In the seventh Friday the 13th movie, there was an asserted change in the tone of the franchise. It was understood that Jason Voorhees was a supernatural being. He had been brought back to life several times, and it was just beginning to dawn on Frank Mancuso Jr,, the executive producer and curator of the franchise, to begin treating Jason as such. Thus, Mancuso and Paramount Pictures tried to form a partnership with New Line Cinemas in order to have Jason and Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise fight it out. The idea was not a unique one. Universal had taken the Universal monsters from the 1930’s and combined Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Werewolf in so many different ways that it’s hard to have an accurate count of the actual number, punctuated with 5 Abbott and Costello movies.
When talks between New Line and Paramount broke down, a new “monster” was sought. The director, John Carl Buechler, and the writer, Daryl Haney, were seeking a unique take on the old formula. Associate producer, Barbara Sachs was looking to take Jason in a higher direction, when Haney came up with a “Carrie vs. Jason” story. The writer said that what prompted the idea was trying to take the Final Girl trope and twist it on its head. They were really trying to make a special movie and in a myriad of ways, it is. C. J. Graham was originally considered to reprise the role he played in VI, but since they were going in a different direction, they then chose Kane Hodder.
Kane Hodder is a 6 foot 2 and a half inch, 64 year-old writer, and stunt coordinator who at the time was 33. He was a stuntman known for his lack of fear and commitment to his roles, who had previously worked with the director, when John Carl Buechler was stunt coordinator for a different movie. Probably the major reason that Kane Hodder is my favorite Jason is that when he is behind the mask, he really feels a kinship with Jason Voorhees. He inhabits the Jason-space such that when he is given direction as to how to play the role, he always behaves the way HE believes Jason would behave. In the outtakes for VII, when the director calls cut, you can see Hodder saying, hit me again, harder. This is excessively rare in Hollywood. Hodder is such a nut that early in his career, he set himself on fire during an interview and almost died from the experience. Still, in VII, Hodder is set on fire and has the dubious distinction of having the longest on-screen sustained burn in Hollywood history, a full forty seconds from ignition to the moment of being extinguished.
Kane Hodder did such a fantastic job with VII that he continued to reprise Jason throughout the following three movies: Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan; Friday the 13th, Part IX: Jason Goes to Hell; and Friday the 13th, Part X: Jason X. This makes Kane Hodder the actor most closely tied to Jason and when he was not asked to return to do Freddy vs. Jason, he was actually incensed by what he felt was a tragic oversight on the part of New Line cinemas which had bought the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise.
Freddy vs. Jason finally came to be in 2003, where it made a whopping $114 million dollars at the box office. No other Friday the 13th movie had ever come close to making that amount and this was the 2nd top grossing Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Despite it’s financial success, it is not one of my favorite movies. Not only does it not have my favorite Jason, but it really seems to be a Freddy movie. Why? Because New Line featured more of their character, Freddy. Freddy is smarter, more cunning, and ultimately a bigger threat than Jason. That unevenness, ultimately, is why despite its financial success, there were never any sequels made. Ken Kirzinger plays Jason in this movie. He is 6’5″ and much bigger than Robert Englund’s (Freddy) 5’9″. Kane Hodder believes that the director wanted Freddy and Jason’s difference in physical size to be significant. It is and translates well onscreen. However, I really think that Hodder should have been allowed to reprise the role of Jason, but I’m biased and subjectively, I know it’s a minor nitpick.
Friday the 13th was rebooted in 2009 with Derek Mears as the latest Jason. Although it grossed 92 million dollars world-wide, it was considered a flop. When factoring its wide distribution with the amount of money coming in, the box office diminishes significantly. Although, when considering how much money this movie made, it seems like it made a lot, there are numerous reasons why it didn’t. The budget for making this movie was the largest in comparison with those in the franchise and even more so than other horror movies. In the end, it was largely considered a rehash of the old tropes and formulas that were mostly unsuccessful. Despite, being mostly panned by critics, Derek Mears was considered a standout performer. He is lean and tall and a more than capable actor in his own right. I would have liked to see him do at least one more. The fact that ten years have passed since that last movie, probably means he won’t do any more and that’s sad. Although there are rumors that the next installment is supposed to be a found footage addition. That might be really cool.
Thanks for taking this walk with me down memory lane. Clearly, I’ve loved this franchise for a long time. I hope it showed in the work.