Collins’ Crypt: Tommy Jarvis Ain’t Got Nothing On Budgetary Concerns

The new Friday the 13th film has been wrapped up in a sleeping bag and slammed into a tree.

According to reports, the newest Friday the 13th delay (there have been too many to track, but nearly every "Friday the 13th" that's occurred on the calendar since the last movie came out in 2009 has had a sequel at least penciled in) isn't just a mere release date shuffle - the film itself may be dead forever. For a quick recap, this new film was set to be released by Paramount, not Warner/New Line, as part of a deal the two studios made a few years back when Warner wanted a piece of Paramount's Interstellar. For trade, Warner gave Paramount exclusive rights to the next Friday the 13th film (and a new South Park), but the deal had a five year expiration date. With them pulling the plug on this new one - just six weeks before production was due to begin - Paramount will almost certainly never get to take advantage of WB's offer, as that deal was made in January of 2013 and the next Friday the 13th will not occur until April of 2018*, three months after the rights expire.

(Unrelated, but still worth noting - WB really won that deal, huh? Got to buy a piece of a profitable movie and the studio they loaned their properties to didn't ever actually make them.)

So, once again, we start all over. Breck Eisner and Aaron Guzikowski, the current creative team, aren't likely to be retained by WB if and when they get the series up and running again in 2018 or beyond. And worse, we fans find ourselves in the exact same situation we were in the '90s and early '00s, when the franchise was stalled as the overlords tried to work out a satisfying Freddy vs. Jason. From 1993, when Jason Goes To Hell came out, until Jason X's release in early 2002, we were starved for Jason adventures (no one believed the series was over, naturally), ultimately leading into the longest gap between movies in the franchise's history, until now. In fact, New Line basically just made Jason X to pass the time (with the film's futuristic setting partially due to the fact that they couldn't do anything that would disrupt FvJ's eventual plot), and thankfully, despite its underwhelming box office, things finally got going again. Freddy vs. Jason got off the ground and hit theaters less than a year and a half later, to the tune of $82m - selling more tickets than any Jason or Freddy film ever had** and proving that the fans would still come out for these things.

Alas, New Line failed to capitalize on the film's success with a sequel, because the game changed. Just two months after FvJ cleaned up, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake made almost as much money - and cost less than a third of what was spent pitting Jason and Freddy against each other. Suddenly, remakes became the hip thing to do, instead of (usually more expensive) sequels, and so rather than a Freddy vs. Jason 2, we got standalone remakes of both terror titans, also from the same Platinum Dunes outfit that revived Leatherface. While 2010's franchise-killing Nightmare on Elm Street is loved by no one, 2009's Friday the 13th gave us a great Jason in Derek Mears and bought enough goodwill to have fans looking forward to another one, now that all of the setup had been taken care of and a new film could focus on what we came to see: a hockey masked serial killer offing everyone who dared venture to Crystal Lake. Alas, once again the powers that be spent too much time second guessing everything, and by now it's almost impossible to believe that the eventual film will be a direct followup. The teens who had to sneak into the 2009 film because they weren't old enough to buy a ticket for an R rated movie are now out of college - that's too much time in Hollywood to risk picking up the narrative threads (even ones as thin as you'd find in a Friday the 13th story). That means a new Jason, most likely, and, god help us, potentially even a new origin/backstory. Again.

Now, obviously I don't know every detail and all of the financial matters that go into these things, but I do know that part of the problem is the tangled rights history of the franchise, which means too many people need to be paid when a new one is made. Variety reports that the budget for this new film was around $21m, and that's without marketing costs. Considering the studios only get about half of the box office back, we're talking about a slasher film that needs to gross around $60m or more just to break even. Now a "cheapo" slasher film is an actual financial risk, so can you blame them for not wanting to pull the trigger? Besides, unless it's really good or an event like FvJ, there's next to no guarantee they will attract audiences who have largely moved on, because horror fans tend to like annual installments that come out like clockwork, and start drifting away once the pattern is broken. Not to mention that they're undeniably better when they're just being churned out; the awesome, and damn near series' best entry, Friday the 13th Part 2, was released just under a year after the first film, as was the underrated New Beginning, released 11 months after the laughably titled Final Chapter. It's only when they started taking time off that the series begin to falter creatively (I'm using that term relatively); it seems the longer you wait for one of them, the weaker it usually is - and we've usually found something else to amuse us in the meantime. I'm no fan of the "pick a release date, then make the movie" tradition of Hollywood, but I truly think it was for the best for this particular series, as their rush to get them out the door meant less second-guessing and experimentation, and their sloppiness is part of the charm, in retrospect. Many friends of mine have taken meetings about potentially working on this alleged new film, and it's clear from all of their stories (which they were free to tell me since they obviously didn't get the gig) that the producers were simply overthinking this thing to an insane degree. First it was merely keeping the film at bay, and now it seems their reluctance to just GO MAKE THE DAMN THING has cost us/them its very existence. 

