As the seasonal anomaly, which is a third Friday the 13th within the same year, rolls towards us (I seriously haven’t watched as much Jason Vorhees any other year so far as this one) I thought i would take a look at the thing that sells the franchise more than anything else, the gore and more importantly, the censorship history of this long running series of films.
Without doubt one of the most influential in the whole slasher cycle is Friday the 13th, which has spawned more imitators than any other franchise in the history of horror. Initially the slasher film, with its roots firmly taking its cues from Hitchcock’s Psycho and the Italian giallo films of Mario Bava, Sergio Martino and Dario Argento were more interested in the mystery and fear factor. Bob Clarke’s Black Christmas was essentially a giallo with a Canadian feel. This movie, with its seasonal theme then influenced John Carpenter to make a very similar in tone film in the shape of his groundbreaking Halloween, which was initially intended as a stand alone film. Halloween only became a franchise after everyone saw the success of its successor, Friday the 13th.
“You’re going to Camp Blood, ain’t ya’?” – Friday the 13th Part 1
Sean S Cunningham was a low budget producer who had produced a very successful horror film before with Last house on the left and, after seeing Halloween, decided to take another seasonal time of year and with a one sheet teaser poster advertised in variety, Friday the 13th was born. After the buzz created by his teaser poster he quickly hired a screenwriter to cobble together a script and gathered a cast and crew of youngsters, one of which being a young Kevin Bacon and they set off for a disused camp in New Jersey. The one thing this film had that the predecessors of the time didn’t was the gore. There had been gory horror movies released on grindhouses and drive ins however this would be one of the first that would really showcase new special effects techniques thanks to the work of Tom Savini.
Cunningham had just seen Dawn of the dead and he, along with the entire horror community were astounded by what Savini had created for that film. The attachment of Savini’s name was a big selling point for the movie. The film outside of the effects is actually rather long and drawn out and it is by far my least favourite of the franchise however I will state that the arrow through the throat is an extremely well timed death scene and everything just fits perfectly.
With this small horror film, that was intended as a one off, horror movies became an event. Young couples would go on dates to see the movie and it really transcended the core horror audience to become a box office success.
Enter Paramount pictures. After seeing the success the small run was having in certain states, Paramount became interested in distributing the film nationwide and Cunningham readily agreed. The film was then sent to the MPAA ratings board where it recieved an R rating along with most of the juiciest death scenes shortened. This would be a long running theme of, not only Friday the 13ths future sequels but for slasher films in general.
The scenes that were shortened for the R rating were the throat slashing of Annie, the infamous arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat and the climactic beheading of Mrs Vorhees. These scenes as they exist in the R rated version have only been edited by seconds and you still get to see a majority of the effects work. The unrated version was released initially on pre cert VHS in the UK and has been freely available in the rest of Europe. After the video recordings act came into practice, all subsequent releases on video in the UK were cut and it took for the DVD released in 2000 for the British public to get to see the uncut version again.
The rating didn’t harm the films success though as it would go straight to the top of the box office and with dollar signs in his eye, Cunningham quickly went to work on a sequel.
“Jason, Mother is talking to you.” – Friday 13th Part 2
Savini was contacted once again to provide the makeup effects but he declined due to already being booked to work on The Burning. InitiInstead the effects work was picked up by Carl Fullerton who at the time had only worked on a handful of films. Fullerton would eventually go on to work on some extremely successful movies, most notably for Silence of the lambs, Goodfellas and Godfather 3 and being nominated for an oscar for Remo Williams and Philadelphia.
On the surface Part 2 seems like the least bloody and has been criticised by fans of the series for having the least gory death scenes but recently it has surfaced that the effects work was going to be a lot more complex and scenes were cut before it even went to the MPAA. Some of the most talked about scenes involve the machete in the face of the young man in the wheelchair. This kill is actually one of my favourites of the series as the buildup is really excellent with the shot from behind as the machete hits him (actually a piece of wood that was in front of the actors face to make sure he wouldnt be injured) however this scene would have been more graphic with a shot from the front as his face gushes blood. There are stills of this scene that exist however no new footage has been unearthed. The other main scene involves the young couple being impaled in the bed while they are having sex. This scene seems to be a direct take from mario bavas bay of blood, which Steve Miner has said was a film that he was inspired by. In the finished movie all you see is a close up of the spike exiting from the bottom of the bed but fullerton has gone on record to say he had built a rig where both actors under the floor and on the bed there was the fake bodies and there was one continuous shot of the couple being speared. Again no footage has ever been unearthed and it remains high on the fans wishlists to see.
