Jason Vorhees may not have quite been first, but he’s still one of the most iconic horror villains in history. Even non-horror fans recognized his hockey mask and machete.
Jason even famously has the highest kill count of any slasher villain, even more than Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.
But long before he was an enduring symbol of the slasher genre, it all began with a low budget independent movie that started it all.
And as hard as it is to believe, that original Friday the 13th is now 40 years old! So in honor of this milestone anniversary, here are 40 fun facts about Friday the 13th:
1. Screenwriter Victor Miller admits that Friday the 13th was essentially a shameless knock off of Halloween. He had seen it, and felt that he could replicate its success.
2. This wasn’t Victor Miller or Sean S. Cunningham’s first time trying to rip off a popular movie. They actually met while making Here Come the Tigers, a knockoff version of The Bad News Bears.
3. The movie was shot at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, NJ. It’s still an active Boy Scout campground. You can visit its official site here.
4. Because it was a Boy Scout camp, the production made a sizeable donation to the organization in order to use their campground.
5. Director Sean S. Cunningham had previously worked as a producer on Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left.
6. Despite there being an actual Friday the 13th in June of 1980 (the date the film is set), it was released a month earlier on May 9th.
7. Harry Crosby, who played Bill, was actually the son of famous singer Bing Crosby. Many even felt this was taking the Halloween connection further, as they too had case Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of a famous parent (Janet Leigh).
8. While most of the cast and crew stayed in local hotels during shooting, Tom Savini and his assistant Taso N. Stavrakis stayed on the campground itself, even watching horror movies after hours on a VCR that Savini brought.
9. Tom Savini was sought out by the producers after they were really impressed with his makeup effects on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
10. Mark Nelson has since claimed that his character Ned invented the practical joker in slashers, since there wasn’t one in Black Christmas, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween.
11. Sally Field originally auditioned for the role of Alice Hardy.
12. There still remains a great deal of controversy surrounding the killing of a real snake in the movie. Not just because a real animal was killed on screen, but because it wasn’t a wild animal they found. It had an owner, who allegedly wasn’t told that they would be killing it.
13. Victor Miller only ever wrote one more horror screenplay, A Stranger is Watching (1982). He then spent the next few decades gaining notoriety writing for soap operas like All My Children, Guiding Light, and Another World.
14. It’s hard to imagine now, looking back at the entire franchise, but Crazy Ralph was originally meant to be something of a red herring, so the audience would suspect him.
15. Crazy Ralph’s actor, Walt Gorney actually had very few movie credits, as he was more prevalent on stage.
16. It was falsely report that Gorney passed away in 1989, which led to many fans being shocked when he actually died in 2004.
17. Kevin Bacon was hired simply because he was good looking, and Cunningham believed this would attract people to see it. This seemed to be his primary criteria for hiring actors.
18. The script’s original title was A Long Night At Camp Blood, which in hindsight seems a bit wordy.
However, this unused title would later be referenced in 2015’s The Final Girls, when they go inside an 80’s slasher movie titled “Camp Bloodbath”.
19. After deciding on the title Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham pitched it, just using the title and the shattered glass image seen in the film’s opening.
20. Cunningham even ran an ad in Variety just to ensure that no one else was using that title.
21. Apparently, there was another movie called Friday the 13th, which was released a year earlier in 1979. Allegedly the producers tried to sue this film over copyright infringement, but the lawsuit never went anywhere. It has since be retitled The Orphan.
22. Victor Miller was quite unhappy with where the franchise went. He only ever intended for it to be a single murder mystery film and for Jason himself to be dead from the start.
23. There had been some confusion about the name of the male counselor killed back in the 50’s during the opening.
The end credits list him as “Barry”, but the dialogue itself (and captions) called him “Gary”. It was later fixed in the 2009 DVD so that the dialogue and captions matched what was in the end credits.
24. Rock star Lou Reed owned a farm near the campsite and apparently played free concerts for the cast and crew, and even hung out with them during production.
25. The iconic ki ki ki ma ma ma sound effect in the soundtrack was made by composer Harry Mandfredini himself. He got the idea listening the music of Krzysztof Penderecki, who sadly passed away recently. You can check out our tribute to him here.
26. Jeanine Taylor (Marcie) still doesn’t really consider it a horror movie. She claims that it’s really just a movie about carefree teenagers who happened to get killed.
27. Betsy Palmer famously hated the script, and really only took the role because she needed a new car. She also felt that no one would ever see it, so it would be fine. Now it’s arguably her most famous role.
28. For years at conventions, Palmer would jokingly tell fans that she has no idea who the man in the hockey mask is, because as far as she was concerned, her son died in the 50’s.
29. Apparently other famous actress like Estelle Parsons and Shelley Winters were offered the role of Mrs. Vorhees, but declined because of the film’s violence, which was quite shocking still in 1980.
30. Years before Betsy Palmer killed Robbi Morgan (Annie), she appeared on stage with Morgan’s brother in a production of “Peter Pan”.
31. Allegedly during one take Ron Millkie’s (Officer Dorf) motorcycle actually fell on him. Millkie was an Air Force veteran but wasn’t as experienced with motorcycles.
32. Victor Miller admits that he was inspired to reverse the Psycho twist, where a mother is killing, taking the personality of her dead son
33. The diner featured in the movie is called Blairstown Diner, and it’s still very much open and active. You can visit its website here.
34. Tom Savini claims the only reason for the iconic ending scene with Jason was he had recently seen Carrie, and wanted to mimic the last second jump scare for the audience.
35. Because of the success of Halloween, there was a bidding war for Friday the 13th between Paramount (who won), Warner Bros., and United Artists
36. Despite liking Halloween, Siskel and Ebert hated this movie and even slammed it in a special show called The War on Women. However this “bad press” only seemed to fuel its popularity.
37. Siskel hated it so much, he even published Betsy Palmer’s address in his review so that people would write her angry letters.
38. Nominated for Worst Picture at the Razzies but “lost” to Can’t Stop the Music.
39. Critics may have hated it upon release, but fans love it. Friday the 13th was even ranked 31st on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
40. Young Jason (Ari Lehman) didn’t act again until the 2000’s. After playing the first Jason in the franchise, we went to pursue a career in music, even calling one of his bands “First Jason”!
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!