Monster-Mania: Jason goes to Hunt Valley

Left to right: Peter Mensah battles Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in New Line Cinema’s "Jason X."
Left to right: Peter Mensah battles Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in New Line Cinema’s "Jason X." (Handout photo, Handout photo)

Should you spy a bunch of folks in hockey masks hanging around Hunt Valley this weekend, don't go looking for a game.

The area will be crawling with dozens, if not scores, of aspiring Jasons, the masked killer and overwhelmingly demonic presence of the "Friday the 13th" film series. They'll be converging on the Hunt Valley Marriott to learn from the real things — nine actors who have played Jason Voorhees in the long-running movie series.

It's all part of Monster-Mania 18, which boasts the largest collection of "Friday the 13th" actors ever assembled. And it's not just the Jasons who will be there; more than 20 actors who have played Jason's victims, those ubiquitous (and often scantily clad) teenagers who are onscreen just long enough to get their heads chopped off, will also be in attendance.

If all that doesn't spell a good time … well, you just don't see the right movies.

"The 'Friday the 13th' films just have a huge following of fans," said David Hagan, who has been organizing Monster-Mania conventions in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Connecticut for the past seven years (this is the second he's had in Baltimore, and a third is scheduled for Sept. 16-18). "This is like a huge 'Friday the 13th' film series reunion."

Dubbed "Return to Crystal Lake," for the notorious summer camp where Jason hides most of his nastiness (how do they get campers to come back to the place every summer?), the weekend promises fans the chance to meet, listen to and collect autographs from a vast assemblage of "Friday the 13th" veterans. They include Sean S. Cunningham, who directed the first film in the series back in 1980 and served as a producer on most of the rest; Ari Lehman, the first Jason; and Kane Hodder, filmdom's most experienced Jason, who has played the masked killer four times.

The collected Jasons have appeared together at previous Monster-Manias, said Hagan, but never in the presence of so many victims.

"We would do individual film reunions," he said, "but this is the first time we've had an across-the-board, all-encompassing reunion."

Not that Monster-Mania is for Jason groupies only. A vendors' room will include all manner of horrific stuff — "anything you could possibly imagine," Hagan promised.

But this weekend is clearly aimed at hard-core Jasonphiles. Panel discussions will examine the phenomenon from every conceivable angle. All of the films, from the original "Friday the 13th" to 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason," will be shown over the course of the weekend. Only the 2009 "Friday the 13th" remake will be missing, along with the "Friday the 13th" TV series (although John D. LeMay, who appeared in both the series and 1993's "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday," will be making an appearance).

Hagan, whose own preference runs toward the classic Universal horror films ("Dracula," "Frankenstein," etc.) and those released by Britain's Hammer studios in the 1960s and 1970s, said "Friday the 13th" is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for his shows. If not the most popular horror franchise ever, he notes, it's certainly up there, along with "Halloween" and "Nightmare on Elm Street."

"There's just something about it," he said. "I mean, there's the cabin in the woods — everybody's been camping at one time or another. It's a variation of the ghost story told around the campfire, except the campfire is the ghost story.

"And I think the hockey mask has a lot to do with it," he said (even though Jason didn't put it on until 1982's "Friday the 13th Part III"). "You know that every Halloween, somebody's going to come to your door in the Jason outfit. It's a given."

The last Monster-Mania con held in Baltimore attracted some 8,000 visitors, Hagan said. If those numbers hold …

"Yeah," Hagan said, chuckling at the thought. "It's going to be like 'Friday the 13th' came to Hunt Valley. Definitely stay out of the water."


If you go

Monster-Mania 18 runs through Sunday at the Marriott Hunt Valley, 221 International Circle. Hours are 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 a day, $50 for the weekend. Information: monstermania.net.

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