As originally argued by author Kim Newman in Nightmare Movies, the movie production biz is akin to surfing: some random movie causes a ripple in the ocean, causing countless producers to grab their boards, and streak down to the water. The wave picks up, a peak is hit, and then wipe out!
Sometimes, though, a similar if not nearly identical wave can come back around again. So, while the wave of slasher films which followed Black Christmas (1975) and Halloween (1978) eventually wiped out by the close of the ’80s it came right back when 2003 saw the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake gross $107 million worldwide on a $9.5 million budget and Freddy Vs. Jason pull in $114 million worldwide against a $30 million budget.
The initial wave was exclusive to further ’70s remakes (The Amityville Horror, Halloween, The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead, Black Christmas, When a Stranger Calls) before moving on to the ’80s (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, Bloody Valentine, Prom Night, The Fog, Stepfather, Fright Night, The Thing, The Hitcher, and Sorority Row). Sadly, though, if you were not a fan of the supersaturated visuals and humorless, extreme gore of the 2003 Texas Chainsaw then the 2009 Friday the 13th was not really for you as it came from the same company (Platinum Dunes) and director (Marcus Nispel).
1. We almost had Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash on film, but at least the idea lives on as a graphic novel
There were a run of crazy rumors for potential Freddy Vs. Jason sequels, such as a straight sequel directed by noted huge Freddy/Jason fan Quentin Tarantino or potential spin-offs, one incorporating Halloween‘s Michael Myers, another featuring Bruce Campbell’s Ash from the Evil Dead series.
Among those, Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash was definitely more than mere rumor. New Line Executive Jeff Katz, who’d been a Freddy/Jason/Ash super-fan since he was in the fourth grade, actually crafted a story treatment (which you can read here) in which Freddy is trapped inside Jason’s subconscious, desperate to escape. Ash shows up in search of the Necronomicon featured in the Voorhees Crystal Lake home in Jason Goes to Hell. As Katz told FridayThe13Films.com, “The idea was for Ash to be the one to kill Freddy and Jason and then go off into a larger budget Evil Dead film for Sam [Raimi] to be more involved in.”
The project at least reached the stage where directors were calling New Line about the gig, but for a variety of reasons it never entered into production, Sam Raimi announcing in 2005 he would instead pursue a remake of Evil Dead (which we finally got last year).
2. Marks the first time Paramount Pictures had anything to do with Friday the 13th since Jason Takes Manhattan in 1989 and the end of Friday the 13th: The Series in 1990
New Line first announced a Friday the 13th re-make in early 2006, to be produced by Platinum Dunes and written by Mark Wheaton and tentatively scheduled to come out later that year on October 13th. However, that date came and went with no film in sight because New Line was stuck in a legal dispute with Paramount Pictures, which had walked from the franchise by 1990 but still owned the footage and story elements of the first 8 films as well as the right of first refusal on any kind of remake of the first film. So, for a while New Line and Platinum were simply not going to include any of the elements of the first film since Paramount had the rights meaning there would be no Mrs. Voorhees or drowned Jason.
The way it all worked out is they decided to compress the best elements of the first 4 films into a franchise “re-imagining” co-produced by Paramount and Warner Bros./New Line, the pair splitting up international and domestic distribution respectively.
3. It shares screenwriters with Freddy Vs. Jason, who had previously turned down the chance to do a Freddy Vs. Jason sequel
As a result of the legal delays, Friday the 13th lost its original director (Jonathan Liebesman) and screenwriter (Mark Wheaton). Freddy Vs. Jason writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, who had earned their first writing credit with Freddy Vs. Jason but had yet to get another script onto the screen, were brought in to replace Wheaton. Both grew up huge Jason/Freddy fans, but their Freddy Vs. Jason script was largely re-written by David S. Goyer, who went uncredited, and the far campier film that came out of that was not to their liking.
Still, New Line actually offered them the chance to pitch ideas for a Freddy Vs. Jason 2, which they turned down, according to Shannon, because “we thought maybe somebody else should tackle it because we shot our wad so to speak. Every idea we had about that was in the first. I don’t know what we could have done with a second one.” But a reboot? Well, that’s a different story.
4. They seriously considered somehow incorporating Tommy Jarvis into the story
Jason’s most notable nemesis, Tommy Jarvis, didn’t come around until Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter, but he got to stick around for 3 films and was never killed off. So, Mark Swift and Damian Shannan’s Freddy Vs. Jason script included Tommy as a significant player in the film’s climax, but it was cut out prior to casting or filming by David S. Goyer and director Ronny Yu.
