If some of our staff are experts on certain types of films—Judge Bill Gibron on '60s exploitation, the Chief Justice on Tim Burton—then Judge Patrick Naugle is our expert on 1980s horror. Thrill as he geeks out about the murderous exploits of the Voorhees family!
When I think of the Friday the 13th series, I am reminded of a line from the Kevin Costner film Waterworld, spoken by the great Dennis Hopper: these movies are like "a turd that just won't flush." Yes, the Friday the 13th films have stuck around longer than anyone expected (to Roger Ebert's dismay), including yours truly; just when I thought the death nail was tightly fitted into Jason's decaying coffin, along comes the smash team-up Freddy vs. Jason to pump "new blood" (pun intended) into the dying franchise. If you're interested in going back to where it all began—long before New Line Cinema acquired the rights and shot ol' hockey head into the furthest reaches of outer space—you'll most definitely want to check out Paramount's new Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set sporting all eight films on four discs, plus a bonus fifth disc with all new killer extra features.
Facts of the Case
In total, there are eight films available on this set. I've included a handy time line for you to note the various dates and events pertinent to each film:
If you're interested in full length reviews of the Friday the 13th films, check them out in the links in the Accomplices. My two cents are firmly planted in each of the following reviews (save for two of 'em).
How do I feel about the series as a whole? I've always thought that, on average, the Friday the 13th flicks are the most entertaining of all the '80s horror sequel series. While the Nightmare on Elm Street movies may boast a more creative idea (and the Halloween series had nowhere to go but down after the first film), Friday the 13th usually stayed pretty consistent throughout. The filmmakers knew exactly what the fans wanted—nubile teenagers, icky death scenes, and multiple angles of Jason walking through the woods as if he were on a cross-country trek of terror. During the course of eight movies, the plot hardly ever deviated form the norm: teens head to a summer camp to party, teens smoke and have sex, teens go home missing vital organs and appendages. It may not have been cinematic rocket science, but the filmmakers always gave fans what they wanted. All hail producer Frank Mancuso, Jr.!
It's nice to see that Paramount decided to put together a box set for the fans. Of all the horror movie franchises out there, I'd have bet dollars to donuts that Friday the 13th would've the last to get an "ultimate edition" box set. Shows how much this reviewer knows. After wading through all of the films once again (and eating lots of pizza and drinking far too much beer), I'm elated to report that they still hold up well, especially if you watched them as a kid. Sure, there's a lot of corny acting and some of the effects are cheesy. But isn't that what you expect—heck, maybe even love—about these movies? And just look at the future stars who breeze past your eyes: Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Kevin Bacon…oh, the excitement you'll feel watching these guys in their younger, more innocent teen slasher days!
The Friday the 13th series appealed to a specific group of moviegoers, and you know exactly who you are. There are those who think Friday the 13th and its sequels are Biblical signs of the impeding apocalypse. Me? I think they're a hoot and a half. Fans of the series will be thrilled with this box set, even it it's less than perfect. Get ready for eight films filled with over 12 hours of hack 'em slash 'em fun…
All of these films are presented in their original widescreen aspect ratios (1.85:1 and 2.35:1). Because the transfers are all thoroughly covered in the previous DVD reviews, I'll refer you to those for a more detailed description. Needless to say, each of these anamorphic transfers are exactly the same as their previous DVD incarnations. As the series went on and the technology became more advanced, the transfers looked better. As a whole, this set—like the previous discs—gives you what will most likely be the best-looking transfer of each film.
The soundtracks are all presented in either Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, 2.0 Stereo, or in the case of The New Blood, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Once again, check out our previous reviews for a rundown of the specs. It's a shame that Paramount didn't put a little more time into making each of these tracks a 5.1 listen—I can only imagine how much better each would have sounded if both the front and rear speakers had been engaged. As it stands, the mixes are in good shape and while they aren't all that exciting, at least the dialogue, music, and effects are well heard.
Paramount has produced a cornucopia of supplemental horrors for fans to peruse through on this new Friday the 13th set. Each disc is housed in a slim-line case (not unlike what many studios are doing with their TV box sets) and feature two films on each disc (Disc One is Friday the 13th/Friday the 13th Part 2, Disc Two is Friday the 13th Part 3/Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, et cetera).
