The 13th Floor

How to Make The Oft-Delayed FRIDAY THE 13TH Film a Success

It seems astounding that any studio would have relentless issues in bringing a new FRIDAY THE 13TH film to the big screen. Financially speaking the franchise has been an overwhelming success; 12 total films (this includes FREDDY VS. JASON) have garnered a worldwide box office haul of $445,239,523 and the 2009 reboot did $91,379,051 alone. It shouldn’t be so incredibly challenging to get the 13th film made.

In order to make a 13th FRIDAY flick successful however, the cast and the crew are going to have to enjoy a tremendous string of success. Topping Marcus Nispel’s 2009 reboot won’t be an easy feat. Detractors may find enjoyment in belittling the film, but I’d implore anyone to watch the picture with an analytical eye.

It’s well-shot, edited impressively, loaded with tension and, perhaps most surprising, it is unanimously well-acted. Jared Padalecki did an excellent job as the ballsy hero; Danielle Panabaker sure as hell sold us on the Final Girl persona. The supporting cast are diverse, colorful and generally relatable. And then there was Derek Mears, who did a jaw-dropping job of a creating a revitalized, agile, enormous freak of stealthy and relentless aggression. I adore Kane Hodder, I truly do, but Derek Mears was admittedly more frightening because of the reality he forced viewers to accept, which was that they simply could not escape Jason’s speed, mobility and general physicality.

But, assuming Platinum Dunes, or Paramount – whoever it is behind the wheel of this vehicle – can finally get the movie going, there are a few things that the crew is going to be forced to get right if they hope to keep the fans happy, the bucks rolling in and the studios continuing to contemplate more franchise films.

Refined Performers

Marcus Nispel’s picture set the bar for franchise performances. It doesn’t matter how much I love a few of the past series installments, if I’m being honest, 2009 gave us the most polished ensemble to date. The next picture, if it is going to surpass Nispel’s film down the stretch, is going to need to employ very refined performers, and it may be the perfect time to step up and cast a handful of seasoned and familiar veterans. That’s essentially uncharted territory for this franchise, but at this point – given the performance of the last pic – casting three to five established and respected thespians might be the perfect move to draw loyal fan eyes and new casual eyes, as well.

Organic Dialog

If you’ve ever taken the time to study the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise you’ve likely noticed that the vocal exchanges are regularly awkward, with punchlines telegraphed and entirely implausible sentences spat out in embarrassing fashion. Dialog has absolutely plagued FRIDAY THE 13TH since the beginning, but – again I reference Nispel’s movie – the 2009 remake made major strides in improving a perennial problem for the brand. A great screenwriter can elevate FRIDAY THE 13TH in a way that we cannot even begin to fathom. Some will point and declare me a madman for this opinion, but there is no finer writer of organic, truly genuine and relatable dialog in the business today (or perhaps ever, as bold a declaration as that is) than the amazing Richard Linklater. Linklater has never written a genre script, and to the best of my knowledge he’s never expressed interest in doing so, but Richard Linklater could write the greatest FRIDAY THE 13TH film in existence, of that I have zero doubt.

Return to the Decade That Made You

Back when a new FRIDAY feature was a hot topic and a seemingly more realistic possibility, a great number of big changes were tossed about and contemplated by potential writers. At one point the idea of creating a modern found footage story was tossed about (as it was with the new HALLOWEEN film, interesting enough); we heard rumors that the picture would serve as a direct sequel to Nispel’s film; a full-fledged 3D overhaul was contemplated; and finally, Nick Antosca mentioned the idea of delivering “DAZED AND CONFUSED meets Jason” (hmm… another acknowledgment of the great Linklater’s work) with the whole story getting the rewind treatment and taking place in 1983. This is the way to go with the new FRIDAY. Part of the franchise’s greatest appeal is the nostalgic charm, with the first four films generally dominating in responses when the old question “What’s your favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH movie?” gets tossed about. The idea of a vintage tale shot with contemporary technology is more than appealing, and recent works like STRANGER THINGS only support the idea that fans still find the decade magnetic, and beautifully endearing. What better setting to develop characters we love while reintroducing fans to one of today’s most iconic villains?

