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The Pros and Cons of a Found Footage ‘Friday the 13th’

Jason McDonald 38 Comments

Here’s the deal: I don’t want a “Friday the 13th” film with a found footage angle.  In fact, I’m really hoping that the rumor of a “F13” film set during a snowstorm comes true.  The idea of Jason Voorhees leaving a bloody path of destruction against a crisp white backdrop sounds like an aesthetically wonderful concept.

But in a year’s time we might be looking at the first found footage entry in the “Friday the 13th” series.  The rumors and speculation just seem to be mounting at this point and, with a sense of finality, I have to wonder if it would really be so bad? So I decided to play the Devil’s Advocate and try to rationalize why a found footage “Friday the 13th” would make sense.

The use of found footage is often a story-telling device designed to ease production costs and create immersion. But it’s essentially a gimmick that has proven to be really, really, popular.  And, if we’re to be completely honest with ourselves, the “F13” series is no stranger to utilizing gimmicks.  In fact, the very first film was based on a popular gimmick that was perforating through Hollywood at the time.  After the success of “Halloween”, every studio wanted their own holiday-themed horror movie.  “Friday the 13th” was born from that concept, but thankfully, it proved to be more than a cash-in and was a quality product.

The Pros and Cons of a Found Footage Friday the 13th

A few years later the series would cash in on another gimmick with “Friday the 13 3-D”, then again by having Jason take Manhattan, and eventually they explored the final frontier of gimmicks: space. Point is, the series has always been comfortable with doing something weird and different to draw in an audience.  It’s almost a tradition at this point and, really, a big part of the series’ charm.

However, just because “Friday the 13th” has committed to dumb ideas in the past doesn’t mean it should continue too.  The most recent remake offered a clean break from the escalating absurdity by returning Jason to a more visceral state of mind.  It would be a mistake to back-pedal now and rely on a gimmick to ensure a quick buck. The success of the 2009 remake shows that the franchise is profitable without having to use a crux.  But, I’m supposed to be defending found footage, so let’s get back on track.

While the 2009 reboot was profitable, it could be argued that the profit margin was rather slim by today’s successful horror film standards and that doesn’t bode well for a franchise’s longevity.  When you have films like “The Conjuring” and “Paranormal Activity” easily hitting the $100 million mark, studios start to expect a bigger bang out of their more marketable horror films.  There’s no reason that an iconic franchise like “Friday the 13th” can’t achieve those high figures. And, in order to enhance their odds of success, studios are using the new micro-budget style of production which often utilizes found footage filmmaking.

The Pros and Cons of a Found Footage Friday the 13th

Of course, in order for this to make sense, you would have to ignore the fact that found footage films seem to be on a decline in terms of profitability. This year saw a harsh box office failure in the form of “The Devil’s Due” which only eked out a tiny sum of $15 million despite a strong marketing push.  Even Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity” series has seen a sharp decrease in ticket sales with the latest entry only grossing $32 million.  Only five found footage projects have been more profitable than the “Friday the 13th” remake and the last film to out gross it was “Paranormal Activity 3” in 2011.  But maybe there’s a valid reason for the approach that extends beyond the dollar bill.

At this point, we know nothing about what the next film might be about.  If there’s a solid story-centric reason for there to be found footage involved, then I believe it’s a perfectly acceptable way to deliver a narrative.  Found footage works best when it’s not simply a gimmick, but a device used to convey a story that wouldn’t have as much impact if it were told using traditional means. Examples of this include “The Tunnel” or “Chronicle”, where the use of found footage is natural and interwoven into the plot.  If “Friday the 13th” were to employ a similar logic to its new film, I could accept it as a one-time entry.

However, one time is all I could honestly endure.  The things that make “Friday the 13th” what it is don’t typically work in a found footage setting.  How would you get the classic stalking scenes from Jason’s POV? Strap a camera to his mask?  How about the gore and violence? Usually those shots are fixed so that the audience can absorb all the details and see the fantastic practical effects in play.  Found footage tends to be more erratic and fast paced.  These are elements that need room to breathe and found footage can be suffocating and disorienting at times.

At the end of the day, all I want is another “Friday the 13th” film.  Perhaps this film won’t be the one I want, but if it’s successful, then there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll get another film and we won’t be left with a five year drought like we just had. And, if “Friday the 13th” holds true to its nature, future films will likely swing back around to a more familiar formula. I just hope the franchise won’t dwindle and die out again before then.

The Pros and Cons of a Found Footage Friday the 13th

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38 Comments

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      1. Aaron Laliberte April 19, 2014 at 12:13 am

        they should just do it. i like the genre as do millions of others. if it sucks it sucks.

      2. Chad M Kuhns April 19, 2014 at 12:19 am

        The biggest issue I have is just how a found footage style is supposed to work in a Camp Crystal Lake environment. It passes in the Paranormal Activity films because the cameras are typically stationary, and work as plot devices. That does not transfer to a Friday the 13th film. Teenagers running and falling in the woods non stop would lend itself to the ‘found footage’ that’s all over the place as well, and would ultimately lead to very formulaic kills. We get the quick cut of Jason, the shaky cam and then the kill that may or may not be in full shot. It’s just not the type of shooting style that’s preferred for a slasher film. Still, I’m hoping they can prove me wrong.

