Retrospective: 35 Years Since ‘Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives’ By Jesse Striewski

As a kid growing up in the ’80s, there was nothing more enticing when visiting the video store than the horror section (well, except maybe when they would have one of those “back rooms” in the shop but that’s another story itself). And in those times when I would wander off into the area reserved for horror films, my eyes would usually hone in on those already established, well-known franchises that included the likes of single name villains such as Freddy, Leatherface, Chucky, and of course, Jason.

Each of these individual films had their own unique covers, and I of course had to see them for this reason alone. As stated in a previous interview with actress Deborah Voorhees, the first entry of the series I would ever see was the Jason-less Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. But I would eventually piece them all together slowly over time, with Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives quickly becoming my favorite of the franchise with it’s classic monster movie feel, campy jokes (starting with its James Bond-esque opening credits), and rocking soundtrack featuring then-new music from a revitalized Alice Cooper. When Jason Lives was originally released in theaters on August 1, 1986, it quickly became the first film since the 1980 original to rightfully receive some critical praise.

After the lukewarm reception the previous year from the new concept introduced in A New Beginning, it was clear that the series was in dire need of getting back to basics. Written and directed by Tom McLoughlin, it saw the return of the character Tommy Jarvis (this time portrayed by The Return of the Living Dead star Thom Mathews) from parts IV and V, who mistakenly resurrects Jason with a friend (played brilliantly by the late Ron Palillo of Welcome Back, Kotter fame) at the start of the film. Tommy does his best to warn the local community, but is railroaded every step of the way by the local sheriff (David Kagen). The sheriff’s daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) is the only one who believes Tommy, and teams up with him to stop Jason.

Actor Roger Rose, who played one of Jason’s many victims in the film, Steven Halavex, recently lent some behind-the-scenes insight to Rewind It Magazine; “The movie had already been shot, and the phone rings and it’s Paramount calling (Director) Tom McLoughlin, saying there weren’t enough deaths in the film and they needed more, so they were going to go back and kill two more people. Tommy hangs up the phone and says, ‘I always wanted to do this…kid, I want you in my movie!’ And that weekend we shot my scenes. I said to Tommy, “Man I’d love to die brutally on film, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do (Laughs)!”

Still from Friday the 13th Part VI of Steven (Roger Rose) and Cythina (Annette Edwards) shortly before meeting their gruesome demise.

He continued; “Originally Jason was going to shish kabob me and my date, and there was this whole big special effect thing going to happen, but there wasn’t any time left. But it was still a real, rusty old machete that Jason “killed” us with, so that was actual fear you see on our faces in that scene!”

Another thing that stands out about the film is the previously-mentioned music. Aside from one track by hard rock band Felony, the majority of the songs featured were from Alice Cooper’s 1986 album, Constrictor. Most notably remembered is the track “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask),” which served as the film’s theme song, and also featured a Jason Voorhees-themed music video to go along with it. I’ve been lucky enough to personally see Cooper in concert three times over the years (see attached photo below), but alas, his material from this particular period in his career has remained long since retired unfortunately.

Jason Lives went on to gross over $19 million at the box office on a $3 million dollar budget, and has since become a fan favorite. Since its release, there have been four more entries to the original Friday the 13th franchise, as well as the 2003 crossover film Freddy vs. Jason, and a 2009 remake. But few have matched the all around heights achieved with Jason Lives, which will likely remain one of the higher points in the series. So if you’re looking to go back to Camp Crystal Lake (or Forrest Green) this Friday the 13th, consider giving Jason Lives a try (and be sure to keep an eye out for our full interview with Rose, coming soon!).

Alice Cooper performing in Orlando, FL on 10/25/13, courtesy of the author’s collection. Cooper provided most of the music for Jason Lives.

Interview with Actress/Filmmaker Deborah Voorhees By Jesse Striewski

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.”