Horror movies have been on an amazing comeback with critics and audiences agreeing that this decade is home to some of the best examples of the genre seen in recent memory. To capitalize on the ongoing hype, Paramount Studios announced that they may have finally found a crew of creators capable of resurrecting one of the genre's most recognized names: Jason Voorhees.
As iconic as Jason may be, his movies — just like many slasher franchises — suffered from repetitive plots and failed attempts to stay relevant. There is a lot of pressure on Friday the 13th's next installment to grow and make a name for itself in today's horror scene, which brings me to a few suggestions that could help make Friday the 13th appeal to both old and new viewers.
No More Origin Stories
One of the strangest additions to many remakes of '80s horror movies was a backstory detailing the killer's family life before the movie's events. An example of this is Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), which justified Leatherface's massacre by revealing that the final girl is actually a distant relative of his, turning the plot on its head with more nonsense than needed. Meanwhile, Friday the 13th (2009) only implied Jason's revised origins to concentrate on the killing, and doing so made it the stronger slasher remake. While the next installment will delve into Jason's origins, it would be wise to only hint at them instead of giving them center stage.
The scariest thing in (good) slasher movies is that the characters know close to nothing about the unstoppable killing machine stalking them; trying to have them (and the audience) sympathize with the killer removes the mystery and tension. Fear works best when the killer's motivations are kept to a bare minimum, not when they serve as cheap Freudian excuses to go on a killing spree.
Audiences feared Michael Myers in 1978 because the lack of any logic to his murders implied a greater evil, not because of his abusive childhood as Rob Zombie's Halloween (2010) remake suggested. The best horror movies never wasted time trying to vindicate their killer and they always left audiences asking the right questions by the end credits.
As the old storytelling proverb said: Show, don't tell.
Be A Slasher
If there's one mistake most horror reboots commit, it's that they don't remember what they are in the first place. In their attempts to please critics and fans alike, horror movie reboots tried and failed to branch out into other genres and forsaking their slasher roots, costing them both credibility and audience appeal.
Case in point: where A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) failed, Evil Dead (2013) succeeded.
The problem with A Nightmare on Elm Street has nothing to do with casting Jackie Earle Haley in a role played to perfection by Robert Englund, but rather, it stems from the remake's attempts to turn A Nightmare on Elm Street — a story of a child predator with finger knives who kills victims in their dreams — into a serious thriller. Because of this, the remake lacked any kind of imagination by chaining itself to a need for realism and grit, losing the nightmarish charm and style of the 1984 original.
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On the other hand, Evil Dead embraced the absolute insanity of its original premise — a book that causes demonic possessions and kills people — thus becoming an amazing and uncompromising old-school horror movie for a new generation. From practical effects to prioritizing gore over weird attempts at realism, Evil Dead knew that it was a gorehound's dream come true and stuck to that vision without the need to realistically explain everything that was happening.
Friday the 13th already has a good head start with its reboot being an old-fashioned teenage massacre that just so happened to have iPods instead of boomboxes. All the next installment has to do is stick with this style, go all-out with the gore and people will remember what made Friday the 13th a staple of the slasher genre in the first place.
Stick To The Franchise's Roots
When Friday the 13th was first conceptualized, it was intended to emulate the successful formula of John Carpenter's horror masterpiece Halloween (1978) and give audiences a good fright. Never in their wildest dreams did the original creators think that the son of their fictional killer would end up fighting Freddy Krueger after the latter found out that Elm Street was a car ride away from Camp Crystal Lake.
While the mere existence of the old-school 2009 reboot and the producer's word that Friday the 13th will not go down the found footage route are reassuring, the temptations to add gimmicks, pander to younger audiences and stray the course are strong, especially in a time when hastily crafted reboots and remakes are the craze.
Friday the 13th is not Oscar gold because it's popcorn horror meant for a specific audience and when the franchise accepts this, it shines. This doesn't mean that future entries should not aspire to be better than their predecessors; hell, they should surpass the old Friday the 13th installments, but they must do so without losing sight of the franchise's original goals of scaring audiences by means of the Voorhees clan.
The upcoming and aptly numbered 13th Friday the 13th should make fans remember why they love Jason Voorhees without alienating anyone curious about Camp Crystal Lake's murderous legacy. In a time when ghosts and the spirits of the damned have returned to spook the shit out of moviegoers, it will be great to see a familiar human face return to the big screen and remind people why going to summer camps to get laid is a bad idea.
Take a look at the faces behind some of horror's most iconic killers in the Movie Pilot original video below:
Do you want to see more Friday the 13th or do you prefer another '80s slasher franchise?