LETTERS from the SET: We Visit Camp Crystal Lake for a Look at Friday the 13th!
Are you ready to be supremely jealous? Summer spent here at Camp Crystal Lake has been an absolute blast. And I know that you are a huge fan of Sam, Dean, and all things Supernatural. So please don't cry when I tell you that I just stood inside an overturned bus and watched Jared Padalecki get his head smashed through a window by the one and only legendary slasher Jason Voorhees. With glass pouring down on my face, and fake blood oozing out of poor Padalecki's mouth, it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip thus far. I simply can't believe how much cool stuff they've already shown us. This Friday the 13th is going to be one of the best ever committed to celluloid. At least, it certainly looks that way.
Mr. Voorhees was extremely gracious with his time. Not only did I get to hold Jason's blood soaked machete in my very own hand, I also got to hold his quite icon hockey mask. As it turns out, Jason is a really nice guy when he's not out there, hacking innocent people into little tiny pieces. Behind that ice-cold killer hockey facade, he is actually actor Derek Mears. You are probably not familiar with the man's work. He started out as an actor and comedian, and then turned towards being a stuntman. He has tried to combine his careers together, utilizing his thespian skills to showcase his hulking prowess and superhuman strength. This is probably his biggest role to date. When we arrived on set, he didn't yet have his mask on. He was walking around with a prosthetic dead right eye, and a head full of long, stringy, thinning hair. He made sure to introduce himself, cordial with a handshake and a "How do you do!"
If you remember all those times you caught me up late at night, watching the Jason movies on Showtime, you'll know how exciting this particular chance meeting was for me. To get to see Jason Voorhees live and in action was a thrill beyond anything I have ever experience on a set visit. As one of the friendly journalists that tagged along with me noted, it was kind of like being at a KISS concert in the mid-70s, during their heyday. Every time Jason sprang into action, I could feel us all wanting to applaud. As there was a PA in attendance whose job it was to yell "Shoosh!" We kept our adulation down to a barely audible murmur. But the genuine energy that bounced off our skin was electric, and you could feel it all around us. Any doubts about a Friday the 13th remake being worthy of its predecessors were quickly hushed. The film looks like a true retelling of an old classic, awesome in its sure magnitude and ability to entertain every gore hound on the block. Believe me, I don't speak that lightly.
Shooting was taking place in Austin Texas, just passed Round Rock. Camp Crystal Lake is actually a front for a place called The Old Settlers Association. I'm guessing that they picked it because there are genuine log cabins littered about the courtyard, and upon first sight, it certainly feels like a wooded summer camp as seen in one of Jason's earlier films. We arrived at dusk, and the critters soon broke out in their chirping night song. The bugs were out in full force as well. After being bit about twenty times, one of the PAs was nice enough to bring us some Bug-Be-Gone. It didn't quite do the trick, but the itch was an irritation I soon forgot all about after spying an overturned bus in a ditch. We were told that this would be the scene and site of Jason's carnage for the night. But before we could watch him swing that machete, we'd have to first talk with Platinum Dune head honchos, and the producers of this exciting film in the making, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. I know you don't really like horror movies, Mom, but you might remember that these guys were the ones responsible for breathing new life into Leatherface with 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
After being handed a tasty tuna melt sandwich, I was ushered into the mess hall. Here, Brad and Andrew greeted us with smiles. They seemed happy to see us. And were quite excited about sharing their ideas behind this new Friday the 13th with our group. They wanted to make sure we knew it wasn't an origin story. This isn't a flat out remake of the first Friday The 13th either. Jason is grown, and mommy Pamela will only be appearing in flashbacks. Voorhees lives in the woods, feeding off of raccoons and using a series of underground tunnels to seemingly get ahead of his victims. He starts off the movie with a bag on his head, ala 1981's Friday the 13th Part 2. He will later trade it up for the hockey mask. The how and why this happens is explained in great, gruesome detail throughout the course of the film's plot. Which I'm not allowed to reveal here.
The tone of Friday the 13th will be lighter than the previous Platinum Dunes offerings. But, that said, I doubt you will be able to sit through it. While Jason doesn't torture his victims, he does kill them in gloriously brutal fashion. There will be thirteen on-screen deaths in all. And they are each new twists on old kills seen in the previous Friday flicks. Both Andrew and Brad promised that this latest effort would end on a pretty sound note. Despite what has been said in the past, they are not trying to set this up as a franchise. It comes to a logical conclusion that does not leave Jason tied to a chain at the bottom of Crystal Lake, or see him turning into a child that is flushed into the sewer system. If there is one film they could compare it to, it would be First Blood. Because Jason comes on a lot like John Rambo, all Meta in the woods and ready to right the wrongs that have been forced upon his head. I know that you don't like "Rambo" either, so I doubt Dad will be taking you to this particular outing on Valentine's Day (which is the day after its release).
About the "sex equals death" metaphoric scenario that is so much apart of this particular franchise's mythology? It's still here, but we won't see anyone getting knifed while they bone a pretty co-Ed (that's not too graphic for you, is it, Ma?) Apparently, sex and violence together in one go is something the MPAA frowns upon. So it will go something like this: Sex, death, drugs, beer, sex, death. The end. There are a lot of stoners in the movie. At this point in filming, they are all dead. I guess they couldn't pull themselves off the couch to save their skin. As Brad Fuller tells it, "We are doing everything we're not supposed to be doing here!" It's pretty obvious that they are going to break some of this particular genre's rules.
