Monday, 7 May 2012

RIP James Isaac

James Isaac directing Kane Hodder on Jason X
Director James Isaac, best known for Jason X, werewolf flick Skinwalkers and his special effects work with David Cronenberg, has passed away at the age of 52 after battling a rare blood cancer.

Isaac began his career in 1983 as a ‘creature technician’ on Return of the Jedi and Gremlins before moving on to work with Cronenberg on the likes of The Fly, Naked Lunch and eXistenZ. His feature directorial debut came in 1983 with The Horror Show aka House III.

In 2002 Isaac directed the tenth instalment of the Friday the 13th series. Jason X's winning sense of humour and genuine adoration of Jason (and his fans) gave the series a much needed jolt of originality and devilish playfulness. Isaac’s work on the vastly underrated film is often overlooked due to its problematic shoot caused by interference from producers, constant re-writes and a delayed release. Isaac was always very candid about his feelings on the film, and was very generous in communicating with fans of the franchise on message forums. When interviewed by Peter M. Bracke for his tome Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, Isaac stated: “I would have done Jason X so differently now. The final product is not what I had originally imagined, or what we pitched originally to New Line. And that happens all the time. I learned with Jason X that you always, always fight for what you believe. And more than just doing it right, and on time, and on budget, you’re fighting for your vision. And when you get everyone on the same page, only then can they make your vision even better. Way better. But you have to guide them. And that’s when you really come up with something cool.”

Todd Farmer, the screenwriter of Jason X, announced the sad news of Isaac’s death on Facebook and Twitter saying, “Jim Isaac directed my FIRST movie! RIP you beautiful man…” and described the director as “a wonderful man, husband and father.”

RIP James Isaac (June 5, 1960 - May 6, 2012)

10 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

I remember enjoying Jason X even though it had all those production problems! I didnt know he had worked with Cronenberg, this probably explains Cronenbergs cameo in Jason X. RIP!

James Gracey said...

I really enjoy Jason X - I've seen it more times than I care to remember! Apparently James Isaac's original vision of the film was MUCH darker and more violent, and without a lot of the humour.

venoms5 said...

I loved JASON X. Saw it three times in the theater and reviewed it at CAC some time back. I think it got a bum rap from fans; the same fans that wanted something different from the series. They got it, and so many still complained. Oh, well. I thought it was incredibly daring to go in such a radically different direction and loved the nods to THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, if that was the directors intention.

Sad and shocked to hear of his passing, too. I wasn't aware he was even in his 50s. He didn't look it at all.

EerieErik (Drunketh) said...

RIP! Jason X is an awesome film!

James Gracey said...

Venoms, what you said about the reception of Jason X and the reaction of fans who wanted something different, rings very true. Aside from maybe Jason Goes to Hell, all the other instalments were essentially vague variations of the exact same premise. It may not have been James Isaac's intention to make it so tongue-in-cheek, but that is one of the aspects I most enjoyed about Jason X. And yes, it is so sad that he passed away at such a young age.

Wes M said...

Great post James, the name James Isaac is not familiar to me but of course I know the Friday film so thanks for that. Yeah, terrible to see someone die at such a young age - frightening really. Now I realise the connection between Jason X and Cronenberg's cameo which I always thought was a weird choice, but now I understand... I think there's a fascinating post waiting in the wings on films that have suffered from studio interference in one way or another. Most will agree that the recutting of Lisa and the Devil into House of Exorcism was a travesty, and there was Paramount's disastrous cutting of Once Upon A Time in the West, which left Leone's film incomprehensible - the first time I saw that film, a knackered print on RTE, I had no idea what was going on. There was Creepers, the terrible re-cut of Argento's Phenomena and more famously, the voice-over and happy ending of the original Blade Runner. I've heard the Blair Witch sequel was much more interesting in it's original form. There are probably rare instances where a recut worked out better - off the top of my head I'm thinking of the recutting of American History X. Interesting stuff.

James Gracey said...

Agreed, Wes. I recall watching Lisa and the Devil and The House of Exorcism back to back; the differences were striking. Didn't Wes Craven also cave to studio pressure to shoot that bloody awful ending of A Nightmare on Elm Street when the Mom is pulled through the letterbox? Astounding!

James Gracey said...

PS What was the original cut of Blair Witch II like? I haven't seen that film in ages. I remember enjoying it as a cheesy 'dramatic re-enactment.'

Wes M said...

To be honest James I'm not sure, I haven't seen the film and I don't know if the original cut ever saw passed the editing room, but I seem to remember hearing director Joe Berlinger's commentary track was openly critical of the final film and the changes imposed on version he delivered. The film has already inspired fan-edits, something I imagine directors would hate. I know I would...

Wes M said...

Re: Elm Street - I'm not sure if that dreadful ending of Nightmare was tacked on by New Line, but I wouldn't be surprised if it came from Craven himself. The final scene of Deadly Blessing is absoultely mystifying, I mean terrible and The Hills Have Eyes II genuinely deserves all the bad press it gets.