Although I was lucky enough to speak with two of the key factors of 13 Fanboy on behalf of Rewind It Magazine last year – Actress Dee Wallace, and Director/Writer/Actress Deborah Voorhees – I still only had a vague understanding of what to expect from the film. But almost immediately after sitting down to watch it, I completely understood what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with this one, which was to simply bring back the basic, root elements to a horror movie.
Without giving away too many details, 13 Fanboy follows fictional versions of real-life horror film stars (mostly alumni from the Friday the 13th series) such as Kane Hodder, Judie Aronson, Lar Park Lincoln, C.J. Graham, and Tracie Savage (among others) and newcomer Hayley Greenbauer, as they are stalked (and in some cases, slaughtered) by an obsessive fan with plenty of ‘whodunit’ -ness done in perfect fashion (Corey Feldman also makes a notable appearance as a sleazy producer). Extremely meta in its delivery, it’s part Scream, part Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and for the most part, all fun (something hard to come by in the genre these days).
The gore is there, but it’s not over-the-top/unnecessarily violent. And although it might lack the big budget of such Hollywood blockbusters as the the recent Halloween Kills, it more than makes up for it with heart and atmosphere. And there’s almost no effort to weave in comedy, which can be “okay” if done correctly, but often overused in horror films these days. In short, 13 Fanboy is the perfect late night fright flick to watch in the dark with your significant other (or even by yourself), especially this time of year.
Chances are if you grew up in the late ’80s/early ’90s such as myself, you remember actor Keith Coogan. Not only did he appear in numerous commercials (his first acting job was a spot for McDonnald’s), and popular shows on TV at the time such as Knight Rider and Silver Spoons, he was also lucky enough to work alongside two of the most memorable bombshells of their time, Elizabeth Shue in 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, and Christina Applegate in 1991’s Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Recently, I was able to sit down and speak with Coogan during a candid phone conversation about these experiences, and so much more.
I instantly wanted to start at the beginning and discuss what it was like making his first movie, a voice role in the 1981 Disney film The Fox and the Hound. He told me; “Yeah, no real huge memories of that! I came from a real big showbiz family with my great-grandfather in Vaudeville, then my grandfather in silent films and television, and my mother was a comedy writer, so they knew it’s a hard way to make an easy living. And I had worked my way up through TV, doing lots of commercials and guest appearances on great shows like CHiPS, Fantasy Island, TheLove Boat, Eight is Enough, Mork & Mindy, and Laverne & Shirley. My mom, or “momager” was the one that took me around, and almost everything with a kid in it I auditioned for. And we got a voiceover job for Disney when I was eight; it was thrilling, but really only like three or four days of work spread over months and months. And they recorded the voices singularly…it wasn’t until Robin Williams was doing Aladdin years later that they decided to bring in whoever he was doing a scene with due to his improv nature.”
He continued; “We started in ’78, and of course the hound was played by Corey Feldman, who I’ve been friends with for decades now. And then Don Bluth left the production and took a lot of animators with him, and they had to shut down before hiring new people to finish the film. And by the time it came out in ’81, I was eleven and had been doing more TV and stuff, so it was kind of an after thought like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s out’ (Laughs). I know how grateful I am to be in a Disney movie, and some say it’s their last classically-animated film before they used computers full-blown on their next production. I think it’s a terrific, sweet film, and I think it made $64 million dollars at the box office, which was a record for them at the time, too.” He added one final thought; “And despite what it says on IMDB, Kurt Russell did NOT record his dialogue wearing Snake Plissken’s jacket (Laughs).”
I also wanted to get into some of those old TV roles he took part of, starting with working with the late Robin Williams on Mork& Mindy; “Oh gosh, working with him, and Jonathan Winters, and of course the anchor holding the show down, Pam Dawber, was so great! And this was actually the last episode to ever air, and they knew they weren’t necessarily going to get picked up for another season, so the set kind of had a dire mood to it. But there was still that spark of creativity there from Williams and Winters, although Jonathan was much more on his own planet (Laughs).”
