Why It’s Been Over a Decade Since Freddy or Jason Killed Anybody
It's been more than a decade since Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees killed anybody.
Both were last seen in poorly received attempts to reboot their long-running horror franchises – 2009's Friday the 13th and 2010's A Nightmare on Elm Street. But, after years of legal battles and red tape, the classic slashers may soon be terrorizing youngsters once again.
When Halloween brought the murderous Michael Myers back to theaters in 2018, it drew accolades from critics and audiences alike while grossing more than $255 million in worldwide revenues. Logic would only dictate that Krueger and Voorhees, who along with Myers make up the most iconic slice and dice trio in the modern era of horror, would be next to return. Yet both A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th have been mired in complications as they try to return to the big screen.
One of the chief elements impacting the future of both franchises is a copyright law in the United States enacted in 1976 which says that after 35 years have passed, the author of the original work has the option to terminate any prior sale of their creation and have all rights associated revert to them. When it came to A Nightmare on Elm Street, that was fairly cut and dry, as the late Wes Craven was the indisputable creator of the story who wrote and directed the original 1984 film.
A 'Nightmare' Situation
In 2019, Craven’s estate, run by his children Jessica and Jonathan, reclaimed the rights to both A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Freddy Krueger character and began hearing pitches and considering scripts that have built up since the eponymous “reimagining” came out in 2010. That film was a flop despite doing respectable numbers at the box office. Some chalked it up to missing Robert Englund, who played the wisecracking Freddy expertly in the previous eight entries in the series, along with the complete lack of involvement by Craven, who wasn’t even consulted by producers.
Whatever the reason, distribution company New Line Cinema took a step back from Elm Street, briefly considered another reboot in 2015, but ultimately hitched its wagon to a fresher, shinier package of movies in The Conjuring franchise. Based on the cases investigated by real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, that universe has seen the release of eight highly profitable films to date.
Watch the Trailer for 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'
Many hardcore fans have taken affront to New Line actively keeping A Nightmare on Elm Street on the back-burner, especially since the company got the nickname “The House that Freddy Built” from the massive financial success the films gave it in the '80s against. Still, there are rumblings that Freddy’s fingers could end up clawing their way into a series at HBO Max, while director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep) took to social media in 2019 to express his interest in Elm Street.
One person, however, seems unlikely to return, as Englund seemingly has little interest in picking up the razor-claw glove once more. “I’m a little too old for that,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m a little long in the tooth to play Freddy now. I think if I was doing it, it would be more like Freddy vs. Viagra.”
After Years of Legal Battles, Jason Is Poised to Return
Friday the 13th has endured a much more complicated set of issues. Like the Craven Estate, Victor Miller, who penned the screenplay for the original 1980 film, filed for the copyright to revert to him several years ago. That move was contested by Sean S. Cunningham, who directed and produced that movie and has produced the four most recent Friday films, including the 2009 self-titled reboot, which wasn’t terribly received and has even improved upon retrospection.
Cunningham claimed Miller was an employee and therefore shouldn’t have any rights to Friday the 13th. The courts disagreed and awarded Miller the judgment in 2018. Cunningham and his company, Horror Inc., appealed the decision, not on the facts but rather that the original judge made an error on the law itself.
These legal matters played themselves out for the better part of a year. In 2021, a judge again ruled in Miller's favor, awarding him the domestic rights, yet even that came with a complication. >Miller holds the rights to Friday the 13th, but not to the Jason Voorhees character, since he didn’t appear in the first film - other than as a jump scare in the final moments. The hockey mask-wearing, machete-toting killer we all know and love didn’t fall into the parameters of the case.
Watch the Trailer for 'Friday the 13th'
Thankfully, the precedent-setting lawsuit seems to have revived interest in the Friday the 13th franchise. Fans received a dose of good news in 2022 when Peacock announced a new prequel series titled Crystal Lake. Bryan Fuller, the TV veteran behind such series as Carrie, Heroes, Pushing Daisies and Hannibal, will helm Crystal Lake, while Miller will serve as an executive producer.
“We’re honestly going to be covering it all. The series is covering the life and times of these two characters,” Fuller announced in early 2023, referring to Jason and his mother, Pamela. Crystal Lake was rumored to be scheduled for 2024 release.
There have also been whispers about another Friday the 13th film installment. Tom McLoughlin, who wrote Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, reportedly penned a prequel script based around the Pamela character. Meanwhile, Cunningham gave his blessing to writer Jeff Locker’s concept for a new Friday the 13th reboot.
An agreement with Miller would be required for that project to move forward, but after a break of more than 14 years, perhaps both sides will recognize it is time to get Jason back on the big screen.
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Gallery Credit: Corey Irwin
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