CHARLOTTE, Mich. (WLNS) – A horror movie legend is coming to a convention in Charlotte this weekend.
Ari Lehman is the actor known for portraying Jason Voorhees in the original “Friday the 13th,” which first hit theaters in 1980 and spawned a massive media franchise.
Fans of the iconic series will have an opportunity to meet Lehman at A Festival of Oddities, a horror and paranormal themed convention hosted in Charlotte this Saturday.
Discerning horror fans will remember that Jason Voorhees is only depicted as a child in the infamous slasher series’ debut, and that his mother, Pamela, is the one really behind the carnage.
Lehman got the call to take the role thanks to his past work with director Sean Cunningham on an obscure soccer film called “Manny’s Orphans.”
“Lo and behold, they needed a kid. First, they asked for Sean Cunningham’s son. His wife said, ‘No way.’ So, they said, ‘Well, how about Ari? He’s the right height.’ They called me up and said, ‘We need you to do another movie.’ It was the best summer ever,” Lehman said.
While it wouldn’t be until “Friday the 13th Pt. III” that Jason Voorhees would don his famous hockey mask, Lehman’s Jason still made an indelible mark on horror movie history thanks to the film’s horrific final scene.
He rises from the lake to drag the film’s sole survivor, who is resting in a boat after a long night running from the murderous Pamela, to her watery doom.
The surprise ending is considered by many fans of the franchise to be “Friday the 13th’s” most frightening moment. Actress Adrienne King’s shocked reaction, Lehman said, was entirely genuine.
“Sean Cunningham wanted to surprise the actress in the boat. He knew if he said, ‘Action!’ she’d be ready for it. So, he walks over to me and whispers, ‘I want to you go underwater, wait for the bubbles to clear and that’s action.’ I was only in three feet of water, so I kneeled and jettisoned myself out. I see a nice lady I’ve never met before and I slammed into her with my arm,” Lehman said.
Lehman didn’t stick around the film industry for much longer.
While he’s since had small cameos in later movies, he focused on a music career. He found employment at record labels such as Tuff Gong and Interscope.
Nowadays Lehman performs in a metal band called First Jason, which will be performing at A Festival of Oddities.
What makes the band especially entertaining is that Lehman’s songs are composed as if they were written by Jason Voorhees himself.
“We’re at an interesting point with horror, metal and punk music,” Lehman said. “Music, film and television are coming together. Just look at ‘Stranger Things’ and its feature of Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets.’”
But Lehman isn’t the only draw at A Festival of Oddities. The event has activities including carnival games and axe throwing, as well as dozens of vendor booths and food trucks.
A Festival of Oddities also has a stable of true crime podcasters, authors and paranormal investigators coming down for meet and greets.
“This year we feel like we’ve finally reached that go big or go home point, and it’s pretty exciting. We’ve got some incredibly talented returning vendors, as well as many new ones,” organizer Jenn Carpenter said. “What I really love about the festival is the way the whole community gets involved. Many of the local businesses have been working for months on displays and products that fit the vibe.”