Friday the 13th was fresh from closing out the Tommy Jarvis trilogy. With box office receipts on a decline, producers began scrambling to find ways to inject some “New Blood” (wink – wink) into the next installment. There were certainly no signs of stopping the money making machine that was Jason Voorhees. Afterall, Paramount was still able to rake in a tidy enough profit on Jason Lives with total grosses around $19 million off a $3 million budget. Now those tallies weren’t nearly as impressive as the numbers ol’ Fred Krueger was pulling in over at New Line. While we eventually were gifted the seventh entry in the long-running slasher franchise, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, it took two more years to get there. Every film previously (except for Part 3 which was delayed due to the difficult 3D technology) had been released annually like clockwork. But, the filmmakers were keen on delivering a better film than the last couple of entries. And, with dollar signs in their eyes, the idea of Freddy vs. Jason was born.
Due to constant back and forth negotiations with execs, it was another two years before another Friday made it to the screen. As we all know, FvJ certainly was not the next installment in the series, that wouldn’t happen for another 15 years. Left to brainstorm ideas, a new producer to the franchise, Barbara Sachs, wanted to simply lift the plot from Jaws, replacing the great white with the machete-wielding mama’s boy. This version would’ve seen a relentless tycoon seeking to keep the legend of Voorhees hush in order to build a series of condos on the old grounds of Camp Crystal Lake. While that would’ve been a sufficient enough plot to hang a Friday film, it was screenwriter Daryl Haney who pointed out that Jason always winds up toe-to-toe with a lone heroine, but what if she just so happened to have telekinetic powers?
Everyone felt it was an intriguing idea to get behind. While they might not be able to pit Jason against Freddy, they could essentially have the Crystal Lake slasher take on Carrie…all without infringing upon any copyrights. It was a win-win for sure. Now, with a plot on lock, the search for director began, and the overachieving nature of Sachs first reared it’s confounding head. Barbara Sachs was working closely with Frank Mancuso in a supervisory role on “Friday the 13th: The Series,” when she was brought on as Associate Producer for both VII and VIII. Sachs felt that the film could be elevated, better than any previous entries. The rumors state not only did she try to secure highbrow directors such as Fredrico Fellini(!), but the young producer felt there was a possibility of even securing an Academy Award for the production. Now, obviously, neither of these things was ever going to happen (though, a Fellini Friday would be VERY interesting). And if such delusions of grandeur are to be believed (they could easily be rumors or quotes out of context), Sachs was wholly unprepared for the world of the “Dead Teenager” film she was stepping into to.
With that in mind, it comes as little surprise that Sachs and the director finally chosen for the film, John Carl Buechler, had difficulty seeing eye to eye. Buechler was no stranger to low budget productions, hailing from the Z-grade world of Charles Band and Full Moon. He got his start directing one of the fragmented segments of the quasi-anthology The Dungeonmaster, before moving onto Troll and Cellar Dweller. While he had just the right kind of experience for the project, Buechler is no Felini. Sachs objected to many of the decisions the filmmaker was planning.
She didn’t want to show Jason’s face, so Buechler just shot the scenes one day when she wasn’t around. Sachs disapproved of the makeup used to represent Tina’s father rising from Crystal Lake at the film’s climax. While footage of the original makeup was filmed, during reshoots the actor was replaced by…well, just the actor without any sign of decomposition from floating at the murky bottom of the lake for all these years. Of course, Sachs and Buechler weren’t the only two to butt heads on set.
The film moved into production under the mystery title Birthday Bash, filmed in and around Bay Minette, Alabama. The fake title was meant to dissuade any looky-loos who may have tried to storm the set if they’d caught wind of a new Jason flick filming in their backyard. The moniker didn’t fool lead actress Lar Park-Lincoln (the telekinetic Tina) or her boyfriend who saw immediately through the ruse. It was clear she’d been offered the new Friday film. As a huge fan, he begged his fiance to take the role. Unfortunately, the casting of her co-lead Kevin Spirtas (Nick) did not lend itself to a match made in heaven. The two actors reportedly had a tumultuous relationship. Lar wasn’t known for her welcoming aura amongst the rest of the cast.
Despite not winning any popularity contests, Buechler was more than happy with his star. Another aspect the director was pleased with were the over the top murder set-pieces designed to keep audiences screaming for more. His previous work as a special effects artist was put to great work on the set. Remember the amazing sleeping bag scene where Jason repeatedly beats the enclosed camper against a tree until a burst of blood stains through the yellow fabric? Or, how about the scene where the film’s human villain, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser of Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s fame), is practically disemboweled? No? Well, those moments sadly only remain to be seen as grainy workprint footage. In the words of Buechler, “The ratings board raped my movie!” Well, MPAA edits are never fun for the filmmakers or fans of slasher films, New Blood appears to be a particularly severe case.
The film had to be submitted seven times to the ratings board in order to secure the more marketable “R”, as opposed to the dreaded “X”. What’s left is an almost bloodless entry into a franchise known for elaborate kill scenes. Buechler further explains the necessity of such moments, “It’s like telling a joke without a punchline.” It’s true, much of the art to a slasher film is around the buildup, each moment slowly leading up to an explosion of blood or viscera. The audience reacts, squealing and laughing in disgust. It’s a cathartic moment that never comes if the camera merely cuts away before the machete makes contact. Yes, there’s always been demand for an Uncut release of Part VII, and who knows? Miracles do happen, but it will most certainly be a miracle the brings these excised moments to a proper release. In the 90s Paramount reportedly destroyed all of the excess footage from the shoot, leaving us with nothing but our horror loving hopes and wishes. For proof of the delightful grue we could’ve had, see below.
Thirty years later and fans are still clamoring for more New Blood! It just goes to show what an enduring legacy has been left by the entire Friday the 13th series, and it’s safe to say a large portion of that fan goodwill gets funneled directly into a certain stunt performer by the name of Kane Hodder. Hodder first donned the iconic hockey mask in VII, and while the film might not be my favorite – there’s no denying the flavor Hodder brought to the role. From his hulking steps and stiff and calculated body movements, the man was born for the role of Jason Voorhees. He went on to continue the role more than any other actor, slicing his way through horny teenagers from Crystal Lake, Hell, and even, Space. For this, we have Buechler to thank. Having been impressed by the stunt actor’s work ethic on the set of Prison, Buechler knew he’d found the perfect man for the job.
In the end, New Blood managed to pull in around $20 million. Not bad, except that bastard of a 100 maniacs, Freddy, far outpaced his hockey-masked nemesis with NOES 4 ringing up close to $50 million that same year.
Friday the 13th Part VII saw release 30 years ago on, duh, Friday the 13th. So, go ahead, pop in your copy of The New Blood, squint your eyes real hard, flick your chin at the screen, and grimace as if you’re really constipated. Maybe, just maybe, if you focus on it hard enough you can telekinetically insert the deleted gore back into the film. So, what if that’s not how telekinesis works!? Tina somehow brought her waterlogged dad back from the dead, so there!