Whoever said "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" obviously never worked in the movie business, because there certainly is such a thing as a free lunch, as I've experienced on many occasions. The best part about these free lunches is, usually, you get to have them with actors or directors or other movie folk, which is exactly what happened when I went down to the Paramount lot for a press lunch with some of the folks that brought us Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood and Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Both of these films - the last of the series that Paramount produced - are being released in new Deluxe Editions on September 15 and I was invited down to the Paramount lot for a lunch with actors Kane Hodder, who played Jason Voorhes in both films, VC Dupree, who played the cocky Julius in Part VIII along with Part VII director John Carl Buechler and the man behind these wonderful Deluxe Edition discs, DVD producer Dan Farrands. Here's what this group of Friday the 13th veterans had to say about the films and these new Deluxe Editions.
Can you just talk about the process of revisiting these movies for these new DVD editions?
John Carl Buechler: The one thing that had plagued me about this particular movie is the - in post-production - the overall compromise of makeup effects that we shot. That has everything to do with, I suppose, not just that I was directing the movie, but I have a big background in makeup effects, so that aspect always kind of bothered me. I started knowing that going into it it was really an issue that the ratings board would have at that time; I think they gave an Alan Alda movie almost an X rating for saying "f*ck you" once. We kind of knew that was going on, so we went more for a big mechanical effects look as well as a makeup effects look, but as far as I'm concerned, horror is like telling a joke: there's the setup, the anticipation of it, and then there's the payoff, and the payoff is a nice, juicy makeup effect. We shot it and we kept submitting it and they kept saying you've got to change it, to the point where it basically castrated the punchline for most of these setups. But when you say revisiting, I'm pretty proud of the film; I think the fact that we had a full-blown subplot of a telekinetic girl kicking Jason's butt was lots of fun. I got to do a lot of cool stuff with the makeup effects - we designed and engineered something that I thought was unique at the time - the mandible jaw of Jason that was protruding out from the mask and the animatronic suit with the prosthetic spine, that was all just fun stuff that we got to do, and the fact that we got a great guy inside of it to play the role, we both were of a single mind. We wanted this to be a more energetic, more dynamic version of the character than we had seen before, and I think we accomplished that.
Why did a lot of the footage from your movie disappear, the extra footage, when on Part VIII there is more bonus footage?
John Carl Buechler: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that ours was one of the single fastest movies ever made. I had my signed deal to make the movie in January, and it was in the theaters May 13th.
Kane Hodder: Principal photography, the last day, was like March 8th or something.
John Carl Buechler: So I never got to make my cut with my music, my effects track, everything. We were submitting to the ratings board the movie cut to picture with very simple temp tracks, and music that wasn't going to be what it was, just to get the rating. And I think we submitted it 13 times, and we got 12 X [ratings].
Kane Hodder: The main reason I was excited they were going to rerelease VII and VIII - which, you guys know I did four of them - I was told we might get the footage that was cut for Part VII. It's the thing that the fans ask me the most - where are those scenes? Why couldn't we see them? We were able to get it for this. The quality is not great, which you need to expect, but just the fact that you can see what we really did - especially with the head squeeze! That was the best kill in that movie, and you saw almost nothing of it. There's five major kills that you get to see how it really was, even the original sleeping bag.
John Carl Buechler: If somehow we could take the footage from Part VII and [reprocess] it digitally to get back to where it should be, remix it and do the sound effects, that would be the best. You could rerelease that movie now. I'd love to do a Friday the 13th Part VII Volume 2, and be allowed to actually do all of the stuff and revisit those characters.
Kane, did Part VII have the most stunts for you?
Kane Hodder: Absolutely, by far the most stunts for me, because the girl had telekinetic powers and was making things happen to me. Usually I was doing stuff to other people, except for when VC beat my ass on top of the roof (in Part VII), normally, everything happens to the victims. In Part VII, I was on the roof, I was on fire, falling through the stairs and going through walls. Yeah, that's why it was fun and I think that's why John insisted on me playing the character. He fought a big battle to have me cast.
