Do you remember the first time you saw a Friday the 13th movie? I'd wager so, even if you're maybe unsure about exactly which one of the eight or 15 or so of them you saw. Was it the first one, with the bloke from the EE adverts and a weird soundtrack that you thought was cool and, later on as you got ready for bed, terrifying? Were you confused as to why there wasn't a man with a hockey mask in it, and instead some mad old woman in a cream sweater? Or was it a different one, was Jason in Manhattan, for reasons both dubious and hilarious? Was he in space?
It doesn't much matter, because the hows and the whys and the whatevers of the films themselves, the specifics, are rendered near-irrelevant next to the important issue, which is that of how you saw them. That when you saw your first Friday the 13th, or Halloween, or Nightmare on Elm Street, or whatever, there's a strong chance that you were nowhere near 18 years old, and that illicitly watching them was the sort of thing that only happened by luck, chance, good planning, or a combo of all three, and as such not the sort of thing you easily forget.
In the days before you could watch any movie, any time, the allure of that VHS tape with its big, red 18 sticker, often replete with pulpy, violent cover, was palpable. Maybe your older sibling owned it, and most of the time – much like adult beverages and adult discussions – it was kept away from the view of those too young for it. At school you'd hear about your mate – almost always an Ian, or Mark or Dave – who had watched the new Freddy or Jason or KillFest TitCamp, often thanks to the cosmic luck of having an older brother who had moved onto much harder stuff, like getting a job and being a real person.
If you didn't have that sort of 'in', an advance man in the most literal sense, then you needed a level of strategic thinking and problem-solving that should probably count towards a BTEC of some kind. Not only did you need the means – a video player – you also needed the production, the film itself. And then, even if you had both, you needed to make sure your parents were out, and wouldn't be back for a while. Still, after all this you could yet be undone, grassed up by the little tape window which would betray the fact that you'd watched the film and forgotten to rewind it.
That the hardest part of watching these movies was watching them at all fostered a sense of camaraderie, of hard-won shared experience, of a 13-year old's version of derring-do, a room full of people pretending to themselves and each other that they weren't scared when they'd never go for a piss again without turning on every light in the house. The gorehounds and earlier-gen horror people may have seen this stuff in the cinema, but – particularly in Britain – slasher movies for the children of VHS weren't just about seeing Jason or Freddy or whoever cutting people up: they were also about the shared task of getting your mates together and seeing if you could, against all odds, even glimpse any of it at all.
Which is one of the reasons why, despite my reservations, I'm looking forward to playing the new Friday the 13th game from Gun Media, which has raised over a million dollars worth of funds so far. The setup is smart – asymmetric, 1v7, Jason vs camp councillors, and it's got series creator/writer/producer Sean S. Cunningham and Harry Manfredini, the series composer, on board. Tom Savini, too, who you may remember for his robotic gun-dick in From Dusk Til Dawn, another film you probably saw underage. A lot of care and attention is seemingly being paid to the production's aesthetic: there are a thousand violent deaths and a million callbacks to locations, characters, weapons, incidents.
This is all important stuff: there are expectations around a Friday the 13th game, even if they are based around mad horror schlock, people getting shot in the eyes with harpoon guns, and crazed killers being reanimated by errant anchors. That sort of thing will make it look and sound like a Friday the 13th experience. But the hard part will be the teamwork, in getting the way the councillors have to work together right (acquiring car keys and boat parts and the like), while at the same time making sure it's not utterly repetitive. I'm not quite convinced just yet.
If Gun Media does get that right, however, then it will have nailed the whole old-school Friday the 13th appeal in more ways than just one. Because nothing says Jason Lives more than a bunch of idiot children desperately trying to impress each other while outwitting older, more powerful beings with stupid yet heroic plans, as anyone who was 14 in the 90s will attest.