You know what? I’m not even going to attempt to review Friday The 13th as a movie. I honestly don’t know what I could possibly to have to say about this that is going to blow your mind. I mean, the flick is iconic, right? A film whose creator’s freely admit that when they set out to produce it, they were going to rip off Halloween. Yet it somehow managed to nearly outperform Halloween and go on to become the longest running horror franchise in film. Only Bond exceeds it in terms of sequels. No, this review is going to approach the new ParamountHome Entertainment Deluxe Edition DVD. The actual DVD. Sure, you can expect to read a quick synopsis of what’s going on here since some people who haven’t seen it think that Jason Voorhees, hockey mask and all, is the killer in this picture.
The Friday special editions that came out in the boxed set a few years back were a true exercise in the shameless double dip, a practice of sheer hubris on the part of the studio to tempt the cash out ofthe pockets of the tormented and often too spend-happy for their own good horror crowd. Go to any given horror and con and look at what the jackasses in fishnet and ICP hockey jerseys are buying and it’s a safe bet that a good many of them are forking over upwards of $20 for a licensed Pinhead baby bib in spite of their distinct lack of baby. Horror hounds can be a sad lot at times and often choose to express their undying devotion to the genre through grotesque consumerism. Hey, I calls ’em like I sees ’em. So here comes Paramount, proving once again that horror fans will buy anything, yet this time in place of a lackluster special edition boxed set that features movies that were anything but special editions, they actually released a solid product.
So as the story goes, a mongoloid boy named Jason Voorhees drowns in Crystal Lake in 1957 while the counselors were canoodling rather than keeping an eye on him. According to local residents, this marks the beginning of the curse of Camp Blood. The following year, a pair of counselors are murdered and in the years following, all manner of problems arise like mysterious fires and a bad water supply keep Camp Crystal Lake closed until Steve Christy buys it with the full intention of shaping it back up and getting kids in there. Of course, this means that they’ll have to staff it with the kinds of horny counselors you’ve come to expect from just such a movie and with horny counselors comes a string of savage murders, whittling the cast down to one lone survivor who will discover the terrible secret of Camp Blood’s curse and break it. Or will she?
Friday the 13th was an imitator, just another exploitation movie but something really weird happened. The movie managed to build a cult; quickly and early. Over the years that cult grew. The cult, of course, grew to embrace the killer from the sequels, Jason Voorhees, my personal sultan of slash, but for purists and fans of the slasher wave that would define the teenage weekend of the early 80’s, there was no substitute. Go ahead, declare your allegiance to your personal slasher superstar, without Friday there would be no slasher superstars. Halloween on it’s sub million dollar budget and plus fifty million dollar box office proved that audiences wanted this twist on thrillers but Friday the 13th with an almost equal budget to Halloween and nearly the same box office performance proved that the formula was a sure fire means of ROI. In the following three years, dozens of these trashy slashers would come out and Friday would spawn ten freakin’ sequels, each one more ridiculous than the last. But cultural impact aside, how’s the disc? Glad you asked.
The original DVD release is an adequate disc if all you want to do is watch the movie. The picture is a little dark and it’s pretty clear that Paramount just didn’t give a shit. This time around what you get is a proper release with a full set of extras that are, for the most part, worth your DVD dollar. I’ve been trying to get some definite answers about the source materials for the Deluxe Edition, but Friday has never looked better. And it should since the movie is simulatenously making its Blu ray premier with this release as well and any adequacies of past releases are going to be judged harshly on higher definition formats. The day time scenes look outstanding but the picture loses points during the night time scenes. Haters can stand aside, though. You can only make your disc look as good as the source material allows and when the source material is a movie made in 1980 for far less than a million bucks, it’s going to wear its flaws on its sleeve when the picture is as sharp as a DVD. The 5.1 sound mix is also a delicious experience in audio mayhem, in spite of the mono audio mix, making the best of those “Oh shit, the killer is behind you!” moments, not to mention emphasizing the sheer intensity of Harry Manfredini’s righteous score. Never before has running through the woods, blinded by fear been so exquisitely expressed through the art of music.
The film boasts the uncut release, which is a nice thing to have but you must bear in mind that movie got the Robocop treatment when it went before the MPAA and is really only missing less than a minute of twitching bodies and blood spurts, the additional violence isn’t particularly astounding or gut churning as the brutal uncut label seems to suggest, but since the effort here was to release the exhaustive record of Friday the 13th, to release the theatrical R rated cut would have gone against the entire concept.
Since the beginning, we’ve been sorely lacking a commentary track from Sean Cunningham and we finally get it here. It’s a mostly lively talk featuring the expected lulls but Cunningham has become the vessel by which the entire series floats. Fans want to hear from this guy and you get to hear all the goods to the best of his recollection. There is also your usual trailer and a couple of retrospective shorts that are packed with the kind of hard data that I wanted to know about the movie that should have been featured in the mostly fluff documentary, His Name Was Jason. My only question to these producers is, why the hell is Ari Lehman featured so prominently in these fan docs and retrospectives? He’s the Boba Fett of Friday The 13th. His total screen time is less than two minutes! But if there’s one thing to learn from this, struggling actors, it’s that desperation coupled with a few minutes of screen time in a cult movie can lead to lucrative career on the autograph circuit.
To round out the package you get a strange bit called Lost Tales of Camp Blood which plays out in three past across each of the new Friday DVDs as an incentive to buy the rest, but this incentive isn’t much in the way of motivation. It runs like a fan film, a pair of slasher movie victims wake up in the middle of the night only to be dispatched by an unseen but mostly Jason-like assassin.
All in all, this is probably the best release that Friday the 13th fans can ever expect and it comes across as a genuine effort to service fans loyal to the film since we are so numeous. Paramount Home Entertainment pulled out all the stops in order to provide a package that, seemingly to the best of their abilities, will appeal to us all and cash in on the excitement of the upcoming Friday remake.