Friday the 13th: A Celebration of Roy Burns
Jason Shmason! This Friday the 13th, I'm celebrating the underappreciated Roy Burns from A New Beginning!
This article contains spoilers for Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. Which was released in 1985. Nevertheless, spoilers, etc.
It’s Friday the 13th and it’s October. As always, that means taking a second to reminisce about the Friday the 13th film series. As it is, there have been twelve entries, which include a trip to Manhattan, a trip to space, a fight against Freddy, a fight against not-Carrie, and a streamlined remake. Ten of those movies feature pop culture icon Jason Voorhees as the antagonist and it’s a well-known talking point that the first entry had Pamela Voorhees as the killer.
But man, nobody ever talks about Roy Burns from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. That’s right, Roy Burns: The Fake Jason. Despite being the antagonist for an entire Friday the 13th film before the series really flew off the rails, Roy is a mere footnote in horror history.
Well, nuts to that! I think it’s time we celebrated Roy and gave him his due! Who’s with me?!
So to set the stage, Friday the 13th started off with Pamela going on a killing spree with her reveal being completely out of nowhere. She got killed and the survivor of the movie was then jumped by the decayed corpse of a young Jason, which was just a dream or maybe not. Then in the next movie, Jason was inexplicably alive and an adult, killing people while wearing a sack on his head. He returned in the third movie, got his trademark hockey mask, survived once again, and then finally ate it in the fourth installment. There, he was killed by a boy named Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman. Jason’s death here was very extreme, making sure that he was totally and completely killed.
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With Jason dead-dead, they needed to go into a new direction. That gave us 1985’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, directed by Danny Steinmann. Corey Feldman couldn’t fit the movie into his schedule outside of a quick cameo, so they went forward a few years and replaced him with John Shepherd. On one hand, the new Tommy looks like the dorky guy from the old Encyclopedia Britannica commercials, but he offsets that by being chiseled as hell and has a six-pack. Go figure!
He also gives some asshole an Attitude Adjustment through a table, which is better than anything Corey’s ever done.
Rather than spend the movie hanging out at yet another attempt at a summer camp, Tommy is thrown into a minimum security mental institution, granting us a more colorful set of slasher victims. Annoying chocolate enthusiast Joey ends up pissing off raging psychopath Vic (who REALLY should have been in a regular institution at the very least) and we’re given maybe the most delightfully over-the-top kill in Friday the 13th history.
Sorry, Jason, but no amount of sleeping bags will ever match that.
After that, murders start happening. Hockey mask murders! But…Jason is dead! Could Tommy Jarvis be behind this?!
Well, no. After taking out a whopping seventeen victims, this fake Jason is finally killed and his mask falls off to reveal none other than…Roy Burns, a paramedic who has had no more than a minute’s worth of screentime up to this point. Much like Psycho, the denouement fills us in with exposition to let us know that Roy was secretly the father of Joey and he snapped after seeing his mutilated corpse.
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The movie then ends with the reveal that Tommy is going to start doing hockey mask murders anyway, meaning the movie has more to do with Psycho II than its prequel. People thought that was dumb and so they brought Jason back as a zombie in Part VI, had Tommy survive, then promptly forgot about him. Still, he’s survived three Friday the 13th movies, making him the closest thing this franchise has to a hero character, netting him both an appearance in the recent video game and a major role in a terrible Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic.
As for Roy (played by Dick Wieand normally with Tom Morga portraying his “Jason” guise), he’s discarded by movie fans. He wasn’t the real Jason, so he’s glossed over. Hell, Part V is practically no different from Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
But me? I’m down with Roy. I appreciate Roy. Roy, who killed seventeen people on his first and only outing. Roy, who survived getting hit with a tractor. Roy, who successfully defended himself against a woman with a chainsaw, getting him more screentime with a chainsaw than Jason’s ever had.
Part of what makes him work is that Roy is the best of both worlds in terms of the two previous villains. Pamela Voorhees had an excellent motive as a distraught parent out to avenge her son, but “menopausal loon” lacked much longevity and belief as a force of nature once we found out what’s what. On the other hand, Jason – even human Jason – is iconic for being an expert stalker excelling in brute force. Unfortunately, once you look into his backstory and existence, it becomes muddied and pokes holes into everything.
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With Roy, you have a brutish killer who is driven by the unfair death of his kid. But there’s also the unfairness of his actions. Roy never does kill Vic, the whole reason why he’s so bloodthirsty to begin with. No, instead he goes after mental patients, institution employees, wacky neighbors, perverted drifters, anachronistic greasers, and waitresses who don’t wear bras but really should. Any sympathy you might have is out the window because he’s just killing for the sake of killing here and is completely missing the point of why he’s so pissed off to begin with.
