The Real Mrs. Voorhees Talks Freaky ‘Friday the 13th’

Superstitious types always get a bit jittery on Friday the 13th, but for fans of the seminal slasher series featuring hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees there is a lot of bloody good fun this holiday weekend. The Friday the 13th remake, directed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake’s Marcus Nispel, slashes its way to theaters this weekend and actually delivers the goods (i.e. blood, scares, thrills, Crystal Lake and plenty of gratuitous nudity). Paramount has released an uncut version of the original Friday the 13th on DVD and Blu-ray, plus remastered DVD versions of Part 2 and Part 3 (the latter features a 3D presentation and comes with glasses). Anchor Bay also just released His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th, an exhaustive documentary narrated by special-effects makeup maestro Tom Savini about the 12 movies, including the new one in theaters. Image

As Drew Barrymore found out the hard way when quizzed about it in Scream, Jason Voorhees didn’t actually kill anyone in 1980’s Friday the 13th. It was his mother, Pamela Voorhees (played by Broadway actress Betsy Palmer), who dispatched randy camp counselors as punishment for the accidental drowning of her unfortunate son. Although Palmer appeared again as Mrs. Voorhees in a hallucinatory sequence in Part 2, she opted out of the rest of the sequels in which her character appeared, including Freddy Vs. Jason and the current remake. In fact, Palmer, who now performs onstage in Love Letters across the country for fundraisers, only agreed to her iconic role because she needed a new set of wheels after her car broke down and left her stranded. “I read the script and thought, What a piece of s***,” says Palmer. “Nobody is ever going to see this thing. But I said, ‘What the heck. I’ll do it.’”

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So does Friday the 13th’s merciless matriarch have any superstitions of her own? “If I walk down the street and there is a ladder leaning on a building, I don’t walk under it,” she says. “I’ve never thought the number 13 is bad luck. I feel that men shouldn’t put their hats on beds—that’s bad luck. You don’t say the name of the Shakespeare play that begins with ‘M.’ People die when you talk about that backstage. I knock on wood. If I break a mirror, I just forgive myself. It’s bad enough you have to clean it all up without getting stuck and bloody. Yeah, I’m nuts, like everyone else!”

Palmer has only seen Friday the 13th four times in almost 30 years and none of the sequels, but seems to have accepted her place in horror-film history. “I get fan mail about it all the time,” she says. “I still pretty much look like the Mrs. Voorhees you saw—I’m not too haggish or haggard. I’ve embraced it as a blessing from the universe that has kept me alive for all these years in people’s minds.”

Robert DeSalvo is somewhat embarrassed to admit that he could summarize the plots of all 12 Friday the 13th flicks from memory.

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