Friday The 13th Legends: The Makers & Stars

Sean S. Cummingham:
"I am not a fan of brutal, ugly horror films. I don't like them, I don't enjoy them."

Sean Sexton Cunningham was born December 31, 1941, in New York City. An Ed Wood style filmaker, Cunningham made a successful career of making films cheap and fast. After making a name for himself by producing Wes Craven's nasty shocker, 'Last House on the Left', in 1972, Cunningham would create a number of comedies, before returning to horror with 1980s 'Friday the 13th'. This would be Cunningham's greatest success, making millions from its low budget. After the first 'Friday', Cunningham left the series to make a number of original movies, including two abysmal teen sex comedies, 'Spring Break', and 'The New Kids', neither of which were a success.
Later after the poor box office of Jason Takes Manhattan (Part 8), Paramount Studios, sold the rights to the 'Friday' series, to New Line Cinema, who brought Cunningham back. Who worked on the next batch of films, 1993's 'Jason Goes to Hell', in which he acted as producer, up till 'Jason X', and the cross over, 'Freddy VS Jason'. Eventually the series was turned around, by Micheal Bay's production company, Platinum Dunes in 2009.

The success of Cunnigham's 'Friday the 13th', still resonates today. Going on to spawn 10 sequels; a spin off; a remake; video games; novels; and a TV series, as well as millions at the box office. Not bad for a little movie about horny teens getting killed in the woods by a disgruntled mother with a mongoloid son.

Q & A:
Slasherama: How much control do you personally have over how the Friday The 13th franchise proceeds from here?
Sean S Cunningham: "It's a consensus and it's always a question of getting stuff going. Whoever puts up the money - and it's a lot of money these days - has a lot to say about it. So if the distributor doesn't want to do what I want to do, then I'm in trouble. But if I don't want to do what a distributor wants to do, then it's my choice. So it's a kind of mutual veto."

Slasherama: What's your favourite Friday moment?
Cunningham: "Oh, I don't know... Jim Isaacs did a real good job on 'Jason X' - I love the reprise of 'Part VII's' sleeping bag. That was a fun moment. I always loved the fun that came out of 'Jason' jumping out of a lake, too. It seemed to work so well, and since then it's been done a lot and kinda becomes like repeating a magic trick."

Betsy Palmer:
"I thought about the car, so I said, 'Send me the script,' and he did, and I read it and I said, 'What a piece of crap!, Nobody will ever see this movie, it'll come, it'll go, and I'll have my little car' So I said, 'Yes, I'll do it'

Born Patricia Betsy Hrunek in East Chicago, Indiana, Palmer got her first acting job in 1951, when she joined the cast of a 15 minute long, daily soap opera. Later becoming a familiar face on television as a long-running panelist on the quiz show 'I've Got a Secret'. Where she remained for the shows original run, until the finale in 1967.
Palmer also appeared in a number of movies, from 'Long Gray Line' (1955), starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara, and 'The Tin Star' (1957), a Western that was nominated for a number of Academy Awards. In 1979 Palmer was asked to appear in a low budget horror film Known as 'Friday the 13th', as the films murderous villain, 'Mrs. Voorhees'. Hired for 1000 dollars a day, by director Sean S. Cunningham, she accepted the offer, needing the money to purchase herself a new car. What Palmer had no idea of knowing at the time was, just how big the movie would be, and the drastic effect it would have not only on her career, but her life.

Q & A:
"I'll tell you what has come into my head about this particular film: The reason why I think the show really works is so much is left to the audience's imagination, and that's what scares the hell out of them. You never saw me killing anyone, you always saw the end result."
When the film was released, it became a huge success with teenage audiences, but critics of the time loathed the movie. Most famously influential film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, launched a hate campaign against the movie, describing it as a distasteful, 'have-sex-and-die' formulaic waste of celluloid . Siskel even encouraged his viewers to write Palmer, to voice their disgust at her lending her name to 'Friday the 13th'. Fortunately their smear campaign back fired, as Palmer remembers here:

"People would write to me and say how much they loved the movie," Palmer said. "I never read or saw (Siskel's criticisms), so it's just hearsay on my part, but I thought, 'What the hell is he talking about? I'm an actress, for God's sake.' And it wasn't as though I was making millions of dollars, you know -- I just needed to buy a car. I was being very practical."
Despite the controversy surrounding the film, Palmer agreed to cameo in the sequel 'Friday the 13th Part 2'. This would be her last appearance in a 'Friday' movie, but over the years the popularity for her and her character grew. In 2003 she was even asked to reprise her role as 'Mrs. Voorhees' in 'Freddy vs. Jason', thankfully she declined. She did however agree to appear in the 2006 documentary, 'Betsy Palmer: A Scream Queen'. Even today Palmer is as popular as ever with fans, appearing at conventions, signing autographs, and getting a steady stream of fan mail.

Harry Manfredini:
"So I got the idea of taking the 'ki' from 'kill' and the 'ma' from 'mommy', so every time there was a perspective of the stalker, I put that into the score."

