Legal Battle for Friday the 13th Film Rights Comes to an End

After years of legal dispute, Victor Miller, screenwriter on the original Friday the 13th film, has been awarded rights of authorship for his characters and story by the United States Court of Appeals For the Second Circuit. On the other side of the dispute, “HORROR INC., A MASSACHUSETTS CORPORATION, MANNY COMPANY, A CONNECTICUT LIMITED PARTNERSHIP” – aka Sean S. Cunningham, who both produced and directed the original film.

On the surface, most fans will likely just be happy the case is finally settled, as that opens the door for more movies, games, shows – whatever. But considering who was fighting for control, Miller winning might not be the outcome that most pleases fans.

Image Rights: Paramount Pictures

Miller’s involvement with the franchise starts and stops at the writing of the first film. While it’s true he is responsible (and deserves credit) for creating the Crystal Lake backstory, Jason’s tragic (first) death, and Mrs. Voohees, what most endures from the franchise is the part he had little to do with, what Jason became.

In fact, when it comes to the giant Hockey-Mask wearing Psycho Zombie, he seems to detest it all together. Here is what Miller wrote about the franchise sequels, from his website;

“To be honest, I have not seen any of the sequels, but I have a major problem with all of them because they made Jason the villain, I still believe that the best part of my screenplay was the fact that a mother figure was the serial killer — working from a horribly twisted desire to avenge the senseless death of her son, Jason. Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim. But I took motherhood and turned it on its head and I think that was great fun. Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I’d always wanted — a mother who would have killed for her kids.”

There’s a lot to unpack there. Miller, who it seems might have had some issues with his own mother if we read into that quote, has spent much of his career way outside the horror genre, working instead on soap operas including Guiding Light, One Life to Live, Another World, and All My Children. So we don’t know exactly what will happen with Miller in control. Will the popular video game get back on track with updates? Will Jason get a reboot, or maybe Mrs. Voorhees comes back? And what if Cunningham had won? In recent years he had seemed to come around to the fanservice part of the franchise. Cunningham, like Miller left the franchise after the first movie, but then came back starting with Jason Goes to Hell, where he infamously told the director to “just get rid of the damn hockey mask.” – though Cunningham denies saying it.

Adam Marcus, director of Jason Goes to Hell;

“He sure did! And yes, I’ve seen his YouTube video where he calls me a “fucking liar”. So I’ll put it to all of you. I was 22 when I got that job. 22. He was 50 and he was Sean S. Cunningham. So either he let a 22-year-old tell him how to make a movie (which makes him a eunuch) or he told me to get rid of the mask (which makes HIM a liar). It drives me nuts that he so desperately needs the world to think he’s in love with Jason. He’s not. It makes him money. That’s the only love he has for Jason. He made a movie with almost no Jason in it (the first film) and then he didn’t make another one till my film. He hated the hockey mask and Jason and all of it. But it made him money. You know, I’ve never said an unkind word about Sean because I owe my career to him but he doesn’t get to lie about my integrity. He should worry about his own.”

After Hell, Cunningham seemingly saw the light and embraced the cash mask returning to produce Jason X, Freddy vs. Jason, the 2009 reboot, and Friday the 13th: The Game.

Image Rights: Gun Media

But forget Cunningham and Miller though, we all know who the real franchise heroes are, and that’s David Cohen and Danny Steinmann. The duo wrote Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, which gave us Joey!

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