You can see our other Friday the 13th lists here. Now, it’s time for Jason X (2002), aka, the one in space:
Sean Cunningham only ever returned to Friday the 13th to set up Freddy Vs. Jason at New Line, but he had to settle with producing Jason Goes to Hell in 1993. By the close of the 90’s, multiple Freddy Vs. Jason scripts had come and gone, and Cunningham remained committed to the project but worried that too much time had passed since the last Friday the 13th film. The longer the Freddy Vs. Jason development dragged on the more likely it was audiences would forget all about Jason, or so Cunningham thought. So, I dunno, let’s crap out a movie with him in space.
[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 made because Freddy Vs. Jason was stuck in development hell
Cunningham and New Line poured millions into developing Freddy Vs. Jason throughout the 90s, but all had nothing to show for it other than a bunch of un-produced screenplays. By 1999, Cunningham lost his patience, and said yes to what he’d been turning down for years: just make another dang Friday the 13th movie. The person who finally got the “yes” out of Cunningham was Jim Isaac, a special effects coordinator for David Cronenberg who’d made his directorial debut a decade earlier with the Cunningham-produced The Horror Show. No other producer had given Isaac a second shot at directing. So, Isaac figured his best option to direct again was to convince Cunningham to do another Friday.
2. Where did the idea for “Jason in space” come from?
During Jason X‘s development process, director Jim Isaac, producer Noel Cunningham (Sean’s son), and screenwriter Todd Farmer kicked around any scenario they could think of it, typically “Jason in [insert blank].” The hood. Snow. Underwater. The Arctic. In L.A. fighting gangs. On safari. Anywhere other than Camp Crystal Lake (or in New York). They even considered something involving the NASCAR circuit. Farmer suggested “in space” because he knew Freddy Vs. Jason was on the way, and it’d be best if Jason X was set after the events of that epic battle. So, they needed to jump into the future, and going into space certainly did that.
They were a little scared of doing a horror sequel in space [see: Hellraiser, Leprechaun, and Critters.], but they thought it could be fun to do a mash-up of Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens with not one but two strong Ripley-type females on a ship of bad-ass space marines hunted by Jason instead of xenomorphs.
3. The idea for UberJason came from a discarded Freddy Vs. Jason script
One of the things which won over everyone to the concept of Jason in space was the idea of the kids seemingly killing the hockey mask bastard halfway through only for him to be recreated into something even scarier via futuristic technology. The mechanism of this change ended up being nanotechnology, an idea screenwriter Todd Farmer lifted from Virtuosity. However, the actual concept of an UberJason predates Jason X.
According to Noel Cunningham:
“It was kind of a leftover from one of the Freddy Vs. Jason script attempts because in one of them there was a scene where Jason breaks into a sporting goods store and there’s a goalie display and one of the mannequins is wearing a big chrome hockey mask. Jason kind of looks at it and switches masks. That was the genesis of the whole UberJason concept.”
4. Lexa Doig & Lysa Ryder had to be released from Jason X by a certain date to start on Andromeda
Doig and Ryder both had a ridiculous run of good fortune at the start of the century, landing their roles in Jason X and sci-fi TV series Andromeda at almost the exact same time, with both projects based out of Toronto, Canada. Oddly enough, it’s kind of like they flip-flopped roles between movie and show. Doig went from the plucky survivor of Jason X to the sexy avatar of the ship on Andromeda while Ryder went from the sexy, PVC-clad Stepford Wife-like android in Jason X to a plucky, Starbuck-like crewmember in Andromeda.
The only way Jason X was allowed to use them was if the producers agreed to release the actresses from production by a certain date to free them up to begin work on Andromeda. As per this agreement, they couldn’t even afford to go over schedule by a single day with either actress.
5. They were constantly re-writing the script throughout production
Jim Isaac wanted the movie he directed to be funny. Todd Farmer wanted the script he wrote to have cool sci-fi and gung-ho action. Noel Cunningham simply wanted to produce something that came in on time and on budget. Sean Cunningham, of course, just wanted a dang Friday the 13th movie. So, as Executive Producer he went over all of their heads, and had the script re-written. If Isaac had his way, this is how the movie would have started:
“The kids end up falling through this floor into the space where Jason is in cryo-freeze and all this stuff. During this search, one of them finds an old condom which has a shelf life expiration date printed on it. This is a Friday the 13th movie, right? So, the smartass kid should say, ‘Cool, let’s test it out.’ To me that’s like a no-brainer-they should start having sex right there. Then that’s what would make the whole floor fall out, and bring them to Jason and put them in jeopardy. And you get a beautiful actress to take off her shirt. I thought that was a fun way to start the movie. And a sexy way-it gives what everyone wants. But Sean said, ‘Finding a condom is not going to make them want to have sex. It doesn’t make any sense.’ So, [Sean Cunningham] made us cut the whole scene.”
