Ever since the dawn of our existence, we humans fear what we don’t understand or in some cases prefer not to understand. The power of giving something or somebody a name comforts us and helps us deal with something that is beyond our control. Our ancestors gave natural occurrences in nature names and faces in the forms of gods because it was something they could comprehend. Nowadays, we know that earthquakes are not caused by enraged deities, mental illness is not demonic possession and homosexuality is not the product of evil.
When it comes to placing that fear of the incomprehensible into movie form, we can be as creative as we please so long as we please, but I have noticed that pop culture tends to recognize the human monsters the most. Boogeycreatures in films are a reflection on not just human fears, and base emotions but also an example of social awareness– they are what we have made them because we’ve made ourselves. When it comes to giving terror and uncertainty a face, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers are at the forefront because not only do they frighten but they can also astound. Each of these fellows are mirrors of what our culture and by extension ourselves have become and that is why they still continue to be the frontrunners of cinematic scares. While at heart these films were made to entertain and to draw a reaction from audiences, I believe they represent three different aspects of society. Bearing this in mind, I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter and hopefully even enlighten you if you are open. Please keep in mind I am not critiquing the films of each franchise, I will be looking at the characters themselves in terms of who they are and what they represent- this is a psych lesson, horror style.
I don’t find much enjoyment from “Friday the 13th” (I got a kick out of “Jason X” though) or Jase himself because I’ve never been a fan of the whole just stalk ‘n’ slash method he employs. However, the more I think about who he kills, I have the conception that Jason is a metaphor for judgement. For the most part, he slays foolish, irresponsible and selfish victims, possibly because they remind him of the negligent camp counselors who didn’t come to his aid when he was drowning in Crystal Lake. Judgement is something we cast over each other every day of our lives even though we may not always consciously know it. We look at somebody who is overweight and we simply assume they sit on their gluteus maximus everyday and eat nothing but junk food. What we don’t take into consideration is if they suffer an eating disorder, or a genetic abnormality that doesn’t allow their digestive systems to function the way they should. Nobody LIKES being at a disadvantage when it comes to daily living, but does the pack mentality care? Jason is an extremely fundamental version of the judgement regarding the worth of others because of the fact he was wronged by the people who were supposed to be looking out for his well-being. Of course anybody with a balanced mind may briefly think about entertaining the methods Jason employs, but we all know better. Jason is like the Justice from Hell as he punishes the ignorant of their trespasses even though he doesn’t know them. To him, any show of fecklessness must be atoned for through blood all. No matter how fast his victims ran, Jason always caught up because that’s what Judgement does. Well, unless you count Derek Mears who was actually a very physical Jason in the otherwise uninspired remake who actually is the most interesting part of the movie. As for why he chooses to wear a mask, well, he obviously feels very self-conscious about how he looks, but Judgement can be a frightening thing because of how severe it can be and also, a mask is impersonal, which in turn symbolizes the machine-like efficiency of the warped version of justice that Jason serves.
Despite being a serial killer which is by frightening to us mostly normal-minded types, I don’t find Jason himself scary- he just needs his mum. But in terms of how he presents an image of a social structure we have created, he is one of the most effective and serves as a contemporary fable that people must take accountability for their actions rather than leave them to fester into deadly repercussions.
Compared to Jason, John Carpenter’s demonically-minded spawn really couldn’t care less about delivering retribution, all he does is go around and claim lives indiscriminately, just like Death itself. We could argue that when Michael murdered his sister Judith he was suffering from some type of incestuous jealousy, but after sating his desire, what possible personal motivation did Michael have to kill? He didn’t just try to kill members of his own family, but basically anybody that got in his way even though he had absolutely no otherwise interest in them, even it was unfair to do. All of us know that Death will come for us all in the end, it’s a matter of when, how and why. We modify ourselves with surgery, take on radical fad diets, overdose ourselves with make up, regardless of our expenses because our desperation to stay alive spans from our survival instinct. When our ancestors resorted to cannibalism and ruthless means of keeping status quo in collectives, these days us Homo sapiens utilise vanity to setback mortality but in the end, we all know it’s useless. Myers is a horrific meditation of the unpredictability that death can deliver- he doesn’t speak, he doesn’t express the humanity he does not possess and quite frankly he just doesn’t care who is on the receiving end when he comes to call with his knife being a substitute for a scythe. He doesn’t feel the need to run because he knows he will claim his hapless quarry’s life and I doubt the date of October 30th means naught to him. He wants life and he will stop at absolutely nothing to attain it. Save for Judith and later, his other sister Laurie Strode, none of his murders were particularly personal- he hunted them down, killed them but he didn’t get any visible satisfaction from them, same can be said with death. It doesn’t have any of the constraints of ethics and no attachment to those it takes- their time has come, however unreasonable the circumstances are, but you merely cannot postpone the inevitable. As with Vorhees, Michael chooses to wear a mask because it means anonymity, no means of identity, just a staring, white, expressionless canvas.
