Editorial: How a Found Footage Friday the 13th Should Be Done
It was recently reported that the producers of the forthcoming Friday the 13th film are considering making the newest entry in the series a found footage movie. As is customary with rumors of beloved film franchises, everyone promptly lost their shit and then forgot about it an hour later.
It’s completely understandable to be against this idea; after all, Friday the 13th is a slasher film, which, with one or two exceptions, doesn’t exactly lend itself to the found footage format.
Except that it does. Everything does. And given the prevalence of found footage thrillers involving some variation of stupid kids going into a mental asylum to investigate a local legend, approaching an iconic character in a different light doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea, at least to me. I’m a found footage apologist, and despite acknowledging that most films that utilize the format are absolutely terrible, I am open to seeing all of them if only to see if someone finally realized how to do it well. So why not Friday the 13th? In the case of the slasher film, found footage opens up the genre to a slew of possibilities, allowing it to branch out and - I know this is subjective - actually be scary. The hack and slash format of the prior twelve installments just gets repetitive.
But knowing Platinum Dunes, we’ll likely get a rushed shaky-cam following a group of friends who visit Camp Crystal Lake for a night of sex, drugs, and partying that comes to a halt when Jason shows up. It will open with the main characters talking about nothing before spouting some expository dialogue to explain why they’re going to spend the night at the site where dozens have been killed; someone will tell the cameraman to put the camera down at least three times; at some point one of the male characters will have sex with a female character and film it; Jason will pick up the camera and film his next victim; and the audience will wonder just why the Hell they’re still carrying the camera as they’re being killed off one by one. It’s become routine and predictable, and I can’t imagine a company like Platinum Dunes would deviate from this tried-and-true approach to pissing off horror fans worldwide.
Granted, it will definitely be difficult to turn Friday the 13th in a found footage film, but certainly not impossible. Here’s my pitch.
The film will start off as a faux-doc aired on a local cable news network. Presented by a Geraldo Rivera-like investigative journalist, it will follow in the footsteps of a movie similar to Lake Mungo - an honest-to-goodness documentary featuring interviews with survivors and experts to determine if Jason is real, or merely a boogeyman used to explain the myriad deaths caused by unrelated serial killers. It will be slow and suspenseful, giving gruesome insight into the deaths and the legend surrounding Jason Voorhees.
Now, some say Jason is still alive, protecting Camp Crystal Lake and killing all those who dare to venture through its gates. As such, the camp has been closed, barricaded, and off limits to the public. With the recent disappearance of a small group of teens from the area, an investigative journalist has taken it upon himself to explore the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake in an attempt to finally answer the question: Is Jason Voorhees real?
The last half of the film will focus on an investigative reporter leading a skeleton news crew into the camp and reporting everything they find via a live feed from a main camera and smaller cameras affixed to their persons, the perspectives changing where necessary. At first things start off uneventful, with exploration of abandoned bunks, a deserted mess hall, and an empty counselor’s office revealing little more than dust and cobwebs. Urged on by the journalist, the small crew press on, convinced that evidence for Jason’s existence will be found. Eventually they discover small pieces of ripped clothing, blood-stained floors, and a machete propped up against the wall before ultimately finding the bodies of the missing teens that prompted the investigation.
Terrified, the entire crew heads back to their vehicles, but are interrupted by Jason Voorhees, who begins to dispatch them one by one. Along the way, the investigative reporter discovers a survivor who has been hiding. She’s been too afraid to make a run for it, as Jason appears to be everywhere, playing into the trope of the disappearing/reappearing slasher. Together they must make their way out of the camp before Jason finds them and kills them. As this happens, the reporter is in constant contact with news anchors, the film going back and forth between the two, increasing the tension as they witness the terror unfold live before their eyes.
While this doesn’t solve every found footage problem, it at least opens it up for something new. Yes, there will always be people complaining about the camera, or the lack of common sense, but with enough planning and some creative leaps, these intrinsic problems can easily be reasoned away. I’m not presenting this pitch because I think it’s a brilliant, but because I think there are ways to make a Friday the 13th found footage movie unique, scary, and most importantly, original. We’ve seen Jason run around and kill people, why not do something new with it?
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