Survival of the Outcasts

By Harrison Pierce

Originally published on Advocate.com February 13 2009 12:00 AM ET

Jason Voorhees is
back on the big screen in an all-new remake/reboot of
Friday the 13th that’s sure to make a
killing at the box office. In honor of the
film’s big opening, Advocate.com sat down with
out film critic and historian Peter M. Bracke, author of
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of
"Friday the 13th,"
to discuss why the time is right
to revive the 30-year-old franchise and why the gays
aren’t exactly afraid of getting lost in the
woods with the hockey-masked, machete-wielding bad
boy. 

Why is the time right to re-launch the Friday series? Well, for two reasons. One, I think the original
series had more or less exhausted itself out with its
11 sequels -- you know, Jason going to Manhattan,
Jason going to space, and then fighting Freddy. Basically,
30 years is a long time for any franchise. The second
reason, the big reason, is: They’re remaking
everything! 

Whenever the studios announce one of these
high-profile horror remakes, some fans cry sacrilege.
But money does the talking in this town, so until
the remakes start bombing (or the companies run
out of unoriginal ideas), the trend will continue. What
are your feelings about the horror remake craze?
Well, I think it all started with TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre remake in ’03.
People were really up in arms about that film, saying,
you know, “Oh, my God, you can’t remake
classics!” Then the film turned out to be
pretty good and it made money. So that really opened
the floodgates. Fans are just accepting it --
everything’s being remade. Clearly, the cries
of sacrilege don’t matter to the producers, so
we’ve just given up at this point
[laughs]. 

Is any horror classic untouchable? The only one I can think of is The
Exorcist
, but I think they’ll remake that
eventually. I don’t think anything’s too
sacred. I mean, they remade Psycho

A few years ago you wrote Crystal Lake Memories: The
Complete History of "Friday the 13th,"

which may be the most insanely comprehensive book
about a film franchise ever created. Talk a bit about
the genesis of that project.
I started that book in 2002, and at that time,
Scream had come out, but the remakes hadn’t
started. I thought, Wow, this is kind of exciting:
There’s this whole era of slasher films
that isn’t really regarded or analyzed or
discussed much.
I know the Friday films
aren’t the greatest movies ever, but they mean
a lot to a lot of people and they really influenced the
evolution of the exploitation film. I mean, Friday
the 13th
was the first "B" movie that was picked up
by a major studio and treated like an A-list one, with
a big marketing campaign and a wide opening in over
1,000 theaters. That was unheard of at the time. Now,
it’s totally acceptable for Warner Bros. to make and
market a brutal slasher movie. Before that, it was purely a
drive-in, grindhouse kind of thing.

 FRIDAY THE 13TH Chelsea (WILLA FORD) tempts Nolan (RYAN HANSEN) XLARGE (WARNER BROS.) | ADVOCATE.COM

How many people did you interview for the book? Over 200. I went overboard [laughs]. Some
people were really fun; the best were the actors and
actresses who had a sense of humor about it -- and
really embraced it. You know, “I did this crazy
movie when I was 18 and it’s bewildering to me that
fans care, but I’m glad they care.”
There are always a few people who are like, "That was
beneath me and I don’t want to talk about it." 

Horror has proved a fertile launching ground for
some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including
Kevin Bacon, who romped around in a Speedo in the
first Friday the 13th. But most of the
actors in the series have more or less
disappeared. For example, what happened to Adrienne
King, who played the spunky heroine Alice in the
first movie?
Well, Adrienne King is an interesting story. She
was a theater actress and dancer when she got the
part. Like everyone else involved in the making of it,
she didn’t think Friday would play
outside the drive-in. So when it proved to be a hit, it was
thrilling for her. But then she had (and she’s talked
about this openly) a stalker for, like, two years, and
that kind of sent her away from acting in high-profile
movies. She came back briefly for Friday the 13th Part
2
, but, um, she pretty much left the business and
now she paints and does a lot of other things. 

Yikes. Well, we wish her well. What about Amy
Steel, the tomboyish survivor of Part 2?
Amy Steel is more like everyone else, in the
sense that she got some other parts and was in other
movies. But it’s a hard business. You know,
1.1% of actors out there work, let alone become big stars.
Anyway, now she’s a therapist. 

Probably tending to people like us who like these
movies! Anyway, in a horror series, is the best part the
one with the best death scenes?
Well, that’s the thing about Friday
the 13th
that’s interesting. Unlike
Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, the
first one isn’t really looked at as the best in
the canon. Everyone I talk to, fans and myself, think
there are little bits and pieces in all of them that you
like and really cool deaths in all of them. Jason’s
not even in the first one. 

Yeah, the original plays a bit like a low-rent
Agatha Christie murder mystery in which Jason’s
mother is revealed to be the killer at the very
end. Can you talk a little bit about the decision
to make Jason the killer in the subsequent films?
Sean Cunningham (the director of Friday
the 13th
) and Victor Miller (the first film's
screenwriter) didn’t like the idea of having
Jason be the killer in Part 2. They thought it
was silly; you know…he drowned! Sean
Cunningham’s idea was to make each new Friday
film a stand-alone with a different idea, you know,
like an anthology. But the backers, these guys based in
Boston, and Paramount were both like, "No, people want to
see a body count," so they hired a writer named Ron
Kurz, who talked with Steve Miner (the director
of Friday the 13th Part 2), and they
decided to say Jason didn’t really die. Basically,
that way they could repeat the same movie, but with
Jason as the killer. 

