Jason Vorhees Wasn’t the Killer in ‘Friday the 13th’ – Here’s Who Was

Jason Vorhees is forever associated with the Friday the 13th franchise — not that he was the killer in the original film. Depending on how you look at it, the horror movie icon might not appear in the original film at all. Interestingly, the actor who played the killer in the first Friday the 13th thought the film’s script was “sh*t” but had a specific reason for appearing in the slasher horror film anyway.

Jason Vorhees attacking a cop
Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan | Paramount/Getty Images

‘Scream’ and a horror misconception

One of the most famous horror sequences of the last 30 years comes from Wes Craven’s Scream. In it, a masked killer named Ghostface calls Drew Barrymore’s character, Casey Becker, on the phone and demands she answers trivia questions — or else. Ghostface asks who the killer was in Friday the 13th.

Casey, a horror fan, says Jason was the killer. Ghostface informs her the killer was actually Jason’s mother, Mrs. Pamela Vorhees. Sadly, Casey doesn’t live to the end of the scene. 

The Scream trailer

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Does Jason Vorhees even appear in the original ‘Friday the 13th?’

To the surprise of some, Jason doesn’t kill anyone in the first Friday the 13th. It’s unclear if he appears in the film at all. The film’s protagonist, Alice, learns Mrs. Vorhees had a son named Jason who drowned in Crystal Lake. Near the end of the film, a juvenile Jason rises from the lake to attack Alice. Alice later awakens in a hospital and it’s unclear if her encounter with Jason was a delusional fantasy. 

When Jason reappears in Friday the 13th Part 2, he’s an adult but Alice hasn’t aged much. Was the child Jason part of Alice’s delusion? Or was the lack of continuity when it comes to Jason’s age simply an error? It’s up to viewers to decide.

The Friday the 13th trailer

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Why Betsy Palmer played Mrs. Vorhees when she didn’t like the script of ‘Friday the 13th’

Because Jason is such a famous character, some people erroneously think he was the killer in the first film. In actuality, he was the killer in all the subsequent Friday the 13th films. Jason’s fame sometimes obscures the fact that the original Friday the 13th is one of the few famous slasher films with a female antagonist. 

The actor who played Mrs. Vorhees, Betsy Palmer, is perhaps the most famous slasher villainess of all time. The irony here is that she believed Friday the 13th would soon be forgotten. In actuality, Friday the 13th spawned a massive franchise which includes twelve films and a television series. The Hollywood Reporter says she merely took the role so she could afford to buy a new Volkswagen Scirocco.

A wax figure of Jason Vorhees with long hair
A wax figure of Jason Voorhees | Fabio Teixeria/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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“So the script came and I read it and said, ‘What a piece of [shit],” Palmer repealed. “No one is ever going to see this. It will come. And it will go. And I will have my Scirocco.'”