Over the course of the Friday the 13th franchise, we’ve gotten a bit of insight into the Voorhees family. Jason is a character who, unlike Freddy or Michael Myers, is already stepping into a legacy, taking over for his mother. Pamela Voorhees killed the counselors at Crystal Lake because she—apparently mistakenly—believed that they were responsible for her son’s drowning. She did whatever she thought she had to do to keep that camp from being opened again. Jason picks up the machete and keeps on swinging it from there. We all know the story.
The gap in the story, of course, is Jason’s father. We know he had one at some point, but it’s not until the ninth entry in the franchise that we even get so much as a first name. So who was Elias Voorhees?
That’s something fans have been speculating about for years. According to Jason Goes to Hell, he had either remarried at one point or had previously been married before Pamela came into the picture—I’m assuming the former—because plot of that film revolves around Jason’s half-sister and niece. Even when the Voorhees family was a crucial plot point, Elias was only mentioned in passing. He’s never made an appearance.
That’s not to say he didn’t come close, though. Tom McLoughlin originally wrote Mr. Voorhees into the ending of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. He was going to be revealed to have been keeping watch over Jason’s grave for years, sharing a brief dialogue exchange with Martin the caretaker, who was originally meant to survive the film.
While this scene was cut from the script and never wound up getting shot, it did make it into the novelization by Simon Hawke. And that also brings us to an interesting anecdotal point, because while Elias has never appeared in the movies, he has made appearances in tie-in novels and comics. The first of them was the aforementioned novelization, but he’s also appeared in the comics Jason vs. Leatherface and Friday the 13th: Pamela’s Tale.
Maybe the most fascinating and noteworthy thing about those appearances is that they’re written by very different writers, years apart, and yet their version of Elias is almost identical. He’s an abusive drunk in both and is drawn to look almost exactly the same in each comic. In Pamela’s Tale he winds up being her first victim, which makes sense. While Pamela’s Tale is one of the greatest tie-in stories in the franchise, I can’t help but feel like this version of Papa Voorhees is a little too on-the-nose.
That’s not to say it’s not valid and it probably is similar to what the movies would give us if they ever introduced the character, but it feels a little anticlimactic. And that, I think, is the root of the problem. Now that they’ve waited this long, there’s no version of Elias that would really be satisfying for the fans.
Everyone has their own take on it at this point. Everyone has their own version of Elias in their heads. Personally, I’ve always envisioned him as a squirrelly, mousy kind of guy. I’ve always seen Pamela as the stern voice of that relationship. I think he’s someone who tried to do the right thing and stick it out after maybe an unplanned pregnancy and a child with disadvantages he wasn’t ready to deal with, I think he panicked and either left them or was killed by Pamela for trying to leave. Maybe he wanted to get Jason some help and she perceived it as him trying to take her baby away.
See? We’ve all already written the story in our heads and that makes it so daunting for another writer to come in and do their own version of it. The most recent attempt at a Friday the 13th movie, the one that was cancelled just before filming was set to begin, would actually have introduced Elias as a central character. Not only that, he would’ve been the killer for a large chunk of the feature. That, to me, sounds like a terrible idea. But if they had the right approach, maybe they could make it work.
At the end of the day, though, I think by not including him for so long we’ve inadvertently revealed that Elias Voorhees is just not essential to the Friday the 13th story. This whole mythology comes back to a boy and his mother. We can even look at the other story of a boy and his mother to show that the father never really needs to be a part of the story in order for it to work.
Norman’s dad plays such a small role in Bates Motel. We know he’s a bad guy, we’re led to question if it was Norman or Norma who killed him, but most of the time he doesn’t even get brought up. He plays even less of a role in Psycho IV: The Beginning.
I’m sure there’s a way to make Elias Voorhees work on screen. There’s probably even a way to do it that would lead audiences to say “Oh, of course that’s who he was, I couldn’t imagine him being anyone else.” But the reality is that he’s already proven not to be an essential piece of the story.
I think introducing him into a movie, especially at this point, would be a mistake. Fans are tired of too much backstory. It’s been the least interesting part of several recent reboots and I think the best way to tackle Friday the 13th, should another one ever be made, is to move forward. Not backward.
Let Elias remain a mystery in the minds of fans, at least for now. If the right approach is there and it actually feels like it’s adding something to the overall story, then by all means it should happen. But I don’t think the series will suffer at all from never seeing him depicted on the screen, either.