 FriDAY THE 13TH Eric Mears as Jason XLARGE (WARNER BROS.) | ADVOCATE.COM

The later entries in the series took Jason out of
his Crystal Lake element and thrust him into Manhattan
and outer space. Would you like to see Jason cut a
swath through any particular place? A Taliban
campground, perhaps?
Actually, no. I’m a traditionalist. I
like the camp setting. The early movies work so well
because that’s what’s fun -- seeing kids go
back to a campground with this legend and
they’re too stupid not to go. I feel like when
they take him out of Crystal Lake it gets kind of gimmicky.
Some people I’ve talked to want to see Jason in
the snow, like have a film set during winter time.
That might be interesting. 

Oh, I like that, a frozen Crystal Lake -- I
can already picture a death-by-ice-skates sequence.
Anyway, any thoughts on why the horror genre is critic-proof?
Horror is sort of like comedy. What makes you
laugh makes you laugh; what makes you scared makes you
scared. It doesn’t matter what any critic says.
If you like roller coasters or jumping out of airplanes, no
one can convince you otherwise. 

Horror movies are pretty primal. Basically, you get
to cheat death while watching others fail. Splat!
Slasher movies are, by their nature, for younger
people, not for 40-, 50-year-old critics. When
you’re 18, 19, the idea of untimely death is
scary. I think when you’re 50 and you have your own
kids and you’re dealing with aging and your own
parents dying, a guy in a hockey mask isn’t
really scary anymore. You have other things to fear and
worry about. 

Now, we know Jason likes to swing an ax. Any
theories on which way he swings it, if you know what I mean?
The interesting thing is, and some of the
series’ screenwriters and I have talked about
this: Jason doesn’t really have a sexual component.
He doesn’t rape. He’s almost like a kid,
an overgrown kid; he’s presexual. There was
actually a cut ending to Friday the 13th:The Final Chapter [the fourth film] in
which Jason is fighting with the heroine, Trish, and
gets sexually aroused and that distraction allows
Tommy Jarvis to kill him. But the producers didn’t
like that idea. They wanted to keep him asexual. 

I remember as an undergrad stumbling on this
super-esoteric book exploring the connection between gay
men and horror -- any thoughts on why gays love horror?
Slasher movies have a big gay following. I have
theories, which are always fun. You should listen to
the commentary I did for the Blu-ray and DVD of part
1. I talk about that. But yeah, as a gay kid, I grew up
relating to the main girl character. I didn’t care
about seeing big-breasted women naked and I
didn’t relate to Jason. For me, it was more
about the lead girl who was kind of different, kind of
boyish. She wasn’t out having sex and all that
kind of stuff. She was smarter, never part of the main
social group. The popular kids all got killed. It was
always the weird outcasts that survived, which was appealing
to me. Being different and being outside the group is
what gave you strength: That spoke to me. And it seems
like all the gay fans I meet, they remember Amy Steel
and Adrienne King -- that’s who they talk about. They
don’t care about Jason’s mask.

FRIDAY THE 13TH Jason (DEREK MEARS, right) crashes through a window and grabs Clay (JARED PADALECKI, left) X390 (WARNER BROS.) | ADVOCATE.COM
       

Do you think it’s a little scary that some
audience members root for Jason?
As the sequels went on, the filmmakers were more
and more aware of that, so they created characters
that were intentionally stupid so you would cheer when
they died, but by the end, you cheer when the heroine picks
up the machete and goes after Jason. The audience kind
of goes back and forth. You realize these are
cardboard characters you’re not supposed to
take too seriously. This isn’t Ordinary
People
where the parents get decapitated at the
end. 

Well, too bad, because that mother was a bit of a monster… Well, purposefully the characters [in these
films] are types. They’re people you recognize
and can laugh at: the nerdy guy, the pot smoker.
It’s kind of darkly comic. I think for the viewer,
who understands and gets it, we’re not really
championing people getting killed. It’s more
the game, the cat-and-mouse aspect. The best movies in the
series really used the foreground and the background,
and the characters kept going in and out of dark
places and Jason would pop out. We enjoy the haunted
house aspect -- that’s the fun of it. 

Some horror movie franchises are hot messes in
terms of continuity. What are the biggest continuity
complaints about the Friday series?
First of all, the whole idea that groups of
campers and counselors keep dying and disappearing in
this one area is preposterous. The FBI would close
that place down! The other thing is Jason’s look. In
Part 2 he has long hair. In Part 3,
he’s suddenly bald and gains 30 pounds and six
inches of height. Jason’s makeup was always changing
too, and the way he runs and moves doesn’t
match from film to film. Luckily, Kane Hodder came
along in Part 7 and played Jason four times. That
gave the series some continuity, but even then, he always
looked different and wore different masks. 

Now, besides writing the book, you’ve also had
some involvement in the recently re-released super
spruced-up DVD editions of Friday the 13th
and Friday the 13th Part 2. Can you talk a bit about that?
Paramount contacted me about contributing to the
DVD and Blu-ray reissues of the first two movies.
There’s a commentary on the first that I’m a
part of, and there’s a featurette about the book on
the second one. I also wrote a trivia track for
Part 2. Also, Anchor Bay produced a
90-minute documentary called His Name Was Jason:
Thirty Years of "Friday the 13th."
I was interviewed
for that. 

So, back to the remake, which I assume you’ve
seen, are there any cool homages to the original you can
talk about without giving too much away?
The film’s really a remake of the first
four Fridays. There are plot elements of each of them
in it. There’s a character coming back to rescue
his sister, which was in part 4. There are also
allusions to the stoner characters in Part 3.
You know, they definitely pulled the recognizable
types from the series, and there are little things
die-hard fans will notice -- certain situations and
locations are used in different ways. 

Finally, how does it feel having sexy DILF Richard
Burgi play a character named after you in the remake?
It’s cool! I feel like I’m the
only person name-checked in the remake. They were
supposed to have cameos by Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer,
but none of that made it. I guess I’m an IMDb
trivia question now. Oh, and he dies pretty cool
too!