The Decade That Killed a Horror Franchise
Out of everything the 2010s brought us, a new Friday the 13th film was unfortunately left out.
By M.T. Bates
As we wave goodbye to the 2010s, we can look back on some great horror gems. The Witch and Train to Busan were peak excellence in the world of horror, while the slightly-confusing but overly-satisfying Halloween sequel still delivered the goods. I could bombard you with a list of movies from the decade but let’s face it, every horror website out there has done that already.
What we didn’t get, however, is something that had been almost an assured staple of the last three decades. To think that since the 1980s we never thought we would go a few years, let alone an entire decade, without something we need—something we crave. Something every true horror fan feels in their bones is necessary. To go an entire decade without everyone’s favorite machete enthusiast and mama’s boy, Jason Voorhees, is a reality we never thought we would live in.
Yet here we are. It’s 2020 and if you scan over releases from the previous decade, you will find no trace of a Friday the 13th movie. No sign of the cabin-stalking Jason Voorhees making short work of unsuspecting teenagers. How did we come to this after a three-decade presence?
A slasher franchise that started in 1980 honestly has no purpose still being around. The ‘80s spawned an insane number of cheap and sleazy slasher films, some receiving multiple sequels and others living on as only a single beloved entity. The 1980s should really be called the slasher decade, because once the ‘90s hit, the craze died down and only lived on in more modern takes of the genre like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
From 1981 to 1988, though, seven sequels to the original Friday the 13th came to life. Just think about that for a second. It was a time when eight films in this property were spawned. We don’t even have to account for the other major franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. Eight movies in a single decade. Times were good for the Voorhees family, but like a sports dynasty, nothing lasts forever.
By the time the ‘90s rolled around, the franchise and genre in general had become stale. Somehow, the ‘80s felt like a bygone era already. There was no longer room for those traditional cookie-cutter formulaic Friday the 13th movies. Enter Jason Goes to Hell in 1993, probably the most disliked sequel of the franchise for most, but for anyone who knows me, you know that I adore the film. This single entry in the decade pretty much did send Jason to Hell. It was too bold, too out there, and way too weird for conventional fans at the time. Hell, even I didn’t like it until I became an adult.
From a decade of eight films, we somehow shifted into a decade of a single entry. Many thought that was going to be it. How do you come back from a showing like that? The franchise laid dormant for nearly 8 years, the longest gap in franchise history at that point. Most fans, I think, had given up and lost hope about Jason making a return, at least until word got out that the wait would be over in 2001.
A new decade, a new millennium, and a whole new Jason. Jason X was the first entry of the 2000s and officially was the end to the original timeline of films. The movie wasn’t very good and at the end of the day, they wrote themselves into a corner. Jason Goes to Hell was one thing, but this film was just a mess of epic proportions that left the franchise literally nowhere else to go. The movie didn’t technically flop, but it didn’t make much money either. What it did do, however, was bring Jason back into the minds of everyone. New Line realized this and decided to capitalize on it rather quickly.
Two years later, 2003 brought us a horror event unlike any to date and a matchup a decade in the making, ever since the ending of Jason Goes to Hell. Finally, fans would see who would reign supreme in Freddy vs. Jason! This film had an impressive haul and more than tripled its production budget. We are talking a top-40 domestic moneymaker in 2003, which I might add was a blockbuster year for cinema.
The man behind the mask was back on top in the world of horror. No longer would his machete have dry blood on it. This was—well, it should have been—the franchise’s rebirth. Fans loved the film and it made money, so you would naturally think that sequels in some capacity would be fast-tracked for 2005 at least.
The reality gave us not a sequel, but rather a remake. It took nearly 6 years and it would be, to this date, the final entry of a franchise dating back to 1980. The 2009 remake used a familiar formula and pretty much compressed the first four original films into one. It was brutal and scary. Glaring problems aside, such as every single character being intolerable and making you hope for their deaths, it was well-received by fans, who were eager for more. The movie did well at the box office too, bringing in over $90 million on a $19 million budget. A sequel was a sure thing.
The rumors then started swirling about what the sequel was going to be like, the best and most promising being a snowy winter setting. Fans responded and wanted to see this, but years went by and nothing happened. More rumors started popping up as scripts began to be turned in for a new reboot. Eventually, some of those scripts leaked and again nothing came of them. By the time we were halfway through the 2010s, we still had nothing, but that never stopped the rumors.
Finally, fans at least received something with the release of the 2017 video game. It wasn’t a new film, but it was good enough to hold us over until a new movie could be made. This was the push the franchise needed to get back on track and fans everywhere knew it, that is, until the dreaded lawsuit put the brakes on everything. That’s where we are today. A decade later and we have no new film with the rights still tied up in legal drama.
The 2010s were a mess, but through that mess we got some amazing horror films. However, we did not get a new Friday the 13th film. That simple fact alone makes the decade a complete failure. Before all the rights issues came about, there was plenty of time for a movie to be made. Making a Friday the 13th film isn’t some Herculean task, yet a decade has come and gone without Jason Voorhees once stepping foot on the big screen.
We really don’t know what the 2020s will bring for our favorite, lumbering, stab-happy mute, but we aren’t entering the decade with much hope. With the rights battle still ongoing, there is no telling what will land where, but one thing is for sure and that is if we do get a new Friday the 13th film, it won’t be until at least 2021, making the gap 12 years at minimum.
It is sad to see a once-mighty franchise be reduced to this, but it is what it is. Now the 2010s are over and Jason’s dark times have to be behind him at this point… right? We hope so.
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