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Category: Movies

Did Rice See Jack Flack in Cloak & Dagger?

Cloak & Dagger was one of my favorite films as a child and remains one of my most beloved movies. It is a must watch for every father with their children and has one of the most tear-jerking endings of all time. The movie is memorable from beginning to end and so many elements resonated with me as a kid – from the video game incorporation to the action hero to the make-believe friend who we aren’t sure is really make-believe.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Davey Osborne is a young, imaginative, video-game lover who enjoys creating scenarios where he and his friend Kim are spies and must figure out ways to solve their various “missions.” Davey has a make-believe friend whose name is Jack Flack, played brilliantly by Dabney Coleman. Coleman also portrays Davey’s father, Hal Osbourne, and is a gorgeous reminder of how most young boys think about their dads. Only Davey can see Jack, of course, and he shows up to give Davey advice and walk alongside him during Davey’s missions.

Well, Davey gets into a real-life issue that is life-threatening. At the end of the film, the antagonist, whose name is Rice, is about to kill Davey with an automatic weapon (the language and imagery of this final scene is absolutely brutal. Unbelievable that this was a children’s movie). Jack Flack shows up and tells Davey to kill Rice. But Davey won’t do it. In order to save Davey’s life, Jack goes over to draw Rice’s fire. Davey looks over at Jack and yells, “Jack, no!” Rice, who was already looking over in that direction with a puzzled face, pulls the trigger toward Jack Flack and “kills” him. This makes Davey shoot Rice.

Watch the scene below, and then I will provide my thoughts:

Now, most people (and Wikipedia) assume that Rice looks over to his left and ultimately shoots because Davey is looking over there and yells, “Jack, no!” The idea is that Rice assumes there is someone hiding over in that direction and just starts firing.

But I’m not so sure.

I have always wondered if Rice might have caught a glimpse of Jack Flack for just a second, surprising him to the point of causing him to fire. Here are my thoughts.

The biggest and most obvious reason is that Jack Flack looks different in this one scene than he does in the rest of the movie. As he is standing there taunting Rice, he appears to be transparent. Normally, he just appears like a normal human being. Why? Why at this one scene when Jack is “making himself known” do the filmmakers decide to make him look different? It might very well be because the movie is saying something special about our imaginary friends and the power of a child’s imagination.

Also, Rice looks weirded out the entire conversation. This might be because Davey keeps looking to his left, but I have always thought Rice “felt” something was off. I could understand if he was firing into a wooded area or something, but he fires at a blank wall. Why would he do that unless he saw “something?”

What do you think? Did Rice see Jack Flack?

The Storytelling of George Lucas

*This article contains minor spoilers for The Last Jedi

Here’s my thesis:  The Last Jedi will have a surprising, unintended consequence of increasing appreciation for the storytelling of George Lucas in Episodes 1-3 (the prequels).

The nearly universal consensus is that Lucas displayed storytelling genius in the first three Star Wars films, episodes 4-6. The character development and plot progression seamlessly wove together into a “believable” science-fiction masterpiece.

And then Lucas did something crazy. He resisted the temptation to create three identical movies as he directed the three prequels. Lucas veered into dangerous territory by providing a glimpse of scientific explanation behind the force, he built episode 1 on the less-than-inspirational concept of a trade federation, and he relied on the maturity of the viewer to follow an intricate plot development connecting the Clone Wars, Palpatine/Emperor, and the Jedi Order. This was all happening while the Skywalker family remained central to not only the saga as a whole, but also to each individual film.

And that, to me, is the beauty of the prequels that goes unnoticed. Lucas managed to keep the main thing the main thing while presenting a rich and complex story that felt quite different than the original trilogy. The fans, however, were for the most part apathetic at best.

The Last Jedi is a good movie with an emotionally rich subtext. Many of the scenes are breathtaking and the film certainly answers a significant number of questions that were raised by The Force Awakens. The problem is that the film’s most glorious moments are captured by utilizing nostalgic elements from Lucas’ films, and the times the film ventures off to establish new material, there is a silent emptiness that seems to hover over the screen.

