Ramnath N Pai Raikar | NT NETWORK
It all started at the beginning of the 1980s, when ‘Friday the 13th’ (1980), a small budget film was released and went on to become a major hit. This success paved the way for a multi-million dollar horror franchise that comprised of twelve slasher films, a television show, novels, comic books, video games, and tie-in merchandise. The original film, of course was inspired by the success of the John Carpenter’s 1978 film, ‘Halloween’, which changed the horror genre forever by proving that a low budget, independent movie could hit the jackpot at the box office.
‘Friday the 13th’ was produced and directed by Sean S Cunningham, who inspired by ‘Halloween’ wanted to make it shocking and visually stunning. The film, during the writing process had working title, ‘A Long Night at Camp Blood’, but Cunningham believed in ‘Friday the 13th’ and placed it in an advertisement, in ‘Variety’ entertainment trade magazine.
Actress, Estelle Parsons was originally asked to play Mrs Voorhees, however she declined and the role then went to Betsy Palmer. Palmer worked on the film for ten days, for which she received $1,000 per day. The noted critic, Gene Siskel was so upset that an actress of Palmer’s calibre should take this role – which had also angered many of her fans – that he published her address in his magazine, and encouraged people to write to her and protest against her decision to take on the role. He however erroneously published the wrong address. Palmer said that if she was not desperate for money to buy a new car, she would never have taken the part of Mrs Voorhees. In fact, after she read the script she called the film “a piece of s**t”.
Adrienne King, who played Alice Hardy, at first did not want to be in the film because of the graphic violence in it, but she changed her mind. In fact, actress Sally Field had auditioned for this role. Cunningham has been quoted as saying that the types of actors that he sought for the film were “good-looking kids, who you might see in a Pepsi commercial.” A New York-based firm, headed by Julie Hughes and Barry Moss, hired eight young actors to play the camp’s staff members and identified actors including Kevin Bacon, who had previously appeared on soap operas.
‘Friday the 13th’ was filmed at Camp Nobebosco in New Jersey. The camp is still in operation and has a wall of ‘Friday the 13th’ paraphernalia to honour the fact that the movie was set there. In fact, most of the location and set required for the film already existed at Camp Nobebosco; the producer only had to build the bathroom set.
Makeup designer, Tom Savini was one of the first crew members on board for the film because the producers idolised his special makeup effects in ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978). While most of the cast and crew of ‘Friday the 13th’ stayed at local hotels during the filming, some of the loyal cast and crew members, including Savini and his assistant, Taso Stavrakis resided at the camp site. They had Savini’s Betamax VCR and only a couple of movies namely ‘Barbarella’ (1968) and ‘Marathon Man’ (1976) with them on videotape to keep themselves entertained, so each night they would watch one of these movies. To this day, Savini says he can recite those movies by heart.
Composer, Harry Manfredini was signed to provide the musical score, and a decision was made to play music only when the killer was actually present so as to not “manipulate the audience”. Manfredini stated that contrary to popular belief, the famous “chi chi chi, ha ha ha” in the film’s score is actually “ki ki ki, ma ma ma”. It is meant to resemble Jason’s voice saying “kill kill kill, mom mom mom” in Mrs Voorhees’ mind. It was inspired by the scene in which Mrs Voorhees seems to be possessed by Jason and chants “Get her mommy….kill her!” Manfredini created the effect by speaking the syllables ‘Ki’ and ‘Ma’ into a microphone running through a delay effect.
‘Friday the 13th’, when released made $59.8 million and had a paltry budget of $550,000. The audiences just loved the mysterious killer stalking and bumping off the counsellors. A total of 10 people are killed in the film.
The filmmakers never intended to make ‘Friday the 13th’, a launching pad for the series that followed. According to writer, Victor Miller, Jason was only meant as a plot device and not intended to continue his mother’s grisly work.
As of 2018, ‘Friday the 13th’ has spawned about a dozen sequels, including a crossover film titled ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ (2003) with ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984) villain, Freddy Krueger. ‘Friday the 13th Part II’ (1981) introduced Jason Voorhees, the son of Mrs Voorhees, along with his trademark hockey mask, as the primary antagonist, which would continue for the remaining sequels – with exception of the fifth movie – and related works. ‘Friday the 13th Part III’ (1982) was filmed in 3D format, while ‘Friday the 13th’ (2009) is a reboot of the ‘Friday the 13th’ film series. Most of these sequels were filmed on larger budgets than the original.
