On Friday June 5, 2009, Phil Blankenship presented a triple feature for horror fans at New Beverly Cinema with “Friday the 13th Parts IV, V, & VI.” The fourth film was called “The Final Chapter,” and seeing that title on the screen induced uncontrollable laughter in every member of the audience for obvious reasons. The fifth film, “A New Beginning” remains the most despised of the sequels as it tried to continue to the series without Jason and proved to be an embarrassing failure. “Jason Lives,” on the other hand, is one of the best thanks in large part to the great sense of humor the filmmakers brought to it. All the sequels after that one turned out to be completely stupid and unintentionally hilarious with a few exceptions. In retrospect, these three movies marked the franchise’s peak as well as the start of its eventual downward spiral.
As time went on, these three “Friday the 13th” sequels became known as the Tommy Jarvis trilogy. We first meet young Tommy Jarvis in “The Final Chapter” where he is played by a very young Corey Feldman. Tommy spends his time playing on his computer or indulging in his real hobby of making masks, and he ends up killing Jason with his own machete and then can’t seem to stop bashing him with it. In “A New Beginning,” we see an older Tommy, now played by John Shepherd, still dealing with the intense psychological damage his encounter with Jason thrust upon him. And then in “Jason Lives,” Tommy (played by Thom Matthews) is convinced that Jason is still not dead despite having been buried for years. But of course, he ends up accidentally resurrecting Jason and has to take him down once again.
Blankenship gave the crowd a special treat by bringing out the writer/director of “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives,” Tom McLoughlin, out to talk with the audience about its making. McLoughlin started off by saying how glad he was to be at New Beverly Cinema as he got all of his film education here. He also said that he still had the most fun as a filmmaker shooting this movie and that he has actually not seen a print of it since 1986.
When first hired to direct “Jason Lives,” McLoughlin admitted that the only “Friday the 13th” movie he had seen previously was the first one. As a result, the powers that be at Paramount Pictures forced him to watch the other four that came after it. With “Jason Lives,” McLoughlin was intent on completely ignoring the events of “A New Beginning” because he said that movie really pissed him off. The audience at the New Beverly was in complete agreement with that and applauded him loudly.
McLoughlin also said he had originally planned to introduce Jason’s father, Elias Voorhees, into the franchise to give the iconic slasher more of a back story. We all know about his crazy mother from the first “Friday the 13th,” but not much has ever been said about Jason’s poppa. But Paramount Pictures was not all that hyped on this plot element because they weren’t sure what direction the franchise would end up taking, so they put the kibosh on it. However, the DVD reissue of “Jason Lives” does have the film’s original ending with Jason’s father in the form of storyboards, and it is a must for fans to check out.
One fan asked McLoughlin how he managed to get Alice Cooper to contribute songs for “Jason Lives.” As it turns out, Cooper is a big fan of the “Friday the 13th” series and was more than happy to participate, even allowing McLoughlin to use any of his songs in the movie. Cooper gave “Jason Lives” its end title song of “The Man behind the Mask,” but McLoughlin said the original version of the song was much faster.
Blankenship asked McLoughlin the inevitable question of how he dealt with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and of what it took to get “Jason Lives” an R rating. Surprisingly, the MPAA didn’t want McLoughlin to cut scenes, but instead frames. McLoughlin said the frames didn’t have blood or gore in them, but the MPAA found them just too intense. In the end, he made no secret that he wanted this movie to be a “huge bloodbath.”
Thom Matthews was cast as Tommy Jarvis in “Jason Lives” as McLoughlin wanted someone who seemed more heroic. Plus, John Shepherd, who played Tommy in “A New Beginning,” didn’t want to return because, as McLoughlin put it, “he got all religious.” Shepherd had since become a born again Christian and his church didn’t feel like doing a slasher movie was in his best interest. Matthews, however, does give Tommy a much stronger look as compared to how he was portrayed in the previous movies.