John Carl Buechler: Yeah. Initially they didn't want Kane. He was too small, or something, but I had to make the point to Frank Mancuso Jr. that I wanted to do something different. I want to, first of all, what you see of Jason is going to be more unique than you've ever seen him before. He is going to appear like a larger character than you've ever seen him before, because he's going to be a living, breathing make-up effect from head to toe. The thing with make-up, not CGI but make-up, you can't subtract anything, you have to add. So to have a person of Kane's stature to begin with is great, but you add on to that and then you can start carving pieces out and show things are missing. He wasn't convinced verbally. We actually shot test footage. You were throwing your buddy Alan all over a warehouse in downtown Hollywood, and I wish I could find that footage.
Kane Hodder: That's the one thing I was hoping they would be able to find, was that screen test, basically. It was a half-assed version of the costume, hockey mask. ...[But] also you get to see the original ending of Part VII, which is kind of very similar to the first movie, the way it ended. The same guy that I pull out of the rowboat is the guy that helped me on the screen test that John was talking about.
When you were working on Part VIII, was there ever talk about two movies, Jason on the boat and Jason in New York?
Kane Hodder: No, but I have gotten a lot of feedback from fans and that's the only reason they didn't really care for the movie - if they didn't. Most people liked it, but if they didn't, it was [because] it was too much on the boat and not enough in New York. The scenes we did in Times Square were the single most amazing thing I've ever experienced in film - being in Times Square in the full costume, and I'm not exaggerating, hundreds of people held back by barriers and police watching. We had to shoot certain angles so we wouldn't see the crowd, and they were just amazingly excited that we were there. I never took the mask off because I just wanted to stay in character, and I'd stare at them and they would start cheering.
Kane, these were the last two Friday the 13th films that Paramount did, so can you talk about the differences between doing the last two Paramount films compared to that other studio?
Kane Hodder: Certainly Paramount took it much more seriously to make a very serious and a scary and fun movie. Once it left it wasn't called Friday the 13th anymore, for one thing, until recently, and to me it just seemed that people cared more when it was here at Paramount.
John Carl Buechler: I think a lot of it had to do with Frank Mancuso Jr. leaving, because he shepherded it through the Paramount years.
The Blu-ray releases of these films are staggered, so does that give you time to find other stuff for the Blu-ray discs?
Dan Farrands: It's an option. We haven't officially discussed the Blu-rays of the last set, from IV through VIII; there's been some talk but we haven't had any official discussions. But yeah, there would be more room on the Blu-ray discs, so maybe there's an opportunity to find more material. A lot of this depends on how the DVDs sell, and what the fan reaction is, but there's always interest in doing more. If there's more to be found, they will give it to us; I know for a fact they weren't holding back on, like, let's reserve this for Blu-ray. They never took that attitude, and if it was there, we put it in.
Has there been any talk of restoring footage for Blu-ray?
Dan Farrands: Nobody's talked about restoring anything yet, and again there's been no official discussion about doing Blu-rays of these. I'm assuming they are pending, but like I said, I don't have that information right now.
Why are there no trailers? The teaser for Part VIII is awesome.
Dan Farrands: I know. There was talk about putting the trailer on for Part VIII, but I don't remember what specifically happened with that. We could not either find it or there was some problem about putting it on. We talked about trailers for all of them and maybe some made it over and some didn't. We did everything we could within that time frame, so we tried.
Is that footage on Part VII a full workprint?
John Carl Buechler: Yeah, it was. But it was actually an assembly that I made prior to doing additional photography, so even if that were restored and you found that negative, it still wouldn't be the whole movie. You would have to put back the new stuff that we shot.
So, VC, how often to you have people come up to you and ask you about the rooftop kill in Part VIII?
Vincent Craig "VC" Dupree: People just have a lot of love for that particular kill, and as Kane and I were just talking about, the fact that I'm one of the only black guys who's like made it towards the end of the movie [is significant], so the response from it is really cool. More recently I started doing these conventions, and I didn't realize how much love people had out there for that kill.
Kane Hodder: It's one of the kills that I'd done that fans talked about the most. In fact, I was just in Atlanta at DragonCon and a guy came up and was talking about that kill. He says, "do you know how many times he punched you before you knocked his head off?" I said no. "Sixty-six!" The guy knew that. Then I was looking at them and it was hard to count because he was throwing body punches really fast. I'm not kidding - he was hitting me. I had a catcher's pad on.
