Luke Owen looks at Jason’s possible exclusion from the next Friday the 13th….
It was an exciting time to be a Friday the 13th fan when Paramount announced they had re-acquired the rights to the iconic horror franchise with a view to release the 13th chapter in an already packed 2015. However the excitement became concern when rumours started to bound around that the movie might take on the ‘flavour of the month’ found footage format. Ironically the concern then became horror as producer Brad Fuller not only confirmed the rumour in an interview, but also mentioned (when asked about Derek Mears) that Jason may not be appearing in the movie at all.
The 13th instalment of Friday the 13th may not include Jason Voorhees. Just let that sink in then ask yourself, ‘why?’.
Sean S. Cunningham left the Friday the 13th franchise after 1981’s Friday the 13th Part 2 in which a fully grown Jason (who didn’t drown in Crystal Lake afterall) is a deranged potato sack wearing hermit who stalks would be camp counsellors. Cunningham’s original plan for the franchise following the film’s release was to make a new film every year that would focus on a new set of characters with a new killer, like a big screen slasher version of The Twilight Zone. Paramount on the other hand saw potential in the Jason character and pursued with him as the main star and without Cunningham’s involvement. The third movie, Friday the 13th Part 3 (which was filmed in eye-popping 3D), was a landmark movie in the franchise as it was the debut of Jason’s hockey mask, a look that would become synonymous with the character. The following movies were huge successes for Paramount, often being their second biggest earner behind Star Trek, but after the failings of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Cunningham acquired the rights to work with New Line Cinemas on the proposed Freddy vs. Jason. When putting together the ninth film, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, he made no secret that he was not a fan of the now iconic hockey mask. His one request to the those putting the film together was to “get him out of the mask”, feeling he wasn’t the Jason he had created (hence why he is barely in the movie). Knowing these two tidbits, it would be safe to assume that Cunningham is perhaps the instigator of Jason’s possible exclusion in the upcoming movie.
Should 2015’s Friday the 13th get made with Jason as the lead villain, is there any question on what the plot will be? Teens go to camp, they get cut up by Jason in a hockey mask. Is there really any tension in knowing exactly what is round the corner? Like it or not, this is a franchise that has more or less been the same film over and over again repeated ad nauseam. The only exceptions are the oft mocked Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning and the aforementioned Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, both of which feature an “impostor” version of Jason Voorhees. While both are much maligned by the horror masses, these are the two movies of the franchise that at least tried something new that wasn’t taking him into space. A new Friday the 13th movie without the Jason element hanging over it and controlling its movements allows for some new ideas and also provides the opportunity to realise the notion of making the series a yearly horror anthology tradition.
But with that said, there are four words that surround that last couple of paragraphs: what is the point? In short, why make a Friday the 13th movie without its iconic character?
In 1982 John Carpenter and Debra Hill produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a movie that, at the time, was intended to be the first stepping stone in making the Halloween franchise a horror tradition – much like Cunningham wanted to do with Friday the 13th. But while many movie goers rejected the movie for being a bloated, poorly acted mess, the horror masses (and Halloween fans) called for its blood as it was missing – in their minds – a crucial element: Michael Myers. With the movie meeting a frosty reception, the Halloween series was put on ice until 1988 when the franchise was reborn with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Looking back on the movie with the power of hindsight, it seemed silly for Carpenter and Hill to make a Halloween movie without The Shape, but at the time it probably felt like the right thing to do given they’d killed the character in the previous movie. They would have had no idea that a Michael Myer-less Halloween movie would receive such a negative reaction given that at the time of release he was not the face of the franchise. Now referred to as “the one without Michael”, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is, like the Jason-less Friday the 13th‘s, universally hated by all apart from those who appreciate it for what it was trying to do.
The difference between Halloween III: Season of the Witch and a Friday the 13th without Jason is that in 2014, the most recognisable elements of Friday the 13th are Jason and his hockey mask. Even people who have never seen a Friday the 13th movie know who Jason Voorhees is because he is such a big part of the pop culture zeitgeist and to leave him off the show screams of idiocy. It would be like making a James Bond movie without James Bond, Godzilla without Godzilla, The Muppets without Kermit the Frog. You could do all of those and they would certainly be interesting as well as creatively challenging for those involved, but they’d ultimately be pointless. The fans going to see those movies are looking to see their iconic character. There is nothing wrong with change and change should be embraced, but the change needs to have a good reason behind it.