The Force Awakens was a powerhouse blockbuster the fans loved. Why? Because it was Lucas’ original trilogy repackaged. The best moments in The Last Jedi? Better give thanks to Lucas for those too. I found the story progression to be, at times, absurd in The Last Jedi. Without giving away too many details, a significant portion of the film depends on low fuel and a bunch of Star Destroyers and First Order ships “keeping their distance” from a Resistance ship.  It’s almost as if the story had to come up with some kind of structure in order to provide room for the cool visual moments, and more often than not, that structure failed. A notable exception was the relationship between Kylo and Rey. That, by far, was the strongest aspect of the film.

I may be (and deeply hope) I am wrong, but Star Wars Episode IX has the potential to be horrible, largely because there is so little left of Lucas to rely on. If the standard continues to move downward, then the stock of Lucas’ prequels will begin to rise. And in my opinion, rightfully so.

 

The Force Awakens and the Noetic Effects of Sin – *Mild Spoiler Alert

*The below commentary contains some mild spoilers concerning one of the main characters, Finn. Read at your own risk.

This article will attempt to do two things:  Provide a simple summary of my thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and discuss one specific theme of the film from a biblical worldview.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE FILM AS A FAN:
Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have watched the original trilogy dozens of times and the journey of Luke Skywalker to the status of Jedi Knight is a beautiful thing to behold. So much so that in spite of more accomplished light saber duelists or perhaps wiser and more emotionally stable Jedis, the final moments of Return of the Jedi leaves me convinced of Luke’s superiority over any Jedi that ever lived. To quote the great Brett “The Hitman” Hart, Luke is the “the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.”

Do not count me among the millions of Star Wars fans who love to vilify the second trilogy of films, Episodes I-III. There are certainly aspects of the films, especially Episode II, I do not care for, but the portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi by Ewan McGregor was masterful and Liam Neeson as the convictional Qui-Gon Jinn was iconic. But still, Lucas’ decision to abandon more traditional special effects and models in the prequels for the digital universe left an important visual  element of the original trilogy missing.

J.J. Abrams brings that element back in The Force Awakens and it is probably the single greatest reason I was thrilled to be watching and, at times, tearing up during the film. Droids from Episode IV are seen walking about, physical sets and models dominate the film, Star Destroyers look like Star Destroyers, and the strange juxtaposition of archaic simplicity with sophisticated Sci-Fi technology was back and executed with perfection.

Watching Han Solo and Chewbacca return to the Star Wars saga was breath taking. I’ll admit it took me a few minutes to get comfortable with an older Han Solo, but once his character became infused with the story line, things felt less awkward. I wonder if my future viewings of the original trilogy will be impacted by what I now know about Han Solo from The Force Awakens.

I think my only real criticism with the movie, and it is minor, is the speed at which things fall into place for the unfolding melodrama. Abrams keeps the action moving so quickly that it seems he is almost paranoid of taking too much time to let situations, conflicts, relationships, and plots fully develop before pushing them forward. I wasn’t thrilled with the physical appearance of Supreme Leader Snoke, and you could make the argument for Abrams relying too much on Episode IV for his movie. But, those things are so minuscule it isn’t worth dwelling on them.

The ending of the film was perfect. I have never left a theater more excited about the next film in an installment.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE FILM AS A PASTOR/THEOLOGIAN
Plenty of folks have weighed in on the larger worldview issues embedded in the Star Wars franchise. This article from Peter Jones at Ligonier Ministries is a good overview of the big picture for understanding Star Wars from a Christian worldview.

What I found to be fascinating was how a major theme of the film connects to what is known as the “noetic effects of sin.” The noetic effects of sin refers to the way our minds have been impacted by the fall of Adam. Romans 1:21 is helpful:  “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Human reasoning has not been completely destroyed by sin, although it has been severely darkened and, apart from Christ, will lead a person into futility.

This leaves humans in a helpless situation. Something must happen in order for the light to break through the darkness. Paul describes that “something” in 2 Corinthians 4:6 when he says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This clarifies several things. First, Paul makes a connection between the mind (knowledge) and the heart (the wellspring of life). Second, Paul speaks of the necessity of God’s action in shining this light in our hearts before our minds can grasp the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This is clarified in 2 Corinthians 4:4 – “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Third, God’s light-shining initiative is necessary for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, but human reasoning is not all together ruined by sin. There is still an ability, even among unbelievers, to understand good from evil.