Vincent Craig "VC" Dupree: I was asking Kane, so are we going for this? And he's just like, what are you going to do? And just like he was saying in New York how there were all of the people behind the barricades and stuff like that, I don't know how many people it was, but out of the apartment buildings that were adjacent to the rooftop, [it was like] those Where's Waldo books; you would literally see curtains and heads, and the director was like, get down! It was just the energy of all those people, and then just realizing what we were actually doing.
VC, on the DVD you said you didn't know it was a Friday the 13th film?
Vincent Craig "VC" Dupree: I think the first script I read was [called] Burial At Sea, or Ashes To Ashes. It was going to be one of my first leads in a film, it was going to be shot out of town, they were paying me, and I was going to fight this monster. I guess they had the name changed from Jason Voorhees to Ethan Deerborn; Crystal Lake was changed to something else, just so you could plug the letters in there. As I said on the DVD, I was in the lounge area just before you board, and this actress, Kelly Hu, came in and was like "Oh my Gosh, I'm so excited." "Me too, girl, me too." "Oh, a Friday the 13th," and I'm like, "Well, we must not be shooting the same movie. I'm going up here to shoot Ashes To Ashes." And then, slowly two and two came together and I was like, wow, okay, this is a little different. So I found out on my way up to Vancouver what we were doing.
What's next for all of you?
Kane Hodder: I did a few episodes of a web series for Fearnet called Fear Clinic with Robert Englund and Danielle Harris. It starts airing October 26th, and I'm very excited about it because Robert and I have done a lot of movies together, but never a scene, and we get a face-off scene where there's this almost like a Freddy versus Jason thing. And, we're looking to do the sequel to Hatchet, and then I did coordinate the stunts in a movie called Frozen with Adam Green up in Utah. That's going to be a very good movie, I think. It's a thriller.
John Carl Buechler: I'm getting ready to remake a film that I did back in 1985. It's been a quest to get where I'm at, but I'm moving ahead November 1 on the picture, and we're going to start shooting in February. It's going to be here. It may be in Baton Rouge; I'm not sure because there's a lot of reasons to do it in town, because parts of it are in San Francisco, and I want to shoot San Francisco for San Francisco this time instead of with weird matte paintings. It's a little movie called Troll that is likely to be fairly controversial when I do it; that's part of the reason why some of the hurdles that I've been jumping through to get the movie financially secure have been what they've been. But it is now quite financially secure and I've got everything in place, so we're going to make some major announcements with regard to cast and other specifics. We plan to reunite some of the original cast, but in cameos. I've talked to Annie [Lockhart] and I've talked to Noah [Hathaway] and there are folks that are very interested; one person will reprise their role and that will be Phil Fondacaro. But the character of the troll is going to be played completely by someone else, a person of great stature, because we see Torok before he becomes a troll, and we see him after he transforms back into the person that he was. He also plays the personality and the voice of the troll.
Remaking your own film puts you in some limited company.
John Carl Buechler: Yeah, me and Cecil B. DeMille. I think the remake promises to be so much better than the original, and I have so much passion for it that there was no other alternative but I gotta direct it. I know that I can bring to it what I wanted to initially, but I was very much surprised the first time around with a radical budget cut a month before shooting. We had to sort of change our whole approach from a more serious, darker kind of a project into, well, we can't really show it so we have to talk about it, so we have to play it more for laughs now. The first film, I think it's fine as it is in terms of it is a campy little kids film, but now I don't have to make it that way. But because of the existence of the first movie there has to be some of that aspect in there as well. So it's a hybrid of tone; it's still going to have some of the humor but it's going to be more ironic as opposed to winking at the camera. I won't have to play it light. I mean, on the first one I got ten percent of what those things were capable of, so now I've got more money, I've got more time, and what I can't do physically with animatronics and prosthetics, I'll do CGI. It will have a variation on [the musical number]; not the same way, but the way it was envisioned. I think the way I intend to use the music now, it's more of a march, and it's an army. The music was written before we shot the sequence, obviously, and there were different plans in making that film; one was the budget that I thought I had and then the budget that I knew I had, and taking all of the things I'd done in prep and try to [do them]. You ever hear the expression where you got a ten-pound bag and 20 pounds of material to stuff into it? I had like 50 pounds of material to stuff into it. So I did what I could with what I had.
You can relive some of the most memorable moments in the Friday the 13th franchise when Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood and Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan hit the DVD shelves in brand new Deluxe Editions, which are jam-packed with special features, on September 15.