In 1987, seven years after the release of ‘Friday the 13th’, Simon Hawke produced its novelisation. One of the few additions to the book was Mrs Voorhees begging the Christy family to take her back after the loss of her son, so that she gets a chance to ensure what happened to her son could not happen again.
A number of scenes from the original film were recreated in ‘Friday the 13th: Pamela’s Tale’, a two-issue comic book prequel released by WildStorm in 2007. In 2016, the book, ‘On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th’ was released detailing the planning and filming of the movie.
The film has also been spoofed a number of times, most notably in ‘Saturday the 14th’ (1981).
During the summer of 1958, at Camp Crystal Lake, two counsellors Barry (Willie Adams) and Claudette (Debra S Hayes) sneak away at night from a campfire into a storage barn, where an unseen assailant murders them.
In the summer of 1979, on Friday the 13th, newly hired camp counsellor Annie Phillips (Robbi Morgan) asks for directions to the reopened camp. An elderly man, Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) warns her against going, claiming that the camp has a ‘death curse’. A friendly truck driver, Enos (Rex Everhart) gives her a lift halfway to the camp. During the drive, he informs that a young boy, Jason Voorhees had drowned at the Crystal Lake in 1957, followed by the two murders, the next year. After Enos drops her off, Annie hitches another ride from an unseen assailant, who chases her into the woods and slashes her throat.
At the camp, counsellors Ned (Mark Nelson), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill (Harry Crosby III), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Brenda (Laurie Bartram) and Alice (Adrienne King), along with the camp owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) refurbish the cabins and facilities. As a thunderstorm approaches, Steve leaves the campground to stock supplies. Meanwhile, the killer arrives at the camp and begins to murder the counsellors in a horrifying manner. As Steve returns to the camp late evening, he is confronted by the unseen killer, who stabs him.
Alice and Bill are worried by their friends’ disappearances, and leave the main cabin to investigate, only to discover a bloody axe in Brenda’s bed, disconnected phones and inoperable cars. When the power goes out, Bill goes to the generator room and is murdered by the killer. When Alice heads out to look for Bill, she finds his body impaled with arrows to the generator room’s door. When she rushes to the cabin, Brenda’s body is thrown in through the window.
As a vehicle pulls up, Alice rushes outside thinking it is Steve. Instead, she is greeted by a middle-aged woman, Mrs Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), who claims to be an old friend of Steve. When Alice brings her inside, the woman reveals that Jason was her son and blames his death on the counsellors who were supposed to be watching him, but instead were having fun when he was drowning. Revealing herself as the killer, Mrs Voorhees turns violent and attacks Alice. In the ensuing chase, Alice finds Annie’s body inside Mrs Voorhees car and Steve’s body hanging from the roof. As Alice runs near the lake, Mrs Voorhees follows her. During the final struggle, Alice beheads the killer with a machete, then boards a canoe which floats out on Crystal Lake and falls sleep.
Just as Alice awakens and sees the police arriving, Jason’s decomposing body emerges and drags her underwater. She then awakens in a hospital surrounded by a police officer and medical staff. When Alice asks about Jason, the officer says that there was no sign of any boy. Alice says: “Then he’s still there,” as the lake is shown at peace.
During the first few weekends of the release of ‘Friday the 13th’, makeup designer, Tom Savini would go into theatres for the last five minutes of the show to see the audience react to Jason emerging from the lake and grabbing Alice. It was Savini, who thought up the idea of Jason’s surprise appearance at the end of the movie. Furthermore, Savini also doubled for Brenda in the shot where her body is thrown through a window.
The fake ending scene wherein Alice is attacked by Jason was shot three times, once in September, then October and finally in November, when the temperature was 28 degrees outside.
In the scene where Bill is found impaled to a door with arrows, his eye twitches continually because the eye effect that makeup designer, Tom Savini applied was actually burning his eye and causing him excruciating pain.
Kevin Bacon’s character, lying in bed with his throat impaled by an arrow, has the blood in his neck making little bubbles. Originally, it was just meant to seep out, but the arrangement of the tube with blood didn’t work, and makeup designer, Tom Savini ended up blowing into the tube to make it flow, causing an unintended bubbling effect.