After talking to the two producers, we were walked down to the overturned bus. Here's an interesting bit of trivia for you. According to the smoke machine man (that's the guy who blows fake smoke into the bus window), this was the same vehicle used in the Tommy Lee Jones comedy Man of the House. During the Mexican Border raid. I haven't seen it, but I thought you'd like to know that. Since you are a big fan of Tommy Lee Jones. And have probably watched that movie a dozen times or more. (I stood inside that bus, mom!)
The vehicle was all rusted out and gutted. Maybe one seat bench was still connected to the floor near the back. A fellow journalist joked that Chris McCandless was still stuck, rotting in there somewhere. Tasteless, I know. But funny none the less (don't roll your eyes at me). One of the producers chimed in, "McCandless' skeleton actually plays a pretty important role in the scene we are shooting tonight." True? Or not true? You be the judge. Anyway, the scene being shot was a massive fight sequence between Jason and Clay, played by that handsome devil Jared Padalecki. Yup, He's on that awesome CW show Supernatural that you love so much. As the story goes, some kids have been crawling around inside this abandoned bus, and Jason is getting ready to take them out. Machete style. Pretty cool. And we got to watch it all go down. Apparently, one of the underground tunnels Jason uses to get around the campgrounds comes up and out through this old bus. I'm telling you, neat as shit sticks. And suddenly, with these secret tunnels, his supernatural powers are all starting to make sense. No wonder he's able always be in front of his victims at any given moment in time.
Standing down by the bus at this time was Jason (aka Derek Mears). A PA handed him a mini-fan for use in cooling down his rubber skin. The PA then shot a mean glance at our group, "No tickling! No hugging! Please, stay off the man!" Mears smiled, looking a little too creepy with his dead Jason eye and his stringy hair. The bus lay on its side with two ladders leading up to the top. There was moss and mud clinging to its side. Soon, we'd get to see a brawl up there. Everyone stood around, waiting and watching. The bugs bit the shit out of my flesh. I noticed Jason applying some Bug-Be-Gone spray. Finally, a weakness was spotted in his armor. You can electrocute the god-beast. Shoot him, stab him, cook him, and drown him. But the only thing that irks the man is a pesky mesquite bite.
Which got me thinking. Couldn't a mesquite bite Jason? And then some scientist in a lab could find his DNA encased in ember? Bring him back to life? Build a Jurassic Park around him? People could try to win money by staying the night in the park and living until morning. It's a reality show. Oh, I know you don't want to hear my ridiculous ideas. If that was at all cool, it would have been done already.
Mears called us over just as special make-up effects supervisor Scott Stoddard arrived on set with "the" mask. That's right, the actual hockey mask that Jason will be wearing in the film. He had it in a locked metal case. And it was quite a big deal when he opened it up. There it was. In all its glory. Perfection. Dirty, beat-up, off-white with the right red markings on the forehead and the cheeks. It is the mask we know and remember. Iconic and subtle. Stoddard nailed it! The mask is perfect in its glory. And we each got to hold it. As it was passed around, Stoddard also produced Jason's machete, which had a very real, sharp blade. The thing was twice as long as any incarnation before it. The wooden handle was wrapped in rotting black duct tape. He let us all hold this as well. And I must say, it was quite a thrill. I so badly wanted to swing it around. Maybe lop off a head or two (just joshin' Mom, you know I wouldn't do that!).
After playing with Jason's favorite things for a minute or two, the killer was called to the set. He climbed up the stepladder and stood on top of the bus. The image quickly burned itself into my brain, and it was nearly as exciting as seeing Jesus in his heyday (I know, Mom! Blasphemous, but true). Jared Padalecki met the hulking beast atop the vehicle, and the two proceeded to duke it out. The vibe rushing through the thick night air was not unlike a Pearl Jam concert or a trip to see the WWE in action. I moved in for a closer look. That's when Brad Fuller grabbed me and one other journalist and ushered us to the back end of the bus. He escorted us inside, and it was there that I saw the coolest shit I've ever seen on a set visit.
Standing inside the overturned bus, I was able to watch Jason take Jared Padalecki's head and smash it through one of the windows numerous times. I was pressed tight against the cameraman, and we watched together as candy glass showered everything around us. It felt as though we were in a shark cage, actually watching this vicious attack take place. The moment was palpable and sticky. Being a true horror aficionado and a life long Friday the 13th fan, I can honestly say this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I'm glad I didn't pass up. I love Sam just as much as the next CW fan, but I experienced a great joy in watching him receive a concussion.
After this brutal beating was captured on film in all of its glory, Jason stepped down from the bus to take a bow. Everyone applauded, even Jared, who seemed to be doing okay. As a parting gift, Mr. Voorhees came over to and took photos with each of us. My favorite picture of the evening found Jason hugging Devin Faraci of Chud. Afterwards, we sat down to eat dinner in one of the cabins, and it was truly hilarious to see Jason Voorhees trying to scoop macaroni salad out of a big dish. I wish that moment could have made it into the final film.
That's it for me. Take care, Mom
Your son, Paulington