Along with fellow artists Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman founded KNB EFX in 1988, which would become one of the most successful special effects companies in the world. Having first entered the industry at the age of twenty-one with the cult B-movie Night of the Creeps, Kurtzman first joined forces with Nicotero and Berger on Sam Raimi’s classic Evil Dead II, a relationship that would last for over a decade, which would see them work together on such classics as Pulp Fiction and Scream.
Following his departure from KNB, Kurtzman formed his own independent studio, Precinct 13 Entertainment, which would allow him to branch out into directing with the low budget horror movies The Rage and Buried Alive.
Robert Kurtzman discusses his involvement in the Friday the 13th franchise with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.
How did you become involved with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, and were you dubious about working on the ninth Friday the 13th movie?
Dubious no! We (KNB) thought it would be a blast and we enjoyed very much working on it and working with producer Sean Cunningham again after The Horror Show and DeepStar Six.
Having already worked on every major slasher franchise (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), how would you compare the experiences, and which would you say was the most ambitious?
They all had there own challenges. I was the key supervisor on Jason Goes to Hell and I supervised all the set work and applied all the prosthetics, as well as directed several days of second unit. We had to create allot more FX on Jason than the other films. Halloween and Leatherface had a lot of quick cut gore gags, mechanical hands, dummy heads, and basic blood and weapons gags. Nightmare 5 had multiple effects companies working on it and we were only handling a small chunk of the film. On Jason, we were handling all the special make-up and creature effects on the film and there were a lot of different kinds of effects; not just death gags or prop weapon gags, but we also had melting men, mechanical parasites, exploding bodies, a full-body nude girl getting split in half, miniature puppets and sets, tons of death gags and wounds, puppet heads and Jason. We had effects playing almost every other day during the shoot so Jason Goes to Hell was definitely the most ambitious.
Were you pleased that the movie dispensed with Jason for the majority of its running, and how much fun was the ‘body jumping’ storyline to work on?
It allowed for the story to go in a different direction and opened it up to allow us to create more fantasy-oriented effects and not just slasher gags, so that was very refreshing.
The movie featured some very graphic death scenes, particularly during the camping scene, where the girl was split down the middle. What kind of directions did Adam Marcus give you regarding the effects and were you encouraged to make them as over the top as possible?
Adam was great to work with and very open to ideas. He wanted the effects to be gruesome and fun in the over-the-top Friday the 13th tradition. With the girl in the tent kill, he really wanted to top the other films by doing something a bit bigger and grander in execution. He wanted to have a nude girl split in half as she orgasms while having sex with her boyfriend. This would require us to create several full-body nude replicas of her. We had to bring in the actress and have her straddle a dummy while we cast her full-nude body in position. The scene was an afterthought and was added after principle photography was competed and we had about two-three weeks to create the bodies. We made them out of urethane. One body was rigged to have the fence post burst out and the other was for splitting in half. Both were rigged with major blood pumps. The way Adam shot it and cut it together it worked flawlessly.
Jason’s appearance seemed to have undergone a change since Jason Takes Manhattan, with him seeming to be larger and more menacing, as well as severely decomposing. Who created the new look and what was it like collaborating with Kane Hodder, who is notorious for pushing the stunts as far as he can?
Wayne Toth sculpted Jason’s face, which was made to look like the flesh was growing around the mask and it was imbedded in his flesh. One eye was just a black socket like the Amazing Colossal Beast. We made it as a one-piece mask that the hockey mask attached to over the top so Kane could get in and out faster. The bodysuit was bulked up but inspired by John Buechler’s version of Jason, which had rotted flesh and a twisted spine showing through his torn overalls. Kane is always a pleasure to work with and it was really great watching him get all shot up with machine guns in the opening…. he took like a hundred squib hits that night and the exploding body was one of the best ever put on film in my opinion. Tom Bellissimo and Charles Belardinelli handled the pyro on the film and they rigged our body perfectly. The head came off and spun up thought the air in slow motion and chunks of Jason’s rotted flesh came flying at the camera. It’s always an interesting night when we get to blow stuff up.
Did everyone involve really think that Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday would really be the last movie, as Paramount had tried to end the series once before with The Final Chapter? Was the appearance of Freddy’s glove at the end an attempt to whet fans appetites for the inevitable Freddy vs. Jason?
It’s never the the end with any franchise. As long as there is money to be made there’s always a way to bring it all back. When we shot the ending, with Freddy’s glove popping up and grabbing the mask, there had already been talk of the team-up, so this was Sean’s and Adam’s way of letting the fans now that one day Freddy vs. Jason would come.
Looking back, how do you feel about your experiences on Jason Goes to Hell, and what do you think about the finished movie?
I had a really good time working with Sean, Adam and the entire crew. Everyone worked really hard and we had a great time, so for me it was an extremely positive experience. I think Adam and Dean Lorey and Jay Hughely (who wrote the script) really love the genre and were trying to do something different to expand and open up the series, taking it into a new direction. I’m really proud of the film and the work everyone did on it.