You can see our other Friday the 13th lists here. Today, it’s time for Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), aka, the one where Jason becomes a straight up zombie
Once you sever the trust you’ve built up with an audience it’s hard to ever win them back. Paramount found that out not only when they went back on their promise that Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter would, in fact, be the final chapter but also when Part V: A New Beginning was a Jason-less creative disaster. Some fans were simply done with the whole stupid franchise after that one-two punch to the gut, but from Paramount’s perspective, New Beginning still grossed 10 times over its budget. So, there’s still money in them there Friday the 13th hills.
[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. Bringing Jason back was a directive delivered down to the producers from Paramount
After New Beginning, Paramount decided the whole “Tommy Jarvis is the new Jason” business was done, sending marching orders to Friday the 13th Executive Producer Frank Mancuso, Jr.: Get the dang series back on track by resurrecting Jason. He passed this on to Tom McLoughlin (One Dark Knight), hiring him to write and direct, letting him bring Jason back, however, he saw fit. McLoughlin went full-on Frankenstein with it, using lightning to resurrect the ole hockey mask-loving monster.
2. Part 5‘s survivors were originally supposed to come back
New Beginning left 3 characters standing – Tommy (John Shepherd), Pam (Melanie Kinnaman), and high-pitched scream expert, but mostly lovable little kid Reggie (Shavar Ross). Both Shepherd and Kinnaman had signed up for two films, and Kinnaman was told her character would return in Part VI to pull Tommy back from the brink of insanity. Ross assumed Reggie would be brought back to be killed off, but others claim his return was never in the cards because no one wanted to see Jason kill a little kid.
But then Shepherd, who actually liked Tom McLoughlin’s script, decided not to return, thinking himself better than the material and his work in Part V unappreciated. He later became a preacher and producer of faith-based films, but his walking away from Part VI totally screwed over Kinnaman, whose contract was canceled. Her presence, they figured, would only draw attention to how different Tommy Jarvis looked, the part having been re-cast with Thom Matthews.
3. It’s the first/only Friday the 13th to have actual children at the camp
Other than prologues/flashbacks, no Friday the 13th film had ever reached the point where actual little kids showed up to the summer camp. The counselors were always killed before it ever got that far.
4. It was originally supposed to have just 13 kills
The finished film was far too tame for Paramount and Mancuso’s liking. So, McLoughlin’s fun idea to limit the carnage to 13 kills (cuz, ya know, it’s a Friday the 13th movie) was put to rest after 2 days of forced re-shoots to add more kills (Martin the gravedigger, the engaged couple on a nighttime picnic) and gore (Jason twisting Sissy’s neck around and lifting her head straight off her body).
5. The original title was rejected for sounding too religious
McLoughlin wrote the script across the Christmas holiday of 1985, coming up with horrific kills and watching all the prior Fridays for research purposes while sitting in his living room next to his Christmas tree. Perhaps it was this atmosphere or his Catholic upbringing that inspired it, but when he turned in his script it was titled Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Has Risen. Paramount found that to be in bad taste, forcing a new subtitle: Jason Lives.
6. The little girl named Nancy was not a Nightmare on Elm Street homage
There are horror movie easter eggs throughout Jason Lives, such as characters named after horror director Mick Garris (Critters 2, The Stand), a town named after Halloween‘s John Carpenter, and a random grocery store taking its name from Boris Karloff, aka, Universal’s Frankenstein. However, the cute, nightmare-stricken little girl named Nancy was NOT named after Heather Langenkamp’s Nightmare on Elm Street Nancy. When writing the script, McLoughlin simply thought of the girl as a little angel, and the little angel in his own life was his wife, Nancy McLoughlin. Awwwww.
Then he almost killed her. Well, not on purpose. Keep reading.
7. The director’s wife was almost killed for real during her on-camera death
A young couple have the audacity to drive their car through Jason’s neck of the woods. So, he murders them, as is his way. The first to go is a young Tony Goldwyn as the boyfriend, and the girlfriend, played by Nancy McLoughlin, is forced out of the car and dies with her face submerged in a puddle of muddy water.
During this process, Jason lunges at her with a very real, very sharp spear through the car’s windshield. The stuntman was supposed to aim at the opposite side of McLoughlin in the car’s front seat, but either due to the impact from the windshield or the stuntman’s military training causing him to stay on target the spear changed trajectory, re-directing toward McLoughlin, who narrowly avoided a very real impalement.
8. Darcy DeMoss had been fired from Part V for not doing nudity, and then they turned around and asked her to go topless in Part VI
Not only had Darcy DeMoss been cast in Friday the 13th Part V but so had her boyfriend at the time, the two actually cast to play boyfriend and girlfriend in the film. He ended up in the film while DeMoss did not because, well, I’ll let her explain it:
I was originally cast for a role in Part V, the part that DebiSue Voorhees eventually played. During my audition, Danny Steinmann asked me to lift up my top and show him my breasts. I said, “Excuse me, no, I cannot do that. It’s incredibly unprofessional, and my agents didn’t tell me about it. You can call my agent, and if he OK’s it, I’m fine with that.” Then at my wardrobe fitting, Danny propositioned me. He wanted me to have dinner with him-I hadn’t even read the script yet. And the next day, I didn’t have a job, let’s just put it that way. But I got paid for it, so it’s fine.
