I wanted to save this one for Spooktober but I noticed that today is Friday the 13th and although there are a lot of films and they are basically the same. I may still examine the whole franchise for Video Redux once I’ve finished with the Resident Evil films.
For now, I’ll stick to something written.
We all know the Friday the 13th franchise. It could arguably have been the film series that started the trend of having films made for a fiver but make millions.
Naturally, the concept of making a slasher film started because ‘Halloween’ was making a lot of money which I would bet money was the excuse for a lot of the slasher films in the 80’s. What a lot of them seemed to have forgotten was that ‘Halloween’ was a happy accident. It had a budget of around $320,000 and yet is still making money to this day with another fucking film coming out this year. However, with a great script, a solid cast, brilliant direction and word of mouth, the film was a success.
It’s totally understandable that a film maker would want to capitalize on the trend that was started by ‘Halloween’. All of a sudden, slasher films were back in business after ‘Psycho’ first kicked it off in 1960. There was an audience but at the time, it didn’t look like there would be another ‘Halloween’ film. All it took was for a barely known film maker to create a little something that would wet the appetites of the slasher audience that had been left dry by ‘Halloween’.
The idea of Friday the 13th came from filmmaker, Sean Cunningham whose main claim to fame had been in a partnership with the late and great horror director, Wes Craven. The film was ‘Last House on the Left’ and it earned them both critical praise and disgust because the content even for todays audiences would raise some eyebrows. Nevertheless, it gained a cult following.
After that, Cunningham was involved in a few family friendly films and a couple of really soft-core porn films (already gathering an interesting resume), Cunningham decided to tap into the ‘horror’ market that was started by Halloween.
The first idea was the title, ‘Friday the 13th’ that was advertised in ‘International Variety’ magazine. The next was the script which was written by Victor Miller who had previously provided the script for one of Cunningham’s previous family friendly films, ‘Here Come the Tigers’.
The idea was simple. A group of teenagers who are charged by their hormones are sequestered in a remote location with no adult supervision and would slowly be picked off one by one by a mysterious killer and the audience would be surprised as to the identity of the killer.
All is well. But these characters need to be cast. So, who have we got?
Guess what? No one knows anyone because their all unknown faces. Watching the film today, I only know Kevin Bacon and this film wasn’t even what made him famous. I would say his crowning glory would have been ‘Footloose’. But before that, it was ‘Friday the 13th’. Don’t think we’ve forgotten, Mr. Bacon. We do not forget.
Playing the main protagonist, heroine and all around good girl, Alice is Adrienne King who only had four credits to her name before Friday the 13th and three of them were uncredited. Her first credited role was the part of ‘Melinda’ in the 1965 film ‘Inherit the Wind’ when she was just 5 years old.
15 years later, King would get her first starring role as good girl, Alice and in the years to come, a horror icon.
If there was one major difference between Halloween and Friday the 13th, it would be the way each film chose to dispatch their victims. Whilst Halloween went for a nearly bloodless style, Friday the 13th would become synonymous for bloody and gory onscreen deaths (whether the MPAA liked it or not) courtesy of Makeup effects legend, Tom Savini.
Savini had previously worked as a combat photographer in Vietnam and succeeded in his career in the movies by having his effects look as real as the horror that he was witness to. It seemed that the audience agreed because Savini’s effects were just one aspect that were hailed by the fans.
Another staple was the soundtrack that was crafted by Harry Manfredini. Along with the music, Manfredini needed an effect to illustrate when the killer was around and so came the famous echo effect that is both an element that is most recognizable with this franchise and also really hard to describe in writing but you all know what I mean.
In the grand finale, when Alice discovers that all of her friends and fellow counsellors have been killed, she comes across the seemingly friendly face of Pamela Voorhees who is played superbly by the late Betsy Palmer. Ms. Palmer took the role because the paycheck would neatly replace her car which had broken down. Even this type of film would not typically be something that an American treasure would appear in and she had her own doubts about the film, in the aftermath of the film and then the franchises success, she gracefully accepted that horror fans looked up to her as an icon and appeared at horror conventions to the delight of the fans of the franchise.
However, Mrs. Voorhees isn’t the nice lady that she seems to be. She’s actually a grieving mother who’s horribly deformed son, Jason fell into the lake and drowned. The counsellors didn’t do anything because they were to busy bonking. Since then, Mrs. Voorhees has gone completely off her rocker, going from doting mother to psycho killer with hormonal teenagers being the first on her hit list.
Mrs. Voorhees’s demise is possibly the shining jewel of the series and a scene which many fans hold in high regard but what really scared the fans was the jump scare that at the start of the 80’s, took the audience totally by surprise and it was an idea from Tom Savini that really came from ‘Carrie’. This is the ending of Jason (Ari Lehman) jumping out of the lake and attacking Alice.
Needless to say that this ending was surprising and could arguably have been the moment that secured the longevity of the series and birth of a franchise since it suggests that Jason is still at the bottom of the lake.
What’s interesting is what happened afterwards.
Despite having no intention of making any more movies, the year after, ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’ comes out. I wonder why? Could it possibly be because Part 1 made $59.8 Million and only cost $550,000 to make? I think that’s why. And I think you think so too.
What’s even more baffling is that Part 2 starts with the makers shooting themselves in the foot by killing off Alice in the first few minutes. And also, if you watch carefully and un-focus your eyes a little bit, you may notice that Part 2 is exactly the same as Part 1 and cost twice as much to make with a budget of $1.2 Million and took under half the box office revenue with $21.7 Million.
I don’t want to get too far into it because I intend to make a few videos on this franchise in the future but let me just say that ‘Friday the 13th’ was a very smart film in that it capitalized on a starving market and produced a product that in todays terms would have cost pennies and turned a tasty profit. Not only that but this film spawned a franchise that today is worth over a $1 Billion.
That kind of result can’t be sniffed at.
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