You’re All Doomed: Growing Up with ‘Friday the 13th’ (Films 1–3)

By Michael Crosby

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‘Friday the 13th: How I Spent My Summer Vacation‘ | Illustration by Adam Archer | Credit: WildStorm

TRIGGER WARNING

The following journal contains graphic accounts of rape, abuse, and other disturbing content. Caution is advised.

INTRODUCTION

I am 47 years old as of this writing. Due to an upbringing that was both warped and nurturing, I grew up in an upper-middle-class neighborhood and yet was subject to an immense amount of torture, not only from classmates but from my own family and other adults.

It was a nightmare.

I never had a father. Family lore is that he died in a mental institution in Florida, not that I could ever believe a single thing said by my family.

Films, music, and media were what I turned to as an abused child. Some of what I needed came from my home environment, some did not, and I had to respond to inner workings and follow my heart in many instances.

This is how the Friday the 13th film series came into my life and has stayed with me ever since.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

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I’ll never forget that day in April 1980. Everything about it. Laying on my bed. Reading. Eating (I was fat for all of my childhood). My mother came home with a magazine for me. It was issue #6 of Fangoria magazine. R2D2 and C3P0 were on the cover. But tucked inside was an article by Fangoria head honcho Bob Martin about a low- budget spring release from Paramount Pictures entitled Friday the 13th.

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The original article from Fangoria #6. | Credit: FANGORIA

I remember poring through that magazine as a child, soaking up all of the behind-the-scenes information. Unlike today’s Internet Age, there was little in terms of insider filmmaking knowledge available during that time. This was my Bible, and the best article was about a new low-budget horror film debuting in May of 1980. The publicity stills alone were worthy of notice: the bloodiest, scariest images I had ever seen. I loved it. Then the TV ads started running…and then the radio ads. Anticipation built.

I grew up in a low-level ranch house in Winchester, Massachusetts. There were three rooms in that house that were particularly eerie: the attic, the garage, and the basement. The attic was exactly what you would expect — a long, dark climb of stairs to a cold, dark and musty room lit with a single bulb, barely able to banish the dark, and piles of musty records, newspapers, photo albums. The garage was alien to me. I was never what you would call mechanically inclined. The vast array of tools and auto-parts on display was interesting but still alien.

Then there was the basement.

When I was a small (but very fat) child, between the ages of 5–9, I had my own encounters with horror that left me with consequences that reverberate to this day. My mother, it turns out, was basically living off my grandfather’s sufferance. He had his own house and his own standing within the community. He lent his name to hers, hoping to parlay his success as a local political figure and writer into a comfortable living for his daughter and his grandson. He died in early 1982, and I don’t know if he ever knew the truth about his daughter. I hope he did not. My mother was a pure sociopath. Every small facet of life was about her. She endeavored with one goal: to support herself. To most, children are a blessing or a celebration. To her, children were slaves put on this earth to help her get ahead.

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The small suburban town of Winchester, Massachusetts. | Credit: Redfin

I was, already at this point, being unmercifully bullied because I was fat. I was always the fattest kid in school. My first day of kindergarten, for example, when I was 4 almost 5 years old and allowed to start early because I had “promise,” I was beaten down and pig-piled by almost the entire class. The teachers wondered why I was quiet and near-tears for the rest of that day. I wonder. When I was 5 years old, I didn’t know what beatings, bullying, mental cruelty, and even rape were. I had no understanding of them. But it was all downhill from there.

Although my real life had become a nightmare, my creative life was flourishing as a child. I was (and still am) a particularly sensitive person, believe it or not. I still kept some shred of innocence, notable by my recollections here.

I was 7 years old and, to the best of my knowledge, finishing up the second grade. The TV ads for Friday the 13th were unique, distinctive, and scary. They foretold the body count. Numerous creative deaths were promised. I loved it. Plus, it spoke to me on a personal level. Unbelievably, there were no true summer camps in my area. The only one was a day camp for most kids, and my experiences there were horrible, yet far less horrible than most.

I had to see that fucking movie.

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A local listing for Friday the 13th in May 1980.

Friday the 13th opened in May 1980. Eventually, all of my wheedling and needling resulted in my mother doing the unthinkable: taking her 7-year-old child to this terrifying and graphic horror film on opening day!

Although I was regularly bullied, I was fortunate enough to find a few friends, particularly in the neighborhood that I had lived in at the time. I was always really into music and film and books, and I always appealed not only to my friends but to their older brothers and sisters. While my friends were reading stuff geared towards the age bracket, I was reading Stephen King. While my friends were going to see a re-release of Disney’s Bambi (1942), I was going to see Friday the 13th. My friends’ older brothers and sisters thought that was cool.