Of course I had to ask him about Silver Spoons as well; “Rick managed a rock band called Splat, which I was the keyboard player for. And they were going to go on a StarSearch kind of thing before their singer got sick, and so Rick had to sing, hence the title of the episode, “Rick Sings.” It was kind of a precursor to future roles I would play, but it was more surfer rather than stoner. I also got to work with Alfonso Ribeiro and Billy Jayne, and it was a welcoming, fun set with the video games and the train, and I think I got about ten feet into the house before three guys came up to me with their satin ’80s jackets (Laughs). And all of the video games on the set had unlimited credits, so you could just walk up and play any one of them! But they didn’t typically have the train out and lying around, so there was probably a ‘no riding the train’ rule!” He went on; “But the audiences on sitcoms used to throw me off. I probably did six or seven more of them, too, including Growing Pains and Just the Ten of Us. And they always were nerve racking in front of a live audience! I remember my entrance I did for the Laverne& Shirley episode I did; I opened the door and just cracked up, so we had to re-shoot it at the end of the night (Laughs).”
And aside from sitcoms, he was also on another favorite ’80s show, the previously-mentioned Knight Rider; “That was amazing! David Hasselhoff was particularity awesome and fun to work with, and I worked with my uncle Don Stroud, who played one of the biker gang members. We shot around southern California, and one of the coolest shots we did was at Mockingbird Square, which was Clock Tower Square at Universal Studios. And the bait shop we filmed in was the diner from Back to the Future. So that was fun to not only get to shoot there, but also ride around in K.I.T.T.!”
As far as his movies go, I asked if he felt Adventures in Babysitting is the one he will always be best remembered for; “It’s entirely subjective to people, but I think for me, it’s a split between that and Don’t Tell Mom...And regarding its 2016 remake, he said; “It was the one-hundredth Disney Channel original movie, and I went to the premiere when it came out, and it was great, lots of fun! The original was stretching the PG-13 and was limited to a certain audience, whereas the G-rated version was more for a younger generation. But it rings a lot of nostalgia bells with some of the little Easter eggs in there. But still, totally different story and tone, but I loved it! And Coogan even explained a little what co-star Elizabeth Shue has been up to recently (despite not having kept in contact with her); “She was involved with a recent article on all the things you ever wanted to know about Adventures in Babysitting answered, and it’s fantastic! They cover everything from the dance scene in the beginning, to the Playboy, to “Babysitter’s Blues.”‘
I also wondered if he had kept in touch with his former Don’t Tell Mom…co-star Christina Applegate, who recently announced a MS diagnosis; “We actually spent some time running in the same circles before shooting the movie, so it was a great pleasure to get to work with her, having already known how talented she was. She’s a total professional, and it’s interesting that both of these films kind of rest these huge budgets on the shoulders of teenagers! But I know that she’s gone through a lot, but she’s a trooper, and just fantastic, and I wish her all the best…sending out good vibes to her. And as far as how close Coogan was in reality to his character Kenny in the film? He tells me; “I was a nerd, a geek, and a “Dexter” as we used to call it in middle and high school (Laughs). So I wasn’t much like my character at all, I didn’t listen to the rock music like Kenny, or the punk music like Mitch in Cousins. But director Stephen Herek was very supportive in helping me find my character. But I loved it, and there was no way I was passing up the role of Kenny.”
One thing often somewhat forgotten about Coogan are his brushes with the action genre, such as the 1991 film Toy Soldiers; “I think they wanted to forget it when it came out (laughs), meaning it did good business, but you know, nothing to write home about. But Louis Gossett, Jr., what a legend, and Denholm Elliot, another legend! I had a great cast to work with, from Sean Astin to Wil Wheaton, and Shawn Phelan who has now passed. There was also Andrew Divoff who is pretty “method,” I don’t think I saw him smile once until we were done shooting (laughs). And the late R. Lee Ermey; at this point I had already done Adventures in Babysitting with Vincent D’Onofrio from Full Metal Jacket, but now I’m working with the Gunnery Sergeant himself, so I was just over the top! But it was an interesting mix-and-match movie…basically Die Hard meets Dead Poets Society (Laughs).”