In early 2007, Platinum Dunes producers let it slip that they were talking about using Tommy as a major character. That didn’t happen, though, and at the time of the movie’s release they explained why to SuicideGirls, “We really fought and had a big discussion about Tommy Jarvis. I think that at the end of the day, this isn’t going to be Friday the 13th Part 11 or 12. We’re trying to create our own mythology on the basis of the mythology that’s already been created and not burden ourselves with all of those characters […] In a lot of incarnations of the script, there were scenes where we did that, it was in there, and we debated it back and forth”
5. Clay’s search for his sister is NOT an homage to Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, at least not an intentional one.
Did you think it was kind of neat how Friday the 13th‘s primary plot involving Clay (Jared Padalecki) looking for his lost sister (Amanda Righetti) seems to call back to Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter‘s Rob Dier’s (Erich Anderson) quest to rid the world of Jason after he had killed his sister at Camp Crystal Lake in Part II? Yeah, that was a total accident, from MoviesOnline:
MoviesOnline: Were you aware it’s kind of like IV, a brother’s journey to find his sister?
MARK SWIFT: Well, that’s a brother’s journey trying to find a killer.
DAMIAN SHANNON: All these movies are seeped into our brain.
MARK SWIFT: It’s unavoidable.
DAMIAN SHANNON: Yeah, it affects us without us even knowing.
MARK SWIFT: For instance, I’ll tell you honestly, Clay looking for his sister, we were not thinking about IV. So when people say, “Oh, they’re definitely doing that for IV,” I think that’s a cool thing, but it wasn’t intentional.
6. Derek Mears is a really, really nice guy. That’s why they were reluctant to cast him as Jason.
Derek Mears (Men in Black II, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Hills Have Eyes II) had a background in improv comedy and theatre, which didn’t really scream “slasher killer!” but he desperately wanted to play Jason, later telling SuicideGirls:
“When I was younger, I had alopecia, which is hair loss — it fell out in the sixth grade. It would fall out in patches and then grow back in. When I saw the scene [in The Final Chapter] where Feldman had his head shaved to look like Jason, that’s kind of how my head looked at the time, with little patches here and there. I was like, ‘That’s a picture of Jason as a kid? Whoa.’ I identified more with Jason than I already had.”
He ultimately got the part by impressing casting director Lisa Fields with his answer to her question of why they even needed an actor to play Jason at all, thoughtfully explaining how the camera would be able to read the emotions of the actor through the mask, instead of simply chasing his victims without any kind of depth to the role. There were still those who questioned if he could actually transition from his normal, genial self to stone-cold killer.
Producer Andrew Form told him, “You seem really, really nice. You’re gonna be able to switch, right?” to which Mears got a wee bit snarky, “Yeah, it’s called acting. That’s what I do.” And Mears took the job of acting as Jason more seriously than any that came before him, telling Suicide Girls:
“I did a lot of research on child-development. In the script, Jason loses his mother and sees her get killed in front of him. He was nine to ten years old when that happened. So I did research on, when you’re that age how do your cognitive processes happen? How is the child supposed to be developing? I found out that at that age you’re starting to be integrating into society, whether it’s through group sports or group activities so that you find out you’re not alone. I discovered that he missed that aspect. He was already an outcast from society for looking different and being disfigured, and his only connection to love and reality is his mother.”
7. One of the victims was originally supposed to drown due to exhaustion as Jason waited her out from the shore of the lake
One of those “trailer” moments in this Friday the 13th is when Chelsea (Willa Ford) is swimming in the lake, and looks up to see Jason spying on her from the woods. She, of course, dies shortly thereafter. Originally, that was intended to be a drawn-out sequence, as the screenwriters explained to MoviesOnline, “Our original intent was for her to be stuck there wading for hours and hours, time passes, finally she just drowns. We never saw anything like that, but they went with something a little more visceral.”
8. Where did the idea for the underground tunnels come from? Or the marijuana plant farm?
Jason just randomly appearing out of thin air as in the earlier films wouldn’t fly this time around. So, they decided he traveled via a series of underground tunnels. That concept was in Mark Wheaton’s original script, but Mark Swift and Damian Shannon claimed to have never read Wheaton’s script until the film was finished, having come up with the same idea about the tunnels on their own. As for the marijuana plant farm which Jason appears to use to lure teenagers into traps, apparently, no writer can claim that as their own.
