With Halloween only hours away, I want to mention one of the smartest heroes in the history of slasher films: Tommy Jarvis from Friday the 13th parts four, five and six. If intelligence is the mental ability to adapt: to take whatever situation you’re in and turn it around to your advantage, then you’d expect the sole survivor(s) of a slasher film, the one who turns the table on the killer and defeats him, to have a high IQ.
In the typical 1980s slasher film, you have about ten middle class, Midwesternish teenagers all being stalked by a killer and one sole survivor. Assuming the sole survivor has the highest IQ in a group of 10 middle class whites, then we might (very crudely) say it takes an IQ of 120 (90 percentile) to survive the typical slasher film.
According to scholar Charles Murray, it takes an IQ of 120 to handle genuine college material. So you can kind of think of surviving a slasher film as passing the SAT. Both are the most terrifying test a teenager takes, and if you fail badly enough on either, you’re not getting into a good college.
The character of Tommy Jarvis, introduced in Friday the 13th The Final Chapter, not only survived a slasher massacre, but he killed the film’s hockey masked antagonist Jason. And he did all this, despite being only 12. So Tommy Jarvis is kind of like one of those super gifted kids who takes the SAT before high school and comes out with an IQ equivalent of 120. But since the normal age for taking the SAT (or surviving a slasher film) is about 17, you must add bonus points for each year below the adult “mental age” of 16+. Since 16/12 = 1.33, and 1.33 multiplied by an IQ of 120 is 160, Tommy gets an age ratio IQ of 160.
However because mental chronological development is not entirely linear (especially at the extremes) age ratio IQs give inflated IQs. For example scholar Vernon Sare estimated that one in 1,170 (white) children have age ratio IQs of 160. Thus, converting ratio scores to the modern normalized deviation IQ, young Jarvis clocks in at 147.
Of course one could argue that surviving a slasher film is a very poor measure of IQ because there are so many other variables involved (luck, courage, stress management, physical speed, coordination and endurance). Further, the correlation between IQ and life span is only about 0.2, suggesting there’s a lot more to survival than just IQ.
Of course, the correlation between IQ and survival might be higher in the very controlled situation of a slasher film where split second decisions determine success, as opposed to real life, where one might die because of a disease or plane crash they have no control over or because of an addiction they can’t resist.
Perhaps a better measure of the correlation between IQ and survival success is the 0.4 correlation between IQ and income, since historically, acquiring resources meant survival. Thus, if Tommy Jarvis has an IQ 47 points above the white mean of 100 when it comes to the slasher film’s Darwinian test of intelligence, he likely 47(0.4) = 19 points above average on an official IQ test (IQ 119).
The following clip shows how even though the killer Jason has the advantage of being vastly bigger and stronger than Tommy, Tommy has the adaptability (with some help from his big sis) to turn the situation around to his advantage (the essence of intelligence):