Part 2 was completed and in cinemas within a year of the 1st ones release and, whilst not as successful as the original, it was still successful enough to justify another sequel. With the introduction of Jason as the killer the series was able to continue with increasingly implausible reasons for Jason to have another bloodbath.
“No, you can’t be alive” – Friday 13th Part 3
With part 3 of the franchise there was another bout of MPAA interference with most of the death scenes being shortened. Most notably the impalement of one of the girls with a hot poker. The scene currently as it plays was actually a reshoot with now mostly one camera angle. All you see of the impalement is a simple inserted shot of the poker sticking out of her back whereas the original version reportedly had shown the actual impalement. There was also supposed to be a more graphic shot of Andy being cut down the middle while doing a handstand and extra blood of the shot of Debbie having the machete thrust through her chest as she lies on the hammock in a scene clearly inspired by the Kevin Bacon arrow through the throat. Once again we can only go with heresay on what was supposed to be included in the unrated versions as no freely available VHS or DVD copy has any of this extra material. When scouring the internet there are various forums where people claim to have seen extra material on old copies (possibly originating from Asia) but nothing concrete has been posted and again is just internet rumour.
One of the most legendary scenes cut from part 3 was an alternative ending dream sequence where, instead of a rotting corpse of Mrs Vorhees coming out of the water, Chris would be met with a bloody Jason who hacks off her head. This scene was also reshot as there was concerns of it being too graphic.
“Hey Ted, where the hell is the corkscrew” – Friday 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter
Part 4 would see the return of Tom Savini where he said the only reason he accepted the job was because he wanted to be the one to kill off Jason as he felt that the character was his own conception due to his suggestion that they have one final jump scare at the end of the original. Savini has always been vocal about his dislike of the fact that Jason was brought back to be the killer in the sequels. It turns out though that Savini was only approached due to the departure of special effects artist Greg Cannom (whose excellent effects work can be seen on films like the Lost boys, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and more recently Watchmen) due to tension on the set. This didn’t stop Savini from creating some of the series most memorable moments, the best of which is the actual “death” (of which there would be many more) of Jason where he is hit in the face with his own machete. Jason then falls to the floor where his head slides down the machete. Most other scenes were trimmed like the gutting scene of one of the nurses from the morgue at the beginning of the film. There exists rough footage that has been finally released on dvd with alternate, bloodier takes of most of the kills and it really is interesting to see how the film may have looked before the r rating was imposed. Part 4 is probably the least harmed from cutting as there is still plenty of satisfactory gore on display in the r rated version. The same couldn’t be said for some of the further sequels.
Check out his interesting alternative ending showing Trish finding her mother’s body in the bathtub.
There has also been a fantastic fan made reconstruction using the rough footage from the new special edition DVD (known as Tommy’s cut). Here is an uploaded version of how the death scenes look in that version and in my view this new version is the one I usually watch now.
Did it ever really end? – Friday the 13th part 5: A New Beginning
Friday the 13th should have been a completed saga by this point as Jason had been killed finally and his body laid to rest but the strong box office success meant that paramount wasn’t ready to give up this cash cow yet. With the ability to provide a small budget compared to their other productions and high returns it was only a matter of time before someone had an idea to try and bring the series back to life. Turns out only a matter of less than a year was enough for Paramount to turn back to the hockey mask. Cue the misfire that is Friday the 13th part 5: The new beginning. This one, along with Jason goes to hell are by far the most maligned of all the sequels and they actually share a very similar criticism. The complete lack of Jason, although there is another killer with the hockey mask whose identity I won’t spoil for people who have not seen it. C’mon people, the film is 20 years old. The high body count and the kills are actually pretty decent in my opinion which at least makes the film interesting to me and, whilst not very satisfactory to the fans, this one has actually generated quite a cult following. The kills again were subject to quite extensive cutting with part 5 reportedly being one of the most censored. The biggest reported cut is a borderline soft core sex scene that runs for almost 2 mins. Along with this the MPAA were said by the film makers to have shortened every single death scene. In an interview, the makeup effects designer has stated that what was shown was probably only about 10% of what he created for the film with bloody axe killings, spurting blood and even a pre reshoot scene where a lady gets a machete to the crotch being left on the cutting room floor. Once again we hear the famous cry that all of this material is lost forever which just makes the fans want to see it that much more.