According to Swift and Shannon, that was actually director Marcus Nispel’s idea from early on in the development process, and it was their job to work it into the script. Asked about it today, Swift says, “If we’re changing things, we’d make sure it doesn’t seem like Jason is a weed farmer at the beginning.”
9. Richard Burgi wasn’t cast as Sheriff Bracke until 12 hours before they needed to begin filming his scenes
The producers offered a little more detail to Suicide Girls, “We were re-casting up to a day before shooting. In fact, Richard Burgi, who plays the sheriff in this movie, we cast him twelve hours before he was working. It was that crazy. We saw him, we signed off on him, we got the disks to Bay, and Bay had to sign off between nine and ten because his plane was leaving at like eleven thirty.”
10. Jenna wasn’t supposed to die so suddenly
Danielle Panabaker’s death as Jenna happens kind out of nowhere. Clay and Whitney are attempting to pull her out of the underground lair when all of sudden Jason’s machete finds its way through her torso from underneath. It plays against the slasher film rules (i.e., she’s done nothing morally wrong to have earned her death) as well as tricks the audience who wouldn’t expect the apparent female lead to go out like that. She is, after all, probably the only nice person in the entire film other than Clay, especially since Whitney is more of a MacGuffin than an actual character.
Jenna was always supposed to die for those exact reasons, but her actual death wasn’t supposed to go down like that. In the script, Jenna actually escapes with Clay and Whitney, enjoying a long enough moment of peace while they hide that she would make a joke about hoping her second date with Clay went much better. Jason would then show up to kill her via a fire extinguisher. They didn’t have enough budget left to do that, though.
11. Since 1982, only 5 other films have had bigger drops at the domestic box office in their second weekend
Released over the Presidents Day weekend in February 2009, Friday the 13th earned a stunning $40 million opening weekend, $43.5 million 4-Day Presidents Day opening. This remains among the biggest openings for a horror film, but while that’s the good news the bad news is that no film which has made that much money its opening weekend has ever dropped as much Friday the 13th did in its second weekend.
How far did it drop?: 80.4%
Which 5 films had bigger drops?: Return to the Blue Lagoon (80.8%), Bad Moon (81.5%), Gigli (81.9%), Slow Burn (84.7%), and Undiscovered (86.4%).
Among those films, only Blue Lagoon and Gigli‘s opening weekends had even risen above $1 million. You have to drop down to #’s 22 (The Devil Inside) and 26 (The Purge) on the list to find films whose opening weekends had at least been above $30 million. You can see the full list at BoxOfficeMojo.com. Interestingly, a month prior to the release of Friday the 13th Jared Padalecki’s Supernatural cast-mate/on-screen brother Jensen Ackles starred in his own ’80s slasher re-make, My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Benefiting greatly from its 3D gimmick, My Bloody Valentine ended with $51 million domestic, $100 million worldwide against a $15 million budget.
12. What ever happened to that sequel they announced?
Platinum Dunes officially announced a sequel with a release date of August 13, 2010, but it was later clarified a sequel had not actually been greenlit. That 80% second-weekend drop had to be pretty darn jarring. They did at least commission a script, taking place in Winter and at camp, though Mark Swift won’t offer more details beyond that. The rights now sit exclusively with Paramount and a Friday the 13th is slated to bow in late 2015, but it is currently unclear what connection it might have, if any, to the 2009 re-boot.
13. There are exactly 13 deaths for just the second time in franchise history
Screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon wanted Jason’s body count in the film to be just 13 as an easter egg for fans, kind of a, “Did you notice that our Friday the 13th film included exactly 13 kills for Jason? Cool, right?” The producers weren’t so sure, telling SuicideGirls, “To me it seemed like a big number because we were shooting for forty days and that’s basically a kill every two and a half days. It was surprising how much work it was to kill thirteen people.” Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter pulled off the “just 13 kills” thing as well, and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives writer/director Tom McLoughlin originally turned in a film featuring just 13 kills. Executive Producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. forced him to perform re-shoots to up the body count to 18.
The final damage
- Body Count: 13 for Jason
- Box Office: $65 million domestic, $91 million worldwide against a $19 million budget, good enough to stand as the second highest-grossing Friday the 13th film of all time behind Freddy Vs. Jason, fifth highest after you adjust for ticket price inflation.
Sources: FridayThe13thFilms.com (interview with Jeff Katz), Chud.com (interview about Tommy Jarvis), MoviesOnline.ca (interview with the screenwriters), SuicideGirls (interview with the producers), SuicideGirls (interview with Derek Mears), FridayThe13thFranchise (recent interview with Mark Swift)