So, my mother and I went to the movie…and I LOOOOVED IT!!!!!!! Oh, dear-fucking-Christ, I loved it. Did it scare me to death, give me nightmares, make sunsets and trips to the attic and the cellar or garage more harrowing? Of course it did, but I clicked with it.

And there was my mother, with every passing death, grinning. Grinning.

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Friday the 13th at the theaters in May 1980.

Friday the 13th was an extremely powerful cinematic experience for me as a child. It had so much in common with Halloween (1978) that was released to great praise and successful box-office a mere 18 months prior. Both were dark, atmospheric, mythic, low-budget, innovative, and, eventually, iconic. Friday the 13th doesn’t simply embrace archetypes; in most cases, it demolishes them. It works in much the same way Halloween works but for very different reasons. Carpenter takes an almost elegant approach to his filming and shot construction. Cunningham is equally atmospheric. Much of the vibrancy and kinetics of Friday can be credited to its low budget. The occasional rain tower added a lot to the production value.

In terms of storytelling, they both outline basically the same plot but execute it differently. Both stories take place in a small town. Depending on your needs, you could find yourself living in either Haddonfield or at Crystal Lake. Both films have an inciting incident: Michael killing his sister Judith; Jason drowning due to negligence. In both cases, a former evil returns to haunt the respective towns. For both, the locations are kept simple: a few small-town streets and houses for Halloween and the Boy Scouts’ Camp NoNeBoSco for Friday the 13th. Both productions enlisted a somewhat minuscule cast and crew. Both films saved a few bucks for a star actor shooting limited days. In Halloween’s case, Donald Pleasance; in Friday’s case, Betsy Palmer. Friday chose to take more of an Agatha Christie “whodunits” approach compared to Halloween’s mythic approach, but Cunningham, and especially Paramount, learned their lesson from Friday’s advertising and subsequent success.

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‘Friday the 13th’ Producer and Director, Sean S. Cunningham.

Friday the 13th pretty much ruled the box-office that summer. It was up against Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining (1980), and, compared to Friday the 13th, it was a tremendous flop. Years later, Fangoria editor Tony Timpone would remember how after the day both films were released, the talk in school was all about Friday the 13th and not The Shining.

I was an immediate fan, and, I guess, so was my mother. Unlike the Halloween series, which seemed to impress and inspire me more than any other, the Friday the 13th series really got my mother involved. That’s where we bonded. Unlike Halloween (1978), which I saw with my older sister unbeknownst to my mother, she really got into this film.

Afterward, sometime between mid-1980 and early 1981, I was raped. Repeatedly. In our basement. I was forced to suck a grown man’s cock, swallow his cum, and take the tip of his dick in my asshole. What the hell? That’s how my mother took my temperature for years.

I told my mother. Even my much-older brother and sister told her. It was obvious to close people. But school, teachers, administration? Not in those days, especially if you didn’t have money.

I didn’t realize it so much at the time, but my first horrible symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were beginning to catch fire. It’s amazing how much trauma the human mind can experience and still function. I was deeply afflicted for years and years, but it never became crippling until about 15 years ago. Actually, it was always crippling, we simply didn’t have the diagnostic tools, treatment, or awareness that we have today. PTSD’s been with me from the very beginning. Bullying and sexual abuse only exacerbated it.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)

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I don’t remember an awful lot about the winter of 1980, but I do remember 1981. Boy, do I ever. So many great films came out that year, especially in horror: The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, Madman, Halloween II, and Friday the 13th Part 2.

By this point, the boarder in the basement who had raped me had been evicted. His crime? Not raping me. Instead, he had the gall to slap me in public at a restaurant in Winchester called Randall’s. My mother’s sociopathic instincts weren’t upset that I was hurt, but they were more concerned that people may see it and that she may be perceived as a weak female to this male abusing her son. That notion drove her completely bonkers, and it became a defense mechanism for her.

I was finishing up third grade when Friday the 13th Part 2 premiered in May 1981. Unlike the hype around the first film — when I had to convince my mother to give a shit — this entry was much more anticipated. My mother and I had plans to go opening night the moment the first ad spots hit the TV.

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TV ad spot for ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’ from April 1981

I had an art class, and I was constantly bored drawing basic head shapes, fruit, etc. So, I was busy drawing the Halloween II poster instead. My teacher saw this as a deficiency on either I or my mother’s part, and I was kept after school for a meeting between my teacher and my mother.

After a couple of minutes of the teacher shitting on me, my mother interjected and asked, “What exactly would you like me to do?”

“He’s been talking about seeing Friday the 13th,” the teacher said. “I don’t think you should reward his misbehavior by taking him to such a horrible film.”

