‘Friday the 13th’: Does Empathy Make The Original Film Work?


The original ‘Friday the 13th’ is a film that’s been watched millions of times by billions of people. We all know the story, and that the FX makeup and music really helped the film the undeniable classic that it is today. But does empathy also play a part in the film’s staying power?

Today being Friday the 13th, I figured it the perfect time to ask a few questions that have been knocking around in my brain in the last week or so about the iconic slasher series. One in particular has been bothering me more than a bone in a bucket of boneless chicken bliss: Does having empathy for Mrs. Voorhees help make the original film much more of an impact?

The Webster dictionary defines empathy as such:

The feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

In Sean S. Cunningham’s original Friday the 13th, the villain of the film, Mrs. Voorhees, operates by the blind emotion of love and is consumed with revenge as she believes the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake are responsible for the death of her only child, Jason Voorhees. Its her motives that I believe causes the audience, even on a subconscious lever, have sympathy for the Maniac Mother due to the empathy we feel.

Pamela doesn’t want a bank full of money. Mrs. Voorhees doesn’t particularly want to inflict pain on her pray-if they can even truly be considered prey, as so many murderers want to do in a way to gain control of something, or someone, due to the lack of control they feel in their own lives.The woman just loves her son, even if it’s a little too much.

Her love of Jason has runs deep, so deep in fact, that the former cook of Crystal Lake even goes so far as tampering with the camps’ water supply in 1963, preventing the camp from reopening 17 years before Alice and her do battle. Which, of course, ultimately led to Pamela’s death.

So does understanding where she’s coming from make the film play better than the murders from Friday the 13th’s thousands of imitators?

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Now, I must clarify that I, in no way shape or form, believe you should just go around killing people whom you believe is responsible for the death of a loved one. I would never say that in any circumstance this is the correct course of action. I’m only saying that this is a unique story point not shared with many other slasher films made in the 1980s, most of which came and went like a gallon of milk at a foster home.

Everyone has loved ones that we’d do anything to shield from harm. No matter the size of your family, big or small, everyone has at least one person who they love more that anything and would go berserk if someone harmed that particular person; maybe not to the level of Mrs. Voorhees, but still it probably wouldn’t be a pretty site no doubt.

It’s the empathy for Mrs. Voorhees that I believe makes Friday the 13th special and a long lasting film that will outlive not only me but everyone reading this. Sure, Tom Savini‘s effects are brilliant and Harry Manfredini‘s iconic music is one of the best scores in the entirety of film history, but It’s the story of a mother and the loss of only her son, and probably best friend, as well.

Next: ‘Friday the 13th’: Kane Hodder Says He’s Done With Violence

We all have the emotion of empathy. Each and every one of us has a little Pamela Voorhees deep inside us. But the next time you want to hurt someone who’s hurt one of your own, remember the end of 1980’s Friday the 13th. You don’t want to get your head cut off do you?

Love Friday the 13th? Have an ounce of empathy for Mrs.Voorhees? Let us know all your thoughts in the comment section below and let’s cut right to the chase of what really makes Friday the 13th work.