Now we turn to Finn. Here is a man who was raised from birth to serve the First Order and has been indoctrinated with their evil intentions. He doesn’t have a name and is known only by his Stormtrooper identification number of FN-2187. He is respected among his superiors as a person with unlimited potential to advance in the First Order hierarchy. Every second of his life has been spent in service to First Order causes with exceptional results.

And then it all changes. When we encounter Finn, we find a man who is reluctant to carry out the orders of his superiors. He seems more intent on saving lives than he is killing them. How is this possible? How can a man who was raised without a name, born and immersed solely in a world of evil and hatred, feel compelled to defect to the “light” side of the battle? What was his motivation to switch sides? And where did that motivation come from?

In the biblical narrative, this question is most difficult when asked in reverse. God as Creator-King designed a world without blemish, one that was pronounced “very good.” And then something went horribly wrong. Somehow one of God’s created beings defected and switched sides. Except there was no other “side.” Of all the questions I receive from curious church members, children, and my own family, the most difficult is the question of Satan’s fall. How could a sinless being with no knowledge of evil choose evil? I don’t know. I chalk that one up to Deuteronomy 29:29; “the secret things belong to the Lord.”

The issue of Finn from a biblical worldview is easier to answer. God’s grace through general revelation has enlightened humanity to know something of the doctrine of Imago Dei – being created in the image of God. The noetic effects of the fall are devastating, but have not prevented humans from understanding at least a partial moral compass of God’s design. The reason is because humanity has the image of God stamped on our hearts, or as the author of Ecclesiastes put it, “…he has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The power of Imago Dei helps make sense of Finn’s sudden and otherwise incomprehensible turn from the only world he knew, a world of evil. Additional revelation is needed before Finn can comprehend where he belongs in the world; at the beginning he simply wants out of the First Order. He wants the killing to stop. He wants to flee from the evil and do what King David desired in Psalm 55 – ride on the “wings of a dove” and fly far, far away. But as additional revelation enlightens him to the cause of the Resistance (Rebel Army), Finn begins to be shaped into someone other than a deserter of evil. He begins to be shaped into an agent for good.

It remains to be seen in future films if the franchise will answer the lingering question of why Finn decided to defect, or if they will leave it alone. By doing the latter, the filmmakers are unknowingly pointing to an important biblical doctrine. Humanity is not incapable of discerning good from evil in a general sense. But something more is needed to be who we are designed to be. Something more is needed is pull us completely out of the darkness and into the light.

If we exit the “galaxy far, far away” and travel back to reality, God has a specific agenda. His agenda is to “deliver sinners out of the domain of darkness and transfer us to the kingdom of his beloved son” (Colossians 1:13). That deliverance takes a special kind of revelation – the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May the peace of our God in heaven be with you all.

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Exegesis, Footloose, and the Reverend Shaw Moore

Footloose (1984) starring a young Kevin Bacon is a phenomenal film. The subtext of this musical drama is quite inspiring and the filmmakers should be applauded for their success in taking an otherwise cheesy dance movie to an emotionally engaging level, even if they were not fully cognizant of the degree to which they were saying something rather profound.

Most of the success for this deeper side of the film can be attributed to the Oscar worthy performance of John Lithgow as the Reverend Shaw Moore. A casual and perhaps clumsy viewer will make the mistake of viewing Shaw as a disgruntled clergyman out of touch with reality and serving no real purpose in the film other than to be one of Ren’s enemies, and an annoying conservative one at that. But there is a depth to Lithgow’s character that I resonate with both as a pastor and as a lover of movies.

