Waxwork is a childhood favorite of so many who grew up with it in the height of the video era—and for good reason. For kids introduced to horror through the relatively tame Universal Classic Monsters, maybe moving onto something like The Monster Squad after that, Waxwork is the perfect next step. It brings together nearly all the great monsters while modernizing things in great, goofy, gory glory. Anthony Hickox both treats the material seriously and embraces its sheer campiness in almost equal doses. Thanks to the recent Vestron Blu-ray release, it is being introduced to a bigger audience than ever.
Because of this cult audience it has amassed over the years, so many fans have suggested Waxwork as one of those rare horror movies that could benefit from a remake. Most of the comments are exactly the same: they believe that it should naturally be done by bringing in the iconic “modern” monsters of the ‘70s and ‘80s instead of simply reusing the timeless classics.
What these fans don’t realize, however, is how close we actually came to getting something like that in the first place.
Waxwork was never meant to include every current horror icon of the time in which it was made, but it was at one point going to at least include one—none other than Friday the 13th’s signature villain, Jason Voorhees!
For Waxwork fans, this was a rumor that had persisted for a very long time. I had always heard that Jason was in the original script, but was eventually taken out and replaced with another monster. The way it had always been described, Jason was meant to appear when Jonathon went over to the Waxwork to look for China and the others, only to be “fed” to the Phantom of the Opera. In the scene, Jonathon stops to see the wax figure and has a kind of fan boy reaction, recognizing the mask from the movie Curse of the Opera. David Warner’s Mr. Lincoln pauses, surprised, to say “They made a movie about the Phantom of the Opera?” And Jonathan replies, “Several.”
This scene makes no sense in its finished form in the film. Jonathan is a full-on jock, an established meathead and it’s a surprise for him to know much of anything about the Phantom of the Opera. But this absolutely seems like a guy who would have eagerly taken in whatever Friday the 13th was currently playing that weekend.
If you replace the Phantom with Jason in that scene, it makes perfect sense. All of that dialogue that doesn’t match up is immediately believable if Jonathan’s marveling at a hockey mask instead of the Phantom’s mask, or if Lincoln’s shockingly asking “They made a movie about the Crystal Lake killings?” Or something along those lines.
When looking at that scene and hearing that Jason was supposed to appear in it instead, it’s a no-brainer. It could also be completely wrong.
I actually looked up the original script and in that, Jason is nowhere to be found. He is definitely not present in the Phantom of the Opera sequence, which is written exactly the same way in the script as it appears in the finished film. But, not every monster that appears in the movie appears in that script, either. There were so many creatures featured in the waxwork and in the huge finale that didn’t get their own standout sequence, many of which were devised by Bob Keen and his FX crew during production.
From the Invisible Man, Frankenstein’s monster, to even Audrey II and the baby from It’s Alive, there are famous monsters all over Waxwork. It’s the Ready Player One of ‘80s horror flicks.
Yet there are several times when the camera will cut away to a generic woodsman holding an ax. He’s got nothing to do with anything, he’s not even a loose parody of a particular monster, so he seems a little out of place whenever he appears. He seems, at the very least, to be a simple stand-in for the generic 1980s slasher villain. It’s entirely possible that this could have been Jason, had he originally been meant to be included in the film.
But if Jason doesn’t actually appear in the script, how have fans known about his possible appearance for so long? The answer is pretty simple. To coincide with the film’s release, a comic adaptation of Waxwork was released by a small company named Blackthorne Press. Running only a single issue, the comic was available in both a standard and 3D version—this was sort of standard practice at the time; both Fright Night and Freddy’s Dead saw their own 3D comics as well, the latter in attempt to faithfully adapt that film’s finale.
Not only does Jason appear in the comic adaptation of Waxwork, he specifically appears in the Phantom of the Opera scene, as the rumor had always suggested. In this version, China is the one to ask if that mask is the same one from the movies, with Lincoln referring to the villain by name as he responds, “Films were made about the Jason killings?”
Jason makes several other appearances in the comic as well, right from the opening sequence. Instead of the homeless man being presumably murdered by Lincoln at the beginning, as he was in the film, he stumbles onto a wax figure of Jason and winds up getting his head split open by Jason’s trusty machete.
Jason also appears in the huge battle royale at the end, when all of the wax figures are brought to life during the grand finale. Whether any of these scenes are representative of where or when Jason was supposed to appear in the movie is completely unclear. As to why he didn’t appear, that is still open to some debate… but it’s probably pretty obvious.
Most of the classic characters that appear in Waxwork are public domain, with the designs of characters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster changed so as not to infringe on Universal copyright, similarly to The Monster Squad. Other characters are visual references, maybe looking similar enough to be recognizable, but are not mentioned by name. Jason, however, was a very popular, modern, and most importantly trademarked horror icon at the time. He was very much owned by Paramount, and any major changes to his design would not have believably been the same character.
We did reach out to director Anthony Hickox to confirm that he does think Jason was considered, at least briefly, for either the first or second movie. But with those standing copyright issues in place, it’s easy to understand why he never actually made it into the film. If he would have had to appear wearing a mask similar to the one on the VHS cover for A New Beginning or a generic-brand hockey mask instead of the one we all know and love, it’s probably better that his appearance never came to fruition.
But one way or another, thanks to his lengthy guest appearance in the comic book adaptation, Jason Voorhees will forever be a part of the Waxwork legacy.