You can see our other Friday the 13th lists here. Today, it’s time for Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), aka, the crappy one where it’s not really Jason:
After years of decline, the slasher genre rebounded in 1984 when Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter turned into a huge hit, and Wes Craven debuted his Nightmare on Elm Street, giving us a far more talkative, supernatural slasher killer. Why, then, would Paramount leave money on the table by letting a silly thing like killing Jason for good stop them from doing another another Friday the 13th?
[Unless otherwise noted, my sources from this point forward are: Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th documentary & the companion coffee table book of the same name]
1. So, what about the no Jason thing?
The Final Chapter was supposed to be it for the franchise, but its director (Joseph Zito) and writer (Barney Cohen) decided to leave it open for someone to become the new Jason in the hopes that they then might be asked to chart that character’s journey in the sequel. When Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) loses his shit and hacks Jason’s corpse with a machete before hugging his sister we were supposed to be freaked the heck out by his death stare:
It worked. Kind of. Franchise architect Phil Scuderi loved the idea of Tommy becoming the new Jason, although it meant aging the character by 5 years since Feldman was too young and unavailable, thanks to Goonies. Scuderi just hired new people to do it. Speaking of which…
2. The director had previously worked in adult film
New Beginning screenwriter/director Danny Steinmann was originally offered a two-picture deal to direct a Friday sequel as well as a Last House on the Left sequel, the latter ultimately falling through. At that time, he had just made his official directorial debut with the Linda Blair crapfest Savage Streets (1984). However, he’d actually been working in exploitation cinema under various pseudonyms since 1973, starting with the hardcore sex comedy High Rise. That was Steinmann’s only adult film, an attempt to make a better version of Deep Throat (1972), but it did speak to the sleazy sensibilities he brought to A New Beginning.
3. There had to be some kind of scare every 8 minutes
For the screenplay, Danny Steinman was working under two directives from Phil Scuderi: deliver a shock, scare, or kill every seven or eight minutes, and turn Tommy into Jason. In fact, Scuderi presented Steinmann with a graph to emphasize his “every 8 minute” rule, which meant the film needed to keep introducing new characters and then kill them 3 or 4 minutes later. You can evaluate how well Steinmann followed the rule with this minute-by-minute breakdown of the film.
4. They adapted a story originally written for Part 3
Friday the 13th: Part 3 was supposed to center around Part 2‘s survivor Ginny (Amy Steel), set at a mental institution to which she’d been committed due to emotional trauma. Steel declined to return, and the concept was shelved. However, Part 3‘s screenwriter Martin Kitrosser had fleshed out the ideas (Jason survivor as lead character, some setting where troubled teenagers might be) into a written story treatment, which was dusted off and used for New Beginning‘s basic story while Steinman and co-writer David Cohen penned the script.
5. The editor had previously worked on Indiana Jones and Star Wars
A New Beginning‘s editor Bruce Green had previously been an assistant editor to future Oscar-winning editor Michael Kahn on Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Temple of Doom. Kahn put his neck on the line for Green, offering to edit New Beginning for free if the producers didn’t like the job Green did. That must have felt amazing at the time, but Green, who now works steadily editing family comedies (e.g., Princess Diaries, Freaky Friday), would almost instantly regret getting the New Beginning gig when…
6. There was originally a 3-minute long sex scene, but the MPAA forced them to cut it to 10 seconds
Not everyone on New Beginning knew Steinmann had made a porno, but they could have guessed as much after they used the first day on set to shoot a 3-minute softcore sex scene featuring DebiSue Voorhees and John Robert Dixon.
It was way too close to hardcore porn for most involved. Bruce Green was told to take the footage and “Make it look like a Pepsi commercial,” but it didn’t matter since the MPAA ultimately forced them to trim it all the way down to 10 seconds.
7. DebiSue Voorhees lost teaching jobs later in life when the schools discovered her New Chapter sex scene
Though her sex scene was cut way down by the MPAA, what was left was enough for DebiSue’s remarkably large (real and spectacular) breasts to leave a lasting impression on a generation of horny teenagers. Unfortunately, this also haunted DebiSue for many years, costing her teaching jobs she held later in life at Texas and New Mexico high schools once they discovered her sex scene. She told FridayThe13thFranchise.com:
“I taught British Literature, English, grammar, and journalism in high school for four years. Two school boards exiled me because of it. At one school, some boys got a hold of the tit shots from the film and text messaged them around the school. This was three weeks before my seniors graduated and I wasn’t allowed to stay through the end or sit with my students and fellow teachers at graduation. I still went to graduation and sat in the stands with the public […] Several of my kids signed a petition on my behalf, wrote letters, and spoke with the principal on my behalf–even several months after there was no hope of my returning. “
8. Not everyone initially knew they were in a Friday the 13th movie
The films didn’t actually go by their real titles during production, with New Chapter called “Repetition” (a self-deprecating, in-joke on the part of the producer). The actors usually figured this out during the casting process, but for Ron Sloan and a couple of other New Beginning actors they hadn’t put it together until their first day on set when a stuntman (Tom Marga) walked by in full Jason Voorhees costume.
