The slasher subgenre is at the brim of a renaissance with Halloween coming to theaters this October. While it’ll be a sweet surprise for many horror fans to see Michael Myers back for another round of carnage, most can’t help but wonder when we’ll see the likes of icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th franchise making a return as well.
Unfortunately the Friday the 13th franchise hasn’t had much luck in recent years. Paramount secured the rights to do another reboot but ultimately passed the project up due to rights issues. Friday the 13th: The Game was next when Gun Media announced that no more work on the game would take place in regards to previously-announced DLC, and that the game was essentially finished except for technical patches and updates.
The issues with both the game and unmade reboot stemmed from a lawsuit between original Friday the 13th writer Victor Miller and Sean Cunningham’s Horror Inc. It’s an incident that’s plagued fans for quite awhile now and although things seemed like they were never going to get better, there does seem to have been some progress on the lawsuit.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, who outlined the legal battle’s details:
“Producers of the cult 1980 horror film including companies associated with Sean Cunningham filed suit more than a year ago after Miller aimed to take advantage of a provision of copyright law that allows authors to terminate a grant of rights and reclaim ownership 35 years after publishing. The producers alleged that Miller wrote Friday the 13th as a work-made-for-hire after Cunningham came up with an idea to capitalize on the success of the then-recently released horror film Halloween. They asserted that his termination notice was ineffective.
Miller disputed his screenplay was a work-made-for-hire, which under copyright law would mean that the producers authored the work and it wasn’t eligible for termination. His attorney Marc Toberoff argued that while the screenplay was clearly commissioned as part of a motion picture, there never was any writing instrument as required by law spelling out the screenplay was a work-made-for-hire.
The producers responded that not only did Cunningham conceive the idea, but he hired the team, obtained financing, controlled all creative decisions, and importantly, that Miller was a member of the Writers Guild of America, which used a standard form agreement that made clear Miller was an employee.”
More recently, it’s been revealed that “U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill granted summary judgment in favor of Miller and against the producers.” This brings us some resolution regarding the case and hopefully more of the legal issues will be settled as a result of that.
However, Bloody-Disgusting posted this update today:
It was explained that U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill granted summary judgment in favor of Miller and against the producers, Horror, Inc. Full details were not disclosed, but Miller is said to be retaining the Friday the 13th rights in the U.S. alone, which makes it complicated to use the title.
As for Jason Voorhees, his infamous mask wasn’t introduced until Friday the 13th Part III, which means Horror Inc. can use the character without Miller’s consent.
In fact, Bloody Disgusting just obtained a statement regarding the recent Friday the 13th court ruling from franchise producer Horror, Inc.:
“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and disagree with its conclusion. We are considering our options including an appeal. In the meantime, the court was very clear that its ruling in favor of Mr. Miller is limited to the original screenplay in which Jason’s mother is the killer and that Mr. Miller’s termination notice did not purport to terminate the separate copyright in the iconic supernatural killer who wears a hockey mask. It also does not grant any rights to Mr. Miller that would enable him to use any element of the original screenplay outside of the United States.
Following the guidelines set down by the Court’s ruling, we intend to aggressively explore many opportunities for new projects featuring settings and characters (including the hockey mask-wearing killer) not included in Mr. Miller’s screenplay, and in fact are currently in development on new projects that are consistent with the ruling which will be announced soon.”
The report interestingly says that Miller hasn’t been granted any rights to use the name, Friday the 13th.
Unfortunately this all comes with its own can of worms, and could still make things tricky with producing new Friday the 13th content. Whatever happens, hopefully the franchise will be treated in a way that benefits not just himself but the fans who’ve waited years for new movies and games.
At least until then, we have the upcoming Halloween movie and whatever new slasher films its’ inevitable success will bring.