With this particular “Friday the 13th” sequel, McLoughlin admitted he tried to give it a strong sense of humor. This is apparent right from the start when you see that the opening title shot is a clever homage to the gun barrel sequences of the James Bond movies. Indeed, you come out of this sequel feeling like McLoughlin actually took the time to work on the script instead of just throwing something together at the last minute. Plus, the interplay with the kids (and this is one of few movies in this franchise that actually had kids in it) was great like when they hide under the beds and one boy asks another:
“So, what were you going to be when you grew up?”
Ron Palillo, who plays Allen Hawes, is best known for playing Arnold Horshack on “Welcome Back, Kotter.” This got McLoughlin talking about how everyone in the city kept calling Ron “Horshack” wherever he went. Looking back, he said this made him realize how hard it is for actors to get past a character they played that was so popular. While some actors are able to get do that, others are stuck with the image people have of them.
Another fan asked McLoughlin if he had any favorite on-set stories he could share. This got him to talk about a stunt man who came on the set dressed like Evel Knievel and said:
“I’m here to crash something. So what do you want me to do?”
The stunt this man performed was an especially dangerous one as it required him to drive a big RV (is there any other kind?) over a ramp at 90 miles an hour. McLoughlin said this was the scariest time he ever had on a film set as he worried endlessly that this guy would end up getting killed. Fortunately, the stunt came out perfectly with the RV crashing on its side the way it was supposed to, and the stuntman pulled himself out of the wreckage and said, “Did I do alright?”
It turns out there were actually different endings thought up for “Jason Lives,” but McLoughlin made it clear that he always intended for Jason to end up back in Crystal Lake. One of those endings did include Jason’s father bringing him back to life with voodoo magic. In the end, McLoughlin decided to keep it simple and used the image of Jason’s good eye suddenly opening up wide to show the audience that (surprise, surprise, surprise!) he’s not done killing camp counselors just yet.
As for the man behind the mask, two actors were hired to play Jason. The first one was Dan Bradley who has since become known as the premier stunt coordinator for Hollywood movies such as the Jason Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon. The powers that be at Paramount Pictures however, after watching some dailies, decided he should be replaced because they felt he didn’t have the character’s build. Enter C.J. Graham who had just finished a stint as a United States Marine and had no previous acting experience. McLoughlin said that Graham came onto the set answering all of his questions with “yes sir!” Today, the former Marine is a casino manager in Las Vegas.
In regards to his favorite death in “Jason Lives,” McLoughlin replied it was when Sheriff Michael Garris (David Kagen) got folded in half. This came about because he wanted Jason to kill in ways that were, as he saw it, “superhuman.” The fact that Jason starts off the movie being struck by lightning makes it seem all the more logical that he would kill people this way. It certainly made for many memorably gruesome moments!
The last question for McLoughlin was if Paramount asked him to direct another installment and why that didn’t happen. He said he was actually approached by Frank Mancuso to do the next sequel, and Mancuso asked him:
“How about Jason vs. Freddy?”
To this, McLoughlin replied:
“How about Cheech & Chong vs. Jason?”
Later on, McLoughlin did get the offer to direct “Freddy vs. Jason,” but he said he didn’t like the script that was given to him. New Line Cinema, which ended up buying the rights to Jason from Paramount, invited him for a meeting to talk about it. However, that meeting lasted only ten minutes after which he walked out, and he has not been involved with the movie franchise since.
Since making “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives,” McLoughlin has gone on to make movies like “Date With An Angel” which featured Emmanuelle Béart at her most beautiful, and he also directed episodes of the “Friday the 13th” television series. His other credits include the Stephen King TV movie “Sometimes They Come Back.” Outside of his contribution to the “Friday the 13th” franchise, he has made a good and comfortable career as a director. Having him speak to the fans at New Beverly Cinema was a great treat, and he really seemed to enjoy the time he spent with them. Special thanks go out to Phil Blankenship for putting this all together. This particular sequel still remains one of the very best of this series, and McLoughlin’s appearance made sitting through “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” somewhat more bearable.