How Tom Savini And Kane Hodder Brought Jason Back From The Dead For ‘Friday The 13th: The Game’

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Your time at Crystal Lake had been so nice. Cute counselors, nice weather, a little stanky grass to end the day... a summer you’ll always remember. But now you’re out in the woods, burning thorn cuts all over your bare legs (it’s a short shorts decade for guys and gals alike), shivering and frightened, straining to see and hear through the dark trees. A branch snaps and you’re running again, tripping once but getting back up and slamming into a hulking…

There’s a lot of ways this could go: it could be a giant hick in overalls, a sack with one eyehole pulled down over his head and tied off with rope. Or maybe it’s a rotting corpse in a boiler suit, maggots crawling out of the eyeholes of his hockey mask. Like any god or demon, Jason Voorhees can come to you in many forms.

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Jason as seen in 'Friday the 13th Part 2,' before the mask. Photo: Gun Media

Friday the 13th: The Game will feature seven Jasons (there’s still time to hit stretch goals for more), including the Voorhees of Friday the 13th Part 2, Part III, Part VI: Jason Lives, Part VII: The New Blood, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and the fleshy, undead slug Jason of Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday.

That’s six Jasons. The seventh is something very special. Friday the 13th: The Game will feature a brand-new Jason Voorhees, designed by gore legend Tom Savini, who did makeup effects for the first and fourth Friday the 13th (The new Jason is Kickstarter exclusive and can be pre-ordered here).

“It’s an all new Jason version nobody’s seen before,” Friday the 13th: The Game Executive Producer Randy Greenback said, refusing to reveal more. After some aggressive wheedling, Greenback said, “It’s different, very different. Savini is known as ‘the volcano of the mind.’ The guy just gushes ideas.”

Savini’s gushing creativity proved instrumental in developing the game’s kills too, since looking like Jason doesn’t mean much without the promise of extreme brutality. “Give us 40 or 50 kills, the craziest shit you can imagine,” Greenback said, describing his instructions to Savini. “And he delivered.”

If you’ve been following the development of Friday the 13th: The Game, then you probably saw pre-alpha footage like this:

Mainly used to test out gameplay concepts, the pre-alpha is built out from temporary assets and canned animations. This is what we’ve seen of actual gameplay footage:

So not much.

Where Friday the 13th: The Game is really coming to life is in the motion capture studio, where Gun Media has enlisted Kane Hodder—who played Jason in four Friday the 13th movies—to bring Savini’s kills to life, typically followed by immediate dismemberment and death.

“We’re at the mo-cap studio and even Kane is looking at the animation sheet and what we’re going to do next and is like ‘what sick fuck came up with this!?’ And of course it’s Tom.”

Capturing the choreography of the kills in real life was essential in porting the Savini aesthetic into a digital space. “When I do the fake stuff, if it doesn’t give me the same feeling I got when I saw the real stuff, the fake stuff isn’t real enough,” Savini said in an interview with Adam Sessler. “It was real. It was practical when we did it. You’re seeing a recording of practical stuff.”

Many of the game’s kills employ elements in the game environment. Tom Savini himself came up with what Greenback called “the bloody swirly,” which he couldn’t help but pantomime. “Slit,” he said, drawing a hand across his own throat. He grasps an invisible fistful of scalp, “then the head.” Since there was no toilet within reach he shoves it down into the tabletop, “and drown.”

“Kane grabbed them by the throat, forced them to their knees, moved in, put one hand on each side of their mouth, ripped their jaw off and threw it at the body,” Greenback said, describing “one of the most visceral ones that we captured.”

While the gameplay inside Friday the 13th: The Game has been playtested and massaged since the project was called Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp, the mo-cap animation brings the killer to terrifying life, like lightning popping open Jason’s eyes in Jason Lives. “Before everything was placeholder animations, so now it's like ‘Oh shit,’” Greenback said, describing his reaction to first seeing the mo-cap animation coming together.

Gun Media and Illfonic are going overboard to make sure Friday the 13th: The Game is not just a tribute or an adjunct to the classic series. This isn’t Jason’s Greatest Hits. Instead, the contributions from Kane Hodder and Tom Savini embody Jason in a new medium, rebirthing the masked killer and imbuing his digital incarnation with all of the details and tics intact. Friday the 13th: The Game aims to recapture the sensory experience of fear.

“He’s got that leer where he stands and just follows you and tracks you,” Greenback said, rattling off the tiny details that makes this Jason the proper ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma Jason:

“The way Kane hooks and then turns with his body.”

“How he picks up weapons.”

“How he drags things around.”

Friday the 13th: The Game will even allow the most classic ineffectual victim move: tossing random, useless shit at your advancing death as Jason backs you into a corner. “It’s not going to do anything, but we wanted to capture that,” Greenback said. “We don’t expect any of that stuff to stop Jason, but it’s fun.”

With seven Jasons and over 400 animations capturing the physical impact of terror and mutilation, Friday the 13th: The Game is primed to top every other video game incarnation of Jason Voorhees and likely a handful of the movies as well, but that alone isn’t enough.

As much as Friday the 13th: The Game seems to be nailing the details, its real mission is to capture what worked about Jason as a slasher progenitor, before Krueger and his wisecracks or Ghostface and his movie trivia. “Slasher movies bring you back to a little more primal state. Fight or flight. What are you going to do? How far are you willing to go to live?”

Friday the 13th: The Game aims to recapture the vicious, visceral sensation of fear. Jason’s essential nature never changes. Despite his forays into space, or Manhattan, or 3D, Jason is still silent death, uncaring and always walking your way. Chain him to the bottom of the lake, halve his skull with a machete, but it will never provide you anything more than a reprieve. And it will always ruin your summer.

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