In more recent times, Coogan even appeared as himself in the 2019 Kevin Smith film Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, and I asked him to briefly tell me about the experience; “Kevin had said something interesting along the lines of, ‘before I started making movies, I watched a lot of movies.’ So he really has a soft spot for nostalgia and for anyone that came before him. And having Chris Hemsworth at the end credits say – as Thor – “The dishes are done man,” I crapped my pants a little when I first saw that! (Laughs).”
While I could continue even further with more from our hour-long conversation, I’ll end things on this note due to time (perhaps I’ll get to the rest in future pieces), but those in the New Jersey area can actually catch Coogan at the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany from the 29th-31st of this month. Regarding this event he stated; “It’s their anniversary for the convention, and it’s going to be a riot and a huge blowout! A lot of great guests, cosplay, and screenings, so it should be amazing!”
Growing up a kid in the ’80s, I completely devoured everything the decade had to offer a kid my age. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were my world, and the films spawned by the latter of course became a monumental event for just about any kid around at the time.
Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the ‘heroes in a half-shell’ first came to life when their first comic book was published via Mirage Studios in 1984. But like many kids at the time, they didn’t appear on my radar until the animated TV series appeared a few years later in 1987, after which they became a household name, and a full-on worldwide phenomenon. From then on, every kid in America was clamoring for the action figures and having Ninja Party-themed birthday parties, where each kid wanted to be their personal favorite turtle (which most of the time was Michelangelo).
By 1990 the franchise was at it’s peak, and we were finally treated with a feature length film. It was an event that every young boy just had to take a part of at the time, and we all thought we were in on something ‘cool’ that our parents were just not hip to (in some cases movie goers were even given small promotional posters upon arrival to the theater, something I wish I had held on to til this day). Then just one short year later, we were given a second film when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, was released upon our young minds on March 22, 1991. Again I was right there in the theater watching the sequel with one of my older sisters, not knowing at the time it would ultimately be the beginning of the end of my Ninja Turtles craze.
Directed by Michael Pressman, the second Ninja Turtles film was much lighter in tone in comparison to it’s predecessor. And while many of the actors from the first film returned for the sequel, there were some changes to the cast, most noticeably Paige Turco taking over for Judith Hoag as April O’ Neil, and Adam Carl stepping in for Corey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. The turtles also befriend a new alley in the form of Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) in a role similar to Casey Jones (who is strangely absent without any explanation). Another difference those with a keen eye might spot is the limited use of the turtles’ weapons. This was done purposely by filmmakers in an effort to reduce the violence in the movie.
In this entry, the turtles discover that The Shredder (Francois Chau) survived their final battle at the end of the first film, and still has a few remaining loyalists of the Foot Clan in his corner. They also learn their own origins when their master, Splinter (Kevin Clash) explains their mutation was the result of direct contact with a radioactive substance (i.e. the ‘ooze’) manufactured by a company called TGRI. The Shredder of course learns of this, and creates two mutants of his own, Tokka and Rahzar, in an attempt to combat the turtles (for whatever reason, these characters were used in place of Bebop and Rocksteady from the cartoon). The inevitable conclusion finds the turtles facing off and defeating The Shredder and the new mutants in a club where rapper Vanilla Ice (in his film debut) happens to be performing, and conveniently introduces the song “Ninja Rap.’
The Secret of the Ooze grossed over $78 million at the box office domestically, and was followed by TeenageMutant Ninja Turtles III two years later in 1993, which was panned by critics and signaled a decline in NinjaTurtles popularity. This was further cemented when a live action TV series, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (which introduced the first female turtle, Venus de Milo), came and went briefly in 1997-98.
The franchise laid dormant for several years until 2003, when a new animated series produced by Fox appeared. This helped lead to another feature film, the animated TMNT, in 2007. The series lasted until 2010, and was followed by yet another animated show, this time produced by Nickelodeon, from 2012-17, as well as a reboot film in 2014 starring Megan Fox and produced by Michael Bay, which in turn had it’s own sequel, Out of theShadows, in 2016 (audiences finally saw the appearance of Bebop and Rocksteady on the big screen for the first time with the latter).
