You can see our other Friday the 13th lists here. Now, it’s time for Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), aka, the really crappy one where Jason’s black heart keeps jumping from body to body
After Jason Takes Manhattan went over budget but became the lowest-grossing Friday the 13th film ever, Paramount decided it was time to walk away. However, the actual film rights belonged to Boston-based theater owner Phil Scuderi and his partners, the backers of the 1980 Friday and franchise owners ever since. Original Friday director Sean Cunningham saw this as an opening to return to the franchise and mastermind the hopefully lucrative Freddy Vs. Jason team-up. He sure as heck wasn’t interested in simply making another crappy Friday the 13th sequel. Of course, that’s exactly what happened.
[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. It was supposed to be Freddy Vs. Jason
Sean Cunningham and New Line’s Head of Production Michael De Luca worked hard to get the Friday the 13th film rights set up at New Line after Paramount walked away. That way Freddy and Jason were both controlled by New Line, eliminating any legal barriers to the inevitable team-up film. There was a crucial next step, though, which was actually coming up with a story for a team-up movie. Yeah, they hadn’t actually gotten that far yet.
Moreover, was it really a good idea to team the two up so shortly after they’d both completely bottomed out at the box office, Jason with Takes Manhattan (1989) and Freddy with Freddy’s Dead (1991)? Then along came Wes Craven, invited back into the family by New Line boss Bob Shaye. A new Wes Craven-directed Nightmare on Elm Street movie seemed like a better bet than a team-up. So, with New Line heading that direction with Freddy Cunningham was left to make a standalone Jason film whose ending would tease audiences and possibly force New Line’s hand:
2. The director was fresh out of film school, but had actually once visited the set of the first Friday the 13th when he was a kid
Adam Marcus grew up friends with Sean Cunningham’s son, Noel, earning an invite to the set of the first Friday the 13th to fetch Sean coffee, like a very, very young production assistant. Over a decade later in 1991, Sean hired Adam straight out of NYU Film School, working together on getting a screenplay by Adam’s NY buddy Dean Lorey produced. It got set up at Disney, where it ultimately became My Boyfriend’s Back (1993), but there was no chance in hell Disney was going to let a first-timer like Adam direct. He needed to get his first credit out of the way to prevent that from happening again, and Sean let him do the next Friday the 13th even though he was only 23. Sadly for Marcus, he wouldn’t get to direct another film until Let it Snow in 1999, and the entirely forgotten Val Kilmer crapfest Conspiracy in 2008. Lately, he’s moved toward writing, working in that capacity on last year’s Texas Chainsaw 3D.
3. Where did the idea for the body-hopping Jason come from?
Conceptually, the notion of Jason’s essence being transferable came from Adam Marcus’ original story treatment. Ignoring Jason Takes Manhattan, he picked up where Part VII: The New Blood left off, i.e., Jason neutralized and trapped at the bottom of Crystal Lake. The film would open with a mystery man dredging Jason’s body back up so that an autopsy could be performed in a nearby cabin converted into a science lab. We were supposed to expect Jason to wake up and go apeshit. However, as a surprise Jason would awake only to watch his own black heart torn out by the the mystery man. This would instantly render him powerless, and the mystery man would consume the heart thereby absorbing Jason’s “powers.”
The big reveal would be the identity of the man: Elias Voorhees, Jason’s heretofore unseen/unmentioned brother. It’s not clear where the story would have gone from there, but they dropped all of it except the idea of someone eating Jason’s heart thereby taking his powers. Jason’s body-hopping via mouth-ingested parasite from that point forward was likely ripped off from The Hidden (1987), a science fiction flick in New Line’s archive.
4. The script was written in 4 days (and it shows). Here’s how that happened:
Magnum P.I. writer Jay Huguely’s final draft for Jason Goes to Hell was ten kinds of awful and impossible to understand. Cunningham was coming up against a deadline, as in New Line needed to see the script within a couple of days or else they’d cancel the project. So, he recruited My Boyfriend’s Back writer Dean Lorey, sat with him in a room for 4 days, and wouldn’t let him leave until they had a script they could film. In the process, they basically threw out all of Huguely’s work.
