The Art Of Murdering Kevin Bacon: An Oral History Of How ‘Friday The 13th’ Became A Horror Classic

Friday the 13th title shot

Paramount Movies

In 1978, the film Halloween changed the horror genre forever by proving that a low budget, independent movie could hit the jackpot at the box office. Made for just $300,000, Halloween ended up grossing more than $70 million worldwide, and the only sound that was louder than the screams of fans that year was that of Hollywood studio execs shouting “CHA-CHING!” With only a pair of kids’ movies under his belt, director Sean Cunningham took notice and decided to bring his idea for a horror film called Friday the 13th to the big screen. After all, he pitched it as “the scariest movie ever made.” The only problem was… he needed to make it first.

Cunningham called on his best friend, screenwriter Victor Miller, to help him create Friday the 13th, a movie that was supposed to be as scary as Halloween, but with way more blood. Despite developing their idea on the fly, working with a cast that had little to no horror experience, and running out of money several times, Cunningham and his crew completed their slasher pic, and thanks to a cast member’s mother’s blood-curdling screams, it soon found a home at Paramount. Like Halloween, Friday the 13th was a box office hit, and while Cunningham and his cast and crew had never imagined it, this movie would be the catalyst for a franchise that would run for 29 years. Even today, Paramount has the wheels in motion for a new chapter in the death and resurrection of Jason Voorhees, but the hockey-mask-wearing monster still doesn’t hold a candle to the murderer who started it all… his mom.

To mark the 35th anniversary of this monumental slasher film, we spoke to Cunningham and Miller about the creation of Camp Crystal Lake; as well as Betsy Palmer, the woman who masterfully turned Mrs. Voorhees into a terrifying mother on the hunt for vengeance; Tom Savini, the award-winning special make-up effects creator lovingly known as “The Godfather of Gore,” about the dawn of the “Splatter Era”; and stars Adrienne King and Kevin Bacon, whose grass-smokin’ camp counselors paved the way for bloody big screen murders for years to come.