While Scream 2022’s success shows that Friday the 13th’s reboots could have revived the original movie’s whodunit murder mystery approach, both revivals of the franchise have taken things in another direction. The Friday the 13th franchise has a unique place in horror history. While the series is famous for its masked murderous villain Jason Voorhees, an icon of the slasher sub-genre, Jason barely even appears in the original 1980 movie. 1980’s Friday the 13th (which remains the most successful movie in the series when adjusted for inflation) is a Giallo-style whodunit whose mysterious killer isn’t unmasked until the ending. While Scream borrowed this twist, Friday the 13th’s sequels abandoned it.
Although Friday the 13th’s 2009 reboot succeeded, the movie didn’t bring back this element of the original horror hit’s formula. Instead, Friday the 13th 2009 focused on Jason’s exploits and abandoned the whodunit approach entirely. This fell in line with the rest of the franchise’s sequels, all of which relied on the sort-of supernatural Jason and ignored the original movie’s mystery elements. Scream 2022’s success proves that the original movie’s combination of slasher tropes with a whodunit mystery plot is as appealing as ever but, unfortunately, both upcoming Friday the 13th reboots dropped this approach in favor of a more traditional (and less exciting) return to convention.
Scream 2022 Shows Friday the 13th’s Original Approach Still Works
Like Wes Craven’s original meta-slasher hit Scream, Scream 2022 is a whodunit mystery that doesn’t reveal the identity of its villain until the closing scene. As was the case with the original 1996 hit (and 1980’s Friday the 13th), Scream 2022 was a critical and financial success thanks to this approach. Beyond its violent content and subject, it was this thriller element that made both the original Scream and its requel so intriguing for audiences.
While Scream 2022 featured tense set pieces and inventive kills, the most engaging element of the movie was a mystery story that made the sequel stand out among its slasher competitors. A Friday the 13th reboot could bring back this approach but, sadly, neither of the two franchise revivals that are currently in the works will be utilizing this potentially fruitful angle. In ignoring the mystery elements that run through the series’ origins, Friday the 13th is missing out on a proven formula for success.
Why BOTH Friday the 13th Reboots Dropped The Mystery Formula
Jason’s recognizable image is profitable for producers. The reason that neither of the Friday the 13th franchise’s two reboots is bringing back the original movie’s Giallo-style storytelling is that Jason’s presence is the primary selling point of the new installments. This is evidenced by early comments on both Hannibal producer Bryan Fuller’s upcoming television series Crystal Lake and director Sean S Cunningham’s new Friday the 13th project. Fuller’s show Crystal Lake received a straight-to-series order from Peacock in late 2022 and, as Crystal Lake is described as a prequel for the franchise, this series will focus on Jason’s origin story and thus preclude a murder mystery plot.
Meanwhile, Friday the 13th’s original director Cunningham is also at work on a theatrical reboot of the series that screenwriter Jeff Locker says will hopefully “give us Jason on the big screen again.” While little is known about the details of either reboot’s stories, what is already clear early in the production process is that both projects focus on Jason’s presence. As such, the Scream franchise’s mystery/slasher mashup plotting won’t be utilized by either reboot. Whether it is Crystal Lake setting up Jason’s sympathetic backstory or Cunningham’s movie bringing the character back to multiplexes, both reboots have already revealed who their primary villain is via their log lines alone.
Friday the 13th’s Original Style Could Revive The Series
Murder mysteries are a popular genre, whereas Jason’s story has been done to death. Viewers have seen Jason Voorhees killed off, revived, turned into a body-hopping demon, facing off against a psychic teen, sent to space, fighting Freddy Krueger, and repeatedly redesigned over the decades. As such, it would be almost impossible for the new Friday the 13th reboots to find a fresh perspective on the character’s story. However, as proven by the fan excitement around Scream 6’s impending release, the Scream franchise has not struggled to keep its formula feeling fresh with each new installment. This is primarily down to the mystery elements that are central to the Scream series.
If one of Friday the 13th’s two reboots shifted its focus away from Jason and toward the original movie’s whodunit formula, the slasher franchise could leave its familiar routine behind. One of the reasons that 1980’s original Friday the 13th was a massive box office success was that the movie’s twist ending came as a surprise, something none of the subsequent slasher sequels were unable to recreate since everyone now knew Jason was the killer. One of the original Scream’s villainous killers even taunted a victim by noting that Jason wasn’t the villain until the sequel. Unfortunately, despite Scream 2022’s success, Friday the 13th’s reboot ignored this approach.