      3. Walk A. Zashi April 19, 2014 at 12:24 am

        It sounds all good to me my friend. Jason running a muck in CGI would be awesome. Camp Crystal Lake sucks for nice loners and they need to die as many times as people see fit.

      4. Larry Brown April 19, 2014 at 12:26 am

        My problem much to my own surprise isnt the found footage idea is that the “remake” really sucked and i wouldn’t want those same people in charge.

      5. Tim Bearden April 19, 2014 at 12:30 am

        The main Con for me is that I love Jason and go to see him star in a movie killing off teens. A found footage movie would have to focus more on the teenagers, holding the cameras, with him just popping up time to time. He’d probably be all dark, mysterious and hidden. I want my Jason front and center! The only found footage type movie that worked for me was Chronicle. The cameras in that became characters and actually evolved along with the story.

      6. Bill Schap April 19, 2014 at 12:34 am

        Speaking as an “old fart”, the original Friday the 13th was the first slasher type movie I saw in the theater. I have always loved it because of the shocks it gave me. That being said, I wouldn’t care if they did a “found footage’ film, but I would have no interest in it. The Blair Witch Project was a very cool concept, but has been way over used since it’s release. Of course this is just my personal opinion, and especially with horror films, I don’t think anyone’s opinion is right or wrong, just personal taste.

      7. Andrew Yestrumsky April 19, 2014 at 1:13 am

        A found footage Friday the 13th would be an interesting take on tge Mythos of Jason. Done the right way it could really brighten up the genre an give Jason the spotlight again. Fuck CGI be practical low budget an make it life like. Good old fashion kills an gore.

      8. Brian Molina April 19, 2014 at 1:24 am

        the only found footage was the Blair witch . why cause it was the first . the remake wasn’t bad could of bin worse, but just remake number two and leave it alone . dam you found footage movies you are a waste of time. oh look found footage in space .or in the wood or in ghetto dam it

        • Phil Wall April 19, 2014 at 3:13 am

          Cannibal Holocaust was way before Blair Witch!

        • Brian Molina
          Brian Molina April 19, 2014 at 4:10 am

          Crap I forgot that one. But my point is if they make a friday the 13 lost footage film it would be crap like te 1000 thst are out there.

        • Brian Molina
          Brian Molina April 19, 2014 at 4:18 am

          Cannibal holocaust wasn’t a bad movie .just tried to over due it

        • Phil Wall April 19, 2014 at 2:02 pm

          I personally don’t want to see a found footage Jason film because it just sounds like yet another gimmick to to milk the series. But I wouldn’t say Blair Witch was the best found footage. Rec and rec 2 are way better!

      9. Donnie Bonn April 19, 2014 at 2:50 am

        a lot of people claim blair witch was first found footage film, i just think it came about at the height of hand held recorders being so common, if you remember both “cannibal holocaust” and “make them die slowly/aka/cannibal ferox” were both basically found footage films.

      10. Phil Wall April 19, 2014 at 3:10 am

        Found footage Friday the 13th just sounds like a gimmick to milk another movie out of the series and give the fans any old piece of shit. We’re Jason fans we’ll watch anything right? Even shit Jason films are good. Why not just give us a good fucking movie?!

      11. Marc Hughes April 19, 2014 at 3:29 am

        It doesn’t sound like it would be so bad IF it were a found footage film…The part to me that sounds completely horrible are the rumors of it being a first person view Jason-less film….Found footage if done correctly could be interesting….I personally HATE the hell out of blair witch and the 90 mins of 3 people bitching and arguing in the woods for no pay-off whatsoever….

      12. Jeff Cowell April 19, 2014 at 3:38 am

        More than half hour of a first person perspective an I’m done, hurts my head!

      13. D.j. Clement April 19, 2014 at 3:59 am

        I do not like the concept, as I think its a cheap and cliché way to say “we have run out of ideas.”… but this reeks of the classic Cunningham approach – take someone else’s ideas, and then rip them off to suit your film… lets face it, every film beyond part 4 had some “gimmick” to it..
        Part 5 – Someone pretending to be Jason.
        Part 6 – Jason is Frankensteined back to life.
        Part 7 – Girl with psychic powers.
        Part 8 – New York.
        JGTH – Jason is a parasite.
        JX – SPACE!!!!!
        FvJ – typical monster vs monster movie
        F13 – a reboot..
        …. honestly, I think Sean is running out of horror subgenres to mine for his Friday films… but what the hell, why not try found footage next…
        Halloween Resurrection tried this approach of using first person approach, and it came off as incredibly hokey….

        EDIT** Actually how could i forget about…
        Part 2 – the son of the original killer wants revenge.
        Part 3 – 3D…
        …. damn practically the whole franchise is gimmick infused.

