“It’s finally over. Jason’s home” —Tommy Jarvis.
As a fan of the series, to me the Friday the 13th films are up there alongside other classic horror series like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. An unstoppable killer with an iconic look, enough ’80s humour to keep it from getting too scary, and a memorable ‘good’ character that you connect to the killer. For Freddy Krueger, it’s Nancy Thompson. For Michael Myers, it’s Laurie Strode. And for Jason, it has to be Tommy Jarvis. From the messy-haired kid who outsmarted Jason to the grown man with a taste for revenge, Tommy Jarvis has always been out to stop Jason. And you could argue he was somewhat successful (if you discount the fact that Jason really cannot die that is). A returning character to three of the main films in the series, featured in a wacky horror mashup comic and even making it into the massively popular computer game, Tommy is woven into the tapestry of Friday the 13th and has become as iconic as Pamela Voorhees and maybe even Jason himself. So, let’s talk about who he is and why Jason never managed to kill him. Yet…
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter gave us a number of fun things: seriously cringey dancing, a bucket load of boobs, but perhaps most importantly it gave us Tommy Jarvis. This 12-year-old, messy-haired geek was introduced to us early on in the film, sporting an alien mask he had customised himself and playing a retro robot shoot ’em up computer game. We know he’s a geek when he explains to his complaining mother that he can’t play his game upstairs as he needs a bypass patch cord. Portrayed by a young Corey Feldman (pre-Goonies fame), Tommy is a typical American geek. He likes monster masks, computer games, and his best friend is his dog, Gordon. He’s a likeable little chap, who to me felt like a refreshing change in these films compared to the usual horny teenager. There is one scene where he gets a little too excited when he spies a teenage girl undressing in the house across from his, but he’s still not your usual Friday the 13th machete fodder. In a later scene, he finds the teenagers skinny dipping while chasing Gordon through the woods, and he even says himself, “Come on, boy. We’re too young for this.”
The film then descends into your usual Friday the 13th set-up. The teenagers drink booze, get naked, make generally bad choices, and Jason turns up and starts teaching them all a lesson in his usual manner. I particularly enjoy the harpoon to the crotch scene. Good one, Jason! As the number of teenagers diminishes, Tommy and his sister Trish find their own home in darkness and their mother missing. With the help of local ‘bear hunter’ Rob, Trish goes off to investigate, telling Tommy to lock the doors and stay inside. While they’re away, Tommy discovers a collection of newspaper cuttings in Rob’s belongings, which are all about Jason and the Crystal Lake murders. Rob isn’t there for bears—he’s there for Jason. But he’s no match for Mr Voorhees, and ultimately meets an untimely death at Jason’s hands. In the end, it’s a showdown between Trish, Tommy, and Jason. Whilst Trish fights with Jason, we see Tommy hacking away at his hair in front of a bathroom mirror, a nod to the first scene with Tommy where his mother advises he gets a haircut. As things are looking grim for Trish, Tommy reappears, now bald except for random tufts of hair, looking spookily similar to a young Jason Voorhees.
Jason seems hypnotised by this vision of himself, and Tommy distracts him by asking, “Don’t you remember, Jason?” Eventually, the spell is broken and, as Jason reaches for Tommy, Trish grabs the machete and hits Jason from behind, knocking off his mask for the first time in this film. We see his hideous face as he lunges for Trish, heavily deformed and water damaged. Before he can grab Trish, though, Tommy grabs the machete and swings it into Jason’s head, resulting in a particularly stomach-turning scene of physical effects. In usual Friday the 13th form, Jason doesn’t die, and cute little Tommy goes mental with the machete. He swings it again and again into Jason’s body shouting “Die…die…die” over and over. The movie ends with doctors advising Trish that Tommy will be fine, but as she hugs him, we see his face, and he looks far from fine. He looks like a serial killer.
Five years later (in canonical time) and Tommy is back. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is one of my least favourite of the series, but it is an important part in Tommy’s journey. The opening scene shows Corey Feldman reprising his role, as he walks through the woods at night through a heavy rainstorm. The boy comes across a grave with a homemade headstone and sees ‘Jason Voorhees’ scrawled across it in white paint. From his spot in the trees, Tommy watches as two men dig up the grave, prise open the coffin, and quickly die at the hands of a reanimated Jason. Jason climbs from the grave, picks up his machete, and walks towards Tommy. As his weapon comes down, Tommy screams…and wakes up in the back of a moving car. Tommy is now 17, played by John Shepherd, and we see that the doctors were wrong…he’s not fine. Five years later and he’s still plagued by nightmares as he is escorted to the Pinehurst youth development centre. I won’t spend too much time explaining the film as I think the plot is pretty weak, but all we need to know is that Tommy is having frequent hallucinations of Jason and does not seem to be recovering well. He has had numerous treatments since what happened to him in The Final Chapter, but nothing seems to have helped.
