IF I COULD WRITE THE NEXT “FRIDAY THE 13TH” MOVIE

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The most recent news is that Paramount is planning to release another Friday The 13th film on November 13th, 2015. No real details have been confirmed, like whether this will be a sequel to the 2009 reboot, or another brand-new reboot, or a continuation of the original timeline which ended with 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason.

The most persistent rumor is that they are going to attempt to make this a “found footage” film, which has become it’s own sub-genre within horror films in recent years. Well, I for one hope that rumor is untrue, as I don’t think the concept really fits with this series. Found-footage films only work when you’re able to get the audience to suspend their disbelief and go along with the idea that what they’re watching might be “real”.

Did those hidden cameras in the house really catch ghosts moving things around? Did those lost kids really get killed in the woods by an evil spirit?

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We know it isn’t real, of course, but that’s part of the fun of watching them. I think a character like Jason Voorhees is already too established and iconic as a fictional character, the audience knows he’s not real. There is no Crystal Lake. So right from the outset the premise is just not going to work. I feel like now matter how they try to do it, it would just look like a cheap gimmick.

I think a lot of the problem is that there’s this idea that they have to do something “special” for this next film. Counting Freddy Vs. Jason, the next movie will technically be the 13th Friday The Thirteenth movie. And if it’s released in 2015, it will be the 35th anniversary since the original film was first released in 1980. So for both reasons it could be considered a milestone, hence the need to so something INCREDIBLE.

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Why do I think that’s a problem, you ask? Because it was the determination to do something special or unique is that gave us previous gimmicks like having Jason fight a girl who has telekinetic powers, or sending Jason to Manhattan (even though most of the movie just took place on a boat, and didn’t even get to Manhattan until the last 20 minutes or so), or sending Jason to outer space. While all of those films had their merits (I’m actually quite fond of Jason X, for all its faults), they were ultimately too gimmicky.

But I see horror fans online who are receptive to the found footage idea, and say things like “I don’t want to see just another Jason-Kills-Teenagers-In-The-Woods film” But I say that’s exactly what we need. Stick with a formula that works. That’s what made these films iconic. The problem is that people don’t understand what made those films work.

First, Jason Voorhees is NOT the star of these films. That’s a common misconception, and it’s what the reboot got wrong. We actually should not see Jason too much. That’s what makes him scarier. Look at the original four films. I know in the original it wasn’t Jason that was the killer (SPOILER ALERT!), it was Pamela Voorhees, but the key was that the identity of the killer was a mystery until the final act of the film. And the next few movies followed that formula. Even with Jason as the killer, we didn’t see him for most of the film. We’d get POV shots from his perspective, close-ups of his hands stabbing someone, things like that. That made it scarier because we, the audience, had to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. So then when Jason was revealed in all his gory glory in the third act, and the major slaughtering began, it would be like “oh s**t! Now it’s getting serious!”

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So what keeps us hooked throughout the film, while we wait for Jason’s arrival, is the cast. It’s a stereotype to just say that the movies are just about Jason killing horny teenagers in the woods. Sure, that’s an accurate one-line description of most of the films, but it ignores the fact that in the best ones it worked because the cast, teenagers and adults, were interesting characters.

Shelly, the chubby jokester, that dude in the wheelchair, the nerdy guy, the sexy twins, the sheriff’s daughter, etc., we’d get to know them during the film, and therefor we cared about them when they were being picked off one at a time and killed by Jason. That’s what these films need. That’s what provides the “heart” of the films. We need characters whom we root for, whom we want to survive and are upset when they’re killed. And we also need at least a couple of character whom we want to see get killed, and get a shiver of satisfaction when Jason guts them. That’s what the later films forgot.

In Jason X, the Rowen character (played by Lexa Doig) should have been the centerpiece of the film. This is a woman who came face to face with Jason Voorhees and barely survived, only to suddenly wake up on a spaceship almost 500 years later. Everyone she ever knew was long dead. The very planet Earth was destroyed. We should have seen her feeling a mix of emotions: shock, grief, almost like PTSD. But when she was awoken she seemed to accept the fact that she’d been frozen for centuries with ease, and then we got right to Jason killing people. It was a waste, that film could have been so much better. The reboot tried to give us some heart with the story of the guy who was searching for his missing sister, but the rest of the characters in that film were too one-dimensional.

So that’s the basic template I’d look to if I were writing the next Friday The 13th film. We don’t need to change locations or anything drastic. At most I could see doing something different by setting it during the winter, since it’s set to debut in November, when it’s snowing. We haven’t seen Jason in the snow before. That could add a certain bit of a claustrophobic feel to the atmosphere that makes it scarier. It also helps sets the stage for why the characters won’t be able to get away or call for help. A snowstorm hits, so no one’s getting reception on their cellphones, y’know?

Other than a that, I wouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Create a premise for a group of people to be in Crystal Lake, establish their backgrounds and personalities, show some conflict, and then have Jason turn up and start killing them off.

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Again, the key is to make the individual characters interesting. One premise I’ve had in mind is to have the occasion be a class reunion. So it would have an adult cast, not teenagers, but still young. A bunch of people who all went to High School together have planned this camping trip at Crystal Lake for their 10-year High School reunion (so they’re all 27-28). There’s plenty of potential for conflict there. During the trip, old rivalries, past loves, & hidden secrets can all spill out. Everything reaches a boiling point just as Jason appears….

I wouldn’t even worry about which film timeline this takes place in, original franchise or reboot. It will have been 5 years since the reboot film, there’s no need to make any direct reference to those events, any more than they need to talk about the original films, which ended over 11 years ago. Someone in the film can be shown looking up Crystal Lake on the internet, and they can mention the “legend” of Jason Voorhees and how there have been stories of him rising from the dead and killing people in the woods “for years,” without being specific. And everyone else just dismisses it as a silly rumor like Bigfoot. That way it can fit with either timeline, whichever the fans prefer in their minds. And the film wouldn’t have any numbers in the title, it’s not “Part 2” or “Part 13”, just give it a catchy subtitle. Friday The 13th: Return To Crystal Lake, or something like that.

And I would bring back Kane Hodder as Jason. He’ll be 61 next year, but I bet he could still pull it off. I’m not one of those fanatics who thinks he’s the only one who can play Jason, I think Ken Kirzinger in Freddy vs. Jason and Derek Mears in the reboot did okay. I don’t think casual fans notice the difference of who’s behind the hockey mask. But Hodder will make the hardcore fans happy, so why not throw them a bone?

That’s my basic idea. Someone at Paramount, give me call!

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