Makes me wonder if Pamela ever killed the teenagers responsible for Jason’s drowning…
Anyway, Roy also got to kill Dee Jay! Yeah! Years before Jason Voorhees was duking it out with the cast of Mortal Kombat, Roy Burns got to murder the worst character from Super Street Fighter II! More specifically, he killed Demon Winter, played by Miguel A. Nunez Jr. After a bout of, “Where do I know that guy from?” and a quick look at my phone, I realized he was in the live-action Street Fighter movie as M. Bison’s evil hacker friend.
Yeah, Jason’s tough, but he’s never taken on any of The New Challengers before.
The thing I like the most about Roy and Part V in general is that despite people hating on the movie for one reason or another, I find the mystery aspect of the fake Jason to be well done. Hell, the movie itself is a completely solid slasher flick with a lot of colorful victims and kills, but, “Who is Jason?” has some good construction behind it.
So a guy in a hockey mask starts killing people. Who could it be? The movie focuses on the idea that Tommy is the killer because taking out Jason has driven him insane and he has visions. It’s so blatant and obvious that we know he’s nothing more than a red herring.
Vic is also a bit of a red herring. He’s the guy who started the movie’s kill count and he simply vanishes from the story upon being arrested. He has the strength and mental damage to pull off being the killer, but there would be zero twist to that.
The actual Jason? Since he’s yet to be magically resurrected, it seems too far-fetched, but you never know. Tommy’s certainly open to the idea and the useless cops are too. Besides, he’s already come back from being considered dead, what with the whole drowning incident.
There’s Raymond the drifter, who appears just long enough that you might wonder if he could possibly be the culprit. Nope, he gets a knife to the stomach while engaging in some creepy voyeurism.
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While the lead female character seems incredibly unlikely to be the fake Jason, the fact that her name is “Pam” is a nice, subtle touch that might trick a viewer or two into thinking that she has something to do with the dead bodies.
Finally, there’s Dr. Matthew Letter, the man in charge of Pinehurst Youth Developmental Center. He’s the one that makes sense on a narrative level. He’s important and a major character, but bland enough to be almost unnoticeable. He vanishes for big chunks of the movie while the killer is on the loose and gets just enough emphasis that you wouldn’t be too surprised if he was behind the mask, but wouldn’t find it obnoxiously obvious. And when you’d expect to be minutes away from his shocking reveal, you instead have Pam randomly come across Letter’s slaughtered body in the woods.
Roy, on the other hand, is out of left field, but not completely. He’s built up in three scenes. First, there’s the bit where he comes off as your average paramedic coming across Joey’s corpse. His horror could be chalked up to the horror of any sane person seeing such a terrible thing, but they linger on him a little too long. Something’s up, but why would it be him? It’s easy to discard.
In his second scene, he and his partner Duke take care of another dead body. Roy’s handiwork. This is when we get Roy’s only lines.
Sheriff: What the hell’s going on here?Roy: You talking to me, Sheriff?Sheriff: What?Roy: Oh, I thought you was talking to me.Sheriff: No, Roy, it’s okay. Go ahead, get them out of here.
Okay, maybe saying that he’s paraphrasing another known movie mass murderer is a bit of a stretch (at least IMDB backs me up), but at least we’re getting a reminder that he exists.
Then, towards the end, Pam comes across the ambulance where Duke is found with his throat slit. Why is the ambulance there to begin with? Why is only Duke there? It happens so fast that you don’t have time to think about it, but if you paused it for a sec, you’d be able to put the pieces together.
In the end, Roy falls off a barn, gets impaled on some spikes, and his mask falls off. He becomes Tommy Jarvis’ second victim. And you know what? Good for him!
No, really, that’s one thing that he has over Jason. Roy got while the getting was good. He killed a bunch, got put down, and stayed down. He didn’t go on to embarrass himself and by the time Friday the 13th became a laughable mess, Roy remained untouched. He never had to show up in a silly music video or go to space or a Las Vegas weigh-in.
So here’s to you, Roy Burns. You may not be an immortal zombie juggernaut with a franchise to your name, but you did good by me. Enjoy your Friday and celebrate with a melting chocolate bar.
Gavin Jasper is glad that Duke died, at least. If any of those victims had it coming to them, it’s that jerk. Follow Gavin on Twitter!