Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Kevin Bacon, Jeannine Taylor
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
This new trend of releasing low-budget, low quality films on Blu-ray is just odd to me; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Faces of Death and now Friday the 13th. Sure, the film has never looked better or cleaner, but part of the appeal of the original, to me at least, is its graininess, its evident age; that’s what gives it a lot of its personality.
But the upcoming Friday the 13th remake has inspired Paramount to get the original trilogy out on new special edition DVDs, and to give the original the Blu-ray treatment, so why complain? It’s better than what they did with it the last time they released the films on DVD. But if I could sum up this entire review in just one word, which luckily for you I don’t have to, it would be “redundant”.
By now if you don’t know what the film is about, what the hell are you doing on this site? Friday the 13th follows a group of camp counselors who are sent to Camp Crystal Lake (known to the locals as Camp Blood) to get it ready to re-open its doors after being closed for years following some horrific murders on its grounds. They soon find out that whoever went on the killing spree years before doesn’t want anyone to re-open the camp and has no qualms about killing those who feel otherwise.
Of course we eventually find out it’s Pamela Voorhees, mother of Jason, enacting revenge on horny teenagers because horny teenagers are who caused her deformed son to drown many years before, too busy screwing to notice when he was in trouble.
I have to say it’s nice to see the film uncut, though the only real differences you’ll notice involve the kills, which last just a few seconds longer than any previous version, at least that I’m aware of. It’s subtle, but somehow just a little more satisfying. If nothing else I’m sure Tom Savini is happy to have so much of his early work finally available as it was intended.
The features on the F13 Blu-ray are, at first glance, plentiful. It seems like a wealth of information is available to fans of the series about this first entry, insights we may have never had before into what it was like to make this slasher classic and how those involved with it initially reacted. And indeed, there is a lot of insight to be had, but it’s all repeated over and over again. A warning: If you choose to sit through all the features and the commentary, there’s a good chance you’ll never want to hear about the original Friday the 13th again.
The commentary is a good place to start; “moderated”, as it were, by Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke, it includes Betsy Palmer, writer Victor Miller, director Sean S. Cunningham, Adrienne King and more. At first it’s distracting, since it’s not commentary in the traditional sense but rather audio clips from interviews creatively edited and thrown over the movie, but this method also means there aren’t any lingering gaps of silence or people talking over one another, so it’s less chaotic if nothing else.
Before you move on to features, you need to make a decision; if you’ve already watched the film with commentary, chances are you’ve heard all the stories that are about to be retold over and over in three different settings. Just be aware…
“Fresh Cuts: New Tales From Friday the 13th” is a series of interviews with cast and crew, discussing their history before the film and what it was like to make it. “The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham” is a 15+ minute interview with Cunningham, discussing how the film came together, why it happened in the first place, and how lucky he feels for having hit the right genre at the precise right moment. And his house shows it.
“Friday the 13th Reunion” is footage from a panel at a recent horror convention, though the actual con is never credited. I can confirm that Mike Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures intros everyone (he’s got a unique voice), but that’s about all I know for sure. This, again, is cast and crew reminiscing on how the film was made, what their careers were like before and after, and how the film has affected their lives.
In case you didn’t hear it the first, second, or third time, you can still sit through “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” which is, again, the cast and crew reminiscing about making Friday the 13th. They’re pretty much the same stories with some slight variations.
”Secrets Galore Behind the Gore” is one of the more interesting bits, so of course it’s the shortest. Basically we have Savini discussing how most of the big gore gags in the film were pulled off. I have to give it to the man; no matter how many times he talks about it, he still gets that little kid in a candy store gleam in his eye when he’s discussing special effects. Gotta love it.
Finally there’s “Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 1”, a short film featuring a couple investigating a strange sound and being killed by Jason. That’s it. No real story, no set-up, they don’t even give a location. But the deaths are cool.
So is it worth it to get Friday the 13th on Blu-ray? In terms of how the movie looks and sounds, you’re not going to find it any cleaner, but it’s up to you if that’s how you want Friday the 13th to look. In terms of features, I just can’t recommend it; there’s way too much repetition done for the sake of making it look like the disc is loaded. I guess we just can’t win with a DVD release of Friday the 13th, but this is the closest we’ll ever get to an ultimate edition, I think.
4 out of 5
3 out of 5
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