'Friday The 13th: The Game': Who Is Tommy Jarvis?

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Many have stood up to Jason Voorhees, but few survived. Paramount Pictures

The original plan for Friday the 13th: The Game was to pit various incarnations of Jason Voorhees — recreated from Part 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9, along with a new Jason designed by special effects makeup legend Tom Savini — against archetypal counselor-victims: the nerd, the preppy guy, the girl next door, the jock, the head counselor, etc. Since then, Friday the 13th: The Game co-creator Wes Keltner has announced names for the 10 counselors.

But only the 11th playable character, revealed Friday, has faced (and defeated!) Jason before. Tommy Jarvis is coming to Friday the 13th: The Game, and he’ll be modeled after and voiced by Thom Matthews, who played the character in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, typically considered a series highlight.

For diehard Friday the 13th fans, that name is all you need to know. But what about gorehounds who have a more casual appreciation for the series — who perhaps haven’t bothered with Jarvis low-points, like Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, or may only know the series well enough to connect it with Jason and his infamous hockey mask?

Here then is a guide to Tommy Jarvis, his movies, what he means to the Friday the 13th series and just why it’ll be exciting to recreate some of the 80s most foundational slasher grudge matches.

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

Tommy Jarvis first appeared in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. After the relative lightheartedness of the series’ 3D third entry (slashers were already becoming self-aware and joke-y in 1982), The Final Chapter feels downright vicious. Since The Final Chapter was meant to write an end to the series, a key part of the marketing was that Jason would be defeated, once and for all, in this entry (“Jason’s reign of terror is over,” the trailer promises). But boy, the hulking murderer didn’t go down easily. Violent, dark and a little mean-spirited, The Final Chapter found Jason tearing through both a cabin of partying teenagers (including a young Crispin Glover) and their neighbors: the Jarvis family.

Tommy Jarvis, played by a 12-year-old Corey Feldman (The Goonies, The Lost Boys, Gremlins), had a hobby unsurprisingly common to 80s horror movie characters: special effects makeup. A junior Tom Savini, Jarvis created his own masks and gore effects so The Final Chapter could have a few fake-out jump scares in between moments of actual Jason violence, just like Friday the 13th Part 3’s Shelly, who gave Jason his first hockey mask (and gets his throat slit… not the best way to say thanks).

After Jason has killed Tommy’s Mom and all of the party-hardy teenagers next door, he corners Tommy and his sister Trish in their home. Tommy comes up with a brilliant plan, using his makeup skills for psychological trickery by disguising himself as the young, deformed Jason Voorhees. It sounds weird, but it works. Jason, always trapped in his traumatic childhood memories (he was previously fooled by a camp counselor pretending to be his dead Mom), can never seem to separate reality from his painful, broken interiority.

But Tommy is not left unfazed by pretending to be a young spree killer. He ends the movie with a haunted look in his eyes after repeatedly chopping into Jason’s dead body with a machete.

Friday the 13th: The Last Chapter “ended” the series on a dark promise of future violence. Though Jason might be dead, the trauma he inflicted on the survivors will endure and may mutate into new terror. You only need to look into Tommy Jarvis’ eyes to see Jason’s possible heir:

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Tommy Jarvis in the last shot of 'Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter.' Photo: Paramount Pictures

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Despite the subtitle The Final Chapter, Part 4 and Part 5 had the narrowest gap between entries in the entire series, A New Beginning coming out barely a year later. Often considered the worst entry in the series, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning stars an adult Tommy Jarvis (played this time by John Shephard) plagued with nightmares of Jason Voorhees as he’s bounced around psychiatric care facilities.

Unfortunately, the pathos invested in the young Jarvis is poorly handled here. The adult Tommy is a sadly passive protagonist, confronted with an uninspired slasher: a Jason copycat killer. Just like The Last Chapter, A New Beginning ends with the suggestion that Jarvis will turn violent and become a killer himself.

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

This is the Tommy Jarvis who will return in Friday the 13th: The Game. Jason Lives opens with Tommy Jarvis, loose from another institution, searching for his own catharsis by digging up Jason Voorhees’ body to confirm he’s dead. It doesn’t go well: lightning strikes the grave, awakening Jason to undead life. In a marked contrast to A New Beginning, this iteration of Tommy (Thom Matthews) is very active. Sure, it’s Tommy’s fault Jason is up and murdering again, but he’ll do anything to end the massacre.

Though his ongoing trauma instigates the Jason Lives plot, this is a Tommy who has come out the other side. He’s charming, good-looking and knows how to woo the sheriff’s daughter, Megan Gariss. By the end Tommy has defeated his traumatic past, both figuratively and literally, chaining Jason to the bottom of Crystal Lake.

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI is usually one of the first mentioned when series’ bests are being discussed. The body count is high, but it’s relatively light-hearted, with knowing winks to the audience, goofy side characters and one of the strangest tributes to James Bond in cinema history:

Jason Lives was shorn of some of the series’ trashier points of appeal. Not only does Part VI look like it has an actual budget, but it remains the only entry without nudity. Though it is still loaded with murdered teenagers, Jason Lives doesn’t leave viewers feeling like filth-coated, voyeuristic sado-pervs like The Final Chapter (don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s fun to feel like a voyeuristic sado-perv). Instead, Tommy Jarvis vs. Zombie Jason is the Friday the 13th series at its most likeable and crowd-pleasing.

So that’s Tommy Jarvis. When you don his denim sherpa jacket in Friday the 13th: The Game you’re picking up the mantle of a two-time Jason killer, who has seen both the extent of human evil and the power of a supernatural bloodlust transcending the grave.

But no awe is required. Here’s the weird part of Tommy Jarvis’ appeal and importance to the Friday the 13th series: he’s not really that great of a character. There’s a reason Tommy Jarvis isn’t spoken of with the same reverence as other horror heroes like The Evil Dead’s Ash Williams, Halloween’s Laurie Strode or Scream’s Sidney Prescott. Unlike Ash, Tommy is not a superhuman monster-killer. He has no chainsaw hand. Unlike Laurie and Sidney, Tommy’s life and family isn’t intimately tied to the killer.

Instead, part of Tommy’s appeal is that he’s just some dude, different enough in his three movies that he’s more a blank face than as a repository of one-liners. He’s the proof that a normal person can intentionally take on Jason and triumph. It’s both the source of the character’s appeal and an explanation for the limits of that same appeal. He’s a useful totem of audience identification (particularly for men, since the Friday the 13th series hasn’t given a final girl the second chance... not even original Jason-killer, Ginny Fields) more than a breakout character due to his own characteristics.

Friday the 13th: The Game with Tommy Jarvis is expected early in 2017, with a single-player mode coming later in the summer.

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