There are many examples in Footloose I could point to, but one of the best is in the following clip. In case you haven’t see the movie, Ren is a big city teenager who moves to a small town where dancing is illegal. Ren takes it upon himself to get this law reversed and that will require changing the mind of the town’s leading (only?) pastor, Shaw Moore, who has considerable influence in the community and has historically been behind the dancing restriction. In this clip, Ren is speaking before the city council to make an argument in favor of changing the law. Take a look…

On the surface, it appears that Shaw is speechless in light of Ren’s recitation of Psalm 149 and 2 Samuel 6. Who knew that this hip, dance-crazed teenager was such an accomplished exegete that even the well studied Shaw Moore would be out of his league in biblical interpretation? But that isn’t what’s happening at all. Ren’s use of Psalm 149 and 2 Samuel 6 to advance the reversal of a no dancing law so they can have a senior prom is probably the worst exegesis I have ever heard (on second thought, no it isn’t). Shaw could have torn down his argument in about 15 seconds.

But he didn’t.

Shaw’s own views of the dancing law were indeed changing, and Ren did indeed have a role to play in those changes, but not because of his faulty use of Scripture. Trust is never earned if you never had the opportunity to lose it. And the one thing Shaw desired more than all else was for his daughter to be trustworthy – both in her faith and in life. Ironically, the thing that was most important to Shaw was the thing he was most preventing.

So, in this clip the Reverend Shaw remains silent, and in doing so reveals the depth and nature of his character. He is a man who sincerely desires the best for his family, friends and community; enough to keep his mouth shut when he could easily have humiliated the young Ren. I love the eye contact Shaw first makes with Ren upon his opening of the bible, and then the subsequent eye contact he makes with his wife, Vi (great name). Both times, Shaw is showing great restraint, even knowing that young Ren is on dangerous, and faulty, ground. Vi also knows how incredibly weak Ren’s comments are, nervously bringing her left hand up to her face, not certain if her husband is about to rip this young man’s argument to shreds. And this is a lesson for us all. Sometimes well-intentioned folks will be moving in the right direction, but might not have all the right words or arguments. It takes patience and humility to avoid correcting every little argumentative error. Shaw’s heart was changing, and would eventually be changed through the experience of a book-burning episode in the community. He knew Ren was on the right track, even though he made a poor argument. So he kept silent. That isn’t a villian. That is a hero.

This is a challenging lesson in pastoral ministry, especially for younger pastors. Whether it be in a small group bible study or one-to-one conversations, there is a tendency to correct every little misspoken word, failing to let the student stumble about, but slowly make progress with Godly guidance. Although we certainly want to keep our folks out of doctrinal error, we must resist putting words in their mouth to the detriment of their own processing and study. It is a difficult line to find at times, and Shaw Moore nailed it.

This is only one of many important moments in the film. Perhaps it is time for you to revisit it.

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Halloween 1978 DVD Transfer – A Comparison

John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween is arguably the greatest horror movie ever filmed and transcends genre boundaries to enjoy critical success on multiple levels. Although Carpenter provided horror fans with a memorable run of classic films (The Fog, The Thing, Christine, They Live), he was never able to recapture the atmospheric brilliance of Halloween. Regardless of the less-than-spectacular offerings he has directed in the last decade, he will always be a legend among horror fans.

In this article I want to briefly discuss the DVD transfer options, as well as a brand new 35th anniversary Blu Ray HD transfer, to help fans understand the differences between the different DVD’s. I think it is safe to suggest that die-hard horror fans are the most devoted fans of any genre and will purchase multiple copies of the same movie for no other reason than they “need” to own them all. It would seem that various distribution companies who own the rights to horror films are just taking advantage of their rabid horror fan base and release multiple editions of the same movie to earn a profit. This is no doubt true. Yet there are legitimate and necessary reasons why a distribution company will release several versions of the same film. For 80% of movie viewers, the differences between the various editions are unnoticeable or uninteresting. But for the rest of us, the slight nuances between two editions of the same horror film are fascinating and we wait for the “perfect” transfer from film to DVD.

In some ways, Halloween represents the epitome of this process. Some six (6) editions of the film were released on DVD and there are already two (2) editions released for Blu Ray (including the brand new 35th Anniversary Edition). Two of the DVD transfers are by far the most important and most popular and it is on these two versions that I will comment. They are:  The 1999 “Restored” edition and the 2003 “Divimax” 25th Anniversary edition.

