David Trinko: Thrill of fear with the original Jason

·4 min read

Oct. 23—You might not realize it, but you probably saw Ari Lehman in your nightmares.

As far as he's concerned, you're welcome.

"In a horror film, OK, there's that visceral experience of fear, which is a thrill," said Lehman, who portrayed the killer Jason Vorhees in the first "Friday the 13th" movie. "But it's a thrill in a safe environment. Ultimately you know you're there watching a movie with friends."

Lehman was in Lima on Wednesday, playing a gig at The Lab in downtown Lima with his punk and hard rock band, First Jason. He said he enjoyed performing at the unique space The Lab, which includes Legacy Sounds recording studio, Alter Ego Comics, Purple Feet Wine Boutique and an events space at 230 N. Main St., Lima.

"I'm very impressed by the art scene in Lima," Lehman said. "It is significant. Whatever is going on to make that happen, they need to keep doing it."

He expressed pride for his part of the horror genre, portraying the boy with the deformed face who killed for his mother.

"You actually get a little of that thrill, of someone who's running away from someone chasing them with various farm implements," Lehman said. "You know, this definitely let's say takes you out of the mundane, day-to-day, ongoing, maybe tedious things that are part of the world you know. People seek a thrill."

Lehman was just 14 years old when he took on the role of the serial killer at Camp Crystal Lake. He loved hanging out with the special effects director of the movie, Tom Savini, seeing "severed limbs and decapitated heads and weapons and explosive devices and all the things that a 14-year-old boy really likes."

Lehman admitted he preferred classic horror films over some of the newer stuff, although he enjoyed the modern "American Horror Story" and "Stranger Things" too.

He thought some of the staying power of "Friday the 13th" was how relatable Jason could be and how the movie was a "fun romp," in comparison to other movie murderers.

"Our brother Michael Myers (from Halloween), he just gets you angry," Lehman said. "They want to touch the anger button. He's killing his sister. His mom wants to kill him. You're just angry. Now he's killing firemen. I'm angry!

"With Jason, it's empathy. It's more like Frankenstein's monster, or even the Wolf Man. You know, we feel for Jason and I think there's something magical and mythological about that."

Lehman and his band are traveling the country, enjoying the days leading up to Halloween, when we're all eager for a jump scare. He's in Detroit this weekend for Metal Fest, and he'll be on his way to shows in Texas next weekend.

When he took the role of Jason, he wanted to be a jazz piano player. He's evolved since then, playing world music in the 1990s with a reggae band on Bob Marley's label. His life changed when he performed reggae at a Fangoria convention and noticed "a little disconnect" with horror fans, who frequently like punk and hard rock.

First Jason was born, and Lehman now plays a keyboard with all black keys mounted to a machete.

"Every punk and metal head is our fan, certainly, and many bands in punk and metal famously utilize the theme-ologies of horror — Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, The Misfits," Lehman said. "So I started to learn more and more about that."

His music found its way, starting by speaking specifically about Jason Vorhees and now working on more philosophical ideas, such as its newer "The Price of Peace."

Despite his relatively young age when he was in "Friday the 13th," he said he never had nightmares about a role that gave plenty of people — including me — some trouble sleeping. That's part of the fun of the Halloween season.

"When you're playing the character, it's more like — you know that feeling when you know your big brother's coming around the corner, so you hide behind the bookshelf?" he said. "... There's an equal level of anticipatory energy which you feel when you're scaring someone, you know?"

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.

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