A low-budget, indie placeholder for Friday the 13th fans, as the wait for a new franchise film stretches well past a decade amid litigation and legal battles.
By Jason Hink
Is it Friday the 13th yet? Probably not, and it hasn’t been for quite some time as Jason Voorhees continues his slumber (say hi to Krueger, will ya?). In the meantime, cheap nostalgic feels can be had with 13 Fanboy, the 2021 meta-slasher starring Dee Wallace and Hayley Greenbauer in an homage to the long-running film series that features appearances from a splattering (hehe) of franchise faves from over the years (more on that later). Produced by Voorhees Films and Deskpop Entertainment, and directed by Deborah Voorhees (that’s her name, for real!), Mill Creek Entertainment has released this direct-to-VOD thriller on DVD.
Click to order 13 Fanboy on DVD:
What’s a lost ’80s kid to do—when you’ve grown up on Friday the 13th films, are obsessed with all the actors, and your name might be Jason? (Hey, this sounds like me! Uh oh…) 13 years ago (of course), in rural Anytown, USA (there are no lakes in sight—Crystal or otherwise), little girl Kelsie Voorhees (child actress Poppy Gillett), granddaughter of Deborah Voorhees (director Voorhees, playing a fictional version of herself), is enjoying a cool, wintry walk along the forest trails with her granny outside Voorhees’s swanky home in the hills. But tragedy strikes when a masked madman stalking the pair jumps them out of the brush, pulling a knife and brutally slashing Voorhees to death.
Fast-forward to present day… The now-adult Kelsie (Hayley Greenbauer) is an ass-kicking hottie MMA fighter who’s found notoriety as an indie-horror film scream queen, serving her fans by hitting up the conventions, signing autographs, and posing for photos alongside her late grandmother’s best friend, classic horror actress Dee Wallace (Wallace, in a fictionalized version of herself).
All appears well, but on the 13th anniversary of her grandmother’s death, strange things begin to happen—notably the creative, systematic slashings of many well-known actors who played roles in various movies in the Friday the 13th franchise. When Wallace sees an ominous phone video from actress friend Lar Park Lincoln (a personal favorite of mine going back to her Knots Landing days), she can’t tell reality from fiction as PTSD from the memory of her best friend’s killing gets the best of her and young Kelsie, leading to paranoia and mystery. Just who is knocking off these old-school genre-film actors? Is it slimy, weirdo film producer Mike Merryman (Corey Feldman)? How about fanboy indie director Vincente DiSanti (DiSanti, playing himself)? Or is it Kelsie’s handsome, studly, nice-guy boyfriend Christopher (Drew Leighty)?
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What 13 Fanboy lacks in production value and all-out suspense it makes up for with clever nods to the Friday the 13th franchise and dopamine hits of nostalgia whenever you recognize a middle-aged or elderly actor who once played in a Friday the 13th movie as a killer or killee (director Voorhees has politely embedded on-screen graphics to help us navigate who’s who, flashing the actor’s/actress’s name and the films they appeared in as they’re introduced into the 13 Fanboy story).
And what a cast it is! Along with Dee Wallace (who was never in a Friday the 13th film, but is well known within the genre), here’s a look at who pops up:
- Deborah Voorhees (the co-writer/co-producer/director of 13 Fanboy portrayed Tina in 1985’s Friday the 13th: A New Beginning)
- C.J. Graham (portrayed Jason Voorhees in 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives)
- Kane Hodder (portrayed Jason on numerous occasions and is the actor most identified with the role)
- Judie Aronson (portrayed Samantha in 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter; she’s almost 60, but looks 20 years younger in 13 Fanboy)
- Lar Park Lincoln (portrayed Tina Shepard in 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood)
- Tracie Savage (portrayed Debbie in 1982’s Friday the 13th Part III)
- Ron Sloan (portrayed Junior in 1985’s Friday the 13th: A New Beginning)
- Vincente DiSanti (producer/director of the 2017 Friday the 13th fan film, Never Hike Alone)
- Drew Leighty (portrayed Kyle in the 2017 Friday the 13th fan film, Never Hike Alone)
- Corey Feldman (portrayed young Tommy Jarvis in 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter)
- Jennifer Banko (portrayed young Tina in 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood)
Did I leave anyone out? If so, sorry…but that’s a great gathering of Friday the 13th luminaries, and kudos to director Voorhees for reaching out and convincing so many of of them to participate!
13 Fanboy exists in a strange space in Friday the 13th history, acting as a sort of placeholder for the series, which has sat dormant since Friday the 13th, the 2009 reboot. For the past half-decade, the franchise has been mired in litigation as attorneys (ugh…) battle over who actually has the rights to proceed with future incarnations of the franchise, and what elements those future productions are allowed to incorporate (hey, I sound like an attorney now!). You can search out the countless news articles detailing the story; the short version involves the original 1980 film’s producer/director Sean S. Cunningham, who is at legal odds with his former collaborator, Victor Miller, the screenwriter of that original film. According to a May 2022 CNN interview with entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner (who, amazingly, also appeared in the franchise, as one of Jason’s victims in 1982’s Friday the 13th Part III), Miller “only owns US rights and only to the first script and Sean owns adult, hockey mask-wearing Jason but can’t legally use him in a movie without Victor’s permission.” So, as you can see, it’s a messy situation.
What are fans to do in the meantime?
Thank goodness for director Voorhees, who somehow manages to craft a slasher tale that moves at an acceptable pace with the added obstacle of shoehorning all those former actors into the script (co-written with co-producer Joel Paul Reisig) without sacrificing its charming, low-budget momentum. Wallace anchors the cast as the aforementioned best friend of the deceased Deborah Voorhees, a sort-of matriarch to all these other slasher veterans from that rival Friday the 13th franchise. But for my money, it’s Greenbauer as the new-generation crimefighter who steals the show here, moving through her scenes a step ahead of her often-much older co-stars and displaying the physicality needed for the more action-oriented, run-and-gun aspects of the adventure.
The range of performances is all over the map, of course, and there are indeed some groaner moments of cheese (though it’s obvious everyone is having a good time here), but there are also some genuinely nice twists in the final act to recover your attention if it’s wandered off, pulling you back into the mystery of just which one of these characters is under the mask.
It’s modern indie horror, and if you’re familiar with that, you know what you’re getting here. Non-fans won’t be thrilled with this; but if you’re a fan of old-school, 20th-century slashers—and Friday the 13th movies, in particular—just sit back, read the on-screen identifiers, and enjoy a nice bit of nostalgia by catching up with all those scream queens who ran scared across our screens in the ’80s and ’90s, and a few of those formerly hockey-masked Jasons that killed them off.