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Producer on Friday the 13th Sequel: ‘We Haven’t Cracked the Tone of That Movie’

When the cameras first began rolling on Friday the 13th in September 1979, neither director Sean S. Cunningham or writer Victor Miller could have dreamed that thirty-five years later filmmakers would still be developing sequels to their low budget horror picture.

Produced for $550,000 and purchased as a negative pick-up by Paramount, the movie became an unexpected success when it was released in May 1980, drawning in large crowds despite the highly-anticipated Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back dominating the box office. Earning $5.8 million on its opening weekend, Friday the 13th would ultimately gross almost $40 million by the end of its theatrical run in the United States and within twelve months a sequel had already been released.

With the original movie telling of a vengeful mother brutally murdering a group of counsellors at a secluded summer camp for the accidental drowning of her son over twenty years earlier, the writing of Friday the 13th Part 2 would prove to be somewhat problematic, but with the third instalment – released at the height of the early ’80s 3D revival – the supposedly-dead son Jason Voorhees had become the centrepiece of the franchise. By the end of the decade the studio had released a total of eight movies and a small screen spinoff, but the public’s disinterest in slasher films finally convinced Paramount to sell their interest in the series.

New Line Cinema, the company who had become a major Hollywood enterprise through their own A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, attempted to resurrect Jason with two critically mauled offerings, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and the sci-fi themed Jason X, before finally offering fans the sequel they had been waiting for since the mid-1980s, the Elm Street crossover Freddy vs. Jason. Yet despite earning its budget back on the opening weekend, New Line were hesitant about producing a sequel and it wasn’t until Platinum Dunes, the production company owned by Hollywood filmmaker Michael Bay and producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, came onboard that a new Friday the 13th picture entered production.

With their reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre having become the surprise success of 2003, Platinum Dunes decided to return to the roots of Jason Voorhees with a new version of his origin story. While Cunningham’s Friday the 13th had focused on the actions of Pamela Voorhees, the new version – directed by Marcus Nispel, the man responsible for injecting new life into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – would follow Jason as he protects his domain from a group of tourists who are partying in the woods nearby. Kane Hodder, who had taken on the role of Jason in 1988’s The New Blood and would portray the role for the following three sequels, had been replaced by New Line for Freddy vs. Jason by fellow stuntman Ken Kirzinger, but for the reboot another actor was offered the role.

Each actor cast as Jason Voorhees over the course of the series had brought something unique to the role, whether it was Hodder’s willingness to be set on fire or Part III‘s Richard Brooker’s background as a trapeze artist. Derek Mears, the actor chosen for Nispel’s re-telling of the story, a stuntman whose first foray into the industry had been as art of the Universal Studios’ Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show. But it would be through the recommendation of special effects artists Greg Nicotero and Scott Stoddard, both of whom he had worked with on 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, that Mears would come to the attention of Platinum Dunes.

His approach to the character of Jason would differ to that of his predecessors by taking inspiration from Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of Rambo in First Blood, seeing Jason as a hunter who uses his knowledge of the woods to his advantage while also foraging off the land. The reboot would take key elements from the first three Friday the 13th movies – the death of Mrs. Voorhees, Jason’s vengeance against anyone who dares to return to the summer camp and his discovery of the infamous hockey mask that would ultimately transform Jason Voorhees into a symbol of pop culture.

When Friday the 13th was released on Valentine’s Day 2009 it was a considerable success, falling short to that of Freddy vs. Jason but far outgrossing the movies that had come beforehand. Since the release of A New Beginning in 1985, the Friday the 13th franchise had seen a steady decline in box office takings that would continue until Freddy vs. Jason eighteen years later. But while the critical reaction to the movie had been above average and the picture had proved a financial success, five years on from its release and the long-rumoured sequel has yet to enter production.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th

Talk of a follow-up had begun almost immediately following the release of Friday the 13th but it would seem that the producers were unsure on what direction to take. One often-discussed concept was incorporating found footage into the story, much as the makers of The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead had done before. There were even rumours that, for the third time in the series, Jason Voorhees would not be the focal point of the movie, although as A New Beginning had proved, this decision is often unpopular with fans. ‘It’s a matter of getting a script that we all love, that we feel like we can execute in a great way,’ Fuller told CraveOnline earlier this year.

In May it was revealed that the release date of the sequel had been pushed back eight months by Paramount to 13 November 2015, making it the sixth entry in the series to be released on a Friday the 13th. Recently Form and Fuller spoke to Collider regarding the difficulties they have faced developing their Friday the 13th Part 2. ‘We love Friday the 13th. We had the best time making that movie. An opportunity to bring Jason back again, for us, we jump at it,’ said Form enthusiastically. ‘We just have to tell the right story. It’s truly about, what is this version? We’re working hard on that. We have a great director, David Bruckner, and we’re trying to figure it out. We have to crack that.’ Form then added, ‘We haven’t cracked the tone of that movie.’

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