One more factor in this discussion needs to be addressed before a comparison is made between the 2 editions. His name is Dean Cundey, the cinematographer for Halloween. A significant reason for Halloween’s success is due to Cundey’s brilliance with lighting and mood and he does not receive near enough credit for making Carpenter’s story come alive. The most memorable scenes in Halloween, such as Myer’s “materializing” behind Jamie Strode, or the famous walk across the street from the Wallace house to the Doyle house while Jamie is pounding on the door, are permanently etched in our minds in large part because of the look Cundey brought to the film. The DVD transfer process for Halloween, in some ways, centers around Dean Cundey. Here’s why…

In 1999, Anchor Bay Entertainment decided to release a “Restored” version of Halloween on DVD. Restored to what you may ask? Well, restored as close as possible to the way the film looked on the big screen in 1978. They figured, quite correctly, that the person who would best know how to transfer the film for the most accurate preservation of the original feel was the original cinematographer, Dean Cundey. Thus, Cundey was brought in to assist and approve the film’s transfer for the 1999 version. The result was the “definitive” version of Halloween, a version that was released an amazing three different times by Anchor Bay Entertainment. In this “restored” version, the film highlights the signature blue hue that is found throughout the film’s duration and tends to have a darker, perhaps even a bit of a “grainier”, look to it. The transfer is still sharp and crisp, but looks like a 1978 film.

Anchor Bay then decided to release a “25th Anniversary Edition” in 2003 and thought it would be a good idea to once again make a new DVD transfer from the film. This time, however, Dean Cundey was not involved. Well, you probably will not be surprised to learn that Cundey hates the 25th Anniversary transfer with a passion. The differences between it and the 1999 “restored” version are very noticeable, even for viewers who tend not to care about such things. The 25th Anniversary, or “Divimax”, transfer brightens up the film dramatically and reduces much of the signature blue hue. In scenes where the restored version keep things fairly dark, making the viewer wonder what might be in that dark shadow, the 2003 version brightens things up to a degree where those shadowed areas become much clearer. The result is a transfer that “pops” out at you much more and it looks super clean, absolutely breathtaking.  (in case you are wondering, and chances are you aren’t, the audio for the two transfers is virtually identical).

Here is where things get really weird. In 2007, Anchor Bay suddenly reverted back to the 1999 restored version in their distribution of the film. There was no reason given by the company for why they stopped producing the 2003 edition and went back to the 1999 transfer. So, if you purchase a copy of Halloween today from Amazon.com or from Best Buy, you will be watching the Cundey approved 1999 transfer. Even the first Blu Ray edition of Halloween was based on this Cundey transfer. Some have speculated that the company desired Cundey’s name to be on the box so they went back to his transfer. Others suggest that Anchor Bay realized that they had screwed up the original intent for the look of the movie. But no one really knows why the restored version become preferred once again.

So, which is better? I’m going to step back and punt and suggest that both transfers are essential for any Halloween fan. I prefer the 1999 restored version simply because I am somewhat of a purist and I figure that Cundey has a pretty good idea what the film is supposed to look like. Plus, I’m a huge fan of the blue lighting and the Divimax just doesn’t have it to the same degree. However, the Divimax provides an exceptional picture with the kind of vividness to make Halloween fans say, “hey, I’ve never noticed that before!” As an aside, the 25th Anniversary, as you would expect, is superior in its bonus material, including a wonderful “On Location” documentary that takes you back to the classic filming locations 25 years later.

Finally, a brand new 35th Anniversary (has it already been 10 years since the 25th Anniversary?) Blu Ray HD transfer has been made and is due for release this month. Thankfully, this new transfer has been approved by Cundey. This promises to be the ultimate, once and for all version! A HD transfer in all it’s Blu Ray glory approved by Dean Cundey and never seen by Halloween fans. Yes, this means that once more I will be purchasing the movie Halloween, bringing the total copies I own of the film to ten. Silly that I own so many? Probably. But without them, you would never have been able to enjoy the breadth of information this article has provided for you – so I’m happy to make the sacrifice on your behalf.

Actually, I just love the movie.

