Have you ever tried to explain the origins of Jason Voorhees to a friend who isn’t into horror? It’s surprisingly difficult, as you quickly realize just how many gaps exist in the iconic slasher villain’s backstory. Even though the Friday the 13th franchise encompasses 12 films and spans three decades, so many very basic questions about the lore remain unaddressed to this day, as producer Bryan Fuller is keenly aware of. He said last year that the upcoming reboot might explore the extent of Jason’s immortality, an idea which was touched upon in Jason Goes to Hell but that still remains fairly enigmatic.
These questions are arguably better left unanswered, considering that revealing too much about an antagonist often diminishes their impact (looking at you, Halloween). Still, it wouldn’t hurt to give fans slightly more information to work with in their attempt to unravel this incredibly confusing mythology. Taking a look back at just the movies themselves and not the comics, novels or video games, some of the unsolved mysteries include…
This is an incredibly simple question about the basic premise of Friday the 13th, yet the answer is unclear. The original movie operates under the assumption that Jason Voorhees drowned as a young boy while camp counselors weren’t paying attention. Afterwards, Jason’s grief-stricken mother murders several counselors, and when she finds out there are plans to reopen the camp years later, she returns for more. That’s the setup for the first film; it’s only in the final minutes of Friday the 13th that Jason himself appears, but this is merely a dream sequence.
Part II is the first time it’s revealed that Jason is in fact still alive. He’s now a fully grown adult man living in a shack in the middle of the woods, yet the sequel doesn’t go into detail about this sudden reversal. Is the implication that Jason truly did drown as a kid, but he was somehow resurrected off screen? Or did he never drown in the first place, and he has been living in the woods all this time while everyone believed he was dead? Speaking of which, if his body was never recovered and none of the counsellors were paying attention, how do they even know he drowned? Why did that become the official story?
The closest we get to an explanation is the appearance of the Necronomicon in the Voorhees house in Jason Goes to Hell. Many fans speculate that the presence of the book of the dead indicates Jason did indeed drown and was brought back to life, a solid theory but one that is mostly conjecture based on a quick Easter egg. To this day, according to what we are told on screen, it’s basically anyone’s guess what went down in that fateful summer of 1957.
The fact that Jason has a permanent home in the woods in Part II implies he has been set up there for a while, whether we believe he never drowned or he came back to life. From what we see of Pamela, it doesn’t appear she has any clue that Jason is still out there. But why didn’t Jason ever return to his mother? It’s not as if he was incapable of doing so; in the opening of Part II, he manages to find Alice and make his way all the way to her house from Camp Crystal Lake. If he could figure out where a random teenager lives based on virtually no information, presumably he could figure out how to return to his childhood home.
Could it be that Pamela was an abusive mother, and so Jason decided to pretend he was dead in order to escape? From what we see in the rest of the franchise, though, Jason apparently has a strong connection with his mom. Her death has a profound impact on him, and it seems to have been the motivating factor behind his killing spree. Maybe Jason decided he had become such a monster that he would be sparing Pamela pain by staying in hiding. Either way, from Pamela’s perspective, did she put absolutely no effort whatsoever into finding Jason? Even if the official story was that he drowned, seeing as his body was never recovered, wouldn’t she at least for a moment consider that maybe he’s still alive? She never bothered to check in the immediate area to discover a shack that isn’t even hidden very well?
Some speculate that Pamela actually committed her murders as part of a ritual to bring Jason back from the dead. That would certainly explain a few things, but this is again based mainly on the brief appearance of the Necronomicon in Jason Goes to Hell, so it’s not exactly canon.
What was Jason up to during the events of the first movie? He clearly knows that Alice killed his mother, as he takes his revenge in the first act of Part II. Later in the same movie, campers say that Jason witnessed Mrs. Voorhees’ death, although this might just be an urban legend seeing as nobody but Jason would know this. But if we go with the movie’s logic and accept that Jason was lurking around in the woods during Friday the 13th, what on Earth was he doing all that time? Why didn’t he intervene? Even if he wanted to keep playing dead, he presumably did not want Pamela to be killed, and Mrs. Voorhees and Alice were certainly battling it out for a long enough period that Jason could have easily emerged from the woods to save the day.
