The Last Drive-In | Slasher Life Lessons, Pt. 1

An illustrated image of Joe Bob Briggs showing off his daily catch at Camp Crytal Lake with Mrs. Vorhees' severed head in the background

Welcome Mutants to The Last Drive-In‘s new blog series: All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from…” Each week, we’ll feature life lessons from a classic slasher leading up to Halloween. Given we just came off our second national holiday — Friday the 13th — and an epic night on @MutantTheather hosted by The Daddyman, it seems fitting to feature that film. So strap in and let us arm you with reasons even non-genre family and friends can understand when it comes to why you spend way too much time watching horror movies.

Numero-Uno: Pay attention to the town crazy.

Sure it’s easy to dismiss a guy in rumpled clothes — on a bike, in the woods, in your pantry — telling you you’re doomed. But he just might be right. Remember, in Shakespeare it’s always the Fool who knows what’s really going on (see the Cemetery Drunkard, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). So if someone tries repeatedly to tell you and your friends that you’re all going to die, you might want to listen. Which leads us to…

Numero-Two-O: Not all summer jobs are created equal. 

Do your research. Never sign up for a summer job at a place the locals call Camp Blood. While Ennis was quick to call Annie and her friends just dumb kids with rocks in their heads, there was no internet in 1980. And Steve Christy was just doing what many employers in a relatively desperate position would do: hiding a history of grisly murder to ensure an adequate candidate pool (see Stuart Ullman, The Shining).

Numero-Three-O: Never go to the woods to escape.

Alice, Sweet Alice
All blog art by T.J. Denton – @tdenton_1138

Everybody needs to put their hometown in the rearview mirror from time to time. But if you’re running away from problems — especially in a horror movie — they will find you with a vengeance. After Alice’s friends all end up dead, her overbearing mother (Part II) and whatever other problems she left in the city must have felt like a cake walk. (Related advice: Never trust amazing deals on big rambling houses in the country; see…too many horror movies to name.)

Numero-Four-O: Being a vegan will not prevent you from becoming hamburger meat.

I’ve always been Team Brenda. She’s chill. She’s smart. She’s the Shoe in Monopoly, including the strip variation. And she knows a hell of a lot about food science – the health benefits of Vitamin C, how to combine foods to maximize protein absorption. Alas none of this saves her, despite having all the qualities of a great Final Girl. While Ned’s earlier prank at the archery change foreshadowed the slings and arrows that would befall her, it’s always sad to see Brenda go.

Numero-Five-O: If you have sex, you will die. 

Horror movie maxim number one. Promiscuous = Dead (see Carol Clover, Men, Women and Chainsaws – endorsed way back in 1991 by our very own Joe Bob Briggs and mentioned in his 2018 Ask Me Anything interview on Reddit). Things change in the 90s, but in 1980, non-virgins were still punished under the fullest extents of the law-less. Even so, Friday the 13th is a little different if you think about it. Annie, Bill, Alice, Brenda, Neddie, Jack and Marcie were volunteers at a summer camp for inner-city children. So in Victor Miller and Sean S. Cunningham’s film, not even the altruistic teens are spared.

Which leads me to a sidebar: the Gratuitous Blogger contends that while Halloween was the superior film, the original Friday the 13th had better character development. The details are small but they’re there. Neddy’s the class clown, but he’s got a stable of serviceable Groucho Marx, Humphrey Bogart and Steve Martin impressions and he’s also lonely. Marcie, while clearly representing “sex appeal,” does a mean Mae West and Katherine Hepburn and is still haunted by a nightmare from her childhood. In fact, everyone’s got a small backstory but Brenda, who’s a fully developed character without one, and Bill, everyone’s favorite, perpetually-on-the-go handyman.

Numero-Six-O: If you’re not a strong swimmer, don’t go deep. 

Mrs. Vorhees’ flashback shows a young Jason struggling in what appears to be the dead center of Crystal Lake. How’d he get that far if he can’t swim? Of course, it’s not clear that Jason’s mother actually witnessed him drowning. If she didn’t, the shot — perhaps unintentionally — is a powerful commentary on how the mind projects worst-case scenario when the details of a tragedy are unknown. Which sets up…

Numero-Seven-O: Let people know you’re not actually dead.

Had Jason let folks know he was alive, his poor mother would never have become a homicidal maniac with a bloodlust for horny irresponsible teenagers. Conversely, how does a six-year-old survive on his own in the woods for 23 years? Somehow he did, consuming woodland plants and animals to the ripe old age of 34 —  the time Camp Crystal Lake was set to reopen. Or maybe Jason really did die and, triggered by the presence of Cristy and Crew, arose as a kind of supernatural being in the form of a very real and hard-to-kill man with very deep family ties. Leading us to our last point…

Numero-Eight-O: There’s just no love like a mother’s love.

Up next week, life lessons from Joe Bob’s favorite film…

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Laura Beerman

Our Gratuitous Blogger is Laura Beerman. Her bio may be summarized in two words: Mama tried. Laura is a lifelong horror fan with a particular soft spot for Joe Bob and Dario Argento. She earned a graduate degree in Early American Literature from Austin Peay State University. She has written professionally for more than two decades, primarily in healthcare, and has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and other industry publications for her insights. Laura lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her horticulturist husband, The Greenman, and her four cats. Her other musings are forthcoming in Diabolique Magazine.

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