 

 

The Friday the 13th Dream Sequence

Sean S. Cunningham and the rest of the creative team behind the 1980 slasher film Friday the 13th have been forthcoming for years on “borrowing” the shock element from the ending of Carrie and utilizing it for their own ending. Arguably even more effective than Carrie’s exhilarating conclusion, the final moments of Friday the 13th are the stuff of legend. But how should the sudden appearance of Jason in Camp Crystal Lake be interpreted? Let’s consider the options.

The overwhelming consensus, and apparently the intent of the filmmakers (which goes a long way), is that Jason’s act of revenge on Alice was all a dream sequence. You will remember that after Alice decapitated Mrs. Voorhees she gently pushed a canoe into Crystal Lake presumably to wait for help. After the Jason sequence and Alice’s abrupt awakening in the hospital bed, we conclude that Alice fell asleep at some point during the night while in the canoe on Crystal Lake and dreamed the entire horrific episode. This is the first and most popular option in considering what happened at the end of the film.

The major strength of this view is obvious. Alice survives the attack. It would be difficult to explain how Alice, after a long night of fighting for her life against Mrs. Voorhees and hanging out in a canoe, could survive an attack by a very ticked-off Jason who is looking for revenge. I have some ideas on how it could have happened, but the fact alone that she lives is a strong argument for the dream sequence.

Equally strong is the police officer issue. Just before Alice is attacked by Jason in the canoe, we are relieved to see the police make their way to the shore of the lake. An officer gets out of his vehicle and is seen shouting toward the canoe which is in the dead middle of the lake. We do not hear the police officer’s voice because we have been so completely immersed in the underrated closing score by Henry Manfredini (I will be writing a subsequent article on Manfredini’s score). The issue at hand as it concerns the police officer is this:  He is looking directly at the canoe, trying to get Alice’s attention. Only a few seconds later we are shocked to witness a young, deformed Jason Voorhees jump out of the lake and attack Alice. The necessary next question is clear – how did the officer not see and hear this commotion? The answer, of course, is because it never happened. Alice was dreaming. This is supported by the officer’s bewildered look when Alice asks about “the boy” in the hospital.

Frankly, if not for those two issues, making a case for the dream sequence would be very difficult. The only other possible reason why a viewer might reach such a conclusion is because of the absurdity of Jason rising out of the lake to take revenge after being “dead” for 22 years. But such reasoning is incredibly weak. Are we really suppose to assume Alice’s experience is a dream simply because something impossible happened in a slasher horror film? Horror fans watch horror movies for that very reason – to wait for the incredible, for the fantastic, for the impossible, to invade the lives of the characters and thus invade our lives. No serious horror fan would watch the ending of Friday the 13th and conclude “dream sequence” simply because it seems absurd.

That brings us back to the issue of the police officer and Alice’s survival – and those are significant. Significant enough that they quite possibly cannot be overcome. But, let’s keep thinking…

The second interpretive option for the ending of Friday the 13th is that the events actually happened and Alice was attacked by Jason. There are several strengths for this view. First, this view is supported by the franchise itself. Jason is alive in Friday the 13th part 2. I recognize the inherit weakness of this particular argument – I am relying on material not yet revealed in 1980 to support a position in the first film. If we demand Friday the 13th must stand alone without the aid of the series, then this first argument fails, for at the end of the original film we cannot be certain that Jason is, in fact, alive. Nevertheless, most people who have seen Friday the 13th watch it with a posteriori knowledge that Jason Voorhees is a killing machine, so seeing him pop out of Crystal Lake does not invoke “dream sequence” thoughts.

The second strength for this option also draws from the reality of future films and asks this question:  If Jason did not rise from the lake, where had he been for 22 years? If one takes the ending as reality, then one must assume that Jason was brought back to life by the decapitating of his mother for the purpose of revenge. Just as Mrs. Voorhees was on a rampage for the killing of Jason, Jason is now on a rampage for the killing of his mother. If the ending is not reality, and we meet Jason very much alive in Part 2, then we must draw a conclusion that Jason was hiding out somewhere for 22 years. This doesn’t work because there is no reason why he would keep himself separated from his mother. Some have even suggested that Jason “witnessed” his mother’s decapitation from behind a tree, but this is nonsense. That Jason would be so close to his mom that he is keeping tabs on her from behind trees but never reveals to her that he is actually alive is ridiculous.