“He’s coming to get you Barbara.” Jason becomes the living dead for Friday 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.
How to bring back a franchise where the main antagonist has been killed off? There are only two ways. You can go the Dallas Bobby Ewing route and make the whole thing a dream or you can bring him back as the living dead. This was exactly what they decided to do to continue this particular absurd storyline.
As for the censorship, Part 6 and 7 are the only parts with the distinction of a surviving rough cut workprint available with all scenes of violence still in it before the MPAA had gotten involved. Part 6 had very little missing with only brief extensions to what was originally in it, most notable is a cop in part 6 having his head crushed where blood shoots out of the head and the biggest difference being in the sheriff having his back broken in slightly more grisly detail.
Check out the following video for side by comparisons of what was missing from parts 1,4,6 and 7. part 4s missing scenes are only scene extensions and no additional gore which can be found above.
The biggest difference however is with Friday the 13th part 7: a new blood. Special effects genius John Carl Beuchler was brought on to direct and to provide the effects and what we were told to expect was a Friday the 13th film from the point of view of an effects artist. Beuchler also promised what the fans really wanted to see in the way bloody kills, ever more inventive deaths and a great look of a decomposing Jason that is the fan favourite of all the franchise.
Part 7 was also the first part to introduce Kane Hodder to the part he would be forever linked to. The new blood has a completely bonkers storyline where he fights a girl with ESP (a story that was adapted from what originally was going to be Freddy vs Jason). Story wise this is probably the silliest but for all of the implausibility of the story, the film more than makes up in entertainment value.
As can be seen from the above video, the workprint of part 7 shows some of the best effects that have ended up on the cutting room floor and will probably never be seen in good quality. Extensions of every single death scene can be seen, from small moments like a character being picked up while he is spitting up blood to more elaborate scenes like a motorised saw blade being shoved into the doctors stomach. My favourite cut scenes are the very bloody crushing of a characters head and the most famous of all which features a camper in a sleeping bag. Jason picks up the sleeping bag with the girl trapped inside and he proceeds to continually bash her against a tree. In the final version of the film there is only one hit against the tree but in the workprint we see her being hit continuously from different angles as blood starts to ooze out of the bag. Kane Hodder went on to say that this shot really tired him out as he had to do the take over and over again with a weighted bag and he has said how frustrated he was that the scene was so badly cut.
Check out an interesting fan made reconstruction of part 7, using a degraded VHS version which blends rather nicely with the workprint footage. This really shows how the film should have ended up.
New York in a day – Friday 13th Part 8: Jason takes Manhattan
The main thing anyone says about this movie – When the F*ck will they get to New York? This film really tests the patience of the audience with such a heavy marketing campaign centred around around the promise of a rampage through the big apple but this soon becomes apparent when you look at your watch and only 20 minutes remain of the runtime that the audience feel ripped off. If this had been called Jason on a boat then maybe, just maybe we would have felt better.
As for the censorship, once again the MPAA were up to their dirty tricks and they were just adding to the audience’s frustration. No Jason and no gore? This wasn’t supposed to be though as the director has stated in a number of interviews
“Yes, it [Tamara’s death] was trimmed. It was a little more in the Psycho tradition. There was a lot more blood, a lot of Jason’s arm slicing down upon her, shards of glass. It was pretty gruesome. And that was the end of it. The scene was over the top as far as the MPAA was concerned. I went into it with more of a Hitchcockian style. And whenever any of us, do a shower scene, you gotta pay homage to Hitchcock. But this was in color with real blood running down the drain. We went further with the scene as far as intensity, but the MPAA pulled us back. In filming her death, we didn’t use any prosthetics. Originally, you see his arm slashing down, blood splatters the shower wall, blood on her. It’s all very Hitchcockian. It’s much like the Psycho shower scene. It was pretty much the same as what was released, except there was much more of it, and there was some gore cut.
