Friday the 13th and Jason Voorhees hope to slash their way to the big screen again
It looks like the nasty legal battle over the rights to Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th franchise may be over. A recent court decision returned U.S. rights to screenwriter Victor Miller, but any plans for another entry in the iconic film series are still up in the air.
The History of Friday the 13th
Where did this reign of terror begin you ask? Well, the series started innocently enough back in the summer of 1980 and was a surprise hit for Paramount Pictures, finishing tenth in the worldwide box office that year. The formula that one can find in every Friday the 13th film was firmly established by director/producer Sean S. Cunnigham and writer Victor Miller. This tried-and-true set up includes innocent teens (usually played by people in their late 20s) finding their way to Camp Crystal Lake, engaging in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, and sex, only to find themselves hunted down by a seemingly unstoppable killer. The original film would also firmly cement Harry Manfredini’s “cha-cha-cha” score in the mind’s of movie-goers forever, right up there with John Williams’ Jaws theme.
“Die hard” fans will be quick to point out that the hockey mask wearing monster Jason Voorhees doesn’t actually appear in the film (yes, he does jump out of the water at the end of the film in a very different form, in a final jump scare swiped from Brain DePalma’s Carrie) and it is actually Jason’s mother who is the killer dujour of the film. Why does Jason’s mother want revenge? Seems like she is still bearing a grudge against camp counselors (not the ones in this film, just camp counselors in general) for allowing her sweet boy Jason to drown. Pamela Voorhees (before she is decapitated by final girl Alice Hardy) was played by Hollywood veteran Betsy Palmer, who is joined by Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, and Kevin Bacon!
Friday the 13th Sequels
Friday the 13th Part Two (1981): The success of the first installment inevitably led to 1981’s sequel (directed by Steve Miner) and introduced the world to Jason Voorhees proper, in all his machete swing glory. Friday the 13th Part Two again brings new teen counselors to ‘The Lake where they soon discover that while Pamela Voorhees may be gone, she’s not forgotten, especially by her monstrous son who keeps her head proudly displayed on his kitchen table. Palmer actually returns as a disembodied spirit (in Jason’s head) and the “man behind the mask” is first played by Steve Dash for a majority of the film, and Warrington Gillette for a few brief scenes. Jason, now a strapping muscular boy (when does he get the time to hit the gym with his busy killing schedule?) continues his mother’s campaign of revenge against the counselors, dispatching them in brutal fashion. The film stars new final girl Amy Steel, the also returning Adrienne King, and John Furey. The film ends with Steel’s Ginny King pretending to be Jason Mom’s (not necessarily a dead-ringer for old Pamela) and lodging the previously mentioned machete in Jason’s shoulder before the police and paramedics arrive.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982): 1982 brought us the next installment with a gimmick twist that was all the rage at the start of the 1980s: 3D!!! For those too young to experience it, every horror or genre movie seemed to get the 3D treatment, so the poster could proclaim “Part Three… in 3D!” Because of this technology, the film is filled with arrows shooting straight at the camera, extreme closeups, and all the other tricks of the 3D trade. As far as the story goes, Jason naturally survives his wounds (this time played by Richard Brooker) and again heads home to cause trouble (Whew! These plot lines are getting more repetitive than the Alice Cooper song!). The film (directed by Steve Miner once again) brings in a new set of “teens,” led by Dana Kimmell as final girl Chris (who continues the final girl being taken away by the police/paramedics trope) who slams Jason with an axe to the face. Luckily, Jason was wearing his soon to be trademarked hockey mask to offer a degree of protection. Part Three is the first film that Jason gets his mask, and it quickly becomes synonymous with the character.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984): Paramount decided to end the series in 1984 with the aptly titled Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (directed by Joe Zito)… at least for a year. Shockingly, Jason survived that axe blow to the head, and you guessed it, returns to the scene of his crimes. Jason is played by Ted White this time around and is defeated by a young Corey Feldman and his mother played by Kimberly Beck. Tommy and Trish narrowly survive the window smashing terror of Jason, finally putting the man in a grave. The Final Chapter also includes the eccentric Crispin Glover in the cast in a notably restrained performance for a horror film and for the actor.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985): You thought it was over? Think again! Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (directed by Danny Steinman) threw the final chapter hoax into the trash can in only a year, with Paramount once again going back to “the Jason-well” for some much needed cash. This film breaks away from some of the standard motifs, this time featuring an adult Tommy Jarvis (played by John Shepherd) investigating a series of murders around the old Lake. Could it be Jason returned from the grave? Straying from the formula was an admirable attempt on the part of the producers, but it ends up in convoluted mess with a new ‘non-Jason” copycat killer (Roy Burns, portrayed by Dick Wienad) and strange flashbacks featuring the masked Jason (this time played by Tom Morga). All’s well that ends well, as Roy is dispatched, but it is teased that Tommy will become the next “Jason” at the end of the film when the character puts on the hockey mask and grabs a knife.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986): Here is where things start to get a little more interesting, as the series takes a supernatural u-turn with the first appearance of the immortal zombie-Jason. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (directed by Tom Mcloughlin, not to be confused with HNN staffer Sean McLaughlin) brings back Tommy Jarvis (this time played by Thom Matthews of Return of the Living Dead fame) just in time to bring the killer back to life. Using the tried-and-true Victor Frankenstein lighting trick, Jason rises from the grave to take vengeance on camp counselors everywhere. The decaying Jason is this time played by C.J. Graham who gets to flex his muscles in the role, as Jason is now an unstoppable monster. After another murderous rampage, Tommy and Jennifer Cooke’s Megan somehow get a chain around the big boy’s neck long enough to sink him to the bottom of Crystal Lake (providing a nod to the original drowning of Jason). While he’s not the best swimmer, he is now immortal, and just chills at the bottom of the lake until next time when he can be unleashed on some more teenagers.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988): Kane Hodder takes over the role that would make him famous at horror conventions everywhere in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (directed by John Carl Buechler). Since Jason is now a super human menace, the producers decided to pit him against a more worthy foe this time around in the shape of Tina Sheppard (played by Lar Park Lincoln). How is Tina a different type of final girl you may ask? Well, Tina is like a 1980’s version of Eleven with all the psychic powers to match. Unfortunately, Tina is also the one responsible for releasing Jason from the bottom of the lake in this installment when her powers naturally go awry. Tina attempts to make up for her mistake by fighting the monster (with an assist from Tina’s father’s spirit?) and seemingly defeats Jason (including breaking his trusty hockey mask, how dare she!).
