Raise your hand if you remember the chilling first Friday the 13th movie in which--spoiler alert--Jason Voorhees' mom, Pamela, is the wild-eyed killer. Those final few moments when she, hobbling and bloody, is chasing down one of the Camp Crystal Lake camp counselors all over the grounds (to her impending death) are forever etched in my mind.
So yesterday I asked twitter the following question: "Who's scarier: Jason or Jason's mom?" Surprisingly, despite all the movies (12 in total) in which Jason is seen slashing throats and hanging victims, his mom (whose only alive and running amok in the first film in 1980) is apparently considered the more horrifying killer. But I've always had a soft spot for Pamela. Not that I condone the gruesome murders of innocent people (of course not). But, unlike Jason, Pamela committed crimes of passion. Her crazy antics were actually revenge for her young son's fatal drowning, which she felt was caused by the unjustifiable neglect of the camp counselors who failed to watch him (a longtime rumor has faulted the counselors for being too busy fornicating and not paying attention to Jason's cries for help).
Meanwhile, Jason, who is supposed to be dead, has been on been on an aimless bloody mission. He is maniacal in the true sense of the word, no trigger, no reasoning, just brutal killing sprees that seem to result only to keep his mother's legacy alive. I always thought there was nothing scarier than a villain with no real motive. Because he can be coming for you, too. Why? Just because. You'd think his mother took care of all the culprits in the first movie. What's left for Jason to do? He's a terrifying, malicious machete-slinging corpse running around with mommy issues and no motive (cue disturbing Psycho score). This is who you should be most frightened of.
Upon further research, I've learned a very interesting back story for Pamela. She got pregnant at 16, and was married to a reckless abuser who she ended up chopping into pieces while he slept. Carrying her unborn son, she burned down the house with her husband's body still in it. Guys, this is what happened in The Burning Bed (which was released in 1984), and remember, you rooted for Farrah Fawcett's character in that.
But back to Pamela. Jason was apparently born in June 1946. Pamela and her son moved into a house that was said to be haunted, but of course Pamela, being the boss she is, braved the rumor (and probably got an excellent deal on the mortgage). In the summer of 1957, she later got a job as a cook at the now notorious Camp Crystal Lake. Things were going fairly well for the mother-son pair until Jason drowned. No body was recovered, which means Pamela never got the closure she so needed. And no one was held accountable for Jason's death. You can only imagine how that could affect someone. This is about the time that I think she started to lose her grip on reality, and began poisoning the water at the then shut-down camp to further delay its reopening (Her son was killed there and no one seems to care. I mean, I get it). She did, however, spend 6 months in a mental institution before she was rehired at the camp in 1958. But she still had that vendetta and understandably couldn't get her son's mysterious death out of her mind. Hence, she resorted to her bloodbath, for which she is most famous. This is about where I depart her pity train. I empathize with her because she truly became a broken woman with years of traumatic memories. But she really could have taken permanent residence at that mental institution; it might have saved many lives (and possibly prevented the Jason outbreak).
Now that the antiheroes are having their moment in the spotlight, I have really been thinking about how some of our most dishonorable villains came to be. Pamela's origin story is particularly intriguing as it inspired one of the most unnerving serial killers in cinematic history. So the next time someone asks you, "Who's scarier: Jason or his mom?" how will you respond?