As I flew down to Austin, Texas for a visit to the set of Platinum Dunes’ reboot of Friday the 13th, two things worried me – the design of Jason and the tone of the film. The character is so iconic that any attempt to ‘update’ him or put a new spin on him would, for me, be deadly. But even more than that I was concerned that Platinum Dunes and director Marcus Nispel would bring the same gritty, ugly tone they had in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to this movie.
Both of my fears were assuaged. Producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller were very quick to explain that Friday the 13th was going to be their lightest film yet, and they seemed to really understand the formula that has made the series so popular – hot babes getting naked, dumb kids getting stoned and Jason killing people in interesting and fun ways. While the scene that we saw shooting – the beginning of the climactic battle with Jason – was sort of grim, and had the washed out palette from Chainsaw, other photos we saw looked completely different, with vibrant colors and drenched in golden light. On top of that Form and Fuller described some scenes to us, and while Damian Shannon and Mark Swift are in no danger of winning an Oscar for this one, they do seem to have captured the spirit of the original films.
And Jason. He looks like Jason. The hockey mask is exactly correct, looking much like the version from Part III and The Final Chapter. Aged and slightly beat up, this is the hockey mask. And I got to hold it (I also got to hug Jason. What a hilariously weird moment). Jason’s face, meanwhile, is a strong mix of Part II‘s Mountain Man – he’s got hair on his head – and The Final Chapter’s super-retard. Make-up artist Scott Stoddard did say that he was tempted to go back to the drawing board when designing this new Jason, but he made the exact right choice here. Looking at actor and stuntman Derek Mears in full regalia, wielding an incredibly long machete while standing on top of an abandoned school bus in the woods it became obvious that Platinum Dunes had created a Jason that took all the best pieces of the previous iterations, making him sort of uber-iconic.
Form and Fuller were excited to talk about the film – they think they have a real winner here – and Mears is easily the most thoughtful and intelligent man to have ever donned the hockey mask. He deserves to be on the DVD commentary, since he’s not just a guy doing a terrific job in the suit, he’s an actual fan of the series. We also sat down with Scott Stoddard to get the inside scoop on the gore and grue, and stars Jared Padalecki (disconcertingly nice and funny for such a good looking guy), Amanda Righetti (a real trouper, fighting through some pretty good injuries) and Danielle Panabaker (who came to the set on her day off to talk to us, and then hung out with the rest of the cast for hours) all sat down with us as well. I’ll be running those interviews in the next few days.
The most important thing I can say about this movie is that it feels like everybody involved gets it. There’s no telling what the final product will be – although Fuller was so confident in what they have that he was just about dying to show us footage – but all of the elements appear to be right. And I never imagined it could happen, but this Friday even has a version of sack-headed Jason that’s downright fucking creepy.
Let’s be honest: I’m an easy mark when it comes to Friday the 13th films. They reside directly in my intellectual soft spot, and I’ve even watched Jason Takes Manhattan like four times. But even taking my bias into consideration, this new version has me excited, and I think when you guys have a chance to see this new Jason you’ll understand why I’m so psyched. It just all feels so right.