Paramount // 1980 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // February 3rd, 2009
"You'll wish it were only a nightmare..."
I am an unabashed fan of the Friday the 13th series, from the first to the X. Well, except for Friday the 13th -- Part V: A New Beginning (Who had the bright idea of a Friday the 13th movie without a Voorhees?) and Jason Goes to Hell, which added unnecessary occult baggage to the series, and Freddy versus Jason, which was as pointless as it is boring. Um, I think I've digressed far from my point.
So when I found out they were releasing an uncut version of the original Friday the 13th, I became as giddy as a schoolboy, a schoolboy who enjoys lashings of violence and scares and who should probably seek therapeutic counseling.
After I calmed down a bit, I realized Friday the 13th Uncut could be nothing more than a shameless double (triple) dip by Paramount. A studio would never release a redundant version of a movie just to make a little quick cash, right?
In 1957, a young, special boy drowned at Camp Crystal Lake because the camp counselors were off fooling around in the poison ivy and chiggers. A year later, the brutal double murder of some counselors led to the closing of the camp. Ever since then, the locals have whispered that a curse lingers around Camp Crystal Lake and have redubbed it Camp Blood.
Twenty years later, a new group of teens, including a young Kevin Bacon (Rawr), is trying to get the place up and running again, but it seems the curse is still very much alive and someone is killing the counselors one by one.
Word of warning, I'm assuming you've seen this movie or have heard about it enough to know who the killer is. If you've somehow managed to avoid that piece of information in the twenty-eight years this movie has been out and are frightened of spoilers, don't read further.
Friday the 13th is a movie that probably needs no introduction. It's one of the slasher films that helped to change the horror movie landscape, for better and for worse. While few would call it a work of art, it remains an effective little horror movie that against all odds managed to spawn a franchise that continues to this day. They're even, for some unknown and potentially unholy reason, remaking it.
Unlike Halloween, which was great and innovative horror that helped kick start the slasher genre, Friday the 13th blazes no trails. It's not creative or flashy like, say, Nightmare on Elm Street, and its special effects are just a bit dated now.
Director Sean Cunningham and writer Victor Miller wanted to recreate the success of Halloween. Miller even says in the interviews on the disc that he went to see Halloween and then wrote Friday the 13th by structuring it the exact same way.
Friday the 13th is far more grounded in the real world that its sequels and the numerous copycats that followed. The characters are a little more nuanced and act a little more like human beings. The killer isn't a super-killer in a hockey mask, she's just a pissed-off mother hellbent on making sure Camp Crystal Lake stays closed but good.
The direction and script are very spare and very efficient. There's no foofrah and no frills. They set the stage, introduce the cast, and then whack them one by one in some surprisingly blood-free murders, even more surprising considering the films to follow.
Henry Manfredini's film score is a memorable and spooky complement to the action on scene. With a couple of "KI...ki...ki...ki..." he lets the audience know that Missus Vorhees is just around the corner.
While a bit dated and perhaps not violent enough for the youth of today who have been raised on Saw and Hostel, Friday the 13th has managed to keep its title as one of the best slasher films of all time and is still an enjoyable piece of horror.
Now then, let's move on to the new, never before seen uncut footage. I'm sure you're excited to hear about the new plot developments, the new insights into Missus Vorhees, and, of course, the new violence. All ten seconds of it. That's right, when you purchase this new release, you will be buying ten seconds of new footage and that's it. Which amounts, to my eye anyway, to a couple of extra seconds added to the arrow through the neck scene and a couple extra seconds added to the beheading. I'm all aflutter.
So, unless you're some kind of Friday the 13th purist, this isn't worth buying for ten extra seconds. But wait! There are a lot of new extras that weren't available before! Those might be worth twenty bucks.
Well...yes and no. There is a lot here. There's a recording of a panel discussion that includes Betsy Palmer, Tom Savini (who did the effects), Victor Miller, Adrienne King (Alice), and the original Jason, Ari Lehman. It's fun, interesting, and informative and I'm glad I got to see Betsy Palmer in action, 'cause she's supposed to be awesome in her convention appearances. There's also "Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th," which is more cast and crew interviews, with a few new faces. Still, it's mostly the people from the panel, and they're wearing the same clothes they were wearing on the panel. So it looks like they were interviewed that same day, which explains the repetition of information and stories. It's a little disappointing to hear some of the same things again, but still there are some interesting tidbits in there.
Then an interview with Sean S. Cunningham, which is fun, and then, finally, what I was most looking forward to: a full-length feature commentary by the man himself with cast and crew. Excitement! Now I might finally hear an explanation for the snake-killing scene and why the lightning flashes were yellow. Except it's not really a commentary. Instead it's a series of audio-only interviews that play during the movie with Peter Bracke (author of Crystal Lake Memories) moderating in between the excerpts. Peter Bracke is, uh, pretty enthusiastic of his defense of the movie and has some interesting facts, but, once again, the interviews contain a lot of the information that's in the other segments, and really, there's no reason for this to be a feature-length commentary. They're not explaining what's happening on the screen. This might as well have been a podcast.
The last extra is mind-boggling. It's a short, pointless, plotless film where a killer that's most likely Jason brutally and gorily kills two people. After listening to about two hours' worth of documentaries where folks like Bracke and Cunningham discussing at length about how horror films nowadays are pointless gore fests and story is what's really important, it's an irony to include a short film that completely goes against what they were saying. The short concludes with a "to be continued"; I'm assuming the next parts are included on the new releases of the uncut Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part 3. I know I'll be first in line to pick those up, by golly!
So the extras are many, but a bit repetitive. The film itself looks very good; it's sharp and clean, and the blacks look very black. I compared it to my copy which came with the super-duper ultimate collector's box set, and, really, the differences are negligible. The Uncut version is a little cleaner and a littler sharper, but, once again, unless you're a purist or don't already own a copy, this probably isn't worth buying.
With the release of the remake in about two weeks (on Friday the 13th no less), it's not hard to see why Paramount is suddenly showing renewed interest in a franchise it sold to New Line and apparently bought back. While the extras on the disc are worth a rental for fans at least, they're not worth the buy if you already have the box set, which has its own excellent extras. The extra ten seconds of footage add nothing, but detract nothing from the film. Buy it only if you don't own it, or suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and must complete your collection.
Friday the 13th is guilty of murdering Kevin Bacon before he could be footloose -- although that may not be such a bad thing.
Review content copyright © 2009 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film
* Theatrical Trailer