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Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Fangoria #63
By J. Gill & C. Swift

Jason may be the king of cut and slash but the results of his latest bloody escapade Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, indicate that he carries a dull butter knife when compared to that granddaddy of mad slashers--the motion picture ratings board.

Gorehounds expecting Jason Lives to be a panorama of blood and graphic guts were, undoubtedly, disappointed at the quick cuts, the off-screen kills and an overall feeling that this basically PG-13 plus flick would have been safe viewing for your maiden aunt from Podunk.

"We were definitely disappointed that many of the things we worked on in the movie didn't make it to the screen," complains Jim Gill, mechanical FX coordinator for Reel EFX who worked on Jason Lives. "But there's not a lot you can do when the ratings people go quite literally through the movie saying, 'Sorry, you can't do that.' "

Gill and makeup FX coordinator Christopher Swift re performing this roundtable postmortem in a conference room in the Southern California office of Reel EFX. It is several weeks after Jason Lives, warts and all, opened to its expected terrible reviews and its equally expected great box office (nearly $22 million). Even if the group was robbed--FX wise--the Reel EFX guys remain in good spirits, due to a successful summer run and the rumors that at least seven more Friday the 13th movies are being planned. Also, an X-rated version of Jason Lives may yet get out by way of videocassette.

Swift, however, claims that Reel EFX (Martin Becker's baby) and director Tom McLoughlin (Fango #57) had no illusions about getting something that graphic into the theaters.

"The impact the ratings board was going to have on this movie was weighing on everybody's mind even in pre-production," remembers Swift. "Frank Mancuso, Jr., the producer, called a meeting with Tom, Marty and all the effects people and went through the original script, page by page. Things almost immediately started to change.

"In the initial script, people were getting their faces ripped off and there was some really good gore stuff. Frank took one look and said, 'Forget it.' "

Mancuso wasn't just playing the Grinch to that initial Jason Lives script. Mancuso, senior as well as junior, have been doing battles with the ratings board on Friday the 13th sequels from the early days. Thanks to those bloody experiences, Mancuso knew going in what kills would or wouldn't pass muster.

"At that point, the biggest challenge was not so much to see what we could get by the ratings board, but more of giving them something they would accept," explains Gill. "Our goal was to make the effects as big as possible and to have something we could live with when the board ultimately told us that we had to cut back."

With that in mind, director McLoughlin set about shooting Jason Lives' massacres three different ways, in degrees ranging from a hard PG-13 to a gore-laden X. Good thinking, Tom, because as audiences learned, most of what was bloody wound up on the cutting room floor.

The graveyard maggot sequence, which made use of a dummy, the notorious CJ (the actor who plays Jason) and Swift's own eye (in all the Jason close-ups), was one of the rare scenes to survive the censor's axe. Beginning with the demise of Tommy's sidekick Allen (Ron Palillo) at Jason's hands, there is much that you missed.

Swift notes that the moment where Jason rips out the actor's insides was accomplished by what he terms "an interesting effect."

"We built false body on a rig," he reveals. "The front was porous and we filled it with all kinds of guts, arteries and a heart that would be pulled out by Jason."

A heart? Guts and arteries? No, you didn't blink and miss it. Swift catalogues the missing footage.

"What you did see is Jason's hand coming out of the body and then it is cut. What you did not see is that he dragged the guts and the heart out and then he drops the heart on the ground where it lays steaming.

"It was one of those scenes that really grabbed you, which is probably why it was snipped. And that's too bad, because people find it hard to grasp that Jason disemboweled Allen because nothing is ever shown."

Something else that's never shown is the graphic bottle-in-the-neck death of the drunk caretaker. "The X-rated version of that had Jason ramming the broken bottle into his neck," offers Swift gleefully. "He goes down and the camera closes in on the bottle as the blood begins to flow out of one end."

Easily the most ambitious effect to go by the wayside is the triple decapitation of the goofy survivalists, Gill says what made it to the screen of that slashing was not that shocking or gory. But the potential was definitely there.

"That scene was cut the worst," Gill laments. "We had set up three full bodies with detachable heads with trips attached to each one. The machete was set up on a track and, as it rode the track and hit each trip, the body would be blown down and the head would fly off and there was blood everywhere. That scene could have had the most impact but it wound up having the least."

Next on the nix parade was the segment in which the two camp counselors (one played by director Tom McLoughlin's wife Nancy) drive down the road and into a deadly confrontation with Jason. The woman being speared in a puddle of water was trimmed of excess blood and wound exposure. The guy, also speared and subsequently tossed through the air and into the bushes required more doctoring.