Film composer Harry Manfredini was born on August 25, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois. Specialising in horror and sci-fi films, his first big break came, when he composed the infamous theme for 'The Friday the 13th'. First working with Sean S. Cunningham on the low budget film 'Manny's Orphans' (1978), it was their next collaboration that brought the pair to the publics attention, with the seasonal slasher, 'Friday the 13th' (1980/I). The two would continue working together, on a number of films, through the '80s, such as; 'House' (1986) and 'DeepStar Six' (1989).
Although Cunningham left the 'Friday' series, Manfredini continued creating the scores for the rest of the Paramount sequels, except for 'Part 8', due to scheduling conflicts. When the Friday series moved to New Line Cinema, he returned again to score the movie; 'Jason goes to Hell', teaming with Cunningham who was brought back as producer. An accomplished song writer and jazz soloist, it will always be his iconic score for one of the most influential horror movies of all time, that marks his CV, all together now... "ki ki ki, ma ma ma".

Q & A:
Slasherama: How do you explain a 25-year-old movie, Friday The 13th, still packing out a movie theater today at Screamfest?
Harry Manfredini: "It's a film that's a legend. It wasn't the first one out - 'Halloween' was out beforehand - but in my opinion 'Friday The 13th' had a lot of special things about it. It was unlike any of the other films. To me, it's myopic. It doesn't try to be anything other than exactly what it is." 

"Victor Miller's script is a straight line. When I first saw it, I knew that the movie was so intense and focused. If you pay attention to where the music is in the picture, you'll see that it represents the stalker. In any other horror film you might see, you'll see music all over the place, just to try and manipulate the audience, for whatever reason." 

"But we made a direct choice on 'Friday The 13th', to make the music represent the stalker. That's one of the reasons why we have the 'Jason sound' that I came up with, the 'ki ki ki'."

Slasherama: And that was you saying the 'ki ki ki', wasn't it? What were you actually saying?
Manfredini: "In the film, as you well know, Mrs Voorhees doesn't pop up until the last reel. So we have an entire film with a killer who you never see: it's almost like Jaws." 

"So the killer had to have an identity, throughout the picture, so if you remember the movie, there's a scene towards the end where there's a close-up on 'Mrs Voorhees' mouth. It goes between the sound of 'Jason' saying, 'Kill her mommy!', then the mother's voice, and back and forth." 

"So I got the idea of taking the 'ki' from 'kill' and the 'ma' from 'mommy', but spoke them very harshly, distinctly and rhythmically into a microphone and run them through this '70s echo thing. It came up as you hear it today! So every time there was the perspective of the stalker, I put that into the score."
Slasherama: Do you have a favourite among the sequels?
Manfredini: "The sixth one, where they exhume Jason from the grave. That was one of my favourite scores and movies. I like the first, the second, the sixth and 'Jason X'. Most people didn't like that last one, but I did." 

"Some people die with one eye open and one eye half-closed, sometimes people die with smiles on their faces because the jaw is always slack. I incorporated the feeling of the stuff I saw in Vietnam into my work."
Tom Savini

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Savini graduated from Central Catholic High School, later attending Carnegie-Mellon University. Drafted into Vietnam as a combat photographer, the horrors Savini witnessed on his tour of duty, would later shape his effects work, that littered a number of gruesome classics. Having made a name for himself with his outstanding work with George A. Romero, most notably 'Dawn of the Dead', Savini was brought on board 'Friday the 13th' to help find inventive ways to kill its young troupe of actors.
As well as bringing an inventively nasty collection of deaths to the movie, Savini also helped shape a number of other elements. For one, It was Savini's idea that 'Jason' appear at the end of the movie, to give the audiences one last scare.

Having recently seen Brian De Palma's 'Carrie', Savini suggested that 'Friday' should end on a similar surprise note. The adding of 'Jason' at the last moment, would spur the studio to use him as the killer in the sequel, to the dismay of Savini.
Along with adding 'Jason' to the movie, Savini also designed his look, creating the simple minded Mongoloid boy, we see in the movie. Savini left the series after the original 'Friday' movie, only returning for the supposed 'Final Chapter', to kill the screen monster he created, but as all slasher fans know, 'Jason' always finds a way to return.

Q & A:
On the ending of Friday the 13th:
"Actually, I invented the ending in both of those 'Friday' movies. They did not have an ending for 'Part One'. I'd just seen 'Carrie', which scared the hell out of us when the hand came out of the ground at the end. You thought the movie was over. The music came on, which sounded like end credits. She's walking down the street and goes into the graveyard. The hand coming up scared you. So I said we should do a 'Carrie' ending: have her in the boat, make it seem like the credits are going to roll, then bring Jason up. They said, 'But Jason's dead!' and I said, 'No, it's a dream!".
On why he didn't do the effects for Friday the 13th part 2:
"I chose 'The Burning' instead of 'Friday The 13th Part II'. Because 'Part 2' had 'Jason' in it, and I didn't believe that there should be a 'Jason'. I said, 'I just read your script and you've got Jason running around!'. They said, 'Oh no no, we're going to change that', and of course they didn't. It was just illogical to me that there would be a 'Jason'. But the audience has been trained to be stupid and has accepted the fact that 'Jason' exists."

