I adore slasher movies. I am also a big fan of 80s actioners. It doesn’t require much analysis to form connections between the two genres. One slasher/action pairing I find strikingly similar is the sixth installment in the Friday the 13th series with the Sylvester Stallone disaffected war veteran vehicle, First Blood.
Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives was an outrageous entry in a financially floundering franchise while First Blood was an intelligent commentary on the struggle of veterans to re-acclimate to society, yet the two films share a number of themes and narrative elements.
Curiously, Friday the 13th VI writer/director Tom McLoughlin revealed in an interview with Bloody Disgusting that a Rambo-esque sequence was cut from the script prior to production. Initially, the famed paintball scene involved not paintballers but “hunters.” Jason would have dispatched of them and stole their high-powered weaponry. Later he would have popped up with “an Uzi strapped on him.” McLouglin even referred to his vision of the killer as “Jason Rambo.”
While fans of the series may quibble over the merit of a gun-toting Jason, all will agree the ex-Green Beret Vietnam vet had a huge influence on McLoughlin’s splatter film.
Both movies open with their respective hero entering a small town. Rambo seeks to reconnect with a war buddy only to discover his friend has died; Tommy (Thom Matthews) visits the grave of his former nemesis to ensure he is no longer breathing and accidentally brings him back to life.
Rambo, with his tangled mess of hair and ill-fitting overcoat is a stain on the curtain of refinement the residents of Hope have hung around themselves. “We don’t want guys like you in this town,” asserts Sheriff William Teasel (Brian Dennehy). Tommy’s cock-and-bull stories about Jason don’t sit well with the people of the newly renamed Forest Green. Both characters are intercepted by a fanatical law enforcement officer and escorted to the edge of their jurisdiction.
The two central characters are haunted by past trauma: Rambo the physical torture he sustained as a prisoner of war in Vietnam; Tommy the torment he endured at the hands of Crystal Lake’s most notorious killer.
Both Rambo and Tommy kick back against authority, refusing to be exiled from town. They are detained and taken into legal custody. Rambo is charged with vagrancy and resisting arrest. Tommy is implicated in the murders that ensued following Jason’s resurrection.
The two characters are treated harshly by an overzealous deputy.
Rambo and Tommy both manage to escape the patrolmen in a wild jailbreak. Rambo maneuvers a motorcycle over ridges and ravines at insane speeds; Tommy drifts recklessly around corners in a 1977 orange Camaro.
Both protagonists retreat to a wooded area. The National Guard detachment in First Blood seems as unsuited for the situation as the battalion of corporate executives engaged in a game of paintball in Friday VI. “I have to be back in the store tomorrow,” laments Lieutenant Clinton Morgan.
Jason pilfers a saw-toothed, stainless steel survival knife resembling Rambo’s distinguishable weapon from one of the paintballers.
In the end, the police prove ineffective. Both bullheaded Sheriff Teasel and simple-minded Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) reach a violent conclusion.
While Friday the 13th VI’s winking sense of humor and penchant for action marked a positive turn for the hockey-masked madman, First Blood proved a juggernaut, ushering in a string of large-scale actioners that would redefine cinematic violence for modern audiences. Did McLoughin intentionally ape the narrative beats of the famous action pic? I guess a follow-up interview with the man himself is the only true way to accurately answer that question, but even a casual reading of the film would suggest yes. The two pictures appear to represent different worlds, however their structural similarities warrant scrutiny. Plus, both movies kick ass. Any excuse to revisit either is a good one.