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Franchise Killers: Jason X

Jason X

I grew up in the eighties when slasher movies were going through their heyday.  The king of the slashers was Jason, the hockey-masked killer of the Friday the 13th series.  It was very common back then to hear that there was a plan to make 13 movies in the series.  Even as a kid, I knew that was ridiculous.  If the movies were still making money, they wouldn’t stop at 13.  If people stopped buying tickets, they wouldn’t make it to 13.  That’s just not how things work.

As it turns out, the Friday the 13th series made it pretty dang close to the magic number.  They got as far as Jason X.

Before we get into details on the tenth Friday the 13th movie, let’s get a little housekeeping out of the way.  Someone will almost certainly argue that Jason X was not a franchise killer because the character has appeared in subsequent movies.  In 2003, two years after Jason X, the masked killer squared off against Freddy Kruger in Freddy Vs. Jason.  But I’m not counting that as a continuation of the Friday the 13th franchise.  It was more like an attempt to start a Freddy/Jason cross-over series.  Similarly, I don’t consider the 2009 reboot to be part of the original series.  It was a failed attempt to start a new series of movies.

Agree?  Disagree?  That’s fine.  But that’s how I’m keeping score.  By that reckoning, Jason X killed the original Friday the 13th series.

Jason X

The original Friday the 13th was released in 1980.  It was a low-budget slasher movie that exceeded low expectations.  There had been slasher movies before.  Friday the 13th was definitely following in the footsteps of John Carpenter’s Halloween.  But whereas Halloween was built around suspense, Friday the 13th delivered the gore.  It proved to be a box office bonanza which ushered in a wave of sequels and copycats.

By the end of the eighties, the slasher craze was dying out.  Jason had been eclipsed by the more popular Freddy Kruger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series.  There were several attempts to make a movie featuring both characters, but while they were owned by different companies no agreement could be reached.  In 1989, the seventh Friday the 13th movie, Jason Takes Manhattan, proved to be a box office disappointment.  Paramount, which had been distributing the Friday the 13th movies, lost interest in the series.

This paved the way for Sean S. Cunningham, the director of the original Friday the 13th, to return to the series.  Cunningham wanted to bring Jason over to New Line Cinema so he would be under the same studio as Freddy.  His plan was to move forward with the long-discussed cross-over movie.  But that project was stuck in limbo.

Jason X

New Line was worried about pairing up Freddy and Jason at a time when both series were at a low point.  The Nightmare on Elm Street movies seemed to have run out of steam with the 1991 release, Freddy’s Dead.  So Wes Craven was courted back to revive the series with New Nightmare in 1994.  With Freddy unavailable, Cunningham decided to move forward with a solo Jason movie.

That movie was Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday which was released in 1993.  This was actually the second time the series had promised to deliver an ending.  Nearly ten years earlier, the fourth movie was subtitled: The Final Chapter.  Neither The Final Friday nor The Final Chapter ended up being the final anything.

As it turns out, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was a box office disappointment.  So the Freddy/Jason movie was back on the table.  But even with Freddy available, getting the crossover off the ground was harder than anyone expected.  Cunningham worried that audiences would lose interest if too much time passed between Friday the 13th movies.  So he decided to make one more solo Jason movie before the big crossover.

Jim Isaac was a special effects coordinator for David Cronenberg.  Isaac had made his directorial debut on The Horror Show which Cunningham had produced.  Since then, Isaac hadn’t been able to get any more directing jobs.  So he convinced Cunningham to let him make the next Friday the 13th movie.  Cunningham’s son, Noel, served as the producer and Todd Farmer was brought on to write the script.

Jason X

Isaac, Farmer and Noel Cunningham began kicking around ideas for the tenth Jason movie.  Most of their ideas involved putting Jason in a new environment.  Rejected ideas included Jason in the arctic, in L.A., on safari, in the hood, under water, etc.  There was even an idea to have Jason slice his way through NASCAR.  Eventually, Farmer suggested “Jason in space” and it stuck.

The space concept had a few advantages.  One, it allowed the franchise to skip ahead so it would not be impacted by the crossover whenever that might happen.  But also, they thought they could do an Alien-type of movie with Jason instead of the usual creatures.

Unfortunately, the three men had a hard time agreeing on what Jason in Space should be.  Isaac wanted the movie to be funny.  Farmer was more interested in the sci fi angle.  And Noel Cunningham was mostly concerned with the budget.  As the executive producer, Sean Cunningham decided to take some action.  So he brought in Lewis Abernathy to rewrite the script.

In an effort to improve the overall quality of the acting, Isaac had taken a very unusual step.  He had his cast rehearse for about a month before filming.  But the script was being rewritten, so most of what was rehearsed didn’t make it into the movie.  Originally, the character played by actress Lexa Doig had a male love interest.  But four days into rehearsals, they realized that the male character served no purpose.  So he was cut from the script and the actor who had been cast was given the bad news.