Throughout the film we see Tommy lash out at people, aggressively beating more than one person for slight inconveniences. We’re led to believe that ‘Jason’ is actually Tommy in this film, wearing the mask to kill the other people at Pinehurst. But the scene that matters in this film pulls the old switcheroo, and we find Tommy isn’t ‘Jason’ at all. (The person who actually was ‘Jason’ may as well have been a Scooby-Doo-style old guy from the creepy old fairground. That’s how lame it was). But what is good about the scene is that we see Tommy face his fear. He tries to talk to Jason the way he did in the last film but, of course, this doesn’t work as it’s not the real Jason. They fight, they both land hits and, eventually, Tommy prevails, pushing him from a first-floor barn window onto some rusty spikes below. As Tommy recovers in hospital, we see that he still has nightmares, and he still sees Jason standing at the end of his hospital bed. But this time Tommy doesn’t look scared…he looks ready. He gets out of bed and removes the fake Jason mask from his drawer. Why did he keep it?! Who knows? But as the movie ends, we see Tommy wearing the mask and holding a kitchen knife. Uh-oh.
Tommy next appears in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, my personal favourite in the series. It takes place just one year after the events of A New Beginning, and we find Tommy is now more stable, but still hellbent on making sure Jason is dead once and for all. The film opens with Tommy, portrayed by Thom Mathews, driving with a friend, talking about how Jason belongs in hell and how he’s going to make sure he gets there. They arrive at a graveyard, and we see that Tommy still has Jason’s mask from The Final Chapter. I like how this scene is reminiscent of Tommy’s nightmare in the opening of A New Beginning. They dig up the grave, find a heavily decomposed Jason, and Tommy drives a metal pole from the graveyard fence through Jason’s chest. After a couple of good stabs, Tommy leaves the pole embedded in the corpse and climbs out, saying, “Fuck you, Jason.” He throws the mask into the grave and starts preparing some petrol, but then the pole is struck by lightning, and we see sparks of electricity running through the corpse. Lightning strikes a second time and one of Jason’s eyes snaps open. He’s back! Tommy manages to escape, unlike his ill-fated friend and flees in his truck to the local sheriff’s station.
A large part of the film sees Tommy trying to convince the law and Megan—the leader of the teenagers in this film—that Jason is back, but the sheriff knows his mental history and thinks he is just crazy. Meanwhile, the teenagers have reopened the camp, now called something else to escape the history of Crystal Lake. Children have arrived and the camp is in full swing. Until Jason turns up, of course. Tommy and Megan formulate a plan to stop Jason, as Tommy explains that the only way to stop Jason is to return him to where the nightmare began. Speaking of nightmares, one of the children staying at the camp is a little girl called Nancy, who has a nightmare about a monster that was “everywhere” and wanted to kill her. Could this be an early nod to Freddy Krueger entering Jason’s world?
So, as the teenagers are killed off one by one and the law finally discover that Jason is real, Tommy arrives at the camp and begins unfolding his plan. He has brought heavy chains and petrol and places them all in a boat on the lake. He also rolls a large rock onto the boat as Megan looks for her father. She finds the children terrified in their cabin and Jason appears behind her. Tommy sees this and shouts at him. Tommy’s boat is now near the middle of the lake, and as Jason walks towards him, he slowly disappears beneath the water. Tommy pours petrol into the water around the boat and lights it, creating a ring of fire on the surface. Jason then rises dramatically from the water like a great white shark and lands in the boat with Tommy. They struggle and things don’t look good for our hero, but as the boat breaks clean in half, the heavy chain—which is now wrapped around the rock—falls around Jason’s neck. Jason is pulled down as the rock sinks to the bottom of the lake, but he still has hold of Tommy, strangling the life out of him. Tommy has finally met his end as his body floats to the top of the water face down.
Megan sees him and leaves the children as she swims out to his body. As she reaches Tommy, she is grabbed by Jason, who’s still trapped beneath the water. She panics but manages to start up the boat. We see the propeller under the water jump into life and she steers the boat, moving the propeller into Jason’s face. A satisfying pop sounds as part of Jason’s face is destroyed by the propeller blades, and Megan swims to shore with Tommy’s still, lifeless body. A quick burst of CPR brings Tommy back to life as the children cheer. Tommy stares out to the lake and says “It’s finally over. Jason’s home.” The movie ends on a shot of Jason’s lifeless corpse beneath the water, trapped by the chain and rock. It’s a really creepy image that has stayed with me over the years and, as the camera moves closer, we see one of Jason’s eyes snap open again. Of course, he’s not dead, but at least for now he’s trapped in Crystal Lake.
