I was just as disappointed as everyone else when Paramount abruptly pulled Friday the 13th Part 13 from their release schedule before shuttering the production altogether. The film was literally weeks away from filming. Industry trades speculated that the studio got cold feet following the disappointing performance of Rings in February, leading many genre fans (including myself) to lambast Paramount for their lack of appreciation for iconic horror.
Well, I’ve just read the script for the canceled production; as much as I hate to say it, shuttering this film was probably for the best. This would not have been the Friday movie hardcore fans have been craving for years. Frankly, it would have been a disaster. In retrospect, I’m much less critical of Paramount’s decision to pull up stakes.
Aaron Guzikowski’s script is misguided at every turn. Instead of taking the franchise into uncharted territory or going back to the series’ bare-bones horror roots, it’s a conglomeration of too many disparate threads pulled from Friday the 13th’s vast mythology; it’s stuffed with Easter Eggs to past Friday entries, as if that alone will recapture the magic. Gostkowski is a talented writer and I commend his ambition, but like I said before: This would not have been the film Friday fans have craving. If you didn’t like the 2009 remake, you’d have despised this one.
Shortly after the film was canceled, the folks at Bloody Disgusting gave a semi-detailed account of the script’s content; I recommend you read it for yourself, HERE. I won’t be revealing much more than this, but I will highlight what I found most interesting, and why I’m certain this film would have fallen flat with horror fans.
Act 1 takes place in 1977 and we meet Jason at age 16. We get to know Jason’s Father, Elias, and learn about his relationship with Jason’s mother, Pamela. Young Jason seems to have a telepathic link with his mother. Jason “drowns” at the end of Act 1, partial due to neglect from the daughter of Camp Crystal Lake’s owners; they then become complicit in Jason’s death. Pamela never learns what became of Jason and stays on as the camp cook.
Act 2 is 3 years later. It’s here where we learn the most about the relationship between Elias and Pamela. Pamela discovers the truth via an abandoned Super 8 film reel, goes nutty, and seeks vengeance. What progresses is a reimagining of the 1st Friday film (which was also released in 1980); Pamela’s dispatch is identical.
Act 3 brings us a 19-year-old Jason who has gone from being a shy introvert to a killing machine following the death of his mother. He never did drown, of course. His weapon of choice is a trident, which I though was a cool detail, one that goes well with the idea that he hides beneath the water, Poseidon-like.
The main problem with Gostkowski’s Friday is it shows and tells too much. He makes the same mistake Rob Zombie did when he remade John Carpenter’s Halloween: Attempts to explain how young pre-pubescents grow-up into slashers only demystifies supernatural elements; while it helps us understand character motivations, this kind of knowledge is a fear-killer. Jason is terrifying because he’s a blank slate, nearly devoid of any emotional capacity. In Gostkowski’s script, we see Jason cry, flinch, hide, and act in all kinds of ways that are very un-slasher-like; it’s endearing, not unnerving. Remember, we never needed to feel sympathy for Jason in the past, just to enjoy watching him assassinate horny camp counselors.
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Elias Voorhees is the most interesting and bungled element of the canceled Friday. Throughout the film, we see several incarnations of the character, as well as descriptions of Elias as a younger man. But when we try to chart the evolution of this character, he completely unravels. Act 1 presents Elias as the killer, wearing a sack mask like Jason wore in Part 2 (released in 1981). It implies that Jason became a slasher by following in his father’s footsteps—which is definitely an intriguing spin, but that’s not the picture that ultimately materializes.
We’re told that Elias was a good man, not an abusive drunk, when he and Pamela got married. When she got pregnant, Elias was initially elated; he even chose the name “Jason”. But during Pamela’s pregnancy, Elias deteriorated, eventually believing that Jason will grow up to be evil; he made many attempts to cause a miscarriage. (This is the explanation for Jason’s deformity, not downs syndrome or a chromosomal disorder). We are given no explanation as to why Elias comes to believe Jason will be evil—an extremely important detail if you ask me.
He’s unable to prevent Jason’s birth, and it is following this event that he became an abusive alcoholic—and apparently, a slasher. It’s difficult to understand why a man who was concerned about his son’s propensity for evil would himself become a murderer. What’s more, we’re told that following Jason’s disappearance in 1977, Elias became a shell of a man, devastated by the loss of his son. Yes, the same son he tried to kill in-uretero. Makes zero sense; when Gostkowski has him offed in Act 2 (at which point Pamela becomes the film’s antagonist), it’s almost like he’s sweeping his mess under the rug: “Nothing to see her… Hey, now Pamela’s the killer!”
Gostkowski never truly confirms whether Jason actual drown; one of the main characters makes that assumption, but the script is noncommittal as to whether he went from a wimpy 16-year-old to a 19-year-old killing machine due to a growth spurt or zombification. He appears immune to arrows and bullets—just like the original Jason. While Jason’s roots aren’t revealed in other films, this one offers answers to a lot questions, but completely avoids the most compelling one: What is Jason? I don’t think fans give a damn about Jason’s backstory before his “death” at Camp Crystal Lake. However, if you’re going to pull back the curtain, pull it all the way back!
To sum up: The script for the canceled Friday the 13th has 3 different killers; a new one for each act. This defuses the film’s central horror and dilutes the entire experience. What’s more, the film features 2 protagonists who are actually sisters; our empathy is split and, without a central figure to identify with, moviegoers would be unable to truly bond with anyone. Thus, the violence everyone endures would have been completely hollow. It’s a clusterfuck.
My advice to Gostkowski, and anyone who attempts to take up the Friday the 13th torch, is to keep it simple—at least to begin with. Jason didn’t develop into the hulking masked marauder we know and love in one movie, it was an evolution. Trying to reboot the entire franchise in a single film is a fool’s errand.
Better luck next time.
If you were involved in writing the next Friday the 13th movie, what would you do? Where would you steer the franchise? Would you attempt innovation or take the series back its roots? What components do you think are most important to the success of a future Friday the 13th movie? Let’s discuss in the Comments section!