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989): After all of this rural livin’, where does a zombified monster go to spice up his life? New York City!!! Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (directed by Ron Heddon) actually brings Jason to the Big Apple for some more killing. And if you’re asking how many people has this masked maniac murdered, which weapons has he wielded, and how many different demented methods has he used up to this point? Only a fool would dare to count them all! How does he get there? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice (practice being electrocuted at a bottom of a lake, hitching a ride on a houseboat, transferring to a cruise ship, and docking in a NYC seaport. That type of practice). Kane Hoder becomes the first (and only) actor to reprise the role of Jason, this time on a murderous rampage through Times Square. The climax sees Jason doused with sewage (radioactive?) and melting down (for now).
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993): The franchise finally takes a break (something it only did twice in 1983 and 1987 in the previous decade) and returns in the midst of the Grunge-era in 1993 with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (directed by Adam Marcus). If you thought any of the later entries were strange, Jason Goes to Hell goes from the ridiculous to the sublime in this one. This one involves a resurrected Jason travelling back to Crystal Lake, being ambushed by a team of FBI commandos, getting blown up, possessing a coroner, returning to the Camp, some nonsense about Jason only being able to be killed by a relative, a mystic dagger, and a portal to Hell. Hodder reprises the role of Jason for the third time and is joined by John D LeMay and Kari Keegan. This film is best known for the tease at the end which shows Freddy Kreuger’s hand grabbing Jason’s mask (made possible by Paramount’s sale of the Friday the 13th franchise to New Line).
Jason X (2001): It would be almost a decade before Jason stalked the cineplex once again in Jason X. 2001 turns out to be a real “Space Oddity’ this time around as Jason is shot into the future and space in this misguided film. Jim Issac directs Jason X and Hodder plays Jason for the final time in one of the oddest films in the series. All you need to know about this one is that it takes place 450 years or so in the future, on a space station, and Jason is up to his old tricks. Lexa Doig, Jeff Gedis, and David Cronenberg (shockingly) are along for this failed rocket ride.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003): Like Jason himself, the film franchise was financially resuscitated in 2003 with the heavyweight horror battle between Jason and Freddy which was teased in Jason Goes to Hell. Freddy vs. Jason broke all box office records for either a Friday the 13th film or one of Freddy’s nightmares, grossing over $116 million worldwide. Ken Kirzinger takes over for Hodder as Jason and Robert Englund plays Freddy for the final time in this monster mash. The story involves Freddy (now a full time resident of Hell looking to split) resurrecting Jason to do his bidding to create enough fear to bring him back to the surface. Eventually, Jason rebels (after chopping up many teens) and the two terror titans duke it out. It appears that Jason wins at the end, carrying Freddy’s head with him, but that old rascal Freddy leaves viewers with a sly wink. Surprisingly, New Line never made a sequel to the most successful film of either franchise, although many have been rumored over the years.
Friday the 13th (2009): A completely new Friday the 13th reboot arrived in 2009 under the stewardship of Paramount, New Line, Platinum Dunes, and distribution by Warner Bros. The various rights that each company owned would make this a difficult production to get off the ground, but the Marcus Nispel film was a hit, becoming the highest grossing film in the franchise’s history. The story follows a similar plot to the 1980 film (with updated slang and teen tendencies) and results in many teenage victims being stalked by Jason (played by the 6’5” Derek Mears). The ending involved Jason bursting through a boat dock, leaving room open for a sequel that never happened.
Jason Voorhees Body Count
So, what’s the body count of this revered slasher franchise? Well, let’s keep in mind that Jason didn’t kill anyone in the first and fifth films of the franchise (spoiler alert) so we’ll have to separate those out, but we’ll take a stab at it:
Friday the 13th (1980): 9 (Pamela Voorhees)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981): 10 (Jason)
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982): 12 (Jason)
Friday the 13th The Final Chapter (1984): 13 (Jason)
Friday the 13th A New Beginning (1985): 17 (Roy Burns)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986): 18 (Jason)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988): 15 (Jason)
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989): 17 (Jason)
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993): 25 (Jason)
Jason X (2001): 21 (Jason)
Freddy vs. Jason (2003): 21 (Jason) / 4 (Freddy Krueger)
Friday the 13th (2009): 13 (Jason)
So, it seems as if Jason Voorhees dispatched 165 people over the course of the franchise. His mom Pamela took care of 9, Roy murdered 17 in Part 5 (a decent tally for a mere mortal) and Freddy Krueger wiped out a cool 4. Let’s not leave out Tommy Jarvis though who killed Jason and Roy Burns and Alice Hardy who beheaded Jason’s mom – gotta give them their props.
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