Pamela Voorhees has made multiple appearances throughout the Friday the 13th series, becoming herself nearly as iconic to the franchise as her son, Jason. Portrayed in the 1980 horror movie by Hollywood legend Betsy Palmer, Pamela Voorhees has been evoked physically and metaphorically in modern takes of the slasher film classic as well
Although it can be overlooked in the larger canon of the franchise, Pamela Voorhees killing her victims in Friday the 13th launched the series. Her malicious resolve to take revenge on Camp Crystal Lake — the children’s camp where her son, Jason, tragically drowned years before — set both the tone and the origins. Jason drowned due to the callousness of the camp counselors who were supposed to be looking out for his safety. Instead, they “made love” as he sank below the water’s surface, at least in Pamela’s retelling of the incident. Though she was unhinged before Jason's death, Mrs. Voorhees sought to avenge him by any means necessary.
The subversive twist of the first Friday the 13th was the revelation that the unrelenting serial killer was an everyday, middle-aged mother. Palmer’s acting of Mrs. Voorhees left audiences with almost a pity for her. A mother losing a child so unnecessarily can strike sympathy in even the coldest hearts. But Mrs. Voorhees’ despair turned to sociopathy, driving her to kill the teens of Camp Crystal Lake indiscriminately. The first movie ends with the movie’s Final Girl, Alice, decapitating her. And yet, Pamela Voorhees’ influence over Jason would far outlive her original appearance in the franchise.
In Friday the 13th Part II, the image of Mrs. Voorhees returns in a hallucination by Alice in her apartment. Shortly after, Alice finds Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head in her refrigerator and is then murdered by a then-unknown Jason. Even if Jason’s mother was not a featured character in the first sequel, her authority over him was still explored in the movie. Ginny, the Final Girl in the Friday the 13th sequel, attempts to trick Jason out of attacking her by wearing Mrs. Voorhees’ sweater and imitating her. Miraculously, this worked for a short period of time. In Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D, Mrs. Voorhees’ returns in the nightmare of protagonist Chris, this time rising up from Crystal Lake like a swamp thing to drag Chris below the surface with her. This came after Chris saw a disfigured Jason in a house across the lake begin to charge toward her, only to disappear when she looked away.
For decades after Part 3D, Pamela Voorhees disappeared from the discourse of Jason’s psychopathy. But her likeness would return in the millennium, first in Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. Freddy Krueger resurrects Jason in Hell by shapeshifting into Mrs. Voorhees and telling him that he must resurrect himself to resume killing. Similarly to Part 3D, Jason falls for the impersonation trick, but eventually figures it out toward the climax of the movie.
The last appearance of Mrs. Voorhees in the franchise was, fittingly, the final and most recent installment. In the 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th, the audience saw Pamela’s death by Alice from Jason’s perspective in the opening credits. As was implied by the original sequel, Jason was driven to kill because of his mother’s psychotic love for him. And it was Mrs. Voorhees’ insane mental connection with Jason that drove her to murder. With all of Mrs. Voorhees’ appearances throughout Friday the 13th, the franchise explored the intense symbiosis between Jason and his mother, Pamela. Audiences to this day are reminded that love should have limits, even the familial kind.