Friday the 13th vs Halloween: Which Movie Copied Which?
A lot of people believe that Halloween copied Friday the 13th. While it is probably true that both horror movie franchise giants have ‘borrowed’ a little from one another…the truth is, Halloween actually came first. John Carpenter’s original Halloween was filmed in 1978 and featured the ruthless killer Michael Myers in a nearly polished fashion right away. And while we are big fans of both slashers, Jason Voorhees seems a little under-developed in Sean Cunningham’s original Friday the 13th, released 2 years later in 1980. There are a few crossovers, however, that cannot be ignored and hint that the creators shared an interest in viewing each others films!
The Case of a Properly Masked Killer
Although the first Michael Myers comes complete with a very attractive ‘killer mask’, Jason Voorhees is forced to resort to wearing a sack over his head for the first two films. Jason did not receive his shiny new hockey mask until Friday the 13th: Part 3, in 1982. Horror Enthusiast speculates, however, that the Friday the 13th franchise realized the reason Halloween movies were grossing more in the USA was probably because Michael Myers had a mask. Having a mask makes a killer more identifiable, and more interesting. A quick look at the gross records of the movies backs up this theory:
- Halloween (1978) grossed approximately $47,000,000 in the USA [masked killer Michael Myers].
- Friday the 13th (1980) grossed $39,754,601 in the USA [unmasked killer].
- Halloween II (1981) grossed $25,533,818 in the USA [masked killer Michael Myers].
- Friday the 13th: Part II grossed $21,722,776 in the USA [unmasked killer Jason Voorhees]
And then something interesting happened. The Halloween franchise distanced itself from Michael Myers entirely for Halloween Part III: Season of the Witch (1982) and totally bombed at the box office. It is interesting to note Halloween Part III did not feature any single masked killer that could be identified in promotional material. In other words, there was no “single greatest villain” at all! That year, Friday the 13th Part III was released featuring the new, masked Jason Voorhees and it more than DOUBLED Halloween’s domestic gross that year! Check it out:
- Halloween Part III: Season of the Witch (1982) grossed an estimated $14,400,000 in the USA [no Michael Myers killer at all].
- Friday the 13th: Part III (1982) grossed $36,690,067 in the USA [new masked Jason Voorhees killer].
Unfortunately for the Halloween franchise, it would be much harder to get back on the horse. In fact, Friday the 13th would go on to release 3 more movies (part 4, 5 and 6) before having any competition from Halloween again. Halloween part 4 would be released in 1988, attempting to out-gross Friday the 13th Part 7. Still, Friday the 13th Part 7 would out-gross Halloween part 4. Have a look:
- Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) grossed an estimated $32,980,000 in the USA [masked Jason, with no competition from Michael Myers that year].
- Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) grossed $21,930,418 in the USA [masked Jason, with no competition from Michael Myers that year].
- Jason Lives, Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) grossed $19,472,057 in the USA [masked Jason, with no competition from Michael Myers that year].
- Halloween 4: Return of Michael Myers (1988) grossed $17,768,757 in the USA [masked Michael Myers].
- Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) grossed $19,170,001 in the USA [masked Jason Voorhees].
The entire point of comparing the history of earnings from these films is to highlight the fact the Friday the 13th films did not earn more than Halloween movies until after Jason was properly masked. Clearly, a properly outfitted villain is everything!
In the case of an identifiable, masked killer, Horror Enthusiast speculates Friday the 13th copied Halloween!*
*There is a even a scene in Halloween Part 4, where Michael Myers can be briefly seen stalking Dr Loomis, wearing a Jason hockey mask!
The Case of Gender Discrimination in Killing
One argument could be that the Friday the 13th franchise chose the gender death count based upon the success of the Halloween. While this argument would not be very valid from the initial history of the two franchises and their horror starts…it could be the case later on in the struggle throughout their rivalry. Breaking down the history reveals an interesting pattern change between the 1988 and 1989 movies. Here is how both franchises began…
- Michael Myers and Halloween claim 5 female victims and 4 male victims in 1978.
- The Voorhees’ and Friday the 13th claim 5 female and 6 male victims in 1980.
- Michael Myers and Halloween claim 5 female victims and 7 male victims in 1981.
- Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th claim 4 female and 6 male victims in 1981.
A little time passes before the two franchises go head to head again. However, in 1988, Halloween part 4 is released to compete with Friday the 13th Part 7.
- Michael Myers and Halloween claim 3 female victims and 17 male victims in 1988.
- Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th claim 8 female and 8 male victims in 1988.
It is interesting to note that a previous bias to avoid too many female kills had been heavily retained in the Halloween franchise, while Friday the 13th decided to even it up. However, Friday the 13th must have decided that did not work out very well, as the two giants competed in 1989 again, only Friday the 13th had re-limited their female death count. Have a look…
- Michael Myers and Halloween claim 4 female victims and 15 male victims in 1989.
- Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th claim 5 female and 15 male victims in 1989.
Although previous patterns for the first two may have indicated their own trial and error…and in the case of gender discrimination in killing, Horror Enthusiast speculates that Friday the 13th may have copied Halloween’s gender death count ratio. Please be aware, this speculation must have been to avoid media scrutiny, not based upon profit…as Jason had been raking in the dough!
The Case of an Edged Blade
One could speculate that Friday the 13th chose to give Jason Voorhees a giant machete to outdo Halloween’s choice to outfit Michael Myers with a kitchen knife. While the machete is admittedly much larger, a quick recap of the history of kills in the start of the two franchises reveals otherwise.
- In Halloween (1978), Michael Myers claims 4 knife-based deaths. And in Halloween II (1981), that number drops to only 1 knife-based death.
- In both Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), the Voorhees’ claims a total of 4 machete-based deaths.
Skipping ahead to the next relevant years of competition between Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, 1988 and 1989…
- In Halloween Part 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Michael Myers claimed 2 deaths by knife. And in Halloween 5 the following year, again only 2 victims are killed by knife.
- In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) only one person is claimed by machete. And in Friday the 13th Part VIII the following year, again only one person is killed by machete.
In the end, the two slashers are creative enough in their death scenes to not always require their primary weapon of choice; Thus Horror Enthusiast speculates that in the case of an edged blade, neither horror franchise copied the other.
The Case of Franchise Name and Film Titles
Halloween’s first film being released 2 years earlier than the first Friday the 13th, creates some natural insinuations about the rivalry. The most obvious comparison: the names of the films. “Halloween” was most likely chosen because of it’s stigma…or the ‘already-encouraged celebration of all things scary.’ This is a common tactic used in Hollywood, as a surplus of horror movies are always available during the Halloween season. Surely, naming an entire movie after the holiday is a great way to rake in the real dough! And they were right, Halloween did tremendously well it’s first year, being released a few days before Halloween on October 27, 1978.
Similarly, Friday the 13th seems to take advantage of the only other “horror-driven” day of the year: Friday the thirteenth. Friday the 13th (1980) would be released on May 9th, 1980, one month ahead of that year’s Friday the 13th, June 13th, 1980.
Regardless of it’s release date, it is clear Friday the 13th chose to capitalize on the naming scheme piloted by the Halloween franchise, thus, Horror Enthusiast speculates that in the case of franchise name and film titles, Friday the 13th may have copied Halloween’s naming scheme.
Final Notes About the Horror Franchise Rivalry
Friday the 13th obviously came after Halloween, and thus it is reasonable to assume John Carpenter’s cult hit had at least lightly influenced the Friday the 13th creators and crew; However, both franchises deserve respect for their individual contributions to the slasher genre. For horror alone would not be what it is had it not been for so many victims spanning across these 21 movies (there are 10 Halloween films and 11 Friday the 13th films). Both franchises deserve a tip of the hat.
The Halloween versus Friday the 13th rivalry is one for horror history books no doubt, however, it is one that lives on to this very day. Each day, a new fan is born and as long as the franchises see interest in the audience, Michael and Jason will remain prominent slashers. And when one slasher is slashing, it usually wakes other killers up from their slumber as well…as the profits these killers rake in make it worth it to slash and slash again they will! Who knows, maybe we’ll even see a “Michael vs Jason” movie someday soon. After all, there couldn’t possibly be a better matched fight and horror fans from both franchises would be thrilled to see it happen (hint hint)!
Tritone’s love of horror and mystery began at a young age. Growing up in the 80’s he got to see some of the greatest horror movies play out in the best of venues, the drive-in theater. That’s when his obsession with the genre really began—but it wasn’t just the movies, it was the games, the books, the comics, and the lore behind it all that really ignited his obsession. Tritone is a published author and continues to write and write about horror whenever possible.