Franchise FOCUS: Friday the 13th
What better day to write my Franchise FOCUS on the Friday the 13th series than on an actual Friday the 13th? I mean, this is the day that one of the most successful franchises in cinema history is named after. And it is always awesome to put on one of the movies on this day. But, it is Mardi Gras time here in South Louisiana and I will be out enjoying the festivities with a few drinks tonight. So instead of watching Jason Voorhees slice and dice later tonight, I decided to write about my favorite horror character and all his film exploits.
Friday the 13th: An Icon is Born
The original Friday the 13th was released in 1980 by Director Sean S. Cunningham for the most part to help finance other projects. Seeing the success that John Carpenter had with the low-budget horror hit Halloween, Cunningham decided he could try to do the same. But he never could have guessed just how popular Friday the 13th would become or the string of sequels it would spawn.
Friday the 13th started with a bunch of kids getting together to help the camp’s owner reopen Camp Crystal Lake. The camp had been closed for some time and they plan to fix it up and reopen despite warnings not to by the locals. But soon, the counselors started dying one-by-one and soon only one, Alice (Adrienne King), is left alive. She is confronted by Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) and realizes she has been killing her friends. She is killing them because long ago her son, Jason, drowned in the lake when the young counselors were not paying attention. Mrs. Voorhees attacks Alice but she decapitates Mrs. Voorhees before she can kill her.
After surviving the horrors of Friday the 13th, the cops arrive at the scene to rescue Alice. But as she sits in a boat in the lake, Jason rises up to drag Alice down with him. But Alice wakes up in the hospital, signaling that it was just a dream. Or was it?
In Friday the 13th Part 2, released in 1981, it is revealed that Jason is in fact alive and fully grown. He seeks revenge by killing Alice and then returns to his “home” at Camp Crystal Lake. But then a new group of kids arrive and try to set up the camp and Jason begins his killing spree. Ginny (Amy Steel) is the last counselor left alive and after running away from Jason, she runs into a cabin with a shrine made for Mrs. Voorhees, complete with her decapitated head and her sweater. She puts on the sweater and tricks Jason into thinking she was his mother. With Jason distracted, Ginny attacks and “kills” Jason. But he is not dead as the movie ends with an unmasked Jason jumping through a window and attacking Ginny.
Friday the 13th Part III was released the following year in 3-D and continued Jason’s murderous rampage. In this movie, Jason picks off another group kids that all get together at their friend Chris’s (Dana Kimmell) homestead. They all end up meeting their demise at the hands of Jason except for Chris who put an axe through Jason’s head. The biggest moment in Part III was when Jason finally donned his now iconic hockey mask after taking it from one of his victims.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was released in 1984 and picks up where the last film left off, with Jason being taken to the local morgue. But, of course Jason is not dead and he slashes his way back to Camp Crystal Lake to slaughter another group of teens. But then he meets Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), a young boy who becomes Jason’s ultimate rival. After being attacked by Jason, Tommy grabs the machete and kills Jason. This fourth movie was supposed to be the end of the series, but as time proved, it is hard to keep a bad guy down.
Friday the 13th: A Fraud and a Rebirth
Just a year after the series was supposed to end, the movie executives couldn’t pass up on releasing another movie and making another payday. Because of that, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning was released and focused on a teenage Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd) who is now living in a halfway home, afraid of Jason returning. The group Tommy is with all start dying and all signs point to Jason. But, in the end, it is revealed that a local EMT began dressing like Jason and killing the group after his son was killed by one of Tommy’s peers.
In 1986, Jason truly returned to the screen in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews), still haunted by the thought of Jason returning, decides to dig up his grave to make sure he is dead. But this turns out to be a bad idea as Jason is resurrected and resumes his killing spree. He goes back to Camp Crystal Lake, which has been renamed Forest Green in an attempt to distance itself from its horrific past. But that doesn’t stop Jason from doing what he does best as he kills everyone in his way to a final showdown between him and Tommy. In the end, Tommy manages to sink Jason to the bottom of the lake with the help of some chains and a really big rock. The movie ends with Jason seemingly buried in the lake that he drowned in.
But once again, Jason was brought back in 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. In this seventh entry, Jason is resurrected by Tina (Lar Park Lincoln), a child with telekinetic abilities. Fast-forward to later when Tina is a teenager and Jason continues his killing spree until facing off with Tina and being sent back to his watery grave in the lake. In this film, Kane Hodder donned the hockey mask for the first time and began his stretch of playing Jason for four straight movies and becoming arguably the best Jason.
Jason returned in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan the next year when he is brought back to life with the help of an underwater electric cable. He follows a group of kids to New York and takes his murderous skills on a road trip. He slashes his way through everyone until being stopped by Rennie (Jensen Daggett), the final girl. She traps Jason in a sewer and covers him in acid, effectively ending his reign of terror.
