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Friday The 13th: 13 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Original Horror Movie Classic

Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

If there is one film that most definitively represents ’80s horror movies (or ‘80s slasher movies, especially), it would have to be Friday the 13th - the smash hit about a group of young counselors at an infamous summer camp stalked and killed by an unseen threat. Of course, very few elements of what would become one of the most iconic horror movie franchises (including Jason’s hockey mask, Jason’s machete, or Jason killing anyone at all) have anything to do with the 1980 original, which is why the groundbreaking special effects are one of the main reasons the film is still considered a favorite. 

Find how those grisly sequences were achieved (and other chilling secrets) from the appropriate number of 13 behind the scenes facts, below, starting with how the film was largely inspired by another killer classic.

Michael Myers in a closet in 1978 Halloween

(Image credit: Universal)

Halloween Was A Blueprint For The Friday The 13th Script 

For its third season (which premiered in October 2021), the Netflix original docuseries The Movies That Made Us released an episode exploring the making of Friday the 13th, which includes footage of writer Victor Miller at a convention panel revealing (by directly quoting producer and director Sean S. Cunningham) that the intent behind the film was to rip off Halloween

The writer went to see director and co-writer John Carpenter’s hit, 1978 masterpiece and took notes of its crucial elements (including the murderous cold open, the cast of “randy teenagers” beyond help, and one-by-one death structure) and incorporated them into his script. However, his first draft went by a different name.

Jeannine Taylor in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

Victor Miller’s First Draft Was Called "Long Night At Camp Blood" 

In an oral history on the making of Friday the 13th published in 2015 by Uproxx, Victor Miller claims that he is “a terrible title maker” before confessing that his working title for the film was Long Night at Camp Blood, which is a reference to the nickname local townsfolk give to Camp Crystal Lake for its deadly history. Little did he know that Sean S. Cunningham already had a title in mind. In fact, that is all he really had in mind when he first dreamed up the idea.

Friday the 13th title card

(Image credit: Paramount)

Distributors First Became Interested In Friday The 13th By Its Title Alone

Sean S. Cunningham reveals in The Movies That Made Us that he came up with the idea for a film called Friday the 13th, thinking that it would be an easy sell, which turned out to be right. In order to figure out if the title was free to use, he placed an ad in the entertainment magazine Variety, that called his unmade horror flick “the most terrifying film ever made.” Instead of getting calls about any copyright infringement, financiers ended up contacting him with interest in making the project.

Robbi Morgan in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

Robbi Morgan Wore A Pre-Slit Neck Appliance For Her Death Scene 

The first victim in Friday the 13th (in the present day storyline, at least) is Annie (Robbi Morgan), whose throat gets slashed before she can even make it to Camp Crystal Lake. The actress, future makeup effects legend Tom Savini, and his assistant, Taso Stavrakis, recall on The Movies That Made Us how the gruesome kill was achieved by gluing a flesh-colored appliance onto her neck with a slit in the middle that allowed the blood to release when she tipped her chin back. Savini also mentions that he was able to apply the prosthetics within half an hour, so Sean S. Cunningham could get the shot before sundown.

Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Blood Squirt Effect In Kevin Bacon’s Death Scene Was An Accident

Probably the best-known kill in the original Friday the 13th (and still one of the entire franchises’ most iconic moments) is that of a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon as Jack, who gets an arrow stuck through his neck from underneath his mattress. 

Tom Savini recalls on Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th - a documentary about all of the Friday the 13th movies that is available to stream on Shudder - the tube rigged to excrete fake blood from Bacon’s neck became disconnected, forcing Taso Stavrakis to improvise on the spot and blow into the tube. This created the famous squirting effect that Savini considers to be a happy accident.

Adrienne King and Harry Crosby in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

A Special Effects Mishap Left Actor Harry Crosby Temporarily Blind 

An unhappy accident while filming Friday the 13th happened to Harry Crosby (the son of singer and White Christmas actor Bing Crosby), whose offscreen death is revealed when Alice (Adrienne King) opens a door to find his character, Bill, stuck to the door with arrows going through various areas of his body, including his eye. The fake blood you see dripping from his eye was actually getting into Crosby’s actual eye as they shot the scene, and once he got the prosthetic off, he could not see anything. 

The Movies That Made Us narrator Danny Wallace says that Crosby would remain blind from the incident for about six months, followed by Tom Savini’s admission that he was unaware blood made for safe use near the eyes had existed.

The snake from Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

The Snake That Attacks A Cabin Was Really Killed On Camera

Probably the most devastating fatality in the movie, however, is the only one on set that was genuine. In Crystal Lake Memories, Jeanine Taylor (who played Marcie) confirms that, in an earlier scene with a snake found in a cabin before it is chopped into pieces, the snake was real and alive at the time. The animal’s actual death was captured on camera and used in the final film.