We all know that Jason continuously comes back, but is it that he is simply so tough that it’s nearly impossible to kill him, or is it that he keeps dying and being resurrected? The series seems to present us with some combination of the two, but the extent of his immortality is never quite apparent. The first time it is 100% certain that Jason definitely died and was subsequently resurrected is the beginning of Part VI: Jason Lives. He’s been buried for six years, and he only starts moving again after being struck by lightning, Frankenstein style. It doesn’t get much clearer than that: Jason was dead, and now he has returned.
But after how many movies was Jason resurrected off screen, and how many times did he simply get right up afterwards, having not been killed? It’s explained in Jason X that he has the ability to regenerate tissue, so presumably this allows him to come back from relatively minor injuries. In Part II, he’s struck with a machete, and in Part III, he’s hit with an axe. But the damage inflicted in both of these instances is vague enough that he could have been killed and resurrected, or he could have simply regenerated tissue as soon as the protagonists walked away.
Jason’s return begins to require a supernatural explanation at the end of Jason Lives, where he is chained to the bottom of the water and doesn’t die. Obviously, that is a step beyond just being hard to kill. Could it be that everything up until his rebirth in Jason Lives can be explained by the character’s resilience combined with his unique regenerative abilities, but after the lightning strike, he has become immortal? Even that doesn’t quite work, though, as in Jason Goes to Hell, he is killed by being blown up. Apparently he is immortal and impossible to kill, except when he isn’t.
The Friday the 13th series loves to indulge in dream sequences, continuing a tradition that began with the original movie’s iconic ending. But these dreams are often confusing when we consider what the given character knows about the overall mythology. That was an issue right away with Alice’s fantasy. She imagines Jason as not having died in the lake, but what would lead her to come up with this weird twist in the story? She doesn’t have any reason to question Mrs. Voorhees’ account of Jason’s death, and there is little ambiguity about the boy’s fate up until that point. It’s particularly confusing because her crazy fantasy of Jason still being out there turns out to be completely true. How did she know?
Perhaps this was just a random nightmare that happened to line up with reality, but what about the ending of Part III? Chris is attacked by Pamela Voorhees in a hallucination, but Chris never even met Jason’s mom, nor does she know anything about Pamela’s story. These weird sorts of inconsistencies have lead some fans to theorize that the hallucinations have a supernatural explanation. For instance, perhaps the spirit of Pamela Voorhees put that final image into Chris’ mind, and Jason’s soul was invading Alice’s thoughts during the events of the original film. If that sounds preposterous, remember that Jason’s spirit does in fact enter the minds of others in Jason Goes to Hell, so it’s not as if the series hasn’t already gone there.
Everyone who watches slashers knows that the villain is somehow able to catch up with his victims despite the fact that he walks along at an excruciatingly slow pace. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything otherworldly is happening; it’s just a trope of the genre and a way for the character to creep us out with his relaxed nature while also getting the job done. But Friday the 13th takes it so over the top to the point that it seems that Jason must have actually gained the ability to teleport after returning to life in Part VI.
This is especially prominent in Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. In one scene, Jason throws Charles out a window from several stories high, only to appear on the ground about five seconds later. There is no way to explain what happened other than Jason having some sort of magical ability, and there continues to be bits like that throughout the franchise that extend far beyond what we see in the typical slasher. During Eva’s death scene in the same movie, Jason seemingly teleports around the room every time she turns her head before eventually appearing right next to her. Let’s hope this is one element the series never attempts to explain, though. We wouldn’t want another Curse of Michael Myers situation and have a sequel reveal that Jason can teleport because he’s being controlled by a cult. Nobody wants that.