Once Friday the 13th was just a goofy superstition. Something like an urban legend, one that probably dated back to biblical times.
It would still be considered silly today were it not for the series of horror movies that began in 1980, with Friday the 13th. That first movie might have been a one-off, and was made with a B-movie budget and script, but it blew up at the box office and Jason Voorhees, the killer at the center of the story, became a bizarre kind of pop-culture icon.
Everyone's favorite, possibly-supernatural machete-wielding man monster has been at the center of every movie, and Jason's mayhem has drawn fans back into theaters time and again. Call it a fascination with the modern nightmare of the faceless, deadly stranger, call it creepy, call it curiosity about creative uses of garden tools—whatever. People just keep paying to see Jason.
Not every Friday the 13th installment has been a blockbuster. Many of the later movies are even stupider than usual. But the basic story set up in the original as well as the character of Jason are familiar to anyone who ever owned a VHS player in the early '90s. That means you might think you know all you need to know about the movie franchise.
You don't. Read on and see.
13. Famous Film Critic Gene Siskel Doxxed Mrs. Voorhees
Siskel & Ebert really, really hated the original movie. Gene Siskel hated it so much that when he reviewed it for the Chicago Tribune, Siskel dropped a huge spoiler with no warning, then gave the address of the actress who played Jason Voorhees' mother, Betsy Palmer. He wrote that Palmer lived "in the little town of Rowayton, Conn. I'm sure a letter sent to General Delivery there will get to her." Ice cold.
12. The Third Movie in the Series Kicked ET's Ass
Friday the 13th Part III hit theaters in the middle of August 1982. At the time, Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extraterrestrial dominated everything, in spite of being the longest Reese's Pieces commercial in history. The 3D Part III booted the sweet little alien from the top of the box office. By the end of the year the only horror movie pulling in bigger box office money was Poltergeist.
11. Camp Crystal Lake Is Real
Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Hardwick, NJ is still in use today, despite being the set for the original movie. It's a Boy Scout camp with fun stuff like an archery range, well-appointed cabins, and lurking shadows carrying butcher knives. For what it's worth, the Boy Scouts have a sense of humor about the camp's history and you can find movie-related memorabilia on site.
10. Lou Reed Gave the Original Film Crew a Free Concert
The musician owned a farm not far from the camp. Richard Murphy, the first movie's sound guy, said Reed played there "for free, right in front of us." Reed, Murphy said, "came by the set and we hung around with each other and he was just a really great guy.” That's not too hard to believe.
9. Jason Wasn't Supposed to Be the Star
Interviewed for the insanely long Friday the 13th documentary Crystal Lake Memories, Writer Victor Miller tried to clarify his original intentions: Jason Voorhees was just a plot element, nothing more. "Jason was dead from the very beginning," Miller said, "he was a victim, not a villain." So, that didn't work out like expected at all.
8. Jason's Original Name Wasn't Jason
It's hard to extricate the name Jason from the Friday the 13th legacy. Whether in a hood, hockey mask, or lovely two-piece swimsuit (we made that up, we think) he's just Jason. But Victor Miller's first choice for the character's name was pretty blah. That is, we almost saw all those sexing, drugging teens fall victim to JOSH Voorhees. Which would've been all wrong. With that name you'd expect the killer to do his dirty work by drowning people with beer bongs or bludgeoning them with kegs.
7. The Famously Creepy Soundtrack Has Lyrics
Everyone who has seen these movies is familiar with the eerie, breathy voice on the soundtrack whispering, "ki-ki-ki...ma-ma-ma." Those aren't just nonsense syllables; the voice is allegedly Jason as a child, stuttering "Kill, kill, kill...Ma, Ma, Ma." If you remember that Mrs. Voorhees was the villain in the original movie, think of it as the voice in her ear telling her to kill.
6. Mrs. Voorhees Just Needed a New Ride
Betsy Palmer, the actress doxxed by Gene Siskel, really just took the gig to buy a new car. She'd had a reasonably successful career as an actress and journalist up to that point, but horror movies were not her thing. She found herself with a busted car when the opportunity arose to play Pamela Voorhees. Learning it would pay $10,000, she took the money and killed. On screen.
5. Only the Blondes Survive
There's a weird pattern many have noticed in all the Friday the 13th films: If a young woman survives—is the so-called "final girl"—chances are great she'll be a blonde. First movie through maybe 10th or 1000th, the blondes make it out alive. Sometimes to die another day, as happened with the surviving Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) from movie 1, who buys it right away in the second film.
4. Speaking of Alice...
As the star of such a big breakout horror movie, Adrienne King could have been set. A true scream queen of the '80s. But her real life had plenty of horror as well. She acquired a stalker after the movie blew up. She received death threats, and those culminated in an actual home invasion. Needless to say she was done with celebrity. She's done next to no screen work since then.
3. Jason Has Really Done a Lot of Killing
This is probably the least surprising thing, but trot this out the next time you want to win a bet: Jason has massacred approximately 167 hapless victims (some counts do say 162). His toll ranges from a measly 10 in Part 2 to 28 in Jason X, the inexplicable sci-fi film that sent Jason into space, for some reason. It's nice to have a hobby.
2. Sally Field Nearly Played Alice
That Sally Field. The Oscar-winning, "You really like me!" Sally Field. She was already a well-established actress when she auditioned for the movie. Nothing against the original Friday the 13th, but maybe she was having a bad day. Either way, the filmmakers wanted her to play Alice Hardy. She sobered up and said no.
1. A Real Jason Voorhees-Style Triple Murder Happened
This might blow your mind. If you're a big fan of extreme metal—and who isn't?—there's a chance you've heard of the Finnish band Children of Bodom. That's not a random band name. It's an allusion to the Lake Bodom Massacre. The massacre didn't happen on Friday the 13th, it happened on June 5, 1960. Four teens were camping on the picturesque shores of Finland's Lake Bodom, an area that has a very Camp Crystal Lake kind of vibe (seriously, look at Google Street View). Sometime during the night, a knife-wielding psycho went through three of the kids like a buzzsaw, bludgeoning the victims for good measure. There were multiple suspects over time, including the delightfully named Hans Assman.
The murders, however, remain unsolved.