I could literally FEEL my mother go cold. Ice cold. I’ve felt it many times in my life, both from her and from myself. Her blood runs in my veins, for both the good and bad.

My mother said something along the lines of, “I’ll decide for myself what I will and won’t do with my child.”

My mother and I went to see Part 2 that night, though I paid for it afterward with nightmares. The final “chair-jumper” — the scene where Jason flies through the window to attack Ginny — gave me the willies, no doubt. Only Halloween II and The Howling equaled it in terms of sheer cinematic power for me. At least it did in 1981.

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The “chair-jumper” scene from ‘Friday the 13th Part 2.’ | Credit: Paramount Pictures

Friday the 13th Part 2 was a hit with me, my mother, and my friends. And it was another stepping-stone in a life that was becoming increasingly defined by art, movies, music, books, and less so by my environment such as adults, teachers, and school life. Like many of those subjected to horrific abuse, I retreated into the world of everything I loved. Every time I was bullied, picked on, beaten, or abused, I turned to the arts for escape and solace.

It lives with me here and now. To this very day.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982)

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I grew enormously between Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part III. I was still horrified and terrified by what had happened, but I grew.

The year 1982 was pivotal in my life for many reasons. I was 9 years old, going on 10, and no longer a tiny (though still fat) child anymore. I was growing in every way possible, not by gaining weight but by getting taller. It didn’t stop the beatings I took at school at the time, but my growth did begin to lessen their tone. I’m now 6 feet tall as an adult.

It was also a developmental year for me. This is the first year of my life I can remember with a lot of real context. The memories are sharper, more intense, and more numerous. I was beginning to find myself on so many different levels. I was in the midst of a “safe” period, the first of the few I’ve had in my entire life. Homelife was stable, although occasionally shitty, I had my favorite TV shows, books, music, and movies. I had a routine. I had a life I loved, though I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I was much older. I was still the fat kid, still heavily bullied, but I made some friends here or there, and as luck would have it, they just happened to be a few of the popular kids. It was my love for art that did it; the popular kids LOVED that I was into horror. They were even a bit jealous of how much memorabilia I had. They also liked my music choices. So, I actually had a few friends in the neighborhood. They wouldn’t step in if I got into a fight, but they would step in if the bully was fighting unfairly. I’m sure they got some heat for helping me or hanging around me, but they were good kids for the most part. And since this was 1982, the age of no cellphones, no internet, and so on, we all got along from hanging out and interacting.

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HBO’s logo in 1982.

I had a friend, Scott, who lived in one of the first houses in the area to have cable. He had a sleepover, and we watched the original Friday the 13th on HBO one late night. Another friend, Dave, who was the son of a doctor with a lot going for him, had an older brother who was a drummer, and we got along like a house on fire, even if he was a complete cocksmith much of the time. The first song I ever attempted on the drums was “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones. In case I haven’t made it clear, I was out of the loop as a kid. I always fit in better with adults. I was naturally shy and reticent, mostly because of the abuse, but if I was engaged by a friendly kid who seemed to like me, I would open up. I always had a huge heart. I knew, even at this stage, that my heart was going to cause me problems in life. I lived by it, more than my gut, and way more than my head. Priorities reversed.

In the two years or so following the release of Halloween and Friday the 13th in 1978 and 1980, respectively, I was in horror heaven (and film heaven in general). The year 1982 brought Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cat People, Poltergeist, The Thing, Halloween III: Season of the Witch… Oh my God.

By the time Friday the 13th Part III came around, I was heavily invested in the series, the genre, the arts in general. So, my memories become much more vivid with each sequential film as we move forward.

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A New York Times article about ‘Friday the 13th Part III — in 3D.’

It was now August 1982, and Fangoria magazine had an article about the new film, ad spots and trailers were on the television, and a soundtrack was released, albeit through a tiny company on a small level (it was in the Zayre’s $2 bin).

From the beginning, everything about this film was different than the previous two. The hype was amped up. The TV commercials were over-the-top promoting the 3D technology and the creative kills aspect in the film. One of my local newspapers carried a full-page and full-color ad bought by Paramount Pictures that was the first of its kind that I can really remember.

The film was released in August of 1982. It was late in a very hot, sticky, and humid summer, so I didn’t have to worry about school getting in the way of seeing it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get in on opening day. We knew this film would be massive, but we were unprepared for the enormity of the response. The lines to get in weren’t simply around the building; they were around the block! In these days, the Showcase Cinema in Woburn was a new theater, one of the first multiplexes, which translates to “big building in 2 square miles of parking lot.” That parking lot was crammed full of rabid Friday the 13th fans. They even ran out of 3D glasses on the first day.

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Top: Authentic 3D glasses from the 1982 theatrical release. | Bottom: Jason Voorhees in ‘Friday the 13th Part III — in 3D.’