(I must make a quick aside to point out what could be seen as an inconsistency in the flow of my argument. This is one of those things you either “get” as a movie fan or you don’t. Just a few paragraphs above I made an argument for why the absurd should not keep us from believing something is based in reality – Jason coming back from the dead to attack Alice. Then, I turn right around and argue that it would be “nonsense” for Jason to be alive and not be with his mother. Although this sounds contradictory it actually isn’t. The reason is because we must allow for concessions based on genre but there are certain elements of any film that are constant as part of common sense living. For example, we have no problem enjoying and “believing” a ridiculous car chase in a film like “Fast & The Furious” but the same film still has certain boundaries that must be adhered to in order for the drama to remain “together.” For horror, the absurd and fantastic as they pertain to the elements of that particular drama are the very things that drive the story. Of course we know those things can’t really happen, but for the purpose of the film, we have no problem playing along. Yet, when it comes to characters behaving in a way that are so grossly outside the playing field of common sense, daily living, then we have problems. Even for the most casual horror movie fan, this truth is most clearly seen when a viewer is not bothered by the 3 headed monster who is chasing the helpless victim, but is deeply bothered when said victim locks themselves in a closet instead of running out the front door.  Thus, that Jason returns from the dead to avenge his mother is perfectly “believable” within the framework of this genre. That he would keep himself separated from his mother for 22 years but watches her every move from behind a tree is perfectly unacceptable.)

Third, Alice’s final words in the original film are prophetic and have always come across to me as words spoken by a person who knows she is the only person who actually knows. We see this in horror films all the time – there is always that one person, often times a child, who actually understands what is taking place. This is what makes the Dr. Loomis character in Halloween work so well. When Alice says, “then he’s still there” in reference to Jason’s presence at Camp Crystal Lake, it feels honest and correct, not like the result of a dream. Of course, there is the possibility that the one does not have to exclude the other. Even if Alice was dreaming, she could have received and interpreted her dream as a vision of sorts, truly believing that, based on her dream, Jason really is “still there.”

So how does this option deal with the police officer watching Annie? There are two possible solutions.

First, even though the officer is last seen looking directly at Alice, he nevertheless misses something. We don’t know how or why, but he does. The way I can partially (although weakly) support this view is by comparing it to another film where something similar happens. In the original Halloween, Laurie Strode is standing at her bedroom window looking down into her yard. She is startled to see Michael Myers looking back at her. The camera comes back to Laurie who never takes her eye off the yard. Yet, when the camera returns to the yard, Michael is gone. What happened? Did Laurie watch him magically disappear? Did he simply walk away? Was she hallucinating the whole thing? We don’t know. But no one thinks that part of the film is a dream sequence. Somehow, we just get that Laurie, although still at the window, saw Michael and then she didn’t. A similar thing could have happened at Camp Crystal Lake; simply a filming decision. (watch the video below to understand better the Halloween comparison).

Second, the officer arriving at the lake was simply part of the “getting comfortable” mood in order to set up the shock ending. Whether or not the officer was even there during the attack could be in question. Could it actually have been the arrival of the police Alice was imagining and the attack was real – not the reverse?

There are a few other issues we could consider, but this article is already way too long. For example, we could discuss how Jason seemed to age incredibly fast in one year, from the Crystal Lake attack to when he actually kills Alice in part 2. I have some thoughts on why that could have happened, but I will leave that alone for now.

So where do I come down on this? When I first watched the original Friday the 13th I would have been about 11 years old. I was well aware of the subsequent films and the carnage of Jason Voorhees. Thus, on my first viewing, I took the attack as real. I have leaned in that direction ever since. Nevertheless, I recognize the arguments are stronger for the dream sequence interpretation and based on the matter-of-fact way Cunningham and everyone else speaks of the ending as a dream, it is hard to disagree.

What are your thoughts? (besides the glaring unimportant nature of this article).