re weird.

CAMERA CLOSES IN ON CALIE CONTENTEDLY READING BY FLASHLIGHT IN ANOTHER TENT, WHILE THE MEAN GIRL TENT HAS SCREAMING NIGHTMARES.

SCENE FADES AS SILHOUETTE OF MAN FLASHES HIS MACHETE IN A SALUTE, A GRIN ALMOST VISIBLE UNDERNEATH HIS WHITE HOCKEY MASK, AND WADES BACK INTO CRYSTAL LAKE.

 

You knew I was going to have to write about my cousin and Crystal Lake at some point, right? I can’t love and write horror without addressing the elephant of my last name. Mind you, I had NOT seen Friday the 13th at this point. I don’t know who I overheard, but someone must have commented about the last name — Jason Voorhees and Crystal Lake. When you have an odd last name, hearing it in pop culture — especially if you’re a macabre bookworm creature with glasses and braces — tends to stick.

To me, growing up, Jason was who I rooted for, twisted as it was. During my teens, I counted his dead in the realms of sequels, and giggled my way through movie marathons. The series established the worst of the slasher cliches — teens, bare breasts, and inventively gory deaths by a machete-wielding, lumbering misfit. With severe mommy issues. Like, the mother of all mother issues.

Crystal Lake beget Jason. He drowned in its cold waters, emerged changed, as one does from all such lakes, and commenced (as one does) to seek revenge over people that had absolutely nothing to do with his demise, however are violating the Puritan code by having sex, drinking, partying, and enjoying life. Those silly teenage hedonists.

The original came out in 1980 with 11 sequels, ranging all over the place in setting, but Crystal Lake is where it started and where Jason feels most at home. It is his birth place.

From the 1988 Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood movie:

There’s a legend around here. A killer buried, but NOT dead. A curse on Crystal Lake, a death curse. Jason Voorhees’ curse. They say he died as a boy, but he keeps coming back. Few have seen him and lived. Some have even tried to stop him. NO ONE can.” — Narrator (Walt Gorney)

Lakes are the depth of our subconscious. Monsters lurk under the surface. Nessie in her home of Loch Ness, serpents in lake Ontario, Chinese water dragons, and Omahksoyisksiksina (a Blackfoot horned lake monster whose name is just awesome). Most of these lake denizens are beasts, snake-like combinations of fish and dragon.

Not my cousin. Nope. He’s a Man (emphasis on the gender), emerging from primordial slime, birthed once by the human Pamela Voorhees, reborn again from a serial killer lake.

Water, for my poor deranged Oedipal cousin, represents mother and the fluids of birth, sex and the fluids of death. The emotional depths brought to the surface, without any subtlety whatsoever. Jason is not complicated. He’s pissed, he’s got a hockey mask and a machete, and if you show your breasts or try to get laid, he’s going to rise up again from Crystal Lake and kill you.

Or is he? There’s no doubt he’s a violent killer, but look at the statistics. I counted 170 deaths directly perpetrated by Jason. 56 of those are women. Remember that he didn’t kill anyone in the first movie (that was all his Mom, Pamela), and the only survivor was female (one of the first “final girls”). It isn’t until Part IV that a male survives (and only due to the “final girl” saving him). Statistically, at least in Friday the 13th films, you’re more likely to survive if you’re female. Males are punished for sexual activity at a higher mortality rate. Baring your boobs doesn’t seem to hinder your odds around Crystal Lake — your sexuality and smarts might help you survive.

Following in Halloween’s footsteps, universally panned, Friday the 13th deliberately set out to be exactly what it was — almost societally-approved sex, and graphic, blood-spraying, death. It meant to be a franchise and it succeeded, continuing the mythology of Crystal Lake and Jason with varying degrees of success (and often ignoring the origin legend completely, in favor of bare boobs and a higher death toll).

But Crystal Lake is on the map, for better or worse.

Should I have used my power of story to scare the shit out of four mean girls? Probably not. They really did have nightmares, and I really did get a reputation (for a wonderful week) as someone YOU DO NOT MESS WITH. I guess my cousin and I have more in common than just our name.

CLOSING SHOT: LAKE DURING DAY, PEACEFUL WATERS STILL AND GLISTENING WITH SUN. REFLECTIONS OF STORM CLOUDS, AND A DISTANT GLIMPSE THROUGH THE DEPTH OF A SILHOUETTE, HOCKEY MASK, AND A MACHETE, WAITING TO RISE AGAIN.

CLOSING CREDITS

For the body count, I extrapolated from here. Body Count. Please note my totals are direct kills and do not count other killers’ influenced by Jason, accidents, suicides, mass event deaths, or “final girls.”

For a nice read on the history and making of the franchise, check out Scott Meslow’s excellent series – Part 1 starts here with How Friday the 13th Accidentally Perfected the Slasher Movie.

And, in case you’re curious about how many real life Jason Voorhees there are, read this: There are How Many Norman Bates and Freddy Kruegers Living in the U.S.?

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