The casting directors made it up to her by bringing her back for Jason Lives, and she was not going to be required to do any nudity. But sure enough on the day they filmed her sex scene the producers forced Tom McLoughlin to ask her to go topless.
She’d done nudity before, baring her breasts in her first ever movie (Hardbodies), but you don’t spring that kind of thing on an actress without first clearing it with her agent, especially not after the casting couch crap Part V‘s director had pulled with her. So, she said no, but this time it didn’t cost her the job.
9. David Kagen was actually his on-screen daughter’s real-life acting coach
Only 16 years separate David Kagen and Jennifer Cooke, but he easily passes for her father in Jason Lives. Not too long before that, though, he’d been her teacher, as he later explained:
I hadn’t done much in feature film when I auditioned for Tom McLoughlin, but as it turned out Jennifer Cooke had been an acting student of mine […] And I remember on Jason Lives they asked her, ‘Which actor do you want to work with for the part of your father?’ Jennifer said, ‘David.’ So it worked out.”
10. They shot part of the motorboat scene in the director’s father’s pool
The climactic scene in which Megan kills Jason with the outboard motor was actually filmed in 3 different locations: the underwater shots were filmed in a temperature-controlled tank in Los Angeles, the above water shots were filmed in a murky Georgia lake, and the shots of the motor actually cutting Jason’s mask/neck were filmed in Tom McLaughlin’s father’s swimming pool, actually ruining the pool filter in the process.
11. Jason was re-cast for being too fat
Stunt coordinator Dan Bradley played Jason on the first day of shooting, which was all the paintball stuff. However, when Frank Mancuso saw the dailies he thought Bradley looked too fat:
They recast the part with C.J. Graham, a restaurant manager with no stunt experience but a military background as an Army soldier. That made him the perfect soldier-type to take orders and execute stunts with military precision. Bradley’s paintball scenes were not re-shot meaning he does play Jason for a very brief part of the film. Otherwise, it’s all C.J. Graham.
12. The alternate endings included the introduction of Jason’s dad
The shooting script included a coda back at the police station where Deputy Rick would still be locked in the jail cell. A door opens, and Rick begins yelling, “Megan, Megan, let me out!” either meaning Jason is there to kill him, or it’s just a quick joke about how Tommy and Megan probably totally forgot they’d left Rick in that jail cell.
Second, in the script after Jason is defeated we were supposed to see the following:
This would have been the first-ever depiction of the father, and the money exchange would have explained a continuity error – Part V says Jason was cremated while Part VI opens on him rotting in a grave. Jason’s unnamed father clearly paid, in secret, for his son to be buried. The producers vetoed the idea before it was ever filmed because they didn’t really want to have to deal with the ramifications of this ending in the sequel.
13. Part VI was very influential on Scream
Plus, characters say things like, “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know not to trust the scary guy in the middle of the road,” or a group of kids fearful they might soon die ask each other, “So, what were you going to be when you grew up?” There was even some overt meta-humor with the gravedigger asking, “Why’d they have to go and dig up Jason?” before breaking the fourth wall and addressing the camera, “Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.”
On top of that, McLoughlin also tried to establish a set of franchise rules (e.g., Jason can only be defeated by returning him to the place of his death/birth – Crystal Lake) while also thumbing his nose at slasher morality tales rules where people sin and are then slashed. Instead, in his film almost all of the victims die for no good reason other than they were in Jason’s way.
For all of these reasons and more, McLoughlin was actually offered the chance to direct Scream in the mid-90s, the gig Wes Craven eventually accepted. He declined, but during that process, he met Kevin Williamson, who allegedly admitted the fantastically self-aware Part VI was an influential film for him on his path to eventually writing Scream.
The final damage:
- Body Count: 18
- Box Office: Paramount promoted the heck out of Jason Lives once they saw it and realized it was possibly their first ever genuinely great Friday the 13th film. However, audiences had not forgotten A New Beginning, causing Jason Lives to only make $19.4 million domestic (like $43.8 million at 2014 ticket prices) on a $3 million budget. It was the first Friday the 13th film to not debut at #1 at the domestic box office. It continued a trend of diminishing box office returns for every Friday sequel after The Final Chapter.
Next Friday, we’ll tell you why they made Part 7 Jason Vs. Carrie.
You can also use the following links to check out all of our other “13 Things…” lists: Friday the 13th, Part 2, Part 3, The Final Chapter, A New Beginning, Jason Lives, New Blood, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, Freddy Vs. Jason, and Friday the 13th (2009).