On Friday the 13th part 4
"'Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter', everybody's death happened quickly. You got a subliminal glimpse of it. That was great, leading up to 'Jason's' death in 'The Final Chapter', because you expected the same thing. But we dwelt on 'Jason's' death, so it made his death more horrific and horrible. When he slides down that machete through his head… we invented that."
On what he thinks of the series after part 4:
"I cut his head in half in 'Part IV' and he's still there. I stopped watching the' Friday The 13th' series after 'Part V', because in 'Part V' even the fuckin' *ashtray* is 'Jason'. His spirit kept invading things, I saw a bit of 'Jason X' after a showing of 'Resident Evil'. I watched about 10 minutes of 'Jason X' and it was so stupid. But there'll be a 'Friday The 13th Part 13', I'm sure of it."

Kane Hodder:
"That was the scene I disliked most, where Jason turns into a little boy at the end of Part VIII. Somehow in the directors mind, I think, it was a valid ending and he knew what he wanted, but I don't think it was presented so that people could understand it. I hated that whole ending."
Hodder on the ending of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Kane Warren Hodder was born April 8, 1955, a professional stuntman, he holds the prestigious honour of playing 'Jason Voorhees' more than any other actor. Having severely burned a large portion of his body in a stunt mishap, Hodder craved out a career as a no-holds-barred stunt man, in a number of genre pictures. These include; 1985's 'The Hills Have Eyes Part II'; 'House' (1986), and 'American Ninja 2', but it was his work on the 'Friday' series that turned him into a cult icon.
Standing a formidable 6ft 4inches, Hodder fills the character of Jason, with genuine menace and dread. Starting with 1988's 'Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood', Hodder continued to play the unstoppable killing machine 3 more times, up until 'Jason X'.

No stranger to confrontation, Hodder is known to frequently argue and disagree with the choices made with the 'Jason' character. Most notably with 'Jason Takes Manhattan', in which the script called for him to regress to a child after being exposed to toxic waste.
Having been replaced for 'Freddy VS. Jason', Hodder now fills his time with the odd acting job, in the likes of 'Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield', 'B.T.K' and as deformed killing machine 'Victor Crowley', in the slasher movie 'Hatchet'. Along with acting, Kane also has a side project in ghost hunting, with a group called 'The Hollywood Ghost Hunters'.

The group is made up of "people who normally make a living by trying to scare other people. Everybody in the group has something to do with horror movies." This includes Hodder, his friend Rick "Stuntman" McCullum, a Hollywood stuntman and actor who doubles for horror film actors like Sid Haig. Finally their third member is R.A. Mihailoff, known for playing the frightening lead role of "Leatherface" in 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre III'.
Considered by many 'Friday' fans to have given the definitive 'Jason Voorhees' performance, Hodder still holds a place in every machete lovers heart.

Q & A:
Hodder:' Part VII' for sure. I think its the only one, out of the ones that I've done, that was kinda scary. And it had the best action for sure. And a decent storyline with the telekinesis and all that.

Hodder: Actually, I've been very lucky because all three directors gave me as much input as I wanted, especially regarding what the character would do, certain situations, how he would react, things like that. Y'know cause, I can't remember who, it wasn't Buechler, but someone thought maybe 'Jason' should run, and I said "I don't feel he ever would run." And they kinda agreed with me.

So, things like that regarding the character, they were really opened. All three of them were, which was real nice for me because, not necessarily that all of my ideas were exactly right, but they let me have as much input as I wanted. I think that made the whole performance better.
Hodder: Y'know, I don't really think that deeply about the character. But it seems to me that it is fairly obvious, the revenge factor and it has become a natural thing for him to kill everyone he comes in contact with. I don't get too deep into it.

Hodder: I would have to say, going to Time Square in Manhattan and shooting a few scenes. Because we were there all night, one night, right in the middle of Time Square in the traffic island, and I'm used to shooting most of my scenes out in some desolate lake so there aren't too many on-lookers bystanders.

And when we were in the city there were hundreds of people lined on both sides of the streets. They had police barriers and everything else and I'm out in the traffic island, in full makeup with my mask on. And because I was so out in the open, I decided never to take the mask off while I was out in Time Square just because I would like to keep a little of the mystique there. And I honestly felt like I was one of the Beatles or something because being on that traffic island looking, and seeing hundreds of people cheering and stuff. And if I did any kind of Jason move like the patented head-tilt, or just stare at them, they went nuts. And I had the best time. That would probably be the single most enjoyable part of playing the character.

Hodder: My favorite scene out of all the ones I've done, and it happens to be my favorite kill also. The sleeping bag scene from Part 7. It was just such a powerful, shocking scene because you don't expect it and the way that Buechler edited the scene, I think it really really effective. And I had just brought the biggest cheer from the audience, when I snuck into a theater and sat in the back with a paying audience.