Starting off the set are commentary tracks on four of the eight films. Friday the 13th includes cast members Larry Zerner, Paul Kratka, Richard Brooker ("Jason") and Dana Kimmell, as well as moderator/author/F13 historian Peter M. Bracke. Friday the 13th Part VI includes commentary by director Tom McLoughlin while Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood includes a track by director John Carl Buechler and Kane Hodder ("Jason"). Finally, there is a commentary on Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan by director Rob Hedden. All of the above commentaries feature lots of information on the making of the films, as well as thoughts about some of the deleted footage (Buechler was not a happy camper about the edits made to his final film), casting ideas, screenplay theories (Hedden was very happy to take Jason out of Crystal Lake and plop him in a big city), make-up, locations, and other thoughts on the films. I especially enjoyed listening to Buechler and Hodder's banter during their track (Hodder seems to be really into Jason "killing" everyone on screen—it's a little creepy). While some of the commentaries are more entertaining than others (Jason Takes Manhattan can be quite arduous and bland), overall these tracks should please fans looking to know more about their favorite masked madman.
Next up is what I consider the best supplement on the set: "The Friday The 13th Chronicles" feature. Spanning over 100 minutes, this retrospective feature includes interviews with stars Adrienne King, Larry Zerner, Richard Brooker, Kane Hodder, C.J. Graham, Betsy Palmer, Corey Feldman, and Amy Steel Pulitzer, directors Joseph Zito, Rob Hedden, and Tom McLoughlin, make-up artist Tom Savini, and creator Sean S. Cunningham, among others. This eight-part feature covers each film with clips, behind-the-scenes photos, and anecdotes about the production and subsequent release of each film. Some cast members seem thrilled to talk about their roles (Feldman seems especially chatty), while others almost seem almost disconnected during their interview (Amy Steel Pulitzer is quiet and hesitant about discussing the film). Aside of the featurettes included on New Line's Jason X, "The Friday The 13th Chronicles" will most likely be the most comprehensive retrospective ever made about the series.
"Secrets Galore Behind The Gore" is a 22-minute feature on the special effects from the film. The interviews in this feature are focused mainly on Tom Savini and John Carl Buechler as they discuss what it took to bring some of the memorable deaths to the screen. Buechler seems especially peeved that he wasn't allowed to go as wild as he'd hoped (he mentions one executive who seemed to be a thorn in his side during the entire production). "Crystal Lake Victims Tell All" is basically just extended interviews from the main featurette as they discuss what it was like shooting the films at the various locations (such treacheries as crocodiles and water moccasins were the perils they faced).
"Tales From The Cutting Room Floor" is a series of deleted or alternate scenes cut together for fans to ogle over. To be honest, most of this stuff is pretty boring. There are a few deleted scenes (including full-length ones from The Final Chapter), but for the most part these are trims and pieces of gore footage that the MPAA most likely made them cut. The very rough work print footage from The New Blood features Buechler and Hodder's commentary about why the trims were made.
Finally, there is a rather boring short feature ("Friday Artifacts and Collectibles") that deals with various cast and crew members who still have props from the film (McLoughlin still has Jason's coffin and tombstone, Hedden has a guitar from the last film, et cetera).
Rounding out the supplements are theatrical trailers for all eight films (two of which are actually teasers).
Paramount has done a good job on this box set, though it could have been better. While I enjoyed the bonus disc in this set, I can't help but think a lot of it felt like filler. If you already own all eight films on DVD, you may want to upgrade to this box set for the commentaries and the main documentary. If that doesn't interest you, stick with what you've got. Though some may decry the lack of uncut versions of each film, the fact is this will most likely be the definitive version of this series. It's a take it or leave it affair.
Though the box set comes up slightly short, you can't keep Jason down! "Kill-kill-kill-kill…Jason-Jason-Jason-Jason."
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Scales of Justice
• Four Commentary Tracks
• IMDb: Friday the 13th
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