"There was shot where the broken body is laying in the bushes that didn't make it," Gill adds. "We also had a sequence in which the boy is speared and Jason actually appears to throw him through the air (feat accomplished with an air ramp) that was cut because the ratings people didn't want to actually see the body on the spear.

"Originally, the script called for the guy to be speared, Jason lifting him in the air and having him slide down the spear, leaving guts hanging on the end. But that idea was trashed early on. Frank took one look at it during the early meetings and said, 'It'll never make it, so don't try.' "

But our determined band of goremeisters did continue to try and, in the movie's fiery van crash, even manage one small FX step forward.

"We worked up what I believe would have been a screen first," recalls Swift ominously. "What had a retractable knife with retractable blood that goes into the van driver's ear. The scene was shot in reverse so that what you caught was the knife jabbing into the ear and the blood coming out. It was shot in one continuous shot, without cuts, and it really worked well. But it was termed too graphic and very little of it survived."

Another FX shocker toned down for kiddie consumption was the interior of the cabin that's smeared wall to wall with blood after a Jason kill. Swift jokingly remembers that paint job came about the night he went off his rocker.

"We were getting ready shoot the scene and Tom told me that he wanted it to be real bloody, like somebody had been mauled. It was at a point in shooting where everybody was getting tired and I wanted to have a little fun, so I went in there and sprayed blood everywhere and threw all kinds of bloody wads around. It was like somebody had literally exploded in the room. There were brains and guts all over."

"The problem was I got carried away and the room was too gross so, in the finished film, the camera really doesn't focus on the room or linger for very long. The audience missed all kinds of stuff sliding down the walls."

What the audience also lost out on was an extreme bit of blood-letting centered around Jason's physical beheading of counselor Sissy (Renee Jones). Swift explains that Sissy was originally an off-camera kill in which she gets yanked out the cabin window and her head turns up later in the police car. But once filming on Jason Lives finished and the crew returned to Los Angeles, the status of this unlucky victim changed.

"Tom and Frank saw a rough cut and decided the movie needed some more kills, so Sissy suddenly became an on-camera kill that required a quick insert shot. That shot consisted of Sissy laying on the ground after being yanked out the window. Jason picks her up, grabs her head, turns it completely around and rips it off. What made it into the film from that was everything shot from the neck down.

"We knew, even while filming that scene, that we weren't going to get it past the board. So, we decided that we would go all the way with it and make sure it didn't get on."

Gill pick up the slaughter countdown on what Jason fans never witnessed by putting the particulars back into the backbreaking struggle between Jason and the sheriff (David Kagen) near the movie's end. "What you did not see was the sheriff's legs kicking and, in the uncut version, Jason bends the sheriff back so far that he ends up kissing his toes. There was also a lot of screams and bone crushing that were cut out."

Knowing that the ratings board was already sharpening their cutters, Mancuso and McLoughlin basically said, "What the hell," and brought the uncut X-rated version to the first ratings screening. Gill remembers that version of Jason Lives had everything in it.

"And after that first meeting, almost everything went," Swift notes. "The guts in the graveyard had to go. Sissy's head ripping, the bottle in the neck, the spear stunt. It all had to go. They didn't kill the back break completely, but they did claim it was a bit raw and strongly suggested that it be toned down."

McLoughlin, however, planned for this and dutifully doctored Jason Lives with less graphic scenes.

"Tom went back a second time," elaborates Swift, "and they were still telling him to tone things down and cut things. By now, Tom was getting a little disappointed."

As were the FX people connected with the film. "We knew a lot of our work was going right out the door," comments a philosophical Gill, "but what could we do? We knew what we were up against going in and we knew we would have trouble with the ratings board. Not so much because the film was so gory, but because it was a Friday the 13th that already had built-in following."

McLoughlin made still more changes and returned once again to the board. At this point, Jason Lives was an estimated six weeks away from its scheduled première and still without a rating. But the third time turned out to be a charm.

"Everything was fine," says Swift, "and Tom was about to go out the board with his R rating when the board said, 'Oh, by the way, the heart's gotta go.' It is almost like they had to get that last jab in."

Ratings slices and dices aside, both Swift and Gill feel that Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives is a good movie whose storyline and basic entertainment value weren't dampened by the troublemaking censors.

"The rating board hurt the film only by cutting or toning down the kills," concludes Gill with a sigh of relief, "which, to be perfectly honest, is the Friday the 13th series' main attraction. But it's not like you can argue with them. You show them the film, they ask for changes. And you go back and make them."

 

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