      14. Daniel Dickson April 19, 2014 at 5:01 am

        I think found footage sounds tight. Remember the Blair Witch 2 when it’s a bunch of kids partying in a cozy cabin and more footage comes up and it slowly unfolds plus there’s various action too? I always like the part like in Freddy when they escape in the van and there’s a stoner there plus a little chemistry and everything just chills out for a little. For me stuff like that really works. That’s the reason why Scream was the bomb. They’re chillin’ at the High School talking about it. Also, a snowstorm Jason sounds like s!@# to me. Traditional scary movies for the most part should be geared towards Halloween. Summer and fall good, winter and spring bad. Duh.

        • Phil Wall April 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

          Blair Witch 2 is mostly shot like a traditional film though, it’s not found footage. In a few bits they use that style, but it’s not a found footage film…

      15. Daniel Dickson April 19, 2014 at 5:07 am

        Ps. You all are trippin’ about it. Don’t think “paranormal whacktivity” found footage. Technically Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a found footage movie. Think of it more along those lines. After all, it’s a big budget movie, isn’t it?

        • Phil Wall April 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm

          Technically TCM kinda isn’t a found footage film though is it ha. In what way is it exactly? It is an account of an apparent real event, but it’s shot like a regular film. The remake used found footage at the start and end though.

        • Daniel Dickson
          Daniel Dickson April 20, 2014 at 4:56 am

          At the beginning and maybe the end of TCM. that’s what i’m saying phil. that sort of thing. it’s not like the whole movie needs to be shot with some weird camera like paranormal activity. just a little found footage here and there. like they find some weird movie and watch it before they get hacked up. a normal movie with just a little found footage thrown in to build suspense.

      16. Joseph Dzencelowcz April 19, 2014 at 5:10 am

        I think a found footage sequence might work for part of a new F13 film, but not for the whole movie

      17. stanger April 19, 2014 at 6:12 am

        No, having the image spin in circle for hours on end suck. Enough of the $5 budget handycam project.

      18. Levi Everaerts April 19, 2014 at 8:14 am

        The terms “remake” and “reboot, and the terms “POV” and “found footage” are not interchangable, for they are not the same thing. I’m not even going to comment on the actual article itself, everyone has already decided to hate found footage.

      19. Theron Moore April 19, 2014 at 8:25 am

        Be freaking great!!

      20. D.j. Clement April 19, 2014 at 10:18 am

        Daniel Dickson…. no, Texas Chainsaw was not technically a found footage movie.. it was meant to be taken as a reenactment of a “true story” – big difference… found footage is exactly what its called, camera footage (usually from a subjective pov) is found and recounts the events of the people on the recording prior to going missing or being killed, plain and simple.

      21. Mike-Teresa 'Alred' Alfaro Alfaro April 19, 2014 at 11:32 am

        It would be like settling for spam when you could have a steak.

      22. stephen wilson April 19, 2014 at 1:56 pm

        Friday the 13thin a snowstorm will never happen, That rumor was around years ago about Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is the same rumor, just recycled. Aside from DeadSnow, the closest you’ll get to anything remotely winter horror is the new Fargo series. It is time for some new Slashers anyway. The last and only good Jason movie was #6, Jason lives.

      23. Matt Zickefoose April 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm

        Gawd no, found footage movies suck so bad now. And why ruin friday the 13th by jumping on that bandwagon. Its a bad idea!!!

      24. Paul Cochran April 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm

        no,no,no,no,no,no,no,NO,NO,NO,NO!!!

      25. Michael Kruger April 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm

        All of the Friday the 13th films are cons. I’m surprised the first did not not a 0% on Rotton Tomatos and a 1.0 on IMDb

      26. Michael Ducharme April 19, 2014 at 4:41 pm

        A found footage version is alright, but I really want it as a sequel to the 2009 one and it MUST have Jason in it.

      27. Sterling Darren MacDonald April 20, 2014 at 3:11 am

        Boooooooooooo!!!

      28. Michael Pickle April 20, 2014 at 3:47 am

        No need to debate. If a good filmmaker does it, it will be good whether it’s found footage style or not. Anything is better than that crappy remake. :)

      29. D.j. Clement April 20, 2014 at 4:38 am

        Michael Pickle… I agree, but everything about this screams desperation and lack of creativity…. if it turns out good, I will gladly eat crow lol.. but I have a feeling we are going to be seeing the 2009 remake, but in first person view…

      30. Vincent Ruffalo April 20, 2014 at 6:10 am

        Don’t care and don’t want to hear any pros of found footage. This subgenera peaked over 10 years ago

      31. Robbie Higgins June 4, 2014 at 7:48 am

        I like the found footage idea but it doesn’t have to consume the entire film. It could work if it’s partly shot on a Handycam. There’s always that annoying idiot that won’t stop filming, maybe this would work being a normal film and switching to the idiots video camera for the scares. But please make it scary. Gat James Wan to direct it. Can’t go wrong.