Maybe it’s just the nostalgia of the 1980s that makes Thom Mathews a highly talked about name on social media these days, but the actor himself has not forgotten about his career in the industry and how it has impacted his life, and possibly returning for more roles in the horror genre.
Some of you might know Thom Mathews best as Freddy in the quirky zombie comedy, The Return of the Living Dead. Others still idolize him as the premiere version of Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. But horror fans around the world are fascinated by all his roles in horror, which included Return of the Living Dead II as well.
Nowadays, Thom leads a peaceful life, running his own construction company and taking care of his family. But when I asked him if he would care to take a few questions, he was nice enough to oblige with some detailed responses that horror fans might be thrilled to read about.
Read below to find out what Mathews had to say about his iconic horror roles, his life since the horror renaissance of the 1980s, and what we might expect from him now that his kids have grown.
“A bold experiment in unnerving terror…”
Fogstow Jamison Press: Thom, it’s been awhile since we’ve heard from you in the horror community, but horror fans never forget an icon. With all of the upward momentum that has been taking place in recent years within the horror industry, do you have any plans to return to one of your previous franchises that were so popular in the 1980s? Of course we know that you have been active in other mediums such as video games and short films, but do you plan to be active with any reboots or sequels to your previous works?
Thom Mathews: Check out Never Hike Alone on YouTube! A very well made Friday the 13th 50-minute fan film with a twist at the end. I don’t want to spoil it but they are talking about making a full-length feature film sequel.
[Horror fans can watch Never Hike Alone, the full film, at the bottom of this article.]
Fogstow Jamison Press: Many of your fans know you as the quintessential version of Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, as well as Freddy and Joey in both Return of the Living Dead films. But you have also been in some action movies, specifically with a martial arts element inherent to the films. A couple of good examples are Bloodmatch and Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor. I was wondering, did you have any previous experience or training in martial arts before you started acting?
Thom Mathews: As a matter of fact, I did. I trained in a martial art style called American Freestyle Karate for about four years. It combined karate and kickboxing. My instructor, Master Greg Wilkinson, trained under Grandmaster Joe Lewis and Fred Wern.
Fogstow Jamison Press: In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, your character (Tommy Jarvis) was directly responsible for ushering in a new era for the franchise. As far as we could tell, Jason Voorhees was a mere mortal in all previous films (excluding Part V), only lucky enough to escape his life-threatening injuries and to get all of his strength back, until Corey Feldman put that final nail in his coffin. But in Jason Lives, Tommy gave him something he’d not previously had in the other films – superhuman semi-immortality. Going into this project, did you expect the positive response from horror fans that the film received?
Thom Mathews: I had NO expectations! I was just happy to have a job and the lead role in a huge horror franchise! I had finished shooting The Return of the Living Dead (1984), went into shooting Down Twisted (1985) in Mexico, then went straight from Mexico to Atlanta to shoot Jason Lives. It was an exciting time. I had the opportunity to create some very different characters in three different films.
Fogstow Jamison Press: In regards to Friday the 13th, a lot of fans have expressed some dismay with the reboot and there were also plans to reboot the franchise again with more of a back-story, much like Rob Zombie did with the Halloween franchise. Of course, we’ve all heard about Paramount scrapping the idea following the lackluster results of Rings. But social media has had an interesting new idea emerge that we’ve never really seen. That would be to stop remaking the first film in a franchise and to find the film that horror fans enjoyed the most. Friday The 13th Part VI has emerged as the overwhelming fan-favorite for the franchise, most citing various reasons including the Alice Cooper soundtrack, the quirkiness of certain scenes and how they segued over to terrifying moments of horror, and the relationship that Tommy Jarvis had with Megan Garris (Jennifer Cooke). Do you have any thoughts on the possibility of a remake of Friday the 13th Part VI, possibly as a way to regain momentum for the franchise?
Thom Mathews: I think what the fans responded to, as well as all the things you mentioned above, were the characters Tom McLoughlin created. We actually had someone to root for in Jason Lives and the fans responded. We all got involved in the story and their struggles. It didn’t hurt that Tom [McLoughlin] made it look great and it was exciting to watch. It was a great crew and everyone was invested in making the best movie we could. The opening sequence, before the credits role, is one of my favorites in the movie. Tom also laced in a bunch of tidbits from some of the great horror movies of the past. The franchise “jumped the shark” after that. Catering to whatever was the gimmick of that particular year it was filmed. I would like to see the franchise get back to the classic ‘80s horror style. Tommy Jarvis – 30 years later of course! The director of Never Hike Alone, Vincente DiSanti, a huge Friday the 13th fan & walking encyclopedia of the franchise, has some great ideas.
Fogstow Jamison Press: I know you’ve done several reunions and fan events for Return of the Living Dead in the past 30 years. I’m curious, is there a common question or observation that fans of the franchise ask you the most?
Thom Mathews: The single most common statement from fans at these events are that they love my relationship with James Karen (Frank) in the film.
Fogstow Jamison Press: Although there have been a lot of zombie comedy movies released since The Return of the Living Dead, only a handful of them have really enjoyed the creative liberties and subsequent fan fever that ROTLD had. I was curious, though, what your thoughts are on zombie comedies Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead? I might also lump What We Do In The Shadows in with that question as well, given there were some zombies near the end.
Thom Mathews: I thought Zombieland was great! I haven’t seen the other two, but now I’ll have to.
Fogstow Jamison Press: I always hate to ask questions that are too personal, but I was just curious what your life is like now. I’d heard you went into business for yourself and that you have a family. I guess my question is: How is Thom Mathews doing these days, and will we get to see you again? Also, have your kids ever seen your horror films?
Thom Mathews: I was born in Hollywood and my Grandfather was a carpenter for the studios. My father was in construction as well. Growing up, my brothers and I always had tools around the house. I took wood shop in high school and later worked in construction. It’s always been a part of my life. I started my own construction company early on and it kept me busy between acting projects. It’s good, honest work and there’s something to be said about being able to create something solid at the end of a day. There came a point in my life where the construction projects took off and I had three children to raise. It keeps me close to home to raise my kids. My team and I have done some very creative construction projects. It’s still what gets me out the door in the morning! My children are older now so anything could happen with me getting back into acting. I’ve also enjoyed both.
My children have seen a lot of my films. Not all of them. The horror films – not until they were older. You’d be surprised at the amount of fans that have said they’ve seen The Return of the Living Dead or Jason Lives when they were under ten years old. It was always an older brother, cousin or babysitter who made them watch!
My middle son, Miles, has Friday the 13th the game and it’s fun to watch him play online as Tommy Jarvis when it works out. You’d have to know the game to know how that happens.
Fogstow Jamison Press: Thom, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. My readers are always delighted to hear from a legendary horror actor such as yourself. And remember, if you ever have something you’d like to announce, feel free to come back to me here at Fogstow Jamison Press!
Thom Mathews: It’s been a pleasure.
At the time of this interview, I hadn’t seen Never Hike Alone. But for those who love a good fan film about Jason Voorhees, this short movie is a nice treat featuring a special surprise at the end. I encourage you to watch it all the way through, given all the love and special care that was taken into making it.
[Featured Image via Paramount]
Be sure to check out the latest horror collection from Fogstow Jamison Press, The Grunge Narratives: A Rare Horror Collection.