Granted, the new film WILL be the 13th Friday, and there's a certain superstitious drive to make it a special one (mainly for marketing purposes, I assume), but in addition to the gaps between these movies, nothing sinks them in the fans' eyes quicker than a gimmick. The first six films are largely considered to be the series' best days, and it can't be coincidental that you start finding more arguments and "in defense of" takes on the films that came after, i.e. the ones that deviated from the simple (effective) formula. The next five entries focused on, respectively: telekinesis, cruise ships/Vancouver, body-jumping, outer space, and Freddy Krueger - all of which strayed from the core "concept" of Jason killing regular teenagers in Crystal Lake. This is an element they definitely got right with the 2009 film, as it was a "back to basics" approach that largely worked, though the changes to Jason as a character (i.e. his series of tunnels, and kidnapping a girl rather than just machete her and move on) didn't sit too well with some fans. Still, it wasn't gimmicky in any way, and I think we can all agree that's probably for the best. I know I've pushed for a snowbound entry, but I wouldn't necessarily call that a gimmick - it'd still be at Crystal Lake, and it'd still feature 6-8 horny dimwits. They'd just ice skate instead of swim.

But even if it's another summer entry, I'd be happy if it just felt like a "regular" Friday the 13th movie again, though many of their ideas that they floated to the press seemed to be at odds with that approach. First it was going to be in 3D, which admittedly has precedent for the series as Part 3 is one of the more memorable 3D flicks from the early '80s wave, but as we saw with too many of the films from the post-Avatar days, adding 3D to movies almost at random (Fright Night? My Soul to Take?) just made it un-special, and eventually became a red flag instead of a perk. And the series' lone 3D entry is a favorite among many fans, so they'd be setting themselves up for another comparison with nostalgia working against them. Then thanks to Paranormal Activity's success (with Paramount once again picking up an indie horror flick and making millions from it by turning it into a franchise) they were planning a found footage entry, because that had replaced 3D as the thing every other movie had to be. No one else seemed to think this was a good idea, and it was eventually dropped, right around the time they started dropping hints that the new film would explore how Jason kept coming back to life, and focus on Elias Voorhees, and all these other things that seemed to stray far from what people actually want from these things. And worse, the time wasted developing these (bad) ideas is probably what cost us the movie in the long run, as they were trying to follow up a film that was now almost kind of dated again. 

See, there's an expiration date with these things, and if you step back and look at the rest of what happened in the movie world during that time, it almost seems foolish to think that they could just come out with a direct followup to the 2009 film. At the time of that film's release, Tobey Maguire was still Spider-Man, there were only two films in the MCU, Star Wars was dormant, and the Saw franchise was still the biggest game in town, horror-wise. Now, in 2017, we're on our second Spidey since then, the MCU series now SURPASSES the number of Friday the 13th films ever made, Star Wars is making more money than it ever did, and Saw is already making its own comeback (in fact, it's coming in October, for real - they've actually started shooting it and everything, so take that, Voorhees!). Granted, none of that has much/anything to do with Crystal Lake's least welcome resident, but it just illustrates that things have really changed a lot while these guys have tried over and over to come up with the (snicker) perfect script for a new Friday the 13th. Somehow Marvel has figured out an entire universe of interconnected films in that time, but they still can't crack "He takes a machete and he cuts the guy's head off". 

Will there ever be another Friday the 13th? At this point I honestly don't know. Maybe if they can convince all the rights holders and producers to take a chunk of the gross instead of money up front to keep the initial costs down, it's possible, but then they still have to deal with the fact that its time might just be over. As I mentioned before, all of the other big "horror hero" franchises from that era are still chugging in their own way - there are Pinhead and Leatherface movies more or less in the can, a Chucky movie is shooting right now, and I highly doubt Blumhouse will gum up the works with their new Halloween project the way Paramount and Platinum Dunes have done with Friday. That leaves Jason and Freddy, and of the two I am 100% sure we'll see another Friday before another Nightmare, because I think Wes Craven's death was the nail in the coffin for that series, as the bad remake seemed to prove (again) that he should be involved in some capacity and I don't see anyone having the balls to try disproving it. Plus, the F13 video game is coming, and if it's a success (it's certainly got plenty of interest) that could give the brand a slight boost, or at least keep it from fading away entirely. All I know for sure is, Mears could be ready to pass the machete on to a new guy by now if they hadn't wasted so much time, and there would probably be two or three more entries to rank along with the others, maybe even more if they churned them out in a Saw/Paranormal Activity-like fashion. In an alternate universe, the franchise had chugged along as expected, and they might even have made one that rivaled the earliest entries. But here in our world, all they've done is guarantee that the movie they eventually DO make won't be anywhere near worth the wait - which might be the best reason to just not make it at all, as they're actually at the point where they have to compete with not only our nostalgia for the originals, but nostalgia for the last one as well.

*Fun fact: Only five of the twelve movies came out on a Friday the 13th, and there's no direct correlation between grosses or quality, either. So it really doesn't matter at all, but they seem hellbent on using its namesake date. Bizarrely, they never consider putting one out the week BEFORE a Friday the 13th (a 6th) in order to keep the 2nd weekend dropoff from being too steep.

** Only the all but completely Jason-less original Friday the 13th sold more tickets.