One of the staples of the modern horror genre has always been the Friday the 13th franchise. Psycho may have laid the groundwork for slasher villains. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have developed that formula. Halloween may have solidified these otherwise unrelated movies into a subgenre. But when the dust has settled, few series have gone for the gut so fervently as this Jason Vorhees vehicle.
And while I have never been the biggest fan of the franchise, I can’t help but feel that something has been lost in contemporary horror releases by the franchise’s absence over the last decade. While the first film was of admittedly mixed quality, it actually stands out among its more rigidly defined successors because it came out before the slasher genre was strictly codified and mapped out. For better or for worse, it does a of unique and interesting things that you don’t often find in these kinds of movies.
The plot plays out more like a mystery than a horror movie until its wham-bang finale. The only times that we see the killer at work are in the first person, so as to preserve her identity. The kills were pretty low-key and goreless, especially by today’s buckets-of-blood standards. And then there’s the killer herself, Pamela Vorhees: an aging woman played by a seasoned character actress who, almost by definition, is the antithesis of everything that we’ve come to expect from a slasher villain.
Although the sequels gradually diminished in quality even from the relatively low bar set by the series’ debut, there was a sweet spot near the beginning: after it stopped taking itself seriously but before it abandoned the idea of seriousness altogether. The first six movies actually make two complete and satisfying horror trilogies, covering both the violent legacy of Jason Vorhees the man and Jason Vorhees the unstoppable zombie. Jason Lives, the sixth movie, is actually as fine an example of this kind of horror film as you could find outside of the genuine classics.
And, while an unpopular opinion to say the least, I maintain that the 2009 remake, the last movie put out in this franchise, was the best of the lot. It delivered on everything that made the first movies good to great while cutting out all of the chaff. Over its 97 minute runtime it covered not only the events of the first three films, but through in original characters, kills and storylines uniquely its own. And while there’s very little in the way or originality in the film, it is so solidly executed on all levels that it more than makes up for that fact.
And let’s face it, a franchise that has resurrects the same killer for each movie and has varying included a psychic, the crime-ridden streets of New York City, a futuristic spaceship (and, subsequently, an alien planet) and an all-out brawl with fellow horror icon Freddy Kreuger has never tried hard to be original.
As it turns out, though, despite how inexpensive slasher movies tend to be, how much money they stand to rake in at the box office and how generally in-demand they are with fans (especially for the big-brand name franchises like this one), there is a reason why we haven’t seen a new one of these in a full decade. Quite simply, the series is in legal trouble.
Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, who were set to make the absentee sequel to the 2009 Friday the 13th remake. Speaking in a recent interview, they revealed why the project ultimately fell apart, that:
Fans think it’s so simple, that if we want to make the movie we can go make it, and that’s just not the case. There are rights issues; originally, Warner Bros. owned the rights, then Paramount had them for a couple of years, and now I think the rights are reverting back to Warner Bros. At the same time, there’s this on-going lawsuit with Victor Miller. If there’s a lawsuit hanging over the rights, it’s problematic, you can’t really make the movie until that gets settled.
If true, it makes perfect sense why nobody’s touched the franchise over the last decade. Even if you could suss out who actually owned the rights to the series, no studio would dare spend money on a project that, when the legal dust has settled, they might not be able to profit off of. At best, it’s a worrying headache; at worst, it could cost a studio tens of millions of dollars (plus the corresponding legal fees). I guess that this is one blow that Jason won’t be coming back from.
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