Today, the franchise is still in the hands of Nickelodeon, with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being the latest incarnation as of 2018, and the Ninja Turtles are more popular now more than ever. This was evidenced when just this month, Vanilla Ice threw a Secret of the Ooze 30th anniversary show in Cocoa Beach, complete with appearances by both Michelangelo and Donatello on stage (see attached photos) that my family and I were in attendance for. It was a reminder of both a brief moment of time that those of us who were there ‘back in the day’ experienced together, and validation that that moment was truly something special to be a part of.
I remember it clearly; it was around Halloween time, and I was no older than ten at best. I sneaked out of the living room into my older brother’s room, where he and a friend were watching a “Jason” flick (something I had only heard of, but had not yet seen). The exact entry they were watching, and my introduction to the series and Jason Voorhees (although technically he does not really appear in it) was Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.
I couldn’t believe what my young eyes were witnessing…the amount of graphic gore and female flesh (I’m almost positive I had seen nudity before, but not that much at once!) was almost overwhelming my senses. One such scene (and young lady) that really stood out and made a huge impression on me was the very naked/grisly demise of Tina, played by the lovely Deborah Voorhees.
After a few more roles in films such as 1985’s Appointment with Fear, and a recurring stint on the widely popular prime time TV drama Dallas, Voorhees stepped away from the spotlight to pursue work in the journalism field, and even took on some teaching jobs before her previous acting career came to light and cancel culture reared it’s ugly head over her involvement in the Friday the 13th series. But Voorhees has since re-emerged victoriously, first appearing in her own 2014 directorial debut, Billy Shakespeare, and now nearing completion of the ultimate meta Jason flick, 13 Fanboy, which she also directed and co-wrote along with Joel Paul Reisig.
One of the first things I wanted to know when I recently caught up with Voorhees from her New Mexico home, was just what it was like working with so much Friday… alumni on 13 Fanboy. She tells me; “It’s an intense thriller/slasher/classic ‘whodunit’ type film, and we have an amazing, talented cast from the series and the horror genre as a whole, including Corey Feldman, C.J. Graham, Kane Hodder, Tracie Savage, and (previous Rewind It Magazine interviewee), Dee Wallace.” She continues; “I directed, co-wrote, produced, and really was involved with every aspect of it, from appearing in it, down to the editing process.”
But even exceptional talent is not immune to the effects of 2020. When asked about a potential release date, Voorhees informs me; “Production has definitely slowed down due to Covid, and with a lot of theaters and things not being open right now, it’s been very problematic. But we’re hoping to have it out by August, which is when the next doable Friday the 13th lands. I think we’ve got a really good shot at that, so that’s what we’re aiming for right now. I feel pretty good about it though, and think everything should be wrapped up by then.”
I was also curious if Voorhees was a fan of the series prior to filming A New Beginning, and how she felt looking back on her appearance in the series today. She explains; “Beforehand I had only seen the first one, so it wasn’t until later on that I saw the other parts in the series. I think I’m most impressed with the fan base. Horror fans in general are just really terrific people, and the fans that love slasher films and Friday the 13th have been really good to me over the years, and I’m very grateful for that.” And although Part V contains a brief cameo by ’80s superstar Corey Feldman, it wasn’t until much later the two would actually meet. She tells me; “I met him before at a horror convention, but this was the first time I actually got to spend time with him during the production of 13 Fanboy.”
And I also wanted to know if there were any actors approached for 13 Fanboy who declined. She says; “Adrienne King was initially excited and wanted to do it, but after reading the script, decided it was too close to her given situation having had a stalker in the past, and just wasn’t comfortable doing it. Lar Park Lincoln (who also appears in 13 Fanboy) had one too, but everybody handles that sort of thing differently.”
Lastly, I asked Voorhees just how her path lead her back to filmmaking, and she says; “After I had finished with journalism (at the time), I had decided I wanted to ‘give back’ a little by teaching. While I enjoyed it very much, I ended up being thrown out of two high schools because a lot of people just had a problem with my past (and especially the nudity I had done), so I just decided I was going to go on my own, and that took me back to flimmaking in general. I did love teaching, but I’m happier doing what I’m doing now. It was a good experience for me, but it feels good to get back to where I belong, which was writing/telling stories, and making movies.”