The Neutered Blood: The Strange Controversies of ‘Friday the 13th Part VII’

Alternate timelines, MPAA evisceration, and a presumed dead cast member.

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Alternate timelines, MPAA evisceration, and a presumed dead cast member.

You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s reason to spend an entire Saturday marathon-Googling Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. What? Ok, so perhaps I improved upon the maxim a bit, but that does little to change the fact that I recently happily tumbled down the internet rabbit hole to investigate the many controversies surrounding Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.

For most people, the only real controversy here is that the Friday the 13th franchise was allowed to produce seven films in the first place; these poor folks are also apparently blissfully unaware that the entry count currently sits at 12. What is so rewarding about being a b-movie devotee is how often one can find fascinating stories buried under the oddest and trashiest flicks that most would deem cinematic afterthoughts.

The seventh chapter in the ongoing saga of why people should camp literally anywhere other than Crystal Lake pits mama’s-boy-turned-mutilator Jason Voorhees against Carrie clone Tina in a battle to determine the exact number of ideas the producers had run out of. The first and most familiar (to horror hounds) controversy of the film is how savagely the MPAA censored the kills. This is obviously not the first time that this supposedly relevant content watchdog organization took umbrage with graphic violence, but given the blood-spilling precedent set by the previous six installments, the mind boggles a bit at why New Blood irked them so much. At any rate, the franchise signature murders were cut down as if being readied at the gate to be shown on basic cable. Fans’ demands for an unrated cut of the movie were silenced by the fact that Paramount completely disposed of all negatives containing the chopped footage.

Further interesting about The New Blood is determining its exact chronology. This franchise has had a special relationship with day-and-date since its first sequel. There are clues and, at times, explicit lines of dialogue that suggest that the second and third films take place within a few days of the first, which was shot and set in 1980. In Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, we are introduced to Tommy Jarvis whose maturity we follow through the next two movies. Given the fact that The “Final” Chapter takes place in 1984, when Tommy is 12, and Part V: A New Beginning takes place about six years later when a now 18 year old Tommy is released from a mental hospital, Part V must therefore take place in (at the earliest) 1990. Conservatively estimating the Part VI: Jason Lives takes place one year later, we are now in 1991.

In the overwhelmingly comprehensive documentary, Crystal Lake Memories, it is revealed that Part VII takes place ten years after the events of Part VI. Therefore The New Blood, despite being released in 1988, takes place in the year 2001. This would of course suggest that all the campers at Crystal Lake in Part VII are maximum hipsters. They are wearing the most egregious of 80s throwback clothing (shoulder pads and waist-tied sweaters abound) and listening to the very worst cassette tape pop. This also calls into serious question Tina’s mother’s rancid mullet hairstyle that doesn’t so much add to her character as it does allow her to closely resemble Cha-Ka from The Land of the Lost.

Going deeper, because why wouldn’t you at this point, given the gimmick of its title, if one were as obsessive as this writer and decided to utilize an Almanac, the events of these films can actually be timestamped to exact months once the dates are calculated. For example, knowing that Part VI takes place on a Friday the 13th in 1991, and given the prevalence of denim jackets and blustery winds in the opening, we can presume that Jason Lives takes place on Friday, September 13th, 1991. We can use this same technique to roughly estimate the date of the flashback prologue of The New Blood to be Friday, October 13th, 1995; a calendar in the prologue does clearly show “Friday October 13th” so this would make sense.

But for the sake of argument, let’s just imagine that perhaps you somehow don’t find the calculation of exact day and date of Friday the 13th sequels interesting. Ok, we’re not here to judge. The third and most dramatic controversy surrounding Friday the 13th Part VII is the contested offscreen fate of one of its cast members. In Crystal Lake Memories, during the segment on The New Blood, the actress who played uber bitch Melissa is referred to as “the late Susan Jennifer Sullivan.” Of course this is tragic, as this actress would have died so young, but apparently her death is the subject of some internet debate.

Horror site forums are vehemently refuting the claims that Susan has passed away in while another site produced this obituary from the Boston Herald. Commentors were quick to point out however the discrepancy that the thumbnail image associated with this obit are of a woman who looks nothing like Susan as well as the fact that it fails to mention her career as an actress. One anonymous poster even claimed to be Susan’s daughter and insisted she is very much alive. Another was resolute in his claim that Susan still lives in southern California and never lived in Boston. It is also curious that IMDB does not have a date of birth or death for Susan but does make mention of her marriage to Ed. K Taylor ended with “her death,” which appears to be pulling info directly from the Boston Herald obituary.

Of course, this could all be the product of ill-informed speculation and the desire to incite scandal where there is none. Also known as, the internet. But far more likely, if Ms. Sullivan is unfortunately deceased, is that horror fandom is so passionate that the thought of losing a fifth-billed character from the seventh installment of a slasher franchise is too much to bear. Death from an axe to the face on the big screen is, ironically, far more palatable than the more sobering reality of passing on from the real world due to cancer.

For more dissection of these and other Friday the 13th Part VII controversies, including one involving Fatal Attraction, check out this week’s episode of the Junkfood Cinema Podcast! We invite author/screenwriter/TV personality Jason Murphy to venture back into the dangerous waters of Crystal Lake.

As a special treat, anyone who backs JFC on Patreon will have access to a weekly bonus episodes covering an additional cult movie, a new movie in theaters, or a mailbag episode devoted to your submitted questions! Have a couple bucks to throw in the hat, we’ll reward you!

On This Week’s Show:

  • Appetizers [0:00–4:08]
  • The Main Course[4:09–1:08:26]
  • The Junkfood Pairing[59:09–1:09:53]

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.