Friday the 13th is a juggernaut of horror, and that’s in part thanks to Jason Voorhees. He’s the type of guy who can be played by just about anyone if they have the right look, but each actor has their own experiences and their own ways in which they have come to relate to the character. C.J. Graham is one such actor, having played Jason in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and having taken part in a handful of Friday fan films. On Saturday of Carolina Fear Fest, I was lucky enough to get to talk with him about some of his upcoming projects, the future of the Friday franchise, and what he thinks are the keys to a good horror movie.
Emma Gilbert: So, you are cast in something called 13 Fanboy that sounds really interesting. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
C.J. Graham: Yeah, we finished that right before the pandemic. [It’s] a Deborah Voorhees film [with] myself [and] Kane Hodder. Dee Wallace has the lead. Corey Feldman’s in it, to mention a few others, and it’s gonna be really fun. I know that she’s [Deborah Voorhees] done with the film, distribution [is] however she’s going to do it now, and it’s on the shelf just waitin’ to be put out there. But we had a good time. New Mexico [was where] a lot of the shooting [took place]. Deborah did a great job directing and writing the movie with Joel [Reisig], her backup.
EG: Alright, that sounds awesome! Can you tell us what Toilet Horror is? That’s another very interesting-sounding title.
Graham: Y’know, sometimes I do functions where I don’t really participate in the movie, but I know them, and they say, “Can we getcha in the movie?” and “Will you do something for us real quick?” like right [then] when I’m at a show and they add it. […] So I’ve seen that I do have some credits in things. I giggle sometimes because they’re fun, but I’m excited more for the people, for their opportunity as directors and writers. ‘Cause, you just don’t know, one day they might get the recognition, and become the next Michael Bay, y’know? So, if I can give back a little bit, I’m very [willing] to do so.
EG: Absolutely, that’s awesome. Can you see yourself playing Jason Voorhees in an official Friday the 13th film again?
Graham: Y’know, I could now that I’ve thought about it and had some time. Tom McLoughlin has written a Part 13, which he’s been on podcasts speaking about recently, over the last year, actually. And in that script, he’s actually made note that he’d like me to resurrect. As you probably can see, just from being here and stuff, when I do the photo-op in full wardrobe I’m the same character; I’m still 6’3”, 250 [lbs]. [The] question is physicality, “Could I still do it?” As [I] get older, I don’t tuck and roll as well as I used to, now I go “thump.” But, Tom has asked me if I would entertain [the idea], and quite honestly, it’d be an honor. It’ll be a spinoff from Part VI, if he can get Mr. [Sean] Cunningham and Mr. [Victor] Miller involved in it to release their differences. I think the most important thing to me is that I deliver a product as good, if not better than Part IV. Otherwise, I’d have to stay away from it because I don’t wanna be that professional player that came back and should’ve stayed retired.
EG: Understandable. So, you’re cast in the Friday the 13th Vengeance movies as Elias Voorhees. Does playing that character feel any different than playing Jason?
Graham: No, it doesn’t. I did Vengeance…almost two years ago, and right now I’m growin’ a beard and getting ready to [do] Vengeance: Bloodline, which is gonna be shot next month. So, I’ll step back into the role of Elias Voorhees. The interesting thing is he’s Jason’s father, so the character is just a pivot of Jason, but with the face and the beard and the long, stringy hair, kinda like a Viking [or] woodsman. So, for me, that’s a very easy character to dominate. And plus, nobody’s ever seen Jason’s father, so I kinda get the first lead into Elias Voorhees of what he would look like, possibly, in mainstream production.
EG: That’s super interesting! I have one more question for you: what is horror to you? What makes a horror movie, and how do you define it?
Graham: Y’know, I think it’s a completion of a lot of hard work. Horror can be defined in several levels, several different areas, but I think if a horror movie is put together with the fans in interest, [they’re] number one, you’ll do a good job. The gore, the makeup, the special effects, they’re all part of it. The creativity of putting together the kills—the creative kills…And, y’know what? People love horror; they wanna be scared off the chair. And I really believe if you just put some thought into it, it doesn’t have to have really super good writing or screen appeal to it, but it’s gotta be reasonable. But you can just about do anything from a giant crab to a homicidal killer, and have some success with horror.
It is refreshing to have conversations that celebrate the odd and off-beat styles of horror. Many people I talk with about the genre will often say that they devalue gore and kookiness, opting for what many of them call “elevated” horror. But I believe that all horror is beautiful and that a movie doesn’t have to have a deeper meaning to be worthy of admiration. Calling some horror elevated, suggesting other films are somehow “lower,” is unfair and disrespectful to the genre’s beautiful diversity.
It can sometimes feel like most horror movies nowadays are trying to go for that more “prestigious” style, but with conversations like these, we are reminded that there are still tons of people out there making and celebrating unique, purely fun horror films. There will always be people eager to uplift those so-implied “lesser” titles—preferably alongside the “fancier” films because horror is horror, no matter how big or small.