"I don't want to scare anyone, but I'm gonna give it to you straight about Jason..."
Spiderweb-like fissures creep across a plate of smudged glass. The results of an actor's face being repeatedly smashed against it with brute force. The guy's a circular peg and someone is trying to mash him into a square hole with enraged vigor. Finally, the window yields to this remorseless assault and caves inward, glass raining down onto the lens of the 35mm camera positioned below it. Said face - chiseled, handsome - grimaces in surprise and pain. Our focus hones in beyond the window frame this well-paid actor (who will remain unidentified for now) just got forced through, past his bruised mug and to his assaulter.
"Cut!" bellows Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) in his distinctive German accent. He rushes over to video village to watch this take once more. Studies it. Likes what he sees, but he commands another go at it with little hesitation, "Do it again!" Three more takes follow of Jason smashing his victim's face through the weathered, upended vehicle he perched upon. Pound. Smash. Cut. Reset. Pound. Smash. Cut. Reset. Take one looks like it stung. By take four, we almost feel for the actor on the receiving end of Jason's fury. Almost. Because that hockey mask-covered mama's boy is undoubtedly back and we love watching him do that thing he does so well.
Nispel is the mustached captain of this fearsome U-Boat called Friday the 13th, Platinum Dunes' reboot of the franchise created by Sean Cunningham in 1980. Nearing the end of principal photography, this vessel is still coasting through choppy waters teeming with biting, vocal opinions from a fanbase that has swelled over two decades. They've watched Jason get dragged to hell, soar into space and take the backseat in a "versus" film featuring Freddy Krueger. And they've been patient, watching Platinum's production with skeptical eyes.
Jason X marked the slasher icon's last solo outing, his second whimper without the Friday the 13th moniker due to rights issues since the character leapt sides from Paramount to New Line. And it was rights issues that inevitably held up Platinum Dunes' film for months since producers Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and Michael Bay announced their intentions in 2006 to give the franchise an overhaul as they had done to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is, until there was a break in the storm clouds looming over Crystal Lake. In late '07, Platinum, Paramount and New Line agreed to cooperate and Mark Swift and Damian Shannon - the team awarded the writing duties on Freddy vs. Jason, another long-gestating project - sold Platinum Dunes on their idea and were ushered in to hammer out a script before the WGA strike.
"We were looking for a story - for lack of a better word - that was really fun," Fuller explains to ShockTillYouDrop.com at the outset of another night's-worth of shooting on the Austin, Texas location (substituting for New Jersey). "We felt a lot of the horror movies, including our own, were so dreary that we wanted to take a step away from that and bring in the horror, which you have to have, and bring in some great characters and funny, amusing situations. Out of all the writers we met with [Mark and Damian] were the only ones that had a handle on that portion of the movie. But the kids you go on this journey with are so fun and are a blast to be around."
Lining up for the slaughter: Amanda Righetti (Return to House on Haunted Hill), Danielle Panabaker (Mr. Brooks), Travis Van Winkle (Asylum) and Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) amongst others. On the leading man tip, Supernatural's Jared Padalecki (also of House of Wax) drops the Winchester surname to play Clay, a knife-totin', motorcycle-riding fella searching for his sister who has gone missing in the Crystal Lake area.
Elsewhere, Padalecki's Supernatural co-star, Jensen Ackles, is off breaking hearts with Harry Warden in Lionsgate's My Bloody Valentine remake. Padalecki, sitting by our side watching video playback with the producers, recognizes he's got the better end of the deal. "Jensen's in Pennsylvania now. I totally get the cooler bad guy [to fight]. He's doing 3-D so all of his imperfections will be hard to ignore," he laughs, joking. "All of his imperfections, I don't want to sound like... I'm saying if I was in 3-D I'd be much more worried, but here I am on a flat screen, I get to hide easy."
Evasion is a tough thing to come by on a Friday the 13th film, especially with a new man behind the hockey mask whose one lean mofo and familiar with body count entertainment. Much to chagrin of some fans, Jason staple Kane Hodder is not returning, in fact, he was never considered. Instead, the astonishingly polite Derek Mears (The Hills Have Eyes 2) is donning the Jason duds including his "bag head" visage, just one of the many nods Shannon and Swift make to Friday installments 1 - 3.
"On this one, we're basically taking it and starting it over and integrating things," explains Fuller. Form continues, "This one was hard, because on Texas Chainsaw Massacre it was a reboot of the original. On this one, everyone knows Jason didn't put on the mask until the third movie. I would say that most of the audience that will come see this movie doesn't know that, so most people think Jason was in the first one, most people we've talked to, the younger audience."
"We tried to take elements from all three [of the first] movies to create one reboot of Friday the 13th," he continues. "You will see Jason put on the hockey mask for the first time, how and why. And you'll see him actually do it. Not just come out with it on."
Form and Fuller insist their Friday is not an origin story and it was never their goal to present one. "The goal is to put a group of kids in Crystal Lake and have them meet Jason Voorhees and along the way you get a sense of the history," says Fuller. Also imperative, that the film look great. Assisting with that task is cinematographer Daniel Pearl (of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the original and remake) lurches uphill and our way to discuss with Form and Fuller the next few set-ups covering Jason's mayhem.
Behind him, Mears - with the help of makeup FX artist Scott Stoddard - is removing his hockey mask. Big ol' devilish schoolboy grin on his face. The actor he's put through a window takes a well-deserved break. And we continue to beam in delight, like kids at a KISS concert, because we've still got so much to share from the set.
Friday the 13th opens in theaters on Friday, February 13, 2009. Keep it here for a full set report and more interviews soon.
Here's an on-set photo of Jared Padalecki on a motorcycle from SF Universe:
This sounds like it's going to be so much fun. I can't wait.