FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and the Unlucky Cycle of Judges
NOTE: Originally published in THE MONSTER GOSPELS (2017). Photos added.
“I'm a messenger of God. You're doomed if you stay here!”
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Producer: Sean S. Cunningham
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Writer: Victor Miller, based on a story by Sean S. Cunningham, Ron Kurz, and Victor Miller
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, terror, sexual content, nudity, language and brief drug use
Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 7:14
Ask most people who the killer of Friday the 13th is and they'll say Jason, right after saying Frankenstein is the name of the monster. Astute horror fans (or the ones who at least remember the opening of Scream) know, of course, that the first killer was his mother, Pamela Voorhees. She's come back to Camp Crystal Lake to avenge the wrongful death of her son Jason, who drowned because the counselors were off fornicating instead of chaperoning him. Friday is a pastiche of Halloween, but one of the few that managed to become a franchise. It even launched Kevin Bacon's career, but the real star is Tom Savini's stellar gore makeup effects.
I fondly recall debates my youth pastor and I would have over whether Freddy or Jason was better. I think you know what side I took, but he'd defend Jason. He even saw Freddy vs. Jason at the same time as me so that he could rub it in that Jason won. And, of course, we would argue over that as well. His stance was that Jason was better because he was the more Christian monster, a position held by some Christian horror lovers. On the surface, the Friday the 13th movies aren't exactly wholesome, featuring some of the most graphic content of any horror franchise of its time. Jason, however, is seen as a statement against depravity -- a symbol of divine retribution. My youth pastor, Kerry, saw him as an avenging angel, punishing the wicked. We will discuss that topic in Chapter 15, but for now Friday the 13th can help us illustrate a different theological concept – the Judge Cycle – which went a little something like this:
- Israel ignores prophetic warning and falls into sin;
- God turns His back and lets them be taken over;
- Israel repents, so God raises up a Judge;
- Judge overthrows the enemies;
- There is brief period of peace and obedience;
There are twelve such Judges in the biblical book of the same name, putting it even with the number of Friday the 13th films (as of this writing), and the pattern is the same in both. Against the warnings of a prophet (Crazy Ralph, in this instance), the counselors sin, which invites oppression in the form of Pamela. The guilty are punished, but a pure hero (Alice) rises up to overthrow the persecutor. The sequels continue the cycle but with Jason instead of Pamela and different heroes instead of Alice.
The sin that Israel kept committing was idolatry. To modern readers, idolatry might seem archaic, the worship of false, tin gods rather than honoring the one, true God. In fact, there are multiple ways that we commit idolatry today. In this film, the counselors' form of idolatry was sexual sin, shirking their duties for their own pleasure. You might not immediately think of sexual sin as idolatry, but there are parallels. 1 Corinthians 6:13 says God made us for Himself, not for sexual sin, and 2 Samuel 7:22-24, similarly, says that God set Israel apart for Himself, not for false gods. The difference, as 1 Corinthians 6:18 states, is that sexual sin is a sin against ourselves. But whether it's sexual immorality or praying to a golden statue, idolatry shifts our focus from the sufficiency of the transcendental to the unsustainability of the material.
Why was God so lenient with Israel? Why didn't He just cut His losses after the third or fourth lapse and break the cycle Himself once and for all? In a larger context, it was because Israel was the vehicle through which He'd enter the world in the person of Jesus Christ, but, more specifically, it was because of His Grace. It is true that God hates sin, but He loves us more than He hates the sinful things that we do. Sadly, we don't always feel the same way. We revel in Jason and Pamela's carnage because it reinforces our skewed belief that “bad people” deserve what they get, forgetting Jason can just as easily pull us from our boat as he did the pure Alice.
It might not be idol worship or sexual sin, but does the cycle of Judges reflect a pattern in your own life? Do you struggle with returning to an ongoing sin and inviting your own Jason or Pamela, only to end up on your knees praying for mercy? Is there some Crazy Ralph that God has sent you whom you've ignored? Luckily, in spite of what Ralph says, we do not have to be doomed. Crystal Lake might be open and ready to receive you, but so are God's arms of Grace.
- Who are the people you can count on to give you good guidance, even if it's tough love?
- What unproductive cycles do you need to break?
If you enjoyed this examination of Friday the 13th, you might like my book, The Monster Gospels, a devotional of spiritual lessons we can learn from 31 of the best scary movies ever made. Get your copy here.
A Queens native, Jason grew up in Lakeland, FL and attended Rochelle School of the Arts before moving to Florida's Nature Coast, where he resides. He always dreamed of being a storyteller, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Leo University with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Religion. He has been a professional guest speaker for thirteen years, talking at churches, graduations, and as a guest lecturer at Pasco-Hernando State College.