Betsy Palmer in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

Betsy Palmer Agreed To Play Mrs. Voorhees To Afford A New Car

It is revealed right before Friday the 13th’s third act that the killer (SPOILER ALERT) is Pamela Voorhees - who is trying to keep Camp Crystal Lake closed to prevent any more fatal accidents like what happened to her son, Jason. Playing the murderous mother is the late Betsy Palmer, who openly admitted she thought the script was “a piece of shit” in panel footage shown on The Movies That Made Us. However, as horror expert Sean Clark explains on the episode, the actress’ car broke down, leading her to accept the role in order to pay for a replacement vehicle.

Betsy Palmer in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

Taso Stavrakis Wore A Mold Of Betsy Palmer’s Head For Mrs. Voorhees’ Death Scene 

Pamela Voorhees is also famous for being the first victim of a (staged) head decapitation actually shown in a movie, which Tom Savini and crew achieved by creating a realistic plaster mold of Betsy Palmer’s head. According to The Movies That Made Us, Taso Stavrakis - who performed many stunts on the Friday the 13th set in addition to helping with special effects - was the stand-in for Palmer during her death scene. While keeping his own head down and out of sight, the fake head was attached between his shoulders by toothpicks so it would easily fall off when Alice (Adrienne King) took her climactic final swing.

Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

Mrs. Voorhees’ “Kill Her, Mommy” Line Inspired The Famous Sound From The Friday The 13th Score

Pamela Voorhees is also famous for inspiring Harry Manfredini’s haunting score for Friday the 13th - specifically (and most iconically) the ominous, indistinct whisper sounds that serves as a sort of signal for the killer’s presence. The composer explains in Crystal Lake Memories that the sound is actually him repeating the first syllables in the words “kill” and “mommy” - as in “Kill her, Mommy,” which the delusional Mrs. Voorhees mutters to herself. Manfredini, essentially, adapted the line into his score by speaking those syllables into a microphone.

Adrienne King in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Budgetary Circumstances Forced Adrienne King To Film Her Final Canoe Scene Three Times 

With Pamela Voorhees slain and the horror (seemingly) over, our heroic final girl, Alice, takes a moment to recover from the trauma with an idyllic canoe ride in Crystal Lake near the end of Friday the 13th. However, as actress Adrienne King revealed in Uproxx’s aforementioned oral history, the movie’s shoestring budget caused shooting the rare serene moment a less than ideal experience:

We ran out of money a couple of times, we didn’t think we were going to finish it… We had to do that scene with Alice in the canoe three different times, and each time we did that scene in the canoe it got progressively colder. You can see the leaves actually turning color. The last time we did that scene it was 38 degrees that morning. I remember sitting, warming my buns on the kitchen grill in the cafeteria at the Boy Scout camp. Sean and Ari [Lehman] and Tom were already out there and we didn’t have enough money for bodysuits, so I only had one change of clothes. One pair of boots.

Dang, not even Mrs. Voorhees was that cold. Of course, as the movie would reveal seconds later, the terror at Camp Crystal Lake would continue without her alive.

The jump scare ending of Carrie

(Image credit: MGM)

Carrie Inspired The Friday The 13th Ending

As someone who typically hates jump scares, I applaud Friday the 13th for pulling off one of the best (if you ask me) with Jason Voorhees suddenly rising from the water to attack Alice and cut off her moment of peace in the canoe. However, like the whole movie itself, this was a further attempt to cash in on the success of another horror hit - in this case, Carrie

Sean Cunningham recalled on The Movies That Made Us that a producer suggested ending the slasher similarly to how the 1976 Stephen King adaptation does: with a dream sequence in which a deceased character comes back for one more scare.

Ari Lehmann as Jason Voorhees and Adrienne King as Alice in Friday the 13th

(Image credit: Paramount)

Ari Lehmann Kept His Distance From The Friday The 13th Cast To Prepare For The Role 

The admittedly tacked-on twist ending would open up the possibility for Friday the 13th to launch a franchise, following the murders of an undead Jason Voorhees (who would eventually be played by horror movie legend Kane Hodder, among others). However, the first actor to play the character in that brief moment from the original was Ari Lehmann, who revealed in an interview with writer Stever De Roover (via FridayThe13thFranchise.com) that he took the role very seriously. He went method by keeping his distance from other actors and spending most of his time staring endlessly into the lake while on set, which Kevin Bacon happened to find hilarious.

While he never got to reprise the character in any of the following Friday the 13th movies, I find Ari Lehmann’s otherwise short portrayal of Jason Voorhees to be one of the creepiest and truly startling of the entire series. Of course, I can’t blame anyone for being partial to the image of him as a bulked-machete wielding hockey goalie either.

Jason Wiese

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.