Though almost no one would remember them this way—the hockey mask and machete loom larger—the original installments of Friday the 13th were New Jersey movies. But if you were an Oregon horror obsessive in the ‘80s, like teenager James Sweet, Jason Voorhees lurked behind every boathouse, cabin and fir tree.
“Growing up a fan of Friday the 13th,” Sweet explains, “every time you’re around these [natural] areas, the only thing that goes through your head is, ‘Oh, this looks like Camp Crystal Lake.’”
The visions never left, and 30 years later, Sweet directed Jason Rising, an Oregon-made fan film, premiering Friday, Aug. 13, at the Hollywood Theatre. With crowdfunded contributions to the production exceeding $25,000, Jason Rising joins a recent string of Friday the 13th fan outings stoking this specific slasher cult.
In advance of Friday’s screening, WW talked with Sweet about designing his ideal Jason, franchise chronology, and the kill his Jason Rising co-creator, the late Oregon actor Robert Blanche, always dreamed of.
WW: For a true fan film, the reception is kind of the whole ball game, right?
James Sweet: Absolutely. Unfortunately, there’s so much stigma on the words “fan film.” There are so [many] backyard, low-budget things people do with a friend on the weekend. But if you can push the production value a little higher, you’ll receive support. You just don’t want to let those people down who funded your project.
Your trailer has 35,000 hits. How did you amass that following?
The better the production value [of] our teasers, the bigger our fan base got. People with credibility, like Vincente DiSanti, who did a fan film called Never Hike Alone, the first high-production-value fan film for Friday the 13th that blew up came aboard. So his fan base jumped aboard our film as well.
In terms of chronology, is your film supposed to fall after The Final Chapter?
Part IV is one of my favorites. It came out when I was 12 years old, and I connected a lot with the Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) character because he was around my age. I wanted that connection [to Part IV] with Jason Rising. Because it’s Friday the 13th, none of the timelines ever made sense, but I wanted it to feel like if you took Friday the 13th today and made a series out of it, this could work as a pilot.
Are you catering to modern fandom by filling theatrical gaps online? The last reboot was 2009.
Right now, there’s a rights battle over Friday the 13th. A lot of people feel the fan films are filling this void right now. I look at it like how Disney is handling Star Wars. There’s room for all types of media. These fan films are our love letter saying, “Hey, we want to be a part of this.” I think we’re keeping a fire burning.
Was there any particular era of Jason’s look you sought to emulate?
Definitely I based my Jason on Part III and Part IV, the Richard Brooker-Ted White look. But I didn’t necessarily want the Part VI zombie version. I’m a big fan of The Evil Dead as well, which is why I wanted black blood instead of red. He’s cursed; he’s dead inside.
Is there an effect in the film you’re most proud of?
They were all challenging, I know that! Christina Kortum from Ravenous Studios, who’s an amazing makeup artist, did a full life cast of Jason Reynolds, one of our actors. Robert [Blanche] wanted a blunt-force trauma kill where the skull gets dislodged from the spine. I wanted to amp that up, so we did the one where Jason chops off the arm and beats [the victim] to death with the arm. That was a long, cold night but a fun effect. The fact that we were able to have some of Robert in the film meant a lot to me.
Is part of the joy of making a fan film embracing a beloved formula?
My editor and cinematographer Karl Whinnery says, “I don’t know why you’d do anything but a horror film if you’re making a movie. You get to play with the toys.” You just swing for the fences with it and hope it goes over.
SEE IT: Jason Rising screens at Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-493-1128, hollywoodtheatre.org. 7:30 pm Friday, Aug. 13. Red carpet photo opportunity before and Q&A after the premiere. Tickets availa