13 Things You Didn’t Know About Friday the 13th
Article By: Tony Timpone
Twelve movies and one hit series later, you can’t imagine Friday the 13th having such staying power if the first film went out with its once-proposed title of Long Night at Camp Blood. Directed by Sean Cunningham and scripted by soap opera (All My Children, Guiding Light) scribe Victor Miller, 1980’s Friday the 13th grossed nearly $40 million on a $600,000 budget, one of the biggest low-budget successes of its era. Today being Friday the 13th, Chiller celebrates one of horror’s most popular and enduring (a new film’s currently in the works at Paramount) franchises by uncovering 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Friday the 13th, as divulged by Friday’s filmmakers and stars.
1. Friday the 13th (1980)
Many point to the gruesome makeup FX work of artist Tom Savini for helping put the first Friday the 13th over the top. But what people don’t know is that, behind the scenes, the “Sultan of Slaughter” also doubled as the film’s king of practical jokes. “I don’t know why I had a gorilla suit with me,” Savini recalls, “but one night during crew dinner, Taso Stavrakis, my assistant, got into the suit and barged in on dinner and jumped on the tables and carried on. So I simply stopped eating and took out a gun and shot him dead…then calmly went on eating. I used blanks of course.”
2. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Although their heroine survived the first film’s massacre, Friday the 13th’s producers unceremoniously bumped off the indefatigable Alice in the opening moments of the quickly generated Part 2. However, the gory stunt where Jason plunges an ice pick into Alice’s temple did not go as planned for returning actress Adrienne King. “Did you know that on first take, the ‘retractable’ ice pick prop did not retract? Ouch!!” says King, who today sells themed wines and paintings based on her Friday stint (see here). “Also, my entire scene was ad-libbed right there. We kind of made it up as we went along because there was no script!”
3. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
In Friday the 13th Part III, Jason gained his trademark hockey mask and the expanded kill zone of 3D. On the downside, he lost out on a more horrific ending that would have showed off his gruesome “trophy room.” “In terms of things about Friday the 13th Part III, I’m sure you know about the alternate ending that was shot, in which Chris Higgins [actress Dana Kimmell] is decapitated by Jason,” says Larry Zerner, who played the ill-fated Shelly in the three-quel. “But that ending was actually the second ending written. The original script had Chris going back into the barn and finding all of the dead bodies piled into the hay. That version exists in the novelization of the film.”
4. Friday the 13th — The Final Chapter (1984)
Despite creating the signature splatter FX that established the Friday the 13th brand, the production brass did not ask Pittsburgh FX wizard Tom Savini to make an encore until the fourth entry in the blood-drenched saga. And he wasn’t even the first choice! “Well, for Final Chapter, I got to kill Jason,” Savini says. “I was hired when they fired their makeup artist, and they were already shooting when I took over the makeup team. I was always annoyed by Part One because they made so much money and I got pennies, and all the reviews said my effects were the star of the film. So for Final Chapter, I asked for an outrageous amount to do the work…and I got it! One of the highlights for me was on payday walking into the Wells Fargo bank in Beverly Hills; everyone was dressed to the nines with fresh hairdos and manicures, and there I was wearing white painter pants covered in blood waiting to cash my check.”
5. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Unlike the other long-running horror cycle A Nightmare on Elm Street, each Friday the 13th follow-up cast a different actor as the maniac behind the mask until Part VIII rolled around. One of the hulking killers notes why. “A really interesting thing that always blew my mind was how each Jason got his job,” says Dick Wieand, who played notorious Jason imposter “Roy” in A New Beginning. “It’s a different story with each Jason. My story is more traditional because I was hired as an actor, so I had to audition, be chosen for the call back, audition again, then be booked. Until Kane Hodder, it was a different guy every time. They didn’t want to create a star because they would have had to pay him more each time as he became popular.”
6. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
In early screenplay drafts of Jason Lives, the Crystal Lake killer packed firepower in a bid to outdo Rambo! “In my original story for the originally titled Jason Has Risen, the paintball warriors’ daylight encounter with the J-man was a very different concept,” reveals Part VI writer/director Tom McLoughlin. In the unfilmed sequence, Jason slaughters four male deer hunters instead and makes off with their heavy artillery, including an Uzi-machine gun! “The next time we see Jason, he’s wearing an ammunition belt, straps with knives and other guerrilla war weapons. Jason has become a One Man Army.
“Nikki and Cort are making love in the RV,” McLoughlin continues. “Jason is irritated by the bouncing motor home. When the power plug is yanked out, the couple goes to investigate. When Nikki goes to the closet toilet, Jason explodes out blasting. Their bodies and the entire RV are riddled with bullets. The out-of-control RV flips over and over. Jason’s body is flung out through the front window and lands motionless on the road. The RV crashes erupting into a monstrous butane fireball. Then Jason rises up off the road and walks past the flaming vehicle. The scene was ultimately cut because: a) Jason shouldn’t be using guns to kill his victims; he’s a hands-on killer and b) it was just too costly, especially time-wise, with our little budget.”
7. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
When actor/stuntman Kane Hodder took over as Jason Voorhees in Part VII, he wanted to make the role his own and become the first performer to play the character more than once. But nagging insecurity haunted him. “In the [final] scene where Tina makes the roof come down on my head, I always talked about how it made me loopy,” Hodder recalls. “But I ended up having a concussion from the stunt! I never told a soul because I was so paranoid that they would replace me. I never told anyone, even the director, because I was worried they would put someone else behind the mask. Luckily I had the next day off to rest.”
8. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Hodder needn’t have worried, as Friday’s execs realized that no one could hold that machete better than he and brought him back for the series’ next three installments. Hodder admits that he got pretty possessive about his mask, and pity the fool who tried to purloin it! “When we were in Vancouver, we were shooting at the diner at 3 a.m. where I break through the door,” Hodder remembers. “I was outside alone getting ready for the shot, sitting on a bench, with the mask off. Just then, this stranger comes by and tries to steal it! I don’t know if he knew the value of it, but he tried to make a getaway with my prized possession. I grabbed him, and he took a swing at me! So I punched him on the side of the head, and he went down so hard he hit his head on the curb. Then they called ‘action!’ and I had to run inside and do my scene. When you watch that scene, you can tell something is wrong, because I am extra hyped up! When they called ‘cut,’ I looked outside and the guy was gone.”
9. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
In The Final Friday’s clever epilogue, a set-up for the long-mooted Freddy vs. Jason movie, the glove of the Elm Street stalker emerges from the infernal depths to pull Jason’s mask down to hell. Guess who played the big lunk’s definitive nemesis? “That was my hand as Freddy’s hand/glove,” reveals Hodder of the crowd-pleasing “Easter egg” extra. “There were several people who wanted to wear the glove and sleeve in that scene, including the director [Adam Marcus], but I said, ‘Absolutely not!’ It was too cool to give to somebody else. That was my hand pulling down my mask. What has never been said is how many people wanted to do it! I wasn’t about to hear it. But I really had to fight for it! During one take, the mask and the blades of the Freddy glove broke while I did it. I kept all the pieces.”
10. Jason X (2001)
If all had gone as planned, mother and son slashers would have shared a tearful reunion in a proposed early draft of Jason’s notorious outer space slayathon. “In the end of the second act of the original script, our heroes create Pamela Voorhees within virtual reality as a final means of distracting Jason,” reveals screenwriter Todd (My Bloody Valentine) Farmer. “But Jason pushed her head under the water to show that he’d not only changed physically, but emotionally too. Producers felt that the one constant in Jason’s life was his mother, so it was replaced with his pulling her from the lake to reveal an unfinished computer schematic. In the end, it was all a moot point when weeks before photography, the producers and [1980 Friday the 13th mom] Betsy Palmer could not reach an agreement.”
11. Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
The ultimate battle royal spent 10 years in development hell, during which time several well-known young actors and stars-to-be read for parts in the much-anticipated film, but did not make the last casting call. “The late Brad Renfro [Bully, The Client] was originally cast for the Will part,” says co-writer Damian Shannon. “They also went after Ryan Gosling [Drive, The Notebook], who was relatively unknown at the time. Michael Pena read for the Mark part. I saw the audition tape, and he killed it! Because they shot in Canada, they had to go with a certain amount of Canadian actors. So they went with Brendan Fletcher, who was also great.”
12. Friday the 13th (2009)
The plea of one (yes, one) Jason enthusiast led the big shots behind the Friday the 13th remake to scrap their planned finale. “We had a great ending where Jason gets choked by a chain that wrapped around his head and gets sucked into a shredder from the other end,” recalls director Marcus Nispel, who also helmed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Conan reduxes. “As he gets sucked into the machine, in the moment of his death, the mask flies off and we would have seen his pitifully grotesque childlike face. The producers apparently went to Comic-Con, with the movie pretty much completed, and a fanboy walked up to them and said, ‘Whatever you do in this remake, never, ever take Jason’s mask off.’ Somehow that completely spooked them and prompted them in the last moment to reshoot the entire ending. You would be surprised how much power the fan community and the bloggers have in the making of these movies. It’s like a big focus group before one even starts.”
13. Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990)
While fan feedback altered the ending of the Friday the 13th reboot, the mother of franchise chief Frank Mancuso Jr. managed to put her critical two cents in when her son came up with Friday the 13th: The Series (minus Jason) in the late 1980s. The popular television show followed the proprietors of an antique store who, each episode, must track down cursed objects.
“I was asked to direct Friday the 13th: The Series, which had nothing to do (other than the title) with the feature films,” notes Armand (He Knows Your Alone) Mastroianni, who tackled eight episodes. “My first one, ‘Better Off Dead,’ was about a doctor whose daughter was suffering from some rare brain disorder. The doctor discovers by using this cursed needle and drawing fluid from the female brain, he could ease his daughter’s horrific spasms. We didn’t have CGI or the kind of digital effects we have today, so mostly everything was practical with some visual enhancement. I had chosen a nasty looking lengthy retractable needle and wanted the doctor to insert it where the ear lobe meets the jaw and push it up into the brain. We had to use two needles so that he could only go so far with the first and then use the second to show even deeper penetration. A cut to the victim’s eyes or mouth sold the illusion that the same needle went all the way in.
“It was very effective, so much so that Frank Mancuso’s mom, while watching the about-to-air show, was so disturbed by it that an edit had to be made to the air master,” Mastroianni continues. “It was the first episode to air with a ‘Graphic Violence Warning’ in 1989. ‘Better Off Dead’ was very successful and ensured my position as one of the show’s directors.”
Tony Timpone visited the sets of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan in NYC and Jason X in Toronto during his Fangoria days.