Don’t Overthink Things

JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY was daring. JASON X was daring. Neither film worked too well for fans, and that’s because Dean Lorey and Jay Huguely, and Todd Farmer, respectively, told tales too outlandish to wrap the head around. People chew on hearts and Jason jumps from body to body? Jason finds himself modified and half-cyborg in space? It’s too far out there (for the record, Farmer told me a few years back that his first script for JASON X was not a humorous film in the least, but an extremely dark take on the character, to which the head honchos at New Line Cinema were not too keen, demanding a full rewrite with emphasis on comedic value) to fly in the mainstream, and it’s too far out there for the hardcore fans to get behind. No, this next film will thrive with a basic concept in motion. I’ll reiterate that the script itself must contain particularly strong dialog, and the story would be perfect if set back in 1983 near a little campground nicknamed “Blood,” but to reach too far into the unknown won’t appease the majority of those willing to pay for a FRIDAY THE 13TH theater ticket. Jason kills those who he associates with the one who murdered his mother. That’s been the crux of Jason’s furious actions from the beginning, and there’s no need to attempt ingenuity at this point in the franchise. KISS baby – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Protagonists to Care for

One of the greatest general deficiencies of this franchise is that we’re very rarely introduced to characters that we actually like and hope to see survive. FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER was one of the only films in the franchise to exhibit an understanding that charming and quirky personas are often the most endearing to watch on film. Tommy Jarvis was a great young, socially-awkward kid with a fantastic mind for creation. Trish was a big sis that put her concerns in her family before herself. Rob left us all cheering, knowing he had no hope of finding his missing sister alive, but crossing our fingers that it might happen all the same. Those were human characters who couldn’t be dropped into figurative boxes. They broke the mold and did things a bit different. They responded to situations in ways that were supportable. That’s not common for FRIDAY THE 13TH, but it is an often-untapped quality that works with viewers. There’s a very real reason THE FINAL CHAPTER is a big fan favorite of the series.

Place Emphasis on Practical Effects

If there’s one extremely positive thing that can be said of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, it’s that it has just about always delivered strong practical special effects. The gore has always been abundant, and whether living legend Tom Savini worked the effects or the talented gang that merged visual effects with practical in the 2009 reboot are placed in charge, the gore has always been graphic and tangible. From the amazing death of Jack (played by a baby-faced Kevin Bacon) to the reimagined arrow to the eye in the reboot, good, practical gore is a must, and there are still a few artists out there doing magnificent work. Robert Kurtzman and his gang at Creature Corps seem like solid picks for special effects duties Your other sure-fire win is the awesome Greg Nicotero. You can’t lose with either of these maestros, and their names alone would add a noticeable boost to the appeal of the film.

Pick Up the Phone and Call Derek Mears

I’ve already made it very clear that I have a wealth of admiration for Kane Hodder. He’s one of the most recognizable elements of the entire FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, he added another large, loved slasher franchise, HATCHET, to his lengthy list of iconic accomplishments and he’s done terrifically when stepping up to tackle larger, more layered roles that don’t necessarily involve a hockey mask or a half-pound of makeup, like OLD 37 and B.T.K. But all of the respect in the world doesn’t change my honest opinion that Derek Mears was a more frightening Jason Voorhees. He’s got the height at 6’5”, he’s got the muscle mass and his movement is incredibly fluid for a big man. His speed is alarming and his physicality as a whole feels like a ramped-up version of Hodder’s portrayal of the role. Kane has a lumbering brickhouse, pure power look to him, while Mears might fare better than any heavyweight to make a run at AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR. We got to see Hodder in a number of FRIDAY films, Mears deserves to add another Voorhees credit to his résumé – he’s more than good enough, and I’m sure Hodder, himself, would approve of the choice.

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