So, I saw the film on Saturday the 14th, the very next day. We stood in line forever. We ended up behind a whole family waiting to get in. The father had his infant daughter on his shoulder. I remember thinking to myself, even as a 9-year-old kid, “Why would you bring a BABY to this movie?!” This was also back in the day when soundproofing outside the theater wasn’t as great as it is today. As we waited to get in, we heard (halfway saw) the film’s ending where Mrs. Voorhees (with her head somehow magically reattached) springs up out of the lake and drags Chris underwater.

But we managed to get in. It was hot in the theater; only the screening rooms themselves had AC. Still, the whole film was just complete magic for me. The 3D special effects were stellar: the opening credits; the in-depth scenes with Harold and Edna. The cheap gimmicks were even cool, like the rabbit eye thrust into the camera, or the popcorn popping, or the yo-yo moment. Pretty cool that they led to some of the most disturbing scenes in the entire series too: the spear-gun sequence, the bisecting-machete kill, and the eyeball-pop. All incredible moments in 3D cinema.

What always stuck with me from Part III were the closing sequences in the final third of the movie. Director Steve Miner had already proven himself with his first sequel. He took an uneven-at-best, sorely-lacking-at-worst screenplay and turned it into something that ended up grossing $33 million on a $2.5 million budget. This flick was huge! The film went on to be an enormous hit. Paramount sucked up the accolades. “Biggest Paramount opening ever.”

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Director Steve Miner discusses a scene with an unmasked Jason Voorhees (Richard Brooker) during a smoke break. | Credit: Paramount Pictures

I saw it again a week later with a late Saturday night crowd. That was an even better and more raucous experience. First, we’re all in a packed house of mostly fucked-up teenagers — and when I say “fucked-up” I mean “stoned-to-the-gills.” At this Saturday night screening, we were all sitting down when, from behind the screen, came the maniacal laughter from some unseen maniac, and the appropriate response from a terrified female. I don’t know who they were, but it was very entertaining for my little fat-ass.

Even after going back to school, now in the fifth grade, I saw Part III twice more in theaters. By the time my tenth birthday in October arrived, the film was still playing in theaters, and I went to see it again. And then the film moved to the local second-run house, and I went to see it yet again.

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The novelization for ‘Friday the 13th Part III’ by Michael Avallone.

Friday the 13th Part III also had the distinction of being the first film in the series to sport a novelization written by Michael Avallone (although novelizations were commonplace even in the genre back then like the first 3 Halloween films, for example). I wore out 3 copies as a kid.

At the time, I lived in a very affluent suburb where a friend of mine (who might be tight with Cam Neely, who’s to say?) had an older brother who owned a hockey mask, a near-perfect version of the Detroit Red Wing’s goalie mask that served as the inspiration for Jason’s mask in Part III. I managed to somehow make a trade — he seemingly had no idea of the mask’s real worth — and I took my prize home. My older brother, born of an artistic bent, as was I, took the mask and transformed it into the Jason mask as seen in the film. He spray-painted it white, took red electrical tape, and used an Exacto-knife to carve out the chevrons. It wasn’t perfect, but trust me, NO ONE in 1982 had a duplicate hockey mask like this. When my gym class started hockey programs, I was always the goalie solely because of that mask. Well, and because I was fat.

Growing up in Winchester, we had a haunted house attraction in the woods every October. It was on South Border Road (SBR), maybe 2 miles away from our house. SBR was basically an annex to the local highway, Route 93. It carried countless professionals to Boston every day for work, but it was also surrounded by forest (I have no idea if it still is). There was a Boy Scout’s cabin in the woods that had been partially burned down years before. Every year, the local Boy Scouts chapter put on that haunted house attraction in that cabin in the woods. It was terrifying and attracted people from miles around, sometimes causing lines stretched out for half a mile. Because of my hookup of a Jason hockey mask and finding the appropriate clothes, I was able to attend 1982’s haunted house attraction as a pretty scary little kid version of Jason. Of course, this haunted house was fucking terrifying. They took no prisoners. I would bury my face in my mother’s coat. But I LOVED it.

I was lucky enough (or smart enough) to really maintain my love of horror.

To be continued…

Section 2: You’re All Doomed: Growing Up with ‘Friday the 13th’ (Films 4–6)

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, please call 1–800–799-SAFE (7233). Help is available 24/7.

About the Author

Michael Crosby was a contributing writer for Manor Vellum. He passed away on December 5, 2020. We miss him dearly. His articles remain on this site in his honor.

Follow Manor Vellum on Twitter @ManorVellum and Instagram @manorvellum.

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A membrane of texts about the human condition within the horror genre. A MANOR feature.

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