Just like in the beginning scene with Jim and Suzy. And y’know, they have sex and Jason comes in, everything was trimmed. I mean, the kid getting shot with the spear. I had a lot more coverage of that. In that Jason takes the spear gun and not only jabs the spear into him, but the entire spear gun. When Jason guts him, and pulls the gun out, his intestines were all over the gun. It was just, trimmed, trimmed, trimmed. There were a lot of frames cut out. And in the final version, it’s just quick cuts. If you look at it, the scene looks like it was edited.
The other thing was when Jason finds the girl in the hatch, and he reaches in and goes to stab her. That was very abbreviated in the final version. Before, it is really hard to watch, not for the fans but for most people out there. It’s kind of a torturous thing. He really tortures her. He doesn’t just shove the spear in. He shoved it in, he twisted it around. There were close-ups of her face, her gurgling. Back to Jason, more twisting, close-ups of the spear twisting. It was pretty intense and the MPAA said no.”
Maybe if they decide to remake the series again they can just start with this one and give the fans what we wanted.
“Express elevator to hell, going down” – Jason goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Moving on now and by part 9 Paramount had decided it was time to bow out of making any more films in the franchise and with a lot of negotiation, New line managed to secure the rights to Jason’s character. While they now had the rights to make a film about Jason Vorhees, they never had the rights to use the Friday the 13th title so this is where Jason goes to hell now starts production. This film has been released now in the directors cut with all of the gore intact but for a while the R rated print was the only one available which missed out much of KNBs fantastic effects work. The standout for me being the scene of two campers having sex in a tent. Just as the couple finish, the girl sits up and in one swift motion “Jason” (as he had switched bodies by this time) thrusts a tent pole into the tent, impaling her. He then pulls the spike up and we see the girl literally being cut in half.
The attempts of the filmmakers to make this one new and refreshing by having the body jumping angle really frustrates fans as they just want to see Jason do his thing but he only has approximately 10 minutes of screen time. For what it’s worth though this one has some of the best effects work of the series. Stay away from the recent Blu ray version though as it contains the butchered R rated version.
Jason X and Freddy vs Jason managed to get away relatively untouched by the MPAA with only minimal snips to Jason X and practically nothing cut from Freddy vs Jason. By this time New line were the proud owners of the franchise and the atmosphere had changed around horror with most movies having an unrated version released for DVD and Blu ray but it’s the original 8 parts in the series that fans really want to be able to see.
Paramount to Disaster
It is without doubt that Friday the 13th and its numerous clones have been like a dirty little secret for Paramount. They jumped quickly into distributing other films similar due to the success of Friday and they made a lot of money from them but they have refused to give these films the respect they deserve. When releasing these films on the many formats over the years they have only made the R rated versions available. Many fans have petitioned for uncut versions only to be told that no uncut footage was kept. This may very well be the case however one fact throws their claims into disrepute for me. They would only release the R rated version of part 1, claiming that no unrated footage existed anymore but Warner brothers, who had released the unrated version of the film in other countries, had offered to sub-licence the unrated version for their Crystal lake to Manhattan Box set. Paramount refused and instead released the same R rated cut. To make matters worse it included the cut to uncut scene comparison which showed that they had access to the footage. It has only been recently that America has seen an official uncut release whereas the UK and European DVD and Blu ray versions have been the unrated version for years. We could take this as a one off but we have consistently seen evidence of them doing the same thing with other movies.
For My bloody valentine, this film was very heavily censored. The fans had made this one of the most requested films from Paramount and the director stepped forward due to the demand and confirmed that he had an uncut print in his possession. Once again they declined and released the R rated version on a bare bones disc. It took a few years for Lions gate to step in and acquire the rights. To coincide with their remake, Lion’s gate released the film finally in its uncut glory. So with these examples it seems that paramount just aren’t interested in looking for any footage that may exist. I, along with other fans of the series can only hope and pray that someday we might see some legitimate uncut versions of the series but until that time, the R rated versions will just have to do.