Friday the 13th: A New Home, a Rivalry Born, and a Reboot
The Friday the 13th franchise seemed dead in the water after a lackluster eighth entry. But the film’s rights were sold to New Line Cinema, the home of Freddy Krueger, and there was hope for Jason making his return. And in 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason was back and up to his old tricks. Well, kind of. Jason is blown up to bits in the opening scene and is only seen in mirrors for most of the movie after that when his soul is transferred between bodies by eating his heart. The body count rises as the end of the movie nears and the real Jason Voorhees returns only to be dragged to hell when he is defeated. But not only was he beaten and sent to hell, the movie ended with Freddy Krueger’s glove pulling the iconic hockey mask down to hell as well.
Jason would stay dormant for nine years until 2002’s Jason X was released. The tenth entry was set in the future and featured a group of students that discover the frozen body of Jason. They also fight a girl that is frozen and bring them both onboard. But after thawing out, the girl warns them of their error as Jason beginnings killing once again. After he is apparently killed, he returns even stronger when his remains landed on a regeneration table. The new “Uber Jason” keeps on killing until he is sent flying through space until landing on “Earth 2″.
Putting aside Jason’s space adventure, 2003’s crossover Freddy vs. Jason picked up where Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday ended. Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), wakes Jason up and sends him to Elm Street to create fear in the people so that he can return. But Jason won’t stop killing people so Freddy now has to battle Jason if he wants to get the credit. The battle that horror fans had been waiting for begins and ends up at Camp Crystal Lake where they engage in a brutal battle. But both are blown into the water by an explosion. When they reemerge, Jason walks out holding Freddy’s head, but Freddy winks at the camera letting the audience know that he is not dead yet.
Freddy vs. Jason was a success for both franchises and let to remakes for both series original films. Friday the 13th was released in 2009 and was a remake but also combined elements of the first three films of the original series with some new ideas. Jason watches as his mother his decapitated and grows up to kill those that come near Camp Crystal Lake. He also kidnaps one girl and holds her captive. When a group of teens show up to party nearby, Jason beings killing them. The kidnapped girl’s brother, Clay (Jared Padalecki), also arrives and helps them try to survive. The movie ends with Jason being thrown into a wood chipper and seemingly being killed.
Friday the 13th: More Than Just The Movies
In 1987, Friday the 13th: The Series began airing on TV. The series was related only by name as Jason Voorhees was not a part of the series at all. The series actually revolved around an antique shop and two cousins who must attempt to recover cursed antiques. The series lasted for three seasons and faded into oblivion until all three seasons were released on DVD in 2008 and 2009.
There may be even more Friday the 13th in the future on television though as it was announced in 2014 that Sean S. Cunningham has plans for a new series. The series would revolve around a group of kids having to deal with a returning Jason Voorhees and also learning more about the infamous killer.
In addition to the twelve films and the television series, two great documentaries have been released on the franchise. The first one, His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th came out in 2009. It was directed by Daniel Farrands who also wrote the movie Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Hosted by the legendary special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, the documentary goes through each of the films and features interviews with various cast members.
The other documentary is titled Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Once again written and directed by Farrands, this deeply comprehensive documentary looks at all of the films and the TV series as well. Narrated by Corey Feldman, this is by far the best and most complete documentary I have seen for any movie franchise. It is very lengthy, clocking in at a running time of 400 minutes, but is worth it for fans of the series. A book of the same name, written by Peter M. Bracke, also covers the entire franchise in deep detail for those fans looking for a great read to go along with the films and TV show.
In addition to those, Jason Voorhees has been just about everywhere else. There have been comics and novels telling new stories about the iconic horror legend. Jason has also been immortalized on lunchboxes, posters, shirts, and everything else that you can think of. Countless action figures of Jason and others from the movie have been released and will continue to be released for the foreseeable future. Basically, if someone can put Jason Voorhees on something and sell it, it has or will be made!
Friday the 13th: Future Friday’s?
Just like Jason himself, the Friday the 13th franchise is one that will seemingly never die. And that is just fine by me. After years of mixed reports about any future movie, it looks like another Friday the 13th is on the horizon. However, it is not clear where this film is headed. It is still unclear whether it will be a sequel to the remake, another reboot, or something totally different altogether. There has been talk of doing a found-footage style movie but also talks of it being in 3-D. I have even heard rumors of Jason himself maybe not being in the movie! No one knows the truth right now except for the people involved in making it. Originally set to come out in 2015, the movie appears to have been pushed back again to next year. I just hope that it will eventually see the light of day.
But as far as I’m concerned, I just hope it is a good movie and I will be there to see it regardless. Friday the 13th has been my all-time favorite franchise for as long as I can remember. And I hope they keep on bringing Jason back for as long as I live and even longer.
Daryl Karpinski Jr.