9. They stole poor Carol Locatell’s wig
In her audition for the part of over-the-top hick Ethel, Carol Locatell wore a wig gifted to her by Burt Reynolds for her time playing a hooker in Sharky’s Machine (1981). The New Beginning people loved it, especially the part where she could provide her own wig. That’s not really what she was going for (surely they’d get a new wig for the film), but she just went with it.
Unfortunately, she temporarily volunteered the wig to the make-up department in the chance they should need it for any re-shoots. They never gave it back to her, perhaps forgetting it was her personal property and not their’s.
10. Fadden was NOT Here
The idea was always for the audience to suspect that this new Jason was actually an impostor. That’s why there are more adults around than normal (all potential bad guys), and Tommy’s all super strange and possibly psycho. Plus, there’s that guy Vic Faden who chops poor chocolate-loving Joey to pieces. Surely, he’s a Jason candidate, right? If not, why else would we later see the graffiti “Fadden Was Here” on a bathroom wall just over a character’s shoulder well after Vic was last seen being taken away by cops?
Clearly, Vic broke out, took a moment to misspell his last name on a wall, and then started killing everyone, right? Sorry, but no. “Fadden” was simply the name of a golfing buddy of Danny Steinmann’s brother, meaning the graffiti was an inside joke everyone’s completely misinterpreted over the years.
11. A seminary student talked John Shepherd into playing Tommy
Strasberg-trained John Shepherd went so method as Tommy Jarvis that he wouldn’t really talk to anyone since his character would be reluctant to freely engage in conversation. Prior to filming, he volunteered for 3 months at a state mental hospital, regularly visited creature and comic book shops to geek out as the Corey Feldman version might, and wrote his own personal backstory for what had happened to the character in-between movies. During filming, he did push-ups, sit-ups, and run in-between scenes to get his body sweating.
However, he almost didn’t accept the offer to be in the film. A very religious person who counseled kids at a local LA church, Shepherd was concerned about coming off as a hypocrit if he then did a horror film. It was actually seminary student friend who convinced him to do the movie, reasoning that they are morality tales (you do evil, you die), and his character got to kill Jason in the end.
12. Yes, they knew the reveal of the killer was stupid
Among the cast, the only people who knew Jason was actually the ambulance driver were the two leads (John Shepherd, Melanie Kinnaman), the stuntman playing Jason, and the actor playing the driver. However, when it came time to film the big reveal everyone knew it was horrible. In fact, they filmed fake Jason’s death scene twice. Still, no one believed the audience would be able to just see the unmasked man and instantly remember him as the ambulance driver.
Ultimately, Steinmann decided to cut away from it as fast as possible in the hopes the audience would just go with it if he instantly distracted them with a new scene. That new scene turned out to be just as bad…
13. Tommy almost murdering Pam was NOT meant to be a dream
The Friday the 13th series loves itself a cheap-scare, dream sequence ending. As a result, since New Beginning ends with Tommy having donned the hockey mask, moments away from killing his love interest, but Part VI opens with Tommy not so much in a homicidal maniac frame of mind the New Beginning ending must be a dream, right? It wasn’t supposed to be. As far as the people making it were concerned, Tommy had become Jason, and would be the killer in the sequel. The new creative team behind Part VI dropped it because audiences despised the whole stupid idea.
The final damage:
- Body Count: 20 (see them on YouTube)
- Box Office: $21.9 million domestic (like $51.5 million at 2014 ticket prices) on a $2.2 million budget. It was the 5th straight Friday the 13th movie to debut atop the domestic weekend box office top 10, and was already making pure profit above budget + marketing after 4 days of release. However, the word of mouth was toxic, and it was out of the top 10 by its third weekend, the quickest such box office decline for a Friday the 13th film to date. The franchise would not re-emerge as a legitimate box office presence until Freddy Vs. Jason in 2003, and the Friday the 13th re-make in 2009.
Next Friday, we’ll tell you how Part 6 turned out to be an awesome damn movie.
Use the following links to check out our other “13 Things…” lists: Friday the 13th, Part 2, Part 3, The Final Chapter, Jason Lives, New Blood, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X. Freddy Vs. Jason, and Friday the 13th (2009).
Siskel & Ebert Review Friday the 13th: A New Beginning: