March 16, 2015 Friday the 13th: A New Beginning celebrates 30th anniversary
Celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in 2015, Paramount Pictures’ Friday the 13th: A New Beginning slashed its way across the US on March 22, 1985. The newest installment of the infamous masked killer’s rampage was directed by the late Danny Steinmann (The Unseen (as Peter Foleg) 1980, Savage Streets 1984) and produced by Timothy Silver (The X-Files TV series, Community TV series). As the fifth offering in the Friday the 13th saga, the film followed a screenplay co-written by Steinmann, Martin Kitrosser (Pulp Fiction 1994, Kill Bill Vol. 1 2003) and David Cohen (Hollywood Zap 1986, The Treasure 1990). The movie’s music was composed by Harry Manfredini (Swamp Thing 1982, Wishmaster 1997) and had special effects by both Reel EFX Inc. (April Fool’s Day 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master 1988) and Makeup Effects Laboratories (Sleepwalkers 1992, Divergent 2014).
Starring Corey Feldman (The Goonies 1985, The Lost Boys 1987), John Shepherd (Bless the Child 2000, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius 2004), Melanie Kinnaman (Thunder Alley 1985, Cheers series 1989), Shavar Ross (Diff’rent Strokes TV series, What’s Love Got to Do With It 1993), the late Mark Venturini (Return of the Living Dead 1985, Mikey 1992) and Dick Wieand (Paternity 1981, Romantic Comedy 1983), Friday the 13th: A New Beginning was filmed in California, although the movie’s setting was in a halfway house in remote Pennsylvania. Leaving Crystal Lake behind, the movie was meant as a breakaway to a trilogy of films with a new villain, but after the poor reception and depressing box office receipts, Jason was brought back for Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986). Although actor Wieand is credited for the role of Jason, stuntman Tom Morga was the one who wore the mask throughout the film, including in Tommy’s hallucination. Known for its series high body count of twenty-two, on screen gore, drug use and explicit sex scenes, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning has developed quite a cult following, despite its initial theatrical disappointment.
Director Steinmann could not get Feldman to return as Tommy Jarvis; since at the time, he had been in the middle of filming The Goonies (1985). He did manage to get the boy as a cameo for a single Sunday afternoon to shoot the opening dream sequence. Although Shepherd starred, he only spoke twenty-four words in the ninety minute film. This was the late Steinmann’s last project after a serious bicycle accident left him horribly injured and unable to return to the director’s chair. Told that sixteen graphic scenes had to be cut in order for the MPAA to grant the film an R rating over an X, Steinmann made nine return trips to the editing room, even going so far as to tone down Deborah Voorhees’ sex scene to be as tame as “a Pepsi commercial.”
The movie begins inside Tommy Jarvis’ (Shepherd) nightmare of the hockey mask wearing killer, Jason Voorhees, returning to life to kill his own grave robbers, along with a younger Tommy (Feldman). He awakens in the back of a van as it arrives at the rural Pennsylvanian halfway house, Pinehurst, an asylum where he hopes to learn to live a normal life.
He meets director Pam (Kinnamen), head doctor Matt (Richard Young) and young Reggie (Ross), who was visiting his cook grandfather, George (Vernon Washington). Other teens in the house are preppy Robin (Juliette Cummins), gothic Violet (Tiffany Helm), stuttering Jake (Jerry Pavlon), angry Vic (Mark Venturini) and compulsive eater Joey (Dominick Brascia), who are soon joined by the escaped exhibitionists Tina (Deborah Voorhees) and Eddie (John Robert Dixon). Joey annoys the already hot-tempered Vic, resulting in Vic’s axe being buried in Joey’s back. EMTs Duke (Caskey Swaim) and Roy Burns (Wieand) show up to take the body away. That night, two random, stranded teens are slaughtered on the side of the road by an unseen killer, along with hospital orderly (Bob DeSimone) and his girl (Rebecca Wood) getting killed by someone with an axe. People begin to panic, and Tommy starts seeing Jason everywhere, even while awake. Tina has her eyes gouged out and Eddie gets his face garroted during a romp in the woods, while Reggie’s brother, Demon (Miguel A. Nunez, Jr.), and girlfriend, Anita (Jere Fields), are killed in an outhouse after a visit from Reggie, Tommy and Pam. Tommy takes off, and Pam returns to the house to find George and Matt have gone off to find the still missing Tina and Eddie. Pam also leaves to look for the now four missing adults. When Jake nervously tells Robin about his feelings for her, she laughs at him, and he storms off, only to be cleaved in the face. Robin is later killed by a machete through her mattress. Soon after, Violet is stabbed in the guts while listening to music.
Reggie and Pam discover the dead bodies in Tommy’s room and run screaming into the rainy night as the hockey masked maniac shows up. They stumble across the dead orderly, Duke, and doctor, Matt, before doubling back to the house, resulting in an eyeless George being thrown at them through a plate glass window. The killer chases Pam into the barn, where Reggie drives a tractor into him. Tommy finally shows back up at the house, and when he sees Jason, he believes he is still hallucinating until the figment of his imagination attacks him. They finally trick the psycho into falling out of an upper barn window, where he falls onto a harrow. His mask is torn in the fall, revealing him to be the orderly, Roy Burns. At the hospital, the sheriff exposits that compulsive eater Joey was actually Roy’s son, and seeing his flesh and blood slaughtered must have triggered Burns to take on Jason’s personality in retaliation. From his hospital bed, Tommy hallucinates Jason standing over his bed, but faces his fear and forces the illusion away. He hears Pam in the hallway and throws his bed through the window to trick her into thinking that he has escaped. When she rushes in, he appears from behind the door, wearing Jason’s hockey mask and holding a knife as the screen goes to black.
Technically a box office success, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning grossed close to twenty-two million dollars, coming off of a two million dollar budget, making it the second poorest performing film in the Friday the 13th series. The film debuted at #1 for its opening weekend, ahead of Porky’s Revenge (1985) and Mask (1985). In the original script, Tommy’s dream had been different, opening as a continuation of the ending of the previous film, with the younger Tommy attacking hospital staff while trying to find Jason’s bloody corpse. down in the morgue. As soon as the boy lays eyes on the maniac’s body, Jason rises from the table, which jolts the older Tommy awake in the van, strongly implying from the get go that Tommy was the new Jason, making this the second film in the franchise where Jason was not the actual killer. With the severe disappointment of fans after realizing the maniacal masked killer really was dead, filmmakers resurrected him in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986), appeasing them and leading to many more sequels. On January 13, 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition, six CD boxset containing Harry Manfredini’s scores from the first six Friday the 13th films, with it selling out in less than twenty-four hours. Although panned by critics, the continued fervor shown by fans in the thirty-five years since the original film’s release only prove that the malformed goalie Jason Voorhees will always hold a place in their shriveled, blackened hearts.