One of the most instantly recognisable horror franchises of all time, Friday the 13th has become an indispensable part of popular culture. Revolving around the terrifying figure of the impenetrable serial killer Jason Vorhees, the films are described by fans as incredibly entertaining experiences which cash in on the most overused clichés of the genre by making them fun.
While looking back on the origins of the wildly successful franchise, co-creator Victor Miller reflected: “Friday the 13th was an absolute mistake of nature. An error in my fate. It was one of those things that you have to be very careful what you pray for. I had set out to be a famous writer, and I forgot to specify comedy, and unfortunately, the fates took over. I had done a whole bunch of screenplays for Sean Cunningham because he lived nearby.”
The entire idea for Friday the 13th came from the unprecedented success of John Carpenter’s seminal slasher masterpiece Halloween. Miller was hoping to exploit the market trends by making a similar slasher, and his aspirations certainly paid off since the entire franchise has earned a staggering worldwide total of $468 million, spawning eleven sequels and cross-overs after the Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 original.
Although both fans and critics love Cunningham’s gem, they rate Joseph Zito’s 1984 sequel as the best addition to the franchise. Described as the quintessential Friday the 13th experience, Zito managed to take all of the tropes which were overused by the previous films and made them feel fresh again.
However, creator Victor Miller still maintains that the franchise went downhill after the first 1980 film despite the obvious commercial success. According to Miller, the sequels were never faithful to his core idea – the revision of the mythology of the mother by making her a serial killer. He insists that making Jason the primary villain was a terrible plan.
Miller explained: “To be honest, I have not seen any of the sequels, but I have a major problem with all of them because they made Jason the villain. I still believe that the best part of my screenplay was the fact that a mother figure was the serial killer—working from a horribly twisted desire to avenge the senseless death of her son, Jason.”
Even though Miller did not return to the series, he commented about what his vision would have been like while going forward with the sequels: “Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim, not a villain. But I took motherhood and turned it on its head and I think that was great fun. Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I’d always wanted—a mother who would have killed for her kids.“