So, that’s how Tommy turned Jason’s world upside down in the series of films. He’s arguably the fan’s favourite character after the big man himself and, personally, I’m glad he didn’t come back for any other of the Friday the 13th films as they get pretty weak after Jason Lives. I do think it was a missed opportunity not to bring him back in Freddy vs. Jason, as it would have been fun to see Tommy return one last time to help put Jason back in the lake. But he has been in a few more side adventures. There’s a number of comics out there involving Jason and his bloodlust, and in Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors, we see the return of a number of classic characters from their respective films, gathered as survivors of the villain of their stories. A great idea in my opinion that works well in comic imagery. Up against Jason at the end of the story is Stephanie Kimble from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and good old Tommy Jarvis. They work together to take Jason down, ending dramatically with Tommy decapitating him. In true Jason style, the headless body disappears, leaving Tommy and Stephanie fearing that he’s still out there. I love this particular comic and think it’s a great way to keep Tommy alive and kicking.
Tommy also makes an appearance in a particularly well-received fan film called Never Hike Alone. It has over 665,000 views on YouTube and is particularly well-filmed for a fan film. The premise is pretty simple: a vlogger goes hiking in the woods, recording his adventure, and speaking to his fans about his progress and his goals. Things go downhill when he stumbles across the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake, and some excellent set pieces really show off how much love for the franchise the maker of the film has. It really feels like he’s filming in the actual Camp Crystal Lake. Of course, as he explores, Jason turns up, as big and intimidating as ever. He’s played brilliantly and feels like a genuine Jason from the films. The hiker is chased, attacked, and almost killed by Jason. But in the end, he is rescued by a well-placed ambulance, and who is the driver of this ambulance? Old man Jarvis of course! As he calls for backup, Jason appears. He takes out the two medics in the back of the ambulance and makes his way to the hiker. But then we hear “Hey, maggothead. Remember me, asshole?” as Tommy reappears in the driver’s seat. It’s a great line and it feels like the kind of thing Tommy would say. He then drives the ambulance away, leaving Jason walking after them, as the camera pans out and the film ends. If you’re a fan of the Friday the 13th films, I can’t recommend this fan film enough. It’s a cool idea, it’s filmed brilliantly, and it has Tommy Jarvis in it! What more could we ask?!
OK, so we’ve watched the films, we’ve read the comics, and we’ve even dabbled in fan films. There’s only one thing left to do to fully enjoy the Tommy Jarvis experience, and that’s to actually BE Tommy in the hit computer game, Friday the 13th: The Game. While the recent game on the PS4 and Xbox One may not be the first Friday the 13th game, it’s certainly the best in my opinion. It’s a basic premise, really: an online multiplayer where seven people play as a councillor and one plays as Jason himself. If you’re a councillor, the aim of the game is to survive by collecting health items, car parts and weapons, avoiding Jason at all costs. If you play as Jason, kill all the councillors. The game maps vary from Camp Crystal Lake, Pinehurst, and even the Jarvis residence. The gameplay is tense and unpredictable, and the design of the game is brilliant. Locations have been painstakingly recreated, and they’re so good that it feels like you’re playing in the actual films. There’s also heaps of Friday the 13th lore in the game, as you can collect audio takes of Pamela Voorhees and Tommy Jarvis talking about their stories, and you can play in a virtual cabin with bits of information from behind-the-scenes of the films. Part of the virtual cabin lets you play in iconic scenes from the films, too. You can see Jason’s open grave with the lightning rod embedded in his body. You can even access a hall with glass cases holding all variations of Jason like an interactive museum!
But for this article, let’s talk about playing as Tommy Jarvis. If you’re the worst councillor in a game and happen to die first, you can come back a few minutes later as Tommy Jarvis himself. A short video shows him strolling confidently into the game, shotgun on his back, wearing the outfit from Jason Lives. It’s a great touch and the character model of Tommy is really well-designed. You also feel more badass playing as Tommy; he has higher stamina and comes equipped with health spray and his shotgun. Players also discovered a way to actually ‘kill’ Jason, which involves a female councillor finding Pamela Voorhees’ jumper, wearing it to hypnotise Jason, and then Tommy landing a killing blow with a machete or axe. As a fan of the films, I was overjoyed the first time I managed to pull this off. It feels so true to the films and I love how Tommy is needed to complete it. It really is a great game, especially since the developers fixed the early issues with servers, and playing as Tommy is just the icing on the cake. A fitting tribute to the legend of Tommy Jarvis.