Of course, Hollywood is filled with similar stories of secluded, rushed writing sessions, but the end product is usually some kind of classic, like Ghostbusters. In this case, we got Jason Goes to Hell. Advantage? Ghostbusters.
After his 4-day marathon of Jason Goes to Hell screenwriting, Lorey stayed on as an ever-present sounding board on set, but Cunningham also had Lewis Abernathy (Deepstar Six) and Leslie Boehm (Nightmare on Elm Street 5) perform un-credited re-writes. Specifically, Abernathy wrote the opening sequence, and Bohem did a last-minute polish over a weekend. Bohem, later the writer of Daylight (1996) and Dante’s Peak (1997), was keen that his name not be attached. So, in the closing credits, he’s simply listed as the “Executive Typist.”
5. The casting director only did the project so he could return to Los Angeles to be near his dying mother
Barry Moss had served as casting director for the first Friday the 13th, but had nothing to do with the franchise after that. Sean Cunningham convinced him to come back for Jason Goes to Hell because Moss lived on the East Coast, and his cancer-stricken mother lived in Los Angeles. Working on Jason Goes to Hell gave him a professional reason to return to LA, providing a paycheck while spending his free time attending to the needs of his dying mother.
Moss oversaw the recruitment of the first Friday the 13th film cast to not include a single teenager character. They pulled most of their actors from TV, e.g., Erin Gray (Buck Rogers, Silver Spoons), Steven Williams (21 Jump Street), Allison Smith (Kate & Allie), and, of course, John D. LeMay (the only actor to appear in both the Friday the 13th TV series and a Friday the 13th film, albeit as separate characters).
6. Steven Williams would only play bounty hunter Creighton Duke if he could dress as a cowboy.
Creighton Duke was created as an homage to George Romero’s point of making African American actors the heroes of his zombie films. Plus, they wanted to give Jason a worthy adversary, reasoning he’d only had ever had one of those (i.e., telekinetic Tina from New Blood).
Sure. I get all that. But why dress him like a modern-day cowboy?
Well, that was all Williams’ doing. When he read the script he decided the character absolutely had to wear a cowboy hat and boots along with a long outback coat. He wouldn’t be in the film if they dressed the character any differently. That’s not how they pictured it, but you try saying no to Mr. X from The X-Files.
Even though Williams won the battle over the costume he still admits to having struggled with completely grasping the script:
“To this day, I don’t quite understand some of those lines in Jason Goes to Hell. I wanted to give Creighton Duke some dimensions, because the man was a little bit whacky. What was that one about the pink hot dog thing and the doughnut? I just figured this Creighton Duke guy was crazy. So you give it ambiguity. You say something, get a crazed look in your eyes, and just let the audience try to figure out what the hell is going on.”
7. The screenwriter, Kane Hodder, and even 2 random California DJs have cameos
The assistant coroner who jokes about having taken a mango-sized crap on Jason’s mask?
The security guard who refers to Jason as “nothing but a big old pussy”?
The police officers who die horribly?
8. What was with all the male nudity?
It’s certainly nothing on the level of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, but Jason Goes to Hell does have its own notoriously homoerotic moment in which a man shaves another man as a precursor to inserting the Jason parasite in his throat. They did it mostly just to mess with us.
However, there’s also quite a bit more male nudity than your typical Friday the 13th. That’s due to Adam Marcus’ tit-for-tit rule whereby the only way he could justify female nudity is if there was an equal amount of male skin on display as well. So, when test screening audiences demanded they go back and add in a more traditional Friday the 13th scene featuring campers being slashed Marcus defiantly made sure both the girl and guy were just about equally naked.