Jason X

Filming on Jason X wrapped in spring of 2000.  But the movie sat on the shelf for two years.  That’s because New Line’s President of Production, Michael De Luca, was fired in 2001 following the failure of the Adam Sandler bomb, Little Nicky.  De Luca had been a big supporter of Jason X, but no one else in the studio believed in it.  So they waited.  While they waited, a copy of the movie leaked on the internet which potentially hurt the movie’s chances at the box office.

Surprising no one, critics were unkind to Jason’s space adventure.  But that’s to be expected.  Unfortunately, audiences weren’t keen on space Jason either.  Jason X opened in third place at the box office and grossed a paltry $13 million dollars making it the lowest-grossing movie in the franchise.

Following the failure of Jason X, Cunningham finally got to make his Freddy Vs. Jason movie which carried on the legacy of both characters.  There were talks of sequels, but they never happened.  Then six years later, Michael Bay came along and rebooted the entire series in 2009.  The reboot was successful enough to warrant sequels, but they never happened either.

Since then, there has been wrangling between Warner Brothers and Paramount over the rights to the series.  Currently, Paramount holds the rights and has promised a new Friday the 13th movie in 2016.  If it happens, it will be the first one in seven years.

Let’s break this down:

How many movies in the series? 10

How many of them were good? Uhhhh… define good.

Health of the franchise before it died? It went to hell.

Likelihood of a reboot? Already happened.  Whether the next movie will be a continuation of the reboot is uncertain.  There is also a TV series in development.  One thing is certain.  There will be more Jason Voorhees.

Any redeeming value? It was the final performance as Jason by series regular, Kane Hodder.  That’s gotta count for something, right?

More Franchise Killers

 

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Posted on October 10, 2015, in Franchise Killers, Movies, sequels and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Why does just about everyone hate this movie?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211443/board/flat/237627071?d=241121559#241121559

    It’s ten minutes of expositional mumbo-jumbo with forced dialogue being uttered by talentless actors and actresses.

    Then it’s 15 minutes or so establishing the paper thin young characters – defining them as slut, smart girl, jocky guy, nerdy guy, etc. These actors never had a chance, you realize – they were never given characters to play, just dialogue parrots who get stabbed and gutted and decapitated. They exist only for the violence to come, who cares if the violence is suspenseful or well-executed, as long as we get our blood fix!

    The next 65 minutes of this dreck are just 20-somethings being chased around in the same way you’ve seen in other horror films, but this one doesn’t even seem to take the horror angle straight. Then you realize the director never had a chance – he was given a $2 budget to make a space action movie – as a result, the sets are low-budget, like student film level, the effects were clearly done on a 1989 Macintosh, and the actors have all the sophistication of those 1989 Macintosh’s.

    Originally, I gave the movie a 3/10. Then I had to add an extra star for the one redeeming moment, the frozen face death, easily one of the coolest death scenes in horror movies. Then I had to add an extra star for all the times I laughed – but at the end of the day that’s pathetic for a horror movie to make me laugh more than most intentional comedies.

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  2. Jason X (2001)

    http://cinemassacre.com/2015/03/13/jason-x-2001/

    Happy Friday the 13th! This concludes the marathon.

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  3. I didn’t care much for this film; I just sort of slogged through it one night. My favorite in this series is “Jason Lives”, since it’s slightly atypical of the series and I like “Jason Goes to Hell” more than most (my friend Jason, who was not a murderous hulk with a machete, turned me onto the film on the strength of the female camper getting split in half).

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    • There are a lot of Friday the 13th movies I haven’t seen. A couple of the ones I did see were cases where I went with friends and didn’t necessarily want to see them. I have never been what you would call a fan of slasher movies or Jason. But I do find the history behind the series fascinating.

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  4. Friday The 13th: Ranking Every Movie From Worst To Best:
    http://whatculture.com/film/friday-13th-ranking-every-movie-worst-best.php/9

    Jason X

    This is an unloved entry in the series but one which holds up rather well. Sending horror movie monsters into space is akin to sending British sitcom favorites to the Algarve (witness Leprechaun and Hellraiser) but here the makers just about pull it off by not only making some jokes about the franchise, but by giving us Uber-Jason. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but don’t forget that this is a franchise which started with a dead boy jumping out of a lake and, two months later, flying across America as a fully grown adult to dispatch the Final Girl from the first film. Give ’em a break!

