Written by David Grove
Published by FAB Press
I have no idea when my love affair with Friday the 13th began. A kid in elementary school named Jason was the first horror fan I met who, strangely, hated being called out on the similarity between his name and the Jason from the movies as he was a bigger Freddy-fan than Friday the 13th (though he drew both quite well on his bookcovers and binders). I also remember seeing the Jason Takes Manhattan teaser poster at the old UA South 8 theater in Dallas when going to see another movie and wishing my grandparents would take me to see that instead of whatever I was going to see with them.
But then, USA started showing the movies all the time on cable when I was in high school and, suddenly, I became obsessed. Though Jason “drowned” before Friday the 13th, how did his “powers” change after the opening of Jason Lives? Did I have to hate Part V because it “wasn’t Jason” despite the fact that it had some of the coolest kills? What the hell was up with the ending to Manhattan? What happened to what’s-his-name at the end of Part 2? And so on.
Before Goes to Hell, I never really knew why the franchise had ended, how successful it had or hadn’t been for Paramount, or hell, why a Freddy vs. Jason movie – the thing everybody on every playground wanted to see – just never happened. I mean, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys happened, right?
But then, when an undergrad at the University of Texas, I walked into one of my playwriting professor’s office and saw a large, framed teaser poster for Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. My remark – to David Mark Cohen, who left Hollywood after Beginning and became a successful playwright (until his untimely death in December of 1997), – was, “Oh, wow – that must’ve been fun to write!” His response:
“Are you being facetious?”
Four eye-opening words on not only Hollywood screenwriting in general, but also the madness behind the Friday the 13th franchise. In esteemed horror journalist David (Fangoria, Rue Morgue) Grove’s new book, Making Friday the 13th: The Legend of Camp Blood, you get a clear look – movie-by-movie – of the insanity behind the franchise. How the money went up and down, how good people and bad both took turns trying to make the “perfect” franchise entry and how, time and time again, studio execs, the MPAA and several other factors always seemed to keep each movie from being what everyone hoped for going in.
Amazing that it’s still the best horror franchise out there then, huh?
When Paramount released the much-ballyhooed Friday the 13th box set, everyone’s hopes were high that this would be the last word – Criterion-style editions of each movie that would tell the tale, once and for all. Unfortunately, while some great stuff was in there, it didn’t live up to expectation – particularly with the exclusion of Steve Miner who had so much to do with the franchise from the beginning and directed what many consider to be the best (I can’t decide my fave between 3-D or Final Chapter). What was also hoped for was the final word on the so-called “lost scenes,” the gorier bits from various movies that showed up on a couple of Japanese laserdiscs, but generally just in fanboy fantasies that seemed to believe these ultra-bloody, Peter Jackson-style editions existed somewhere, just waiting to be released by a stodgy studio too unconcerned with its bastard step-child franchise to provide them to an adoring public.
Making Friday the 13th is, thereby, an absolute treasure trove of information on the series – from beginning to end and even including the surprisingly successful, Jason-less syndicated series (three whole seasons??) – and includes interviews with a vast number of people who must’ve been near-impossible to track down so many years on, particularly the bit-part actors from the early movies now enjoying innumerable regional theater spots on the east coast. Not only is there “a lot of Miner,” but the book goes into detail on just what was cut from each movie as remembered by the cast and crew.
At 240 pages and printed in some squinterific font (Microsoft Word’s 6 or 8 point font would be about equivalent), each of the movies gets more than one chapter, usually divided on what happened in the interval between films; how the story, crew and cast came together and then the story of the making of the film. The sheer amount of photos is staggering, from official press stills to various shots of the makeup effects (some compliments of Part I and Final Chapter genius Tom Savini) to behind-the-scenes snaps from 3-D supporting actor Steve Susskind and even a section in the middle with color shots for the real gorehounds.
Though some of the highlights of the book have to be the E! True Hollywood Story “Where Are They Now?” with such tidbits as Jason Lives star Jennifer Cooke having gone off to co-found Celestial Seasons tea company (on your supermarket shelves) and the aforementioned Susskind becoming a voice actor for movies like Osmosis Jones and Monsters, Inc., the insider-y stuff really appealed to me. I had no idea Last Wave co-writer Petru Popescu was the first writer on 3-D. I’d read a few of the Freddy Vs. Jason scripts, but had no idea just how bad most of them were (including the one that was shot, IMHO) until reading Grove’s breakdown. When the point comes up that Final Chapter director Joe Zito was originally meant to direct F vs. J almost a decade and a half ago, it makes me sad to think what that movie might’ve been rather than the dreck that finally came out from New Line, eons after anybody who really cared about Jason had left the stage.
That said, the one thing that I took exception to with the book – but, strangely, wouldn’t want to take out – would be the number of “gaffes” pointed out by the author. While Making Friday the 13th is not the kind of celebratory, every-last-frame-is-art style of “making of” book usually relegated to franchises like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, I felt it erred to far in the opposite direction at times when pointing out that Jason couldn’t be in three places at once (in Part 3-D) or other “what-were-they-thinking?” kinds of comments that peppered various chapters as if solely to point out the shortcomings of the series. While yes, we all know that the F13 series ain’t perfect, the way it was written always struck me as snarky and off-putting. Sure, it’s fun to cite inconsistencies, it just bumped me every so often like the fella who can’t watch Raiders of the Lost Ark without chiming in every time you see the glass between Indy and the cobra (“Look, see? There’s the reflection! Harrison Ford’s not really nose-to-nose with a snake!”). That’s no reason to not read the book, of course. I just figured I’d mention it so this review didn’t seem like an all-out rave of some sort.
At the end of the day, it’s somewhat bittersweet to have the curtain pulled away. Manfredini hasn’t even seen a couple of the ones he scored? No one is still really willing to say why Kane was dumped from Freddy Vs. Jason? A script that was written in three weeks (the insanely fun Jason X) is light-years better than one that dozens of writers took shots at over thirteen years (F vs. J – okay, I’ll stop taking shots at it)? There’s an X-rated sequence from the already pretty hardcore scene in A New Beginning that no one’s felt should be available on the internet? The various controversies over who got credit for playing Jason (I’m looking at you Warrington Gillette) versus who is actually under the bag or behind the mask are kind of sad as you would wish people would be cool about it. That said, my respect for certain people – Tom McLaughlin, John Carl Buechler, Kane Hodder, Steve Miner, Joe Zito and many other – only increased after reading the book. The best thing that can be said is that after reading it, I wanted to go and re-watch the entire franchise from start-to-finish (well, excising the unwatchable Goes to Hell).
One final note. Who knows if there will ever be another Friday the 13th movie. The Tarantino story of a few weeks ago – premature as it was – was the only promising thing that’s been said about the series in a long time, frankly. Thankfully, it’s unlikely that New Line will rush out another franchise entry and blow millions to cash in as a new F13 would have to bring in new fans rather than rely on the shrinking Jason-fans who felt burned by the Ronny Yu chapter. If that means a Michael Bay-produced remake of the original (I’m a fan of how Leatherface got his monstrous upgrade and could be taken seriously as a horror figure again) or Quentin Tarantino stylizing the next one, so be it. I can wait.
Oh, on the subject of foxiest F13 babe – an issue more than covered in the book – it’s a toss-up between Barbara Howard (Part 3-D) and Jeannine Taylor (the original) for me!
3 1/2 out of 5
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