A Sexy, Bloody Spectacle (Friday the 13th Pt 2)

Josh Nkhata

Every artistic medium, including film, likes to tout itself as a space for intellectual and creative freedom, a place where there are no rules and where beauty and expression take precedence. However, in each of these mediums, despite objections, there does exist some semblance of “rules”. In film especially, there are certain conventions followed to make movies more consumable, enjoyable, appropriate, and intelligible for audiences. Although we may be quick to assert that projects that do not follow these rules are not successful, the slasher genre stands as an undeniable, formidable outlier. Slashers seem to break every rule of not just movie-making but storytelling in general. If stories are “supposed” to give viewers a main character to relate to, slashers give us a faceless, voiceless, personality-less figure and a group of one-dimensional victims. If they are supposed to approach sexuality and violence with nuance the slasher gives us a sexy, bloody spectacle. Friday the 13th Pt 2 is a prime example of a genre that, much to my own personal dismay, has been successful (at the very least at the box office) despite the odds. Upon analyzing the movie it seems to me that the reason for this success lies within the movie’s use of perspective and its voyeuristic implications, which allow for a reframing of the violence and sex. 

Friday the 13th Pt loves to play with point of view. This is most often done through “killer pov” camera angles, as discussed by Clover in Men, Women, and Chainsaws. These shots put us in the shoes of what we assume to be the killer as he watches his teenage victims. Oftentimes these shots will reveal themselves to be a decoy, such as when the cop watches Sandra and Jeff sneak over the fence. But whether decoy or not, they force us to do what Jason is doing, watching. All movies, in some way, ask us to watch in on the personal and private lives of characters. Slashers, however, tend to force us to acknowledge what we are doing. As soon as we acknowledge it, are watching becomes in some sense non-consensual. In a movie like Friday the 13th Pt 2, we are not supposed to see what we get to see. Which, in my opinion, is the most crucial aspect of the film. The “unconsensualness” of our watching is what makes the spectacle a spectacle, like when we stare at the car crash, the idea that we aren’t supposed to be seeing something so intense only increases our want to see it. This aforementioned intensity in slasher films is most often found through two things, violence and sex, and this is no different for Friday the 13th Pt 2.

While horror is often filled with gore and violence, slasher violence seems to be characterized slightly differently. In movies we have previously watched in class, violence has been auxiliary. It has been a large part of the story but never the focus of the whole story. But, as would be implied with a name like “slasher”, violence is the central focus of Friday the 13th Pt 2. People seem to come to the theater for the kills. They seem to enjoy watching a new cast of characters movie after movie after movie, who they barely get a chance to know, get slaughtered. But, why? Are audiences really that sadistic? Well, in my opinion, kinda. While we are strangely entranced by the violence we get to see, the violence of slashers also doesn’t feel all that much like real violence. I believe that this is because of the aforementioned spectacle created by the POV. While in most horror movies we make connections with the characters, slashers do not ask us to do this. The characters, both killer and victims, in Friday the 13th are, with the exception of the “final girl” (Clover), Ginny, one-dimensional. It is not only important that we are looking it is important that we are ONLY looking, or, in other words, that we are not empathizing. Viewing the car crash is much more difficult when you recognize the car. In a slasher, we do not recognize the characters on any deep level and thus will not flinch at their proverbially crash. The spectacle reframes violence and allows slashers to be utterly ridiculous in their violence without majorly turning off their audience. The spectacle is slightly different for sexuality.

Friday the 13th Pt 2 is hypersexual and, perhaps this sexuality is intended to emphasize some puritanical message about sex and death or draw a parallel to the orgastic and phallic nature of death. While either of these might be true, I think the most important function it serves in the context of spectacle is creating “human” characters. As I previously asserted, it is not important that we empathize with the character, however, we still must see the humanity of the character in order to appreciate their systematic death. I doubt a slasher movie with androids would have the same effect as Friday the 13th. We must understand that the character is capable of doing human things like loving, caring, and emoting. The creator of the slasher must find a way to show this humanity without making us, the audience, get attached to the character or see them as too complex of a figure. It seems an effective way of doing this is by showing physical intimacy with other characters. When we see characters being physically intimate we understand their ability to love deeply, by the nature of sex itself, but are not yet persuaded to love them ourselves. In this way, sexuality completes the spectacle. As we stalk and watch the characters, their overt sexuality indicates to us that we are watching something uniquely human. What happens to them is not of much concern to us as long as it is exciting enough to hold our attention. 

I find that slashers are a hard genre to discuss. Obviously, they raise dozens of ethical questions, but they also seem to function in such a flawed way. Many movies attempt to elude to a poetic theme or idea, like grief, but slashers rarely seem to do this, instead, this poeticism is replaced with excessive violence and sex. While I will happily cast the first stone at the slasher genre, it is important to consider why it is constructed the way it is. It seems to me that the slasher is about spectacle. It is about the shock and thrill of violence and being able to watch it all from behind a tree or bush. Perhaps the ultimate goal of Friday the 13th Pt 2 is for you to feel as Jason does.

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