    The film begins in the near future (er, 2010) with Jason the prisoner of military researchers who want to use him in the battlefield. Scientist Rowan LaFontaine (crazy name, crazy girl) knows this is a bad idea and, as Jason hacks everyone apart when they try to move him, she is proved right. Luckily, both Rowan and Jason are frozen in cryogenic chamber and left forever. Well, until 2455 to be exact when a group of science students from space find them and bring them on-board their spaceship. Obviously, this doesn’t go well when Mr Vorhees thaws out but luckily female android Kay-Em destroys him, only for the medic departments nanites to rebuild him as Uber-Jason. The survivors then use a combination of brawn (Sergeant Brodski) and brain (through holographic simulations of Crystal Lake) to dispatch Jason into space where, unfortunately, he falls straight into the lake of the planet below, watched by two canoodling teens.

    There is more imagination in this film than perhaps any other entry. The space location actually works and many of the characters are really likable from geeky Tsunaron and his lovely android Kay-Em, to genre favorite Lexa Doig as the Final Girl. Also, there is an air of excitement to see Jason go up against Space Marines, Aliens style, as well as some interesting kills with liquid nitrogen. The franchise needed to try something and although the film was the lowest grossing of the series in the US, there is more humor than in many of the later films, particularly with Jason’s reaction to the holographic Crystal Lake. Also, it has Uber-Jason. Franchise Viagra.

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  5. Re: Franchise Killers: Jason X Posted by lebeau

    http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000024/thread/249215972?d=249221271#249221271

    I always felt that Part VIII is really what killed the franchise. We were so excited to see Jason in NY that when the city only played a cameo in a mediocre picture, it made us less interested in more movies in the franchise.

    Part IX was too much of a departure, and Part X was just a novelty. By the time X was released, the franchise was already dead.

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    • Friday the 13th (Classic Horror Movie Series):
      http://officialfan.proboards.com/thread/532517/friday-classic-horror-movie-series

      Post by KAMALARAMBO: BOOMSHAKALAKA!!! on 8 hours ago
      8 hours ago The Lunatic Funker said:
      I love them all even the horrible like Jason X, plus Jason Takes Manhattan is such a guilty pleasure of mine

      When punches that boxer’s head off, well I think that’s probably the most hilarious scene in the franchise.

      As a whole though Jason Takes Manhattan had a lot of problems. Like how he just walks by so many people in Manhattan rather than killing. I remember as a teen I mentioned to a friend in the subway scene how much cooler it would’ve been if he was just indiscriminately hacking the passengers to death as he went toward the protagonist. Just a really small change that would’ve been true to the character and worked much better. Although that scene where he takes his mask off to scare away that gang is pretty awesome.

      Also, WAY too much time on the boat. And don’t get me started on the teleporting!

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      • The problem with part 8 is that the crew only had a short while to film in Manhattan due to budget and schedule, so the whole deal was kind of an air ball if you ask me.

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  6. The logic of Friday the 13th has always bothered me. Jason dies as a boy of about 10, and comes back as an adult man. Did he experience puberty in the grave? What decent reason does he even have to be so pissed? He drowned in a lake. Oh well. As far as deaths by misadventure go, that’s not so bad. doesn’t seem to justify decades of carnage. Clearly, this is not a franchise for people who think too much.

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    • The vendetta was because the camp counselors were too busy fornicating to save him. Not that that makes a lot more sense. Just sayin’ they did address it. Just not well.

      No, I don’t think logic was much of a factor in the Friday the 13th movies. Their appeal was not cerebral. It was visceral.

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      • Yeah, I know the backstory with Jason, I just always thought it was weak, although most of the time when horror films attempt to explain the killer’s rage, they don’t have a very good one. Except ‘Carrie’- she had a pretty legit reason to be pissed off.

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        • Yeah, Carrie had a legitimate reason to snap; I just wish that the Phys Ed teacher was spared (I liked it as an affecting moment though).

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        • Why? She slapped Carrie’s face in the beginning, and then she laughed at her. What’s there to laugh about? There is nothing actually funny about a bucket of blood getting dumped on someone and said bucket knocking someone else unconscious. Everyone there had a really shitty fucking sense of humor. Someone you thought was your friend pointing and laughing at your worst moment instead of standing up to defend you is as bad as anything. I don’t think the gym teacher or any one person was specifically targeted from the crowd, it was just one big assault on the room in general.

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        • The Phys Ed teacher wasn’t laughing, that was just Carrie’s perception of what was going on (also her zealot mother telling her “they’re all going to laugh at you”); she wasn’t thinking clearly because she snapped. I am glad that P.J. Soles’ Norma character was snuffed out though; what an annoying twat, with her stupid baseball hat and everything.