9. Kari Keegan walked off the set, and only returned when Adam Marcus was removed and Sean Cunningham inserted as the director for the final days of filming
Adam Marcus wanted Keegan to do that shower scene completely nude, ala Glenn Close sitting in a shower naked and crying in The Big Chill. Keegan says she told them from the get-go she wouldn’t do nudity while Marcus maintains she was never upfront with him about that. Keegan counters that Marcus knew, but kept telling everyone he’d be able to convince her to change her mind. She never did, and during the scene she wore a flesh-colored bathing suit bottom and Madonna-like cone bra just with dixie cups instead of cones. The water was so hot, though, that she was literally crying from pain.
Keegan complained about the whole thing to her agent, who then went nuclear on everyone in the production, especially Marcus. As a result, Keegan and Marcus briefly became enemies. It got so bad she walked off the set, even though they were mere days away from wrapping. So, Cunningham had to take the movie away from Marcus, and come in to direct the final couple of days. It’s the only way they could get Keegan back.
10. It was originally filmed at 22 frames per second
Sean Cunningham long since believed actors never took their cues fast enough, meaning it would take them just a couple of seconds too long to (for example) go out of a room through a door because they’d be too busy emoting (or, you know, acting). His passive aggressive solution was not to communicate more clearly to the actors but instead shoot at 22 frames per second instead of 24, thinking the increased speed would eliminate any sign of slight hesitation from the actor. This put the audio all out of whack, but he could fix that with a harmonizer. Cunningham puts this technique to the test on Deepstar Six, and liked the results enough to force Marcus to employ the method while filming Jason Goes to Hell. An unexpected though obvious consequence of filming everything at a slightly faster frame rate was that where they thought they had a 90-minute film they only actually had 80 minutes.
11. Almost half of the finished film came from re-shoots
The only person who actually viewed any of the footage during their initial 28-day shoot was editor David Handman, meaning no one was viewing the dailies as per normal procedure. They were all too focused on moving to the next thing to stop and make sure that what they got was usable. A lot of it wasn’t. Marcus had made as many first director mistakes as you’d expect. For example, he originally had an 8-minute sequence in non-stop slow-motion (the diner massacre), and the various conversation scenes dragged on so long not even Mystery Science Theater 3000 could make them funny/interesting. They were only able to salvage around 45-50 minutes of Marcus’ original work.
So, as much as 43 minutes of the final film came via re-shoots and re-purposed footage. During this process, storylines were completely dropped (e.g., Erin Gray’s character and the sheriff being engaged and planning their honeymoon) while others were added via creative editing (e.g., Kari Keegan and Steven Culp’s characters having been a couple). They also compressed some vital scenes, such as Creighton Duke explaining “the rules.” Even after all that, Cunningham still found the finished film beyond embarrassing:
“Adam came to me and said, ‘The last thing the fans want is to see Jason going through Camp Crystal Lake chopping up teenagers again.’ Of course, it was the only thing they wanted to see, and Adam delivered this movie that was so not good.”
12. Erin Gray felt violated the first time she saw the film
Erin Gray didn’t know the following happened to her character until she saw it with everyone else at the premiere:
That was never in the script, and Gray did not pose for that scene specifically.
According to Adam Marcus, “That was a corporate decision to make the story elements kind of link up easier. I admit it’s a little distasteful, and I regret that shot, even though, trust me, audiences love it.”
13. Yes, that was the Necronomicon from Evil Dead
That is the exact same prop version of the Necronomicon created by Tom Sullivan and featured in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. Jason Goes to Hell was just re-using the prop, though without the expressed permission of Sullivan. So, it wasn’t meant to be significant, but it helped fuel the Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash fire, which never made it to screen but did become a graphic novel.
The final damage?
- Body Count: 24
- Box Office: Released on August 13th 1993, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday ultimately grossed $15.9 million, an improvement over Jason Takes Manhattan‘s $14.3 million in 1989. This made it the second lowest-grossing Friday the 13th to that point, although $15.9 million was enough to be the highest-grossing horror film of 1993. Side note: 1993 was a bad year for the horror genre. New Line was apparently happy, though, especially with their sales from the unrated version released to home video.
Next Friday, we’ll explain that David Cronenberg cameo in Jason X.
You can also just 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 X, Freddy Vs. Jason, and Friday the 13th (2009).