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'Kill Her, Mommy!' The Women Who Were Mrs. Voorhees

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Whenever the 13th day of any given month falls on a Friday, the internet horror community spends that entire week celebrating the Friday the 13th franchise, and we feel it is our duty as horror fans to plop down on our couches and ingest as many of the films in the franchise as possible... and it sort of is our unwritten duty, isn't it? It's what Jason and his mother would want us to do, and if there's one thing we've learned from the series, it's to not piss off the Voorhees family on Friday the 13th.

Many blog posts are written about the various actors/stuntmen who brought Jason to life over the years, guys like Kane Hodder and Derek Mears, whom we will forever love for putting on the hockey mask. But I wanted to go in a bit of a different direction today, and instead shine the spotlight on the character that started it all: Mrs. Voorhees, the mother who launched nine Friday the 13th sequels... and a spin-off film... and a remake. More specifically, I want to focus on the actresses who brought Mrs. Voorhees to life throughout the series. Though our first introduction to the character in the original Friday the 13th was the most memorable, Pamela Voorhees has been portrayed by five different women over the years. So let's spread that love around, shall we?
 
Mrs1
 
Betsy Palmer - Friday the 13th & Friday the 13th Part 2
 
When you hear the name "Mrs. Voorhees," the image that no doubt pops into your head is that of Betsy Palmer, who portrayed the original incarnation of the vengeful mother. An actress who had appeared in countless films, television shows and stage plays prior to the 1980s, Palmer was chosen for the role because of her wholesome and motherly image, and readily admits to taking the part only because she needed money to buy a new car. She also admits that she felt the movie was going to be a total dud, having no idea it would become such a massive success, and that the role would forever cement her status as a horror icon. Palmer briefly reprised her role in the sequel, appearing as the ghostly visage of Mrs. Voorhees that Jason sees, superimposed over final girl Ginny's face. It's been several years since Palmer has taken on new screen roles, but she can be found from time to time on the horror convention scene, embracing the role she once frowned upon.
 
Mrs2
 
Connie Hogan - Friday the 13th Part 2
 
Have you ever wondered why the severed head of Mrs. Voorhees that the camera zooms in on at the end of Part 2 looks less like a prop (as it did moments earlier) and more like an actress in make-up? Well, that'd be because it was actually an actress named Connie Hogan, made up to look like the mummified remains of Jason's ill-fated mommy. The original plan for the ending of the film was to have the severed head open its eyes and smile before cutting to black, which is why the actress's head was placed through the table. Because the scene ended up looking too silly, the filmmakers decided to cut it right before Hogan opened her eyes, forever confusing fans as to why there was a build-up for a payoff that never came. The footage is thought to be lost, and not much is known about Connie Hogan, who doesn't even come up when you search her name on IMDb.
 
Mrs3
 
Marilyn Poucher - Friday the 13th Part 3
 
Many different ideas were tossed around for Chris Higgins' dream sequence at the end of the third installment, and a scene was apparently even shot where Jason decapitated her, the same way his mother got the chop years prior. Ultimately, it was decided that Chris would have a nightmare involving Mrs. Voorhees, a scene that was obviously intended to recapture the magic of Alice's dream sequence in the original Friday the 13th. Of course, it doesn't make much sense that Chris would have a nightmare involving a person she'd never even heard of, but since when was making sense a requirement for a horror film? Associate producer Peter Schindler's wife Marilyn Poucher was made up to look like the rotten corpse of Mrs. Voorhees for the brief scene. Poucher's name appears in the credits as Second Assistant Director, but she was not credited for the role of Jason's momma.
 
Mrs4
 
Paula Shaw - Freddy vs. Jason
 
Mrs. Voorhees is only briefly seen in Freddy vs. Jason, early on in the film when Freddy uses her to manipulate Jason into spreading fear and murder throughout Elm Street. The producers worked very hard at trying to get Betsy Palmer to reprise the role, feeling that the fans would really appreciate seeing her back in the blue sweater. Unfortunately, the budget prevented them from paying Palmer what she wanted, and even when they upped her salary, she ultimately turned down the offer because the role was such a minor one. Palmer was replaced with actress Paula Shaw, who rented Friday the 13th and studied Betsy's performance, so that her own would essentially feel like a continuation of the original. As awesome as it would've been to see Palmer reprise the role after all those years, I don't think anyone will disagree when I say that Shaw did a hell of a job embodying the character.
 
Mrs5
 
Nana Visitor - Friday the 13th (2009)
 
Though barely seen in the Friday the 13th remake, the decision to open the film with a recreation of the fight between Alice Hardy and Mrs. Voorhees was a smart one, and a way to essentially remake the first film right off the bat before getting into the action fans would want to see from a remake: Jason killing people, rather than his mother. Best known for her role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Nana Visitor was brought in to portray Mrs. Voorhees in the opening moments, finding herself without a head before the opening credits even finish rolling. Many fans were bummed to see such an important character get disposed of so quickly, but I'm just thankful that she was included in the film at all... especially considering early reports from test screenings were indicating that all footage of Mrs. Voorhees had been cut from the film!
 
 
It wouldn't feel right not to give a shout-out to Kathleen Garrett, who voiced Mrs. Voorhees for the narration in the remake's original teaser trailer. So spot-on was Garrett's voiceover work that the trailer caused much controversy, as Betsy Palmer was convinced that they actually used her voice from the original film without asking her permission. Paramount stated that it would be impossible to pull clean audio from the original film, since the dialogue was tied to music and sound effects, which is why they brought in Garrett to recite the iconic lines.
 
There were originally plans for Mrs. Voorhees to appear in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, and Jason X, but those plans never came to fruition. New Blood director John Carl Buechler wanted to have a scene in the film where Tina Shepard would have a vision of Jason holding his mom's severed head in his arms, but it was deemed too over the top. As for Jason X, Betsy Palmer was reportedly asked to reprise the role for the futuristic film, in which she was to appear in the holographic projection of Crystal Lake. The idea was brought up to even have Jason attack the hologram of his mother, to show that he was more evil than ever before, but Palmer declined participation and the character ended up not being used in the movie at all.
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