While the subsequent films have arguably lost their impact, Michael himself has not. He is not even a facsimile of a human being, he’s a force beyond our imaginations given humanoid form, but nothing else. And you know what they say about Death? It can never die.
If I honestly had to choose which of the three I prefer in terms of horror villains, Freddy is it. Sure he is a pop culture icon now (which is disturbing in itself considering what Freddy used to be- a child molester/murderer), but he is the figurehead of how malevolent exploitation truly is. Sex is meant to be something intimate, consensual and dare I say fun for both parties, sexually abusing a child, or anybody for that matter is perhaps one of the most cruel and reprehensible thing a person can do to another. It’s all about taking dis-empowering and humiliating your target and taking perverse, secretly self-loathing pleasure out of it. The depths of Freddy’s vengeance came from the fact that he came back in dreams, in sleep, where humans are perhaps at their most vulnerable. Rather than enact retribution on those who killed him, Freddy turned his sights on those his killers held dear- their own children. And it didn’t just stop there. He mercilessly hunted and killed subsequent generations of Elm Street children . It’s not the deaths that Freddy took pleasure in though- it was all about the thrill of a one-sided chase- in the dream world, he is the epitome of the apex predator and when he sets his sight on a pretty high school girl, he’s going to make sure she is frightened, ripe and palpable before he devours her. Also keep in mind, that in an essence, he is in their bedrooms with them while her parents have absolutely no clue, he is the man of their daughter’s dreams only they are oblivious to it. Although this penchant for female victims is a favourite of his, he finds himself being challenged by one, and it becomes his mission to claim her. Nancy is a direct opposition to his inherent evil, and because of this encounter, he became all the more determined in his quest. I also believe Freddy is an observation about the eerie notion of villain worship- Australia still has fond things to say about Ned Kelly, America has Jesse James, both of which were violent scoff-laws who stood for the “Stickin’ it to the man” idea that we all have. With Freddy, I want to know why children scream his name in delight rather than terror considering the terrible things he did. He’s profitable, recognizable but unrelatable and yet society adores him. He’s practically the de rigueur of pop culture that has not been matched to this day and that in itself is freakish as well as comedic.
I will state that despite the fact the remake of “ A Nightmare On Elm Street” was extremely pedestrian at best, Jackie Earle Haley is in a un-poppable bubble because he really made Freddy a nasty creature again. Wes Craven’s final bow of Freddy “A New Nightmare” was a revelation before it’s time but it brought Freddy back to his roots again and it rocked like nobody’s business. Celebrity and pop reverence aside, Freddy still remains the pepperoni pizza face of pure human evils and he remains relevant today.
Collectively, one major thing all three of these monsters have in common is that they are all representative of the anxieties and fears of sex in the form of the id as well as the concept of habituation. Psychologist Marvin Zuckerman states that the reason why people enjoy horror is because we all want to live vicariously, when it comes to horror, we as a species are looking for things that appeal to us constantly, the concept of danger that comes from the need for the individual to be cerebrally aroused otherwise we will lose interest, much like the concept of sexuality. Everybody is subject to the process of habituation- we want something new, something more than us, something that will shock us. With these three characters we have given birth to, they are a result of habituation. Jason and Michael more or less fall into the camp of how sex can mean neglection and the abandonment of the senses, meanwhile Freddy utilizes sexuality as a weapon, something that can be used to break his victims by appealing to their embedded repulsions, those thoughts that we have that we know we really shouldn’t. I guess when it comes to fear, humans are quite afraid of it, despite the fact we all do it- sex means life as well as death and it’s no wonder that both experiences can be comparable. All three are paragons for what we as humans in contemporary society dread because try as we might to dismiss our baser desires for uncivilised and not allow them to dictate our lives, we know we can never be rid of these sensations. Jason, Freddy and Michael were created as a result of this.
There is absolutely no doubt there is a litany of other horror icons who may be far more potent symbols of a tainted version of baser human natures and illness. I could very well just be seeing something that probably is not truly there and speaking nonsense (hardly unusual for me), but I want you to conduct this simple experiment for me. Ask a random person in the street if they know who Freddy, Mike or Jason are- I can guarantee they will be able to tell you that if not tell you to get lost and stop trying to snatch their doughnuts.