Thanks to their recent addition on Shudder, I decided to give one of my favorite franchise’s another viewing, Friday the 13th. This led me down the road of contemplation, and I was reminded how Friday the 13th part IV and Halloween 4 both setup something sort of similar, that they then completely abandoned. I am sure many genre fans can already guess at what I am hinting at, but I wanted to talk about the movies we almost got in both franchises and why it might be an okay thing that we didn’t.
Warning, there will be spoilers!
Friday the 13th part IV is a decent entry in the franchise. For my own taste’s I put it a little lower than others but still pretty high on the list. However, regardless of how you feel about the movie overall, it did give us Tommy. An important character for the next two follow-ups and a bit of a fan favorite.
At the end of IV, Tommy shaves his head and dons some makeup to make himself look more like the nearly drowned child version of Jason. He uses this to distract Jason so that he and his sister can kill him. However, when Jason is down, Tommy believes he sees his hand twitching and begins to hack into Jason over and over while his sister screams for him to stop.
So Tommy was hunted, traumatized, showed some form of empathy to his hunter, then goes violent.
Halloween 4 follows Jamie, the daughter of the late Laurie Strode, as Michael discovers her whereabouts and begins to hunt her down. Towards the end of the movie, when Michael is down, she reaches out to him in sympathy only for him to try to kill her and fall down a mine shaft. She later goes home and attacks her adopted mother with scissors.
So Jamie was hunted, traumatized, showed some form of empathy to her hunter, then goes violent.
While different in the details, the overall nature of both endings is similar, leading to a similar path. Jamie and Tommy becoming the new killers.
Friday the 13th takes a bit more of a detour with part V. In it, we meet an adult Tommy who has been institutionalized since the events of the prior movie. He is paranoid, believing that Jason will come back for him. A Jason-ish character does show up, someone pretending to be Jason to get away with murder, although Tommy is not the main target for his rage. Still, Tommy is forced to confront both the real killer and the one in his mind. Doing so frees him from his fear, but the last scene is of him wearing the mask and preparing to kill. His fear is gone, but the last bit of him broke.
Great, so we have potential replacements for Jason and Michael and a compelling story to tell. Would surviving these events turn them (Tommy and Jamie) into monsters like those they defeated? Possibly even worse? It has a lot of potential as a narrative and could make for a fascinating, albeit probably a bit introspective, horror flick.
Halloween 5 picks up with Jamie having a telepathic link to Michael, which caused her violent outburst. Her adopted mother survives, and Jamie is now key in taking down Michael. Meanwhile, Tommy is still suffering from hallucinations and didn’t actually try to take over as the next Jason.
Both movies completely scrapped the narrative of survivors turning into the very monsters that they survived. They went back to the normal slasher path and just kept it at Michael and Jason being the ultimate evil, and everything else is nothing you need to worry about.
It was disappointing, to say the least.
I think it might be for the best in the long run. I hate to say it, but truthfully either franchise going that route would have required something insanely different from what had been established and had been working for them. Despite the highs and lows for the series, the rest of the movies in both franchises were a safe bet and a formula that had worked.
Also, both franchises had already experimented and seen terrible results. Halloween 3 was poorly received, enough that “the Return of Michael Myers” was the subtitle for Halloween 4 to promise fans what they wanted. No more experimenting with the idea of an anthology series, you want Michael we will give you Michael.
Friday the 13th Part V also attempted to break the mold. It wasn’t a Jason movie; it was a movie about an unknown killer that we were even supposed to suspect was Tommy. Now the movie was not fleshed out, so the red herring of Tommy did not land, and the movie was not popular.
Now do I think both franchises could have pulled it off if they really wanted to? Yes. However, I don’t think they would have. Without the fans being more open to experimentation, which the creators had no reason to trust, they would be, and without a studio supporting something bold, the movies would have taken this awesome idea and played it safe.
I would love to see a franchise that went the direction of a prior survivor becoming the killer, but it would have to be done right. It could not be a simple slasher flick just with a new killer in the old killers mask. It wouldn’t have done the concept justice and probably would have felt odd.
I think given the times and possible limitations, it’s maybe better that we never got to see these movies instead of seeing an average version of them.
It does make me think about the movies that might have been and wonder if there is ever a franchise in the future that can set up and then tackle this particular idea. Could you switch from a slasher to a more contemplative look at the nature of the human psyche, and what can happen when it is broken?
I do find it interesting that the idea was flirted with by both franchises but then ultimately abandoned. I will likely think a lot about the unfulfilled potential and commonalities with both.
Also, as a note- I do not think one ripped off the idea from the other. While again, the larger picture is similar, it is hardly unique. The idea of turning violent alone has been done; it was the potential further expansion that really piqued my interest. But the details are different enough they aren’t copied and pasted. Jamie shows more direct empathy and does not turn violent in self-defense as an example. I do honestly believe they were independent thoughts that likely had similar reasons for being scrapped, it would be a greater risk to the studios.