Isaac also wanted to do a party scene where all the kids are getting high and drunk and having sex but doing so in a zero-gravity bubble. Think of the zero gravity kill possibilities!
Just as he had on Jason Goes to Hell, Sean Cunningham brought in Lewis Abernathy to performs rewrites. Then literally one week before the start of filming Abernathy made the following statement to Isaac, “Okay, Jim. Here’s what I want you to think about: Space Pirates. All these kids are on this ship out to rob and plunder, and then Jason comes on board and wreaks havoc!”
6. Several of the characters owe their names to EverQuest
It’s not surprising considering Jason X‘s scene of two characters playing a virtual reality game, but screenwriter Todd Farmer was playing a lot of video games when he wrote the script. In fact, he named the characters Weylander and Tsuarnon after characters from EverQuest. Heck, Farmer even cameos in the movie as one of the guys killed during the virtual reality game:
7. They actually rehearsed for a month
Rehearse? For a Friday the 13th movie? Um, why?
Because Jim Isaac wanted the acting in his film to “blow every other Friday movie out of the water.” The associate producer videotaped the rehearsals on a camcorder for Isaac, who would view them afterward to get ideas from seeing his characters in action. The problem was with all the script re-writes a lot of the time Isaac didn’t even know if what the actors were rehearsing was still going to be in the movie (most of it wasn’t).
8. Rowan’ male love interest was cut from the film 4 days into rehearsals
Latter-era Friday the 13th films have an odd habit of not simply featuring a “final girl” but a “final girl” and her boyfriend. Jason X originally meant to double that by having two couples survive – Kay-Em 14 (well, her head at least) and her creator on one side, Rowan and her love interest on the other. However, 4 days into rehearsal they looked at the script and realized they had no real use for Rowan’s male love interest character even though they’d already cast someone to play him. So, they took the poor actor aside (whose name they won’t divulge), and gave him the “it’s not you, it’s us” speech to explain why his ass was fired.
9. Neither the Casting Director nor the Director initially wanted to do the virtual reality scene
Among fans, the Friday the 13th sequels are often simply distilled down to one or two memorable sequences whereby even if the film is total and complete shite you can never take away how awesome that one scene was. For Jason X, that honor belongs to this:
However, neither the casting director (Robin Cook) nor the director (Jim Issac) initially wanted any part of it. Cook was so adamant the scene was nothing but gratuitous nudity that she refused to cast the roles of the two topless girls, relegating those duties to her casting assistant. Isaac agreed that it was clearly just nudity for nudity’s sake, and the only way he could personally justify it is if they had fun with it and made it really silly.
10. David Cronenberg’s cameo was done as a favor, but also because he wanted to get killed on screen
Canadian-born Cronenberg, the sick, twisted mind behind body horror classics like The Fly (1986), essentially loaned his normal Canadian-based production crew to former protege Jim Isaac for Jason X. In exchange, he very much so wanted to cameo as a character who gets killed on-screen. So, he ends up the unlucky recipient of a spear through his back. Vintage Friday, really.
11. Mythbusters disproved the liquid nitrogen head smash kill
They just had to go and ruin the fun, didn’t they? In 2010, Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters actually tested out Jason X‘s liquid nitrogen head smash kill. It turns out it doesn’t quite pass the smell test:
12. It’s the first feature-length film ever to be completed entirely in the digital realm.
Jason X was shot on 35mm film, and then transferred to high-definition video to aid in the creation of its extensive and elaborate visual effects shots. This made it the first feature-length film ever to be completed entirely in the digital realm. At least that’s what Jason X‘s producers say, and why would they lie? Why would they lie?
13. It sat on the shelf for 2 years
Jason X wrapped filming in April 2000, t was not released until April 26, 2002. Why? Because after years of controversy and a string of box office duds like Little Nicky (remember that movie where Adam Sandler was the son of the devil? You didn’t just make that up; that happened) and 13 Days New Line’s President of Production Michael De Luca was finally fired in January 2001. He was the only person at the studio who actually believed in Jason X, and his replacements didn’t know what to do with it. So, they let it sit on the shelf, unwilling to sentence it to a direct-to-video death but also hesitant to put it into theaters. Unfortunately, in the interim Jason X leaked online meaning by the time it hit theaters the hardcore fans had long since had the chance to see it already, albeit illegally.
The final damage?
- Body Count: 24
- Box Office: At $11 million, Jason X cost 3 times as much to produce as any of the prior Friday films, but it became the lowest-grossing entry in franchise history, ending with just $13.1 million domestic.
Next time, we’ll switch gears. We can’t get to Freddy Vs. Jason without first discussing Freddy, can we? So, the next list will be about the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie.
You can 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, and Friday the 13th (2009).
Jason Vs. Kay-Em: