Exclusive Interview: Screenwriter, Chris Gehrt (Friday the 13th – Marx Family)
What initially attracted the “horror fan” in you to the Friday the 13th franchise?
I’ve been into it since around 1984, I was in 3rd grade and saw the newspaper ad
for “The Final Chapter” with the knife stabbed through the eyehole of the hockey
mask. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Friday the 13th highly impacted the slasher genre in the 1980s.
What other movies influenced you as a horror fan?
Being born in 1977, my childhood revolved around the Friday the 13th, Elm
Street, Halloween, and Chainsaw franchises. But Gremlins, Creepshow 2 and
Return of the Living Dead part 2 were favorites as well.
For me it comes down to two things, terror and suspense. The original Texas
Chainsaw Massacre is pure unrelenting terror, and Halloween is legendary
suspense. Both movies were huge influences on me.
Tell us about why you decided to write the Friday the 13th “Marx Family” trilogy?
I wanted to create a Friday the 13th movie that I would love to see. One that
would have the CREEPINESS of part 2, the MOMENTS of part 3, the TERROR of
part 4 and the STORY of part 6. So I tried to combine all of those notions into one
and see what I could come up with. This was during that time when Paramount
was gearing up to make another film with Platinum Dunes and I wanted to throw
my hat in the ring. Granted it was a long shot but I had already been creating
“Crystal Lake Chronicles” fan stories so why not try to take it to the next level.
Can you give us the synopsis of the first story from the Friday the 13th “Marx Family”
Would love to! Successful sporting goods chain store owner John Marx is set to
open the “Marx Boys Camp” on New Jersey’s Crystal Lake. While hunting illegally
in the nearby woods, John and his brother Jim have an unfortunate encounter
with local legend Jason Voorhees that leaves Jim dead. This sets off a plan of
revenge involving John and a nefarious member of local law enforcement. What
John is not counting on is how this will bring his family into the crosshairs of an
angry Jason Voorhees.
Who do you think stands a better chance against Jason, Tommy Jarvis or John Marx?
Well, Tommy knows how to push Jason’s buttons, but John has weapons, money
and law enforcement on his side. But at the end of the day I still have to go with
Tommy since he is the most well known adversary and has stopped Jason in two
films. Hopefully John can be a serious contender in future conversations by
someday appearing on the big screen.
Why do you think your “Marx Family” story was so widely acclaimed by horror fans?
Well, first of all I was very surprised. Initially I thought it would just be read by a
few friends and fans but the Friday the 13th community is always hungry,
especially in Los Angeles. Luckily it had great word of mouth that spread at
screenings and at conventions like Monsterpalooza. I went to Staples and printed
a bunch of hard copies so I could hand them out to anyone I thought would be
interested and found out later that those hard copies got copied and passed
around quite a bit. I’m very thankful that the fans took such a liking to it.
The best response seemed to come from the older generation that grew up with
the films. And that’s exactly the audience I was trying to reach. I think people
that like the traditional tone of the early films and are fans of an “alive” Jason that
runs. That is the core group that supported it.
Your sequel takes place during winter, which is something we’ve never seen from any
Friday the 13th movie. Why winter?
Fans have been clamoring for a winter sequel for a while now and it’s just a
matter of time before we see it on the big screen. High-brow critics rip the series
as being the same thing over and over again, and part of that is because the
setting has mostly stayed the same, so having it in the snow is a great way to
change things up a bit and breathe some fresh cold air into the franchise. Same
terror, new environment.
I wanted to have the Winter storyline come naturally and not just do it to please
people. So the first story is set in the summer and the sequel picks up that
winter. I grew up in Wisconsin so it was fun to think back and to incorporate the
type of things I did growing up, like ice fishing, skiing, sledding and
snowmobiling. Whenever there was fresh snow, my Dad used to hook up our
sleds behind his pick up truck and pull us around the neighborhood. It was
similar to waterskiing behind a truck, you’re very vulnerable back there. So I
made sure to add a scene with that in the script.
The early Friday the 13ths have very tranquil moments and I wanted to keep that
same tone but in the winter setting. The absolute quiet of the woods where you
can only hear your own footsteps crunching in the snow and then having that
calmness be interrupted by absolute terror. That’s what I was going for.
What else can horror fans expect from part 2 of the Friday the 13th “Marx Family
Without giving too much away, you will see a lot of exciting new faces and some
familiar old ones. There’s a whole new Sheriffs Department that has moved in
vowing to clean up the town, and it all takes place in the week leading up to
In terms of locations there are scenes that take place at the “Casino Bar” made
famous in the original Friday the 13th part 2, also a well known “home” gets
destroyed. And of course Crystal Lake is frozen.
How do your stories relate to the Paramount originals?
There are a few easter eggs slipped in that pay homage to the original Paramount
films and a few familiar faces pop up in cameos. But I never have them do
anything that would conflict with the films.
Who are some of your biggest influences as a screenwriter?
That’s a tough one. My brain is usually split between comedy and horror. I find
that the scripts that mean something to me always come from writers like Adam
Sandle, Judd Apatow, and Harold Ramis. Those may seem like odd choices for
someone who loves horror, but like most people, I can watch comedies like
Caddyshack, Dumb and Dumber and Step Brothers over and over again. Also,
Sylvester Stallone is a huge influence in general.
Also, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great television writers at my
casting job. I get a first hand look at scripts from great storytellers like Kurt Sutter
and Elgin James, and comedy greats like Tina Fey, Robert Carlock and the
Broken Lizard crew (Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme) Years ago I worked on
Hostel 2 with Eli Roth, and he was very involved with the casting process. He
knew exactly what he was looking for. It was inspiring to watch him bring his
vision to life. Seeing things from script to screen always keeps you learning.
What was your greatest challenge writing these stories?
The hardest part for me is trying to make sure the story is clear. I usually work on
them around midnight and I usually listen to some Harry Manfredini soundtracks
while I write them. So I’m locked in, and my mind is in the “Friday the 13th mood”
– but I always worry about someone who might be reading it on the subway or
somewhere with a ton of distractions and doesn’t catch everything. I read some
reviews from my first script that had some weird interpretations in it so I wanted
to make things more coherent this time. For me the challenge is trying to make
my vision as clear as possible without overwriting it.
You are also a stand up comedian. Do you feel that helps at all when writing horror?
When I’m writing horror I don’t really feel like I tap into the “stand up” part of my
brain that much. Probably because I like my horror films to be very serious. I’ve
never been a huge fan of “horror-comedies”, which can be a fun ride in the
theater but usually don’t hold up that well in the long run. But, in both comedy
and horror you need to build suspense and then a release. So in that case I would
say yeah, you’re using the same tools.
Its funny you ask that because actor John Furey (“Paul” in Friday the 13th part 2”
had read the first script and said to me “You’re a comedian, you should add some
more comedy to this”. So I guess he was expecting more laughs.
When should we expect to see chapter 3 in your Friday the 13th “Marx Family” trilogy?
Hopefully in early 2021. Anyone who has already read part 2 knows that I put a
little surprise in at the end. So I’m excited to start seeing where that could lead.
Also, John Marx is from New York, and its tempting to try to find a way to almost
“re-do” a version of Jason Takes Manhattan. So there are a few ways to consider
going with it.
Which actor played Jason Voorhees the best?
I’m torn between Richard Brooker and Ted White. My favorite moments are the
Chris Higgins barn scenes in part 3 and the chase scenes with Trish and Tommy
in The Final Chapter. Anytime Jason is lumbering after someone like a maniac
I’m on the edge of my seat. So I’d have to say its a tie between those two.
What modern horror movies are you currently watching?
I liked Leigh Whannell’s “The Invisible Man” especially that opening scene when
Elizabeth Moss is sneaking out of her boyfriends house. That jump scare from
her boyfriend when she gets in the car was great.
You are an industry professional on many levels, including the work of casting for ‘Son
of Anarchy’ and ‘Mayans MC’. How did you get into that line of work?
Working casting came pretty randomly. I had just moved to Los Angeles and I was
working as a background extra on the FOX series “The O.C.” We were filming
down at Manhattan Beach studios. I must have been bored so I decided to go for
a walk and see what was all being filmed on the lot. I came across the CSI Miami
casting office and saw one of the associates outside on a cigarette break. She
was wearing a Kansas City Royals hat and I had just come from Chicago having
worked for the White Sox. We started talking baseball and I asked if they needed
any interns. They gave me the opportunity and put me on the casting path. That
was in early 2004. For the last 10 years I’ve been lucky enough to work at Wendy
O’Brien casting which is a fantastic office that has done everything from
comedies like “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to dramas like “Sons of
I think you really have to be a “jack of all trades” when working in the film industry. What is your opinion?
Definitely. Anyone who can write, direct and act is lightyears ahead of anyone
else who just focuses on one thing. Skills like editing and color correction are
also extremely valuable because it’s expensive to hire people to do it for you. The
more you can do yourself the more you can protect your vision and save money.
What do you think the future of the film industry is going to look like coming out of the
Thats anybody’s guess…there are rumors of smaller sets, staggered lunch times
and temperature checks each day. If that does happen I really hope its only
temporary. There was a rumor going around that the NFL plans on using virtual
crowds and pumped in crowd noise this season. I don’t want these types of
things to become the new normal.
What is your general opinion of all these classic horror films being remade or
As long as they are in good hands I have no problem with it. One thing that
always bugs me, is when a director or writer says “When I was hired to work on
Friday the 13th, the first thing I did was go back and watch them all over again”.
I feel anyone that is hired to work on any classic franchise should know all the
films inside and out already. They shouldn’t have to revisit them. They should
already be a part of their life, knowing what has worked, what hasn’t and already
have strong opinions about the series. Sometimes that’s not the case.
Thankfully the teams behind the 2009 Friday the 13th and the 2019 “Halloween”
film seem to care about the franchise.
A lot of horror fans are saying you should write the next “Friday the 13th” film, here’s
your chance to tell people what you think you could bring to the table.
That would obviously be a huge honor especially since it would be the 13th film.
One thing I can guarantee is a commitment to the traditional Friday tone and grit.
There would be no controversial ideas or timeline discrepancies. Just a mature,
suspenseful, terrifying film that you will want to watch over and over again. And
most importantly of all, Jason will be scary.
Link to both the original and sequel script.