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        • I don’t know, maybe that’s a matter of interpretation. In the book, it was actual laughing; a survivor explained that the laughter was involuntary, but that it was so funny because her face was covered in blood and she had such big eyes and somehow the big blinky eyes on the blood-covered face was supposed to be physically comical- but of course, it would not be. No one would actually find this funny in real life.

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        • I’d hope nobody would find that funny. Even the meaner individuals might not like it since the splash back could ruin their prom dress/tuxedo.

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        • What about poor Tommy? Everybody liked Tommy, but no one was concerned enough about the bucket to blonde Christopher Atkins-fro’d head to stop the cackling and see if he was okay. And Carrie just kinda forgot him.

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        • Oh, I liked Tommy, but it’s true he was actually kind of forgotten about amongst all the chaos. However, he was played by William Katt (of “Greatest American Hero” fame), not Christopher Atkins (I remember him as a stripper who seduces Lesley Ann Warren’s Faye character in 1983’s “A Night in Heaven” and who once was a boyfriend of Diane Lane, although most people will just just go with him in “The Blue Lagoon”).

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        • I know he wasn’t played by Christopher Atkins, he just has Christopher Atkins hair.

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        • Well, I’ll say the same thing I always say when I see hair like that: wooooooo!

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        • Let us not forget The Pirate Movie. Or rather, let us.

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        • Agreed on Jason. Those movies never made sense, but then that was never the point. Norman Bates has a pretty solid back story.

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        • Yes and no. We understand that his mother was an abusive religious fanatic with a sex hangup, along the lines of Margaret White, but the sequel in the late 90s that shows the backstory is unconvincing and contradictory. We saw his mother as a shrill, white haired old lady in floral church dresses, but she was played as seductive by a young, attractive Olivia Hussy.

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        • I am very selective with which movies I will acknowledge as canon and which I will ignore. Anything after Psycho II never happened. And even the first sequel is a guilty pleasure at best.

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        • Yeah, I think “Psycho IV: The Beginning” went the wrong way with the portrayal of Norma Bates. It’s played much too sexy and by Olivia Hussey, who is too much of a Hussey. If that was the beginning so to speak, it’s all wrong. For a character’s background based on the bizarre Ed Gein, it makes no sense at all.

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        • Yeah, your mother alternately flirting with you and excoriating you and making you serve her and her lover post-coital iced tea in bed would give you issues, but it’s not enough to turn you flat-out bat shit crazy and kill every hot bitch who crossed your path.

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        • People can have mental hangups or compulsions without much prompting, or not (the whole “nature vs. nurture” question that cannot be answered, just theorized on), but it also made the whole story of Norman Bates more like a sordid soap opera than a psychological study of a troubled man (though it acted like it tried to do that with the whole radio call-in setup). Maybe “Psycho III” was pointless, but part IV was a total waste. I mean, rewrite Norma Bates, make her a little more homely while at it (not the hot chick from “Romeo & Juliet), then maybe you have something. Something that’s still likely unnecessary though.

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        • I don’t think Norma Bates needed to be unattractive, but everything suggested about her in the film’s mythology was that she was angry, shrill, overbearing, repressed, bitter, fanatical, prudish, abusive, and old, like Joan Crawford crossed with Dana Carvey’s “church lady” character, as opposed to hypersexual and terminally inappropriate.

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        • I think you nailed the negative qualities one would be looking for in a Norma Bates, and instead the 4th film gave the audiences someone who appeared to have a borderline or manic depressive personality.
          I know it sounded like I came off that way, but I have no problem with Olivia Hussey, or if Norma Bates happened to be attractive (it should still be secondary). She was just way too sexualized, and it didn’t seem to fit the persona of how Norma Bates was previously established (even how when Norman dressed up as her).

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        • I haven’t seen Psycho IV but is it possible that Norman just perceives his mom sexually and the audience is seeing her through his eyes?

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        • That’s a good thought and a great idea, but this flick telegraphs its intentions. I mean, Norman’s mother has him rub lotion on her legs, then the next moment they’re rolling around on the floor laughing. She then then gets upset when he gets involuntarily aroused (there’s also a scene where Norma Bates is just going mad, throwing things, herself included, around the room, which Norman witnesses). I just feel the whole thing is sordid. I mean, if it was a standalone film, a lot of the shenanigans may have worked, but for the “Psycho” series, I just thought it was too overt.

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  7. I have never actually watched it. I keep forgetting that it was directed by Dante. I need to track it down.

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  8. I always favored 1986’s “Friday The 13th Part 6: Jason Lives”; I thought it had a sense of humor, and for this series was rather smart. I have it on VHS, but I think my ceiling falling down broke it (I have two houses, and house # two is doing poorly:-).
    Yes, I will always love VHS (I had a friend who did Beta). I mean, I have other technology, but if we can’t fix Lee Majors or Lindsey Wagner, it may not matter.

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