Special Features – Does Friday the 13th Need Jason Voorhees?

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?’.

While not 100% official, there is little doubt that the next instalment won’t have some involvement from Sean S. Cunningham, the man who created the series back in 1980. Since returning to the series with New Line Cinemas in the early 90s, Cunningham has served as a producer on all Friday the 13th related movies, including Freddy vs. Jason and the remake. So if it is the case that Cunningham is involved with this next entry with Paramount, then we at least can at least take one educated guess as to why Jason might not be in the movie.

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.

However, if Cunningham isn’t involved with the movie, then let’s look at why Paramount would still move forward without Jason. And the answer to that is simple; perhaps they think the franchise has become stale.

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.

Could 2015’s Friday the 13th be the franchise’s Season of the Witch?

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.

Paramount need to realise that Jason is the face of Friday the 13th and next year marks the 35th anniversary of that. Pandora’s box has been opened and it cannot be closed. Making the new Friday the 13th movie found footage is bad enough, but to not have Jason in it would be dumber than putting him in space.

Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.

Around the Internet…

  • Victor Miller

    As the creator of Friday the 13th, I might have been asked to participate in the discussion with Paramount, but evidently I am not relevant. Kinda hurts.

    • http://delusionallosers.wordpress.com/ Anthony Donovan Stokes

      which is sad because I’m confident you could come up with something 100x Times better then anything Paramont is cooking up

      • Victor Miller

        That is very kind of you to say. At least my heart and soul would be in it.

        • http://chocolateberrytreestump.blogspot.com/ mfc1791

          Well at least the franchise hasn’t completely been ruined like the Halloween films, yet. I enjoyed Jason X a lot. I wish they would make another Jason at Camp Crystal lake, back to the roots and the early 80’s slasher formula. However, I am almost certain that is now a thing of the past. Perhaps it’s simply not attainable and was of its time. The found footage route is really quite dumb, it doesn’t work. It may have worked for a very short while, if even that. A really unconventional and seemingly out-of-left-field move would be to bring back one of the heroines such as Amy Steel. I read awhile back that Corey Feldman was going to reprise his role. This idea would either turn out unbelievably bad and become like an action film or it could be quite dark like The Final Chapter. I remember reading an article in the 80’s or 90’s that said Paramount always released the films with a sort of embarrassment, when no one was looking.

          • DeadInHell

            I would have to disagree. If Part 8 wasn’t bad enough, the New Line sequels truly and fully ruined the franchise with all the magical nonsense in JGTH and the obvious goofiness of Jason X. Come on, a space sequel? Even Halloween didn’t stoop that low (though it has also been thoroughly crapped on by the studio/hack filmmakers). The New Line sequels were a disgrace.

    • Michael Keller

      This is the thirteenth “Friday” film. It had better have Jason in it, in addition to highly marketing the fact that, well, it *is* the thirteenth film in the franchise. As such, they should give the fans a treat for making them money all those years and keeping the spirit of the franchise alive.

  • Guest

    It’d be cool if they could make a regular F13th to the original series and not a sequel to the remake. And please get Kane Hodder back if they can.

    • DeadInHell

      They aren’t even making a sequel to the remake. That would be far preferable to YET ANOTHER reboot, which is apparently the plan.

  • Matt Khourie

    Well it worked out that one time Michael Myer’s took a film off…oh wait…

  • DeadInHell

    Cunningham has nothing to offer this series. The New Line sequels were the worst by far and his involvement added nothing (and from the sound of it, only made things worse). He may have been the director of the original film, but he doesn’t get the series as it is now. That much is clear.

    Unfortunately, neither does Paramount. A found footage Friday the 13th is idiotic beyond words. Not only it is a bad idea in itself, they’re late jumping on to the bandwagon. It’s a double fail. If they make the film without the series’ primary antagonist then, as you’ve said, there simply wouldn’t be any point in making it a Friday the 13th film at all. It could just be any other throwaway horror film. It would have been utterly pointless for them to buy the rights if the plan is just to make a movie that has nothing to do with the series.

    These guys need to stop living in a bubble and give fans of the franchise and the genre something they can actually appreciate. A real film, with real cinematography. And by god, one that features Jason Voorhees, the only damn reason anyone is interested in this stupid re-re-re-make in the first place.