Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1094: The Franchise That Won't Die

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, and Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers. I'm here to ruin your holidays with some annoying movie news.

Paramount has just announced that they will reboot the Friday The 13th franchise in 2015.

Now this is not a sequel to the 2009 reboot that New Line/Warner Bros. tried, which was actually a reboot of Friday The 13th Part 2. After some no doubt complex negotiations Paramount regained ownership of the franchise and are going to reboot the whole thing all over again.


The most obvious reason is that the 2009 reboot actually made money. $91 million worldwide to be exact.

But I don't think Paramount is asking themselves this question:

Why did Warner Bros./New Line not make a sequel?

Seriously, they went to all the trouble to buy the franchise from Paramount for New Line's Freddy VS Jason movie, they made the reboot, and it sold, so why didn't they flog the dead horse the way Paramount did in the 1980s?

Did they see something in the audience reaction, that it was seen as just a bit of nostalgia with 2000 era gloss, and that as a franchise it didn't have legs?

Look at the performance of the original franchise.

Riding the "slasher horror" wave begun by John Carpenter's Halloween the original Friday was a surprise smash, and the first sequel did well too.

But then things started to go south.

The studio quickly painted itself into a corner.

You see in Part 1, the killer was Pamela Voorhees, a maniacal mother out for revenge for what she thought was the death of her mentally handicapped son Jason.

Part 2 needed a new killer and since they had hinted that Jason may still be alive in the first film, why not have him him take up mad-momma's mantle. It didn't do as well as the first one, but it still made a profit.

But by the time they got to Part 3, which was boosted by the novelty of 3D, the makers saw they were pushing one thing a little too far. That one thing was Jason Voorhees, and his ability to endure horrible injuries and certain death to keep on killing.

Remember that in the 1980s there was still an expectation of at least some reality in non-supernatural horror films. The idea of the unstoppable-why-bother-even-running-because-there-is-nothing-you-can-do kind of killer can turn off all but the most ardent gore-hounds, and if they wanted to continue past a trilogy they needed to do something.

So the producers thought "Hey, let's have Jason die in the 4th movie, then introduce a new killer in the 5th movie" restoring the 'whodunnit' element of the first film.

They did that, but the decline continued, which convinced the studio that Jason was the selling point. Jason was brought back from the dead, and the first thing he did was slaughter any semblance of creating an interesting story.

The decline continued, Paramount sold the franchise to New Line, which tried to keep it going, resorting to sending him into space, and to hell, and finally into their own spent-force franchise of Nightmare On Elm Street, before the 2009 reboot.

Remember, the audience don't buy tickets at the local cineplex, they're buying the ability to be told a story. Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends, and have characters they can relate too.

With the Friday The 13th franchise they only offer beginnings and middles, no ends. Instalments only exist to segue for the next instalment, and no matter what happens at the ending of the instalment, it's going to be a fake-out, so why should the audience invest themselves emotionally in it?

I think Warner Bros. saw that 80s nostalgia and modern gloss could sell a beginning, but weren't going to sell a bunch of middles, which is why they traded it back to Paramount in exchange for their cut of Christopher Nolan's upcoming mega-epic Interstellar.

Maybe Paramount thinks they can run the whole "sell the beginning" scam all over again, but I fear they might think they can flog this dead horse back to life again.

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