For many, 2009 was the year that Jason Voorhees dominated the horror genre. The franchise enjoyed a highly successful reboot with the Michael Bay-produced remake, Part 3 finally made its official debut in 3-D on DVD in the United States and the series was given the retrospective treatment for the feature length documentary His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th. It had been three decades since cameras began rolling on the first movie and in that time there had been nine sequels, a TV series, a music video, a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street and an array of tie-in merchandise. Fans had also been treated to two detailed books that charted the history of the franchise and Paramount finally succumbed to fan pressure and re-released their eight installments as ‘special editions.’ With the series having been neglected for so many years, Jason had finally begun to receive the recognition that he deserved.
His Name Was Jason would be the result of years of hard work from independent producer Anthony Masi, previously known for his association with the Halloween franchise. Masi was raised in Connecticut and New Jersey and first discovered the horror genre with Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal masterpiece Psycho, but it would be a viewing of Halloween on television that would make the greatest impression. Relocating to Los Angeles in an effort to pursue a career in the movie industry, Masi attended the premiere of Halloween: Resurrection in 2002, where he made the acquaintance of a fellow fan called Paul Swearingen. The two discussed the possibility of organising a Halloween convention and the following year they hosted Halloween Returns to Haddonfield: The 25th Anniversary Convention in Pasadena, California over the Halloween weekend, in which they assembled sixty-plus members of cast and crew from all eight movies in the franchise.
Taking it as an opportunity, Masi decided to film interviews with all those in attendance, which would ultimately make its way into the video retrospective Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. Released by Anchor Bay in 2006, the film was a great success and would help place Masi on the map, whilst also allowing him to launch his own production company, MasiMedia LLC. Following the fifteen-minute featurette The Shape of Horror, which was screened before the original Halloween during its re-release the same year, Masi was contacted by a young filmmaker called Daniel Farrands, who thanked him for his hard work on the convention. Farrands was another life-long fan of the horror genre, having first corresponded with Friday the 13th mentor Frank Mancuso Jr. when he was fourteen. Moving to Los Angeles a few years later, Farrands was granted an interview with Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad, but it would not be for several years until he was given the chance to write his own sequel, 1995’s critically panned Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
At the time of contacting Masi, Farrands was completing work on a detailed and exhaustive book entitled Crystal Lake Memories, which charted the making of each of the Friday the 13th movies. Eager to promote the book, which he had acted as an editor on for author Peter M. Bracke, Farrands suggested a Friday the 13th convention but Masi, who had spent almost a year working on the Halloween event, politely declined. Farrands immediately followed with an idea for a documentary and, with Masi’s previous experience on Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, sensed the potential of shooting a new retrospective. The final piece of the puzzle would come with the arrival of Thommy Hutson, whose passion for the franchise had begun back in 1988 when he had snuck into a screening of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. With Farrands having assisted in the creation of Crystal Lake Memories, which had boasted exclusive interviews with dozens of long-lost cast and crew members, the filmmakers had contact details for most of those that they hoped to bring onto the project, whilst Hutson assisted in tracking down other contributors to the series (as would Friday the 13th: The Website’s John Klyza).
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, there were several key figures who were unable to participate, either due to the producers not locating them or simply refusing to take part. Thus, Friday the 13th’s Kevin Bacon, The Final Chapter’s Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover and Alan Hayes and Part V: A New Beginning’s Melanie Kinnaman were notably absent, whilst concerns would surround the mysterious disappearance of Part 2’s Marta Kober. Meanwhile, with Masi having previously worked with Anchor Bay on Halloween: 25 Years of Terror he knew that he had to work with them again on His Name Was Jason, but first there was the issue of copyrights. Over the course of thirty years the franchise had found its way to three different studios; Paramount had distributed the first eight films, whilst Warner Bros. had released the first outside of the United States, and New Line had obtained the series in 1992 and had released three films of their own. Although Masi had agreed on a licensing quote with Paramount, New Line had since been acquired by Warner Bros. and the quote that they demanded was far too much for an independent production. Thus, His Name Was Jason would ultimately only feature footage from the first eight movies.
The productions schedule for His Name Was Jason would prove to be somewhat frantic, with the filmmakers being instructed by Anchor Bay that they would have just thirteen weeks to shoot the interviews, edit the footage and deliver the completed picture. Due to his experience on Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, Masi was confident that he would be able to meet the deadline, whilst Ferrand’s association with Crystal Lake Memories made him an invaluable resource of knowledge and trivia. With approximately ninety interviews to conduct, principal shooting took place over a ten-day period on a soundstage in the Burbank district of Los Angeles. Each contributor was allocated one hour, in which they were placed in front of a large screen and allowed to reminisce over their memories and experiences of working on the franchise. With many of the cast and crew having not seen each other for over twenty years, the shoot became something of a reunion as they would pass each other on their way in to their interviews.
The documentary would be hosted by Tom Savini, whose groundbreaking special effects had played a significant role in the success of both the original movie and 1984’s The Final Chapter. The sequences in which Savini provides the narrative whilst being surrounded by props and effects was shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Masi would be amazed by how efficient his crew were, who worked tirelessly throughout the three-month production. When it came to structuring the footage during post-production, Masi had already decided that he wanted to avoid going through the franchise in chronological order, as he had already utilised that method with Halloween: 25 Years of Terror and wanted to avoid any obvious comparisons. Instead, they broke up the film into chapters; commencing with a brief rundown of the history of the series, before discussing the writing, casting and method of deaths within each film.
Despite their best attempts, the filmmakers were unable to obtain permission to use footage from the music video for Alice Cooper’s 1986 classic He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), which had been released to promote Jason Lives. Having made its debut at the Denver Film Festival in November 2008, His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th was released on DVD on February 3rd 2009, the same day that Paramount would finally re-release Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D. Ten days later, the documentary made its network debut on Starz to great acclaim. Shortly after completing work on the film, Farrands was contacted by Paramount’s Tim King, who had struggled to find suitable material for the special edition releases of the first three Friday the 13th DVDs and required expert assistance in digging up achieve material for the later sequels. In 2010, Farrands and Hutson followed up the success of His Name Was Jason with the epic documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, whilst Masi worked on The Psycho Legacy with writer-director Robert V. Galluzzo.