Editorial: Could the New Friday the 13th Successfully Function as a Found Footage Flick?

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Editorial: Could the New Friday the 13th Successfully Function as a Found Footage Flick?Most fans of the Friday the 13th franchise have been contemplating recent rumors of a found footage approach for the forthcoming series re-reboot. And it’s probably safe to assume that most (at least diehards) fans weren’t overjoyed with the notion.

I too sat in that boat, scratching my head, hoping it couldn’t be true, figuring that if the idea did come to fruition, I might get my hands on some of the Kool-Aid just to avoid future disaster pics. It simply sounded like a perplexing idea… initially.

I berated the idea and those behind it. I seethed at the thought of a handi-cam Voorhees pic. I cursed the Hollywood gods. I may have even at one point soiled myself, losing all control of my bodily functions because, let’s face it: Found footage Jason sounds truly overtly outlandish.

And then I got to really thinking of the franchise as a whole and the numerous avenues the story has taken over the years. In the beginning, Friday the 13th was an aggressive revenge picture. It then morphed into a quasi-supernatural tale, with the supposedly deceased Jason Voorhees suddenly reappearing as a hulking full grown man, now taking a cue from his own mother, dead set in a mission to exterminate camp counselors who had decapitated his mother (talk about full circle).

But things continued to shift. By the fifth installment, Jason Voorhees was nowhere to be found. In his place – donning the familiar mask – was Roy, a father with a broken heart. See, Roy was a paramedic who happened to answer the call of a violent death… but when Roy arrived on scene and spotted the victim, everything changed in his mind; that victim was his own son. Again, a vengeful murder spree ensued, this time sans the actual Jason. It was an interesting spin, but the series’ interesting spins didn’t stop there.

In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood viewers were treated to a wild adjustment in the battle of good and evil. No longer would Jason (who returned in the sixth installment) experience the ease of slaughtering helpless teenagers. This time around, he’d be forced to face a somewhat manic, telekinetic young lady by the name of Tina Shepard. And Tina, as crazy as she seemed, was far savvier and resilient than previous victims. Her special gift also presented a challenge that Jason Voorhees had never encountered. Killing your average teen isn’t such a daunting task when you’re a massive man with a hefty machete. Disposing of someone with unorthodox powers and an unwavering resolve is an entirely different ballgame.

Moving on to the eighth Friday film, things continued to change, filmmakers clearly determined to tell a different story with each outing. And while Jason Takes Manhattan isn’t a quality picture by any means, it did differ from past stories. No longer would Voorhees target counselors around the dreaded campgrounds of Crystal Lake primarily; rather, he chose to take his slaughtering spree to the waters, and beyond that, a boat… beyond that, Manhattan! We see once more a valid attempt (though it really didn’t work) to conjure a different franchise vibe. And although the pic is terrible, credit is due to director/writer Rob Hedden for making a valid attempt to keep things from becoming too stale.

But moving on still, we reach a few installments that really, really break the mold. Jason Goes to Hell was something of an enigma of a picture. No longer do we eye the brute stalking teens in typical fashion. Rather, we see the spirit of Voorhees travel from one unsuspecting individual to the next, each becoming possessed and carrying out Jason’s murderous actions. These murderers may not have looked much like Jason, but their penchant for brutal homicide echoed Voorhees’ habits wonderfully. And the idea of bouncing from one body to the next was – admittedly – pretty damn creative. It also manufactured an air of mystery not seen since the inaugural Friday feature. The supposed final installment didn’t win too many fans over, but it was a clever attempt.

And that’s when we really believed we’d seen the end of Jason Voorhees. It seemed there was little in the way of other creative twists to tap into. Until James Isaac and Todd Farmer did the unthinkable: They sent Jason to space. Not only did they send one of cinema’s most prolific serial killers to space, they gave him a surprisingly cool makeover. Jason was no longer the raggedy, lumbering beast in clothing that had never seen a good wash; he soon became a mechanically upgraded killing machine, equipped with a brand new look and an insane metallic mask. And holy hell did he tear through the spaceship branded The Apache. The slaughtering continues as it has since the early 1980s, but the intensity of warfare in this instance is something to behold… especially the battle with android KM-14.

And that’s the trend of this franchise. Constant evolution. Beyond the first few Friday features, there has been a constant attempt to deliver something different to fans. And fans still seem to eat it up. Platinum Dunes’ 2009 reboot combined elements of the first four films, and it worked wonderfully. Jason was no longer a labored monster with little ambition. Suddenly he became a freakishly large specimen, agile beyond belief, with a connection to a woman who bore a fair resemblance to his own deceased mother. In short, Jason evolved like never before, and somehow, we saw a little hint of humanity in him.

But the question is, will we see more of the same from the forthcoming Friday the 13th re-reboot? Given the tendency to conjure different angles, it may be safe to assume we’ll see something entirely different. Perhaps a different location. Perhaps a different physical demeanor or look or a far more intelligent beast in general. It’s hard to predict. However, studying the entire franchise, and eying new possibilities, I’m beginning to think that a found footage approach could actually be extremely rewarding. It’s something we haven’t seen in 11 films. And when really envisaging potential scenarios, it’s hard to deny the fact that it could work. It could work really well.

Jason Voorhees is an urban legend come to frightening life. His murderous feats are known by countless. The curiosity (or is it stupidity) of fictitious thrill seekers draws constant attention. People (future victims) want to know about Jason. They want to see Jason. They want verification that the menace is indeed real. And that opens up the perfect can of worms for foolish youngsters determined to document the monster’s existence. Which is exactly where an amateur film crew could come into play. Think about it: Catch footage of this mythical monstrosity, and someone is on the fast track to book deals, television appearances… just a staggering level of fame.

The problem is surviving such an adventure. And you can bet no one is going to survive this kind of documentary. You don’t look Jason in the eyes, camera in hand, and walk away. However, a tenacious crew could capture some insane footage, and though that crew won’t be alive to bask in the fame of exposing Jason, cinematic fans could certainly benefit from examining footage that would inevitably find its way to the public. And if the public were to stumble upon video of the murderer, it could conceivably open other doors for future storylines. Jason Voorhees could evolve from a Hollywood myth to a meta celebrity of the darkest kind. Hell, we may even learn more of the man’s past.

I’ve long been against the idea of a found footage Friday the 13th film, but the more I juggle the thought, the more I realize it could be exactly what the franchise needs to trek into completely new territory. Being a fan of the character, I’d love to see some more innovative storylines down the road. It’s wild to think a found footage film could yield that possibility.

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Matt Molgaard