Growing up in the 80's was a blast, especially with teenage brothers. Watching horror movies at such a tender age wasn’t the whole soiling of one’s innocence it is advocated to be today. I was raised on these movies. I never knew that people in these movies smoked pot until I myself whipped out a bong and popped one in the VCR for some stoned out reflection. Now it’s different. The movies of my youth now cater strictly to the MTV generation of today. They’ve repackaged Leatherface, had rappers “trick or treat”, and had Aliens invade Antarctica. What’s next? Thankfully now the films of old get to breathe new life on the DVD format. Paramount has finally released Friday the 13th - From Crystal lake to Manhattan: Ultimate Edition DVD Collection, a box set of the eight Friday the 13th films that came before New Line Cinema took Jason to hell, to space, and then to Springwood.
Friday the 13th (1980):
Camp Crystal Lake has been a haven for bad luck since the late 50's. Years after a boy named Jason drowned and two counselors were murdered, it’s time for the camp to reopen. But when the counselors arrive to refurbish the dilapidated summer camp, one by one they themselves fall victim to the vindictive mother who vows to make sure “Camp Blood” is never open for business again.
The film that started the huge franchise and gave birth to the real slasher genre still holds up in the new medium. Friday the 13th has its fair share of cheap scares as well as graphic gore. Everything you would expect from a flick like this is here. There is cheesy dialogue to be spoken, weed to be smoked, chicks’ tops to come off, and blood to be splattered. And not even the Voorhees family can escape the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Unlike Jamie Lee Curtis and Johnny Depp, who wear their horror badges with pride, this franchise’s “part 1” co-star barely acknowledges its existence on his resume. The rest of the cast didn’t go on to do anything else other than Bacon. I’m guessing today he’s too busy showing off his wang in other films to say, “yeah I was in that”.
The flick still holds up today, and its mysterious misdirection of basically not showing the killer until the third act works wonders in making the truth all that more scary.
Friday the 13th - Part 2 (1981):
Five years after the events of the first Friday the 13th, camp counselors return to Crystal Lake for a counselor training program located next door to the dreaded summer camp. As in the past, mysteriously counselors start to be picked off one by one, though not by Mrs. Voorhees - her baby boy Jason has been alive the whole time, living off the woods. He has now returned to wreak havoc, inflicting his revenge for his mother’s botched vengeance.
Featuring one of the top ten kills of the franchise (machete to the face + wheel chair + rain + a large flight of stairs), Friday the 13th - Part 2 is a pretty good sequel. Instead of trying to resurrect the mother or venture in a new direction (a la Halloween III), director Steve Miner and writer Ron Kurtz resurrected Jason, who would become the true star of the franchise.
If you watch this chapter looking for the bulky pissed off goalie, you’ll be very disappointed. While Jason did make the series what it is today in Friday the 13th - Part 2, he’s nothing more than a lumberjack elephant man, complete with burlap sack and eye hole. Even his weapon of choice - the machete, is barely seen. This Jason prefers pick axes and pitch forks. It wouldn’t be until the third chapter that the icon would truly take form.
Friday the 13th - Part 3 (1982):
Before ambulances arrive on the scene to the counselor training camp from Friday the 13th - Part 2, Jason escapes to a farm, grabbing some new clothes in the process. At the farm, a group of vacationing youngsters discover that their getaway weekend will be their last.
I’ve always thought Jason comes off as having some self-esteem issues in this film. He hides out, lurking in the barn the whole time, killing only the curious parties who come inside. Jason doesn’t really leave the barn until Shelly (Larry Zerner) goes in to investigate a strange noise with a hockey mask in his hand. Once Jason gets his hands on the mask, it’s on. There are harpoons to the eye, machetes through the chest and through a guy’s junk, electrocution, squeezing eyes out of heads, and red-hot pokers through the stomach. Carnage! Carnage! Carnage! It’s like Jason truly couldn’t go crazy if someone saw his face. I've always found that odd.
Although it is this self-conscious release of anger that made him so popular, this iconic killing spree has made the hockey mask a symbol of the series. Now as a sequel, it’s pretty good - not great, but pretty good. Once they start, the kills are fast and furious. We get an hour of teen drama followed by thirty-five minutes of a brutal massacre. Much like the first two, the killer is mysteriously hidden until act three when hell breaks loose, though without the benefit of watching it in 3D, which it was shot and originally released in, there just seems to be something missing.
Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter (1984):
Before Jason went to hell, he met Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) and found himself, for the first time, actually dead. The maniac mongoloid escapes from the hospital after being taken there due to the events at the end of Friday the 13th - Part 3 and heads back towards the lake. This time he prowls on yet another group of vacationing youngsters as well as the Jarvis family. One by one the teens fall victim to the machete-wielding assassin, until, that is, little Tommy Jarvis just can’t take it anymore.
Arguably one of the best sequels in the franchise, Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter is the last Jason movie to actually have total suspense sewn throughout. It’s only after his resurrection that we see the masked man constantly, no longer lurking in the shadows only to strike in the final act. The kills are grand and induce multiple shudders - most notably the banana friendly hitchhiker and of course Paul (Alan Hayes) getting harpooned and lifted seven feet in the air by his manhood.
Another plus in this film’s favor is the legendary Corey Feldman. This is Corey Feldman pre-Goonies, pre-Stand By Me, and pre-Rehab. If you are like me and basically grew up with this kid, there isn’t a movie he did in the 80's you didn’t enjoy. This happens to be one of them. It’s a shame he didn’t come back for more.
Friday the 13th - Part V: A New Beginning (1985):
Eleven months after we thought we saw the last of Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th - Part V: The New Beginning hit theatres. In this chapter Tommy Jarvis (John Shepard) is a rage-filled teen spending some time in a more spacious psychiatric institution. But after one patient murders another, a series of events unfold making it look like Jason might not really be dead. Is he or isn’t he? Tommy can’t take much more of this without having to confront this would be Voorhees himself.
This flick tries to have suspense elements to it but they fall flat, although I applaud they idea of trying to keep Jason dead and just having someone carry on the persona for their own personal agenda. Thankfully they make some kind of an effort to differentiate Tommy’s hallucinations of Jason with Roy’s (Dick Wieand) little impression. Still though, if you’re not a member of the Voorhees family, don’t kill people and say you are, otherwise when you die you’ll die for good.
Corey Feldman makes a little cameo in the beginning of New Beginning, just as a nod to previous chapters, but it’s John Shepard who actually takes the Jarvis ball and runs with it. He has the audacity to do something no one else has yet to actually do in the series - he acts. With as much depth as the character is supposed to have, it seems like he is in the wrong movie. Once Jason is really resurrected, Shepard’s rage is subsided by super cool Thom Matthews.
Friday the 13th - Part VI: Jason Lives (1986):
Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews) still can’t get over his childhood, so it’s up to him to prove to himself that Jason is really dead. He digs up Jason's grave and prepares to cremate the remains - too bad a little divine intervention strikes the carcass with a bolt of lightning, awakening and transforming the troubled retarded momma’s boy into an unstoppable freight train of terror. After stopping Jason the mongoloid and Jason the phony, can Tommy vanquish Jason...the zombie?
Another one of the best sequels from the franchise, Jason Lives adds something new to the franchise by throwing in little bits of dark humor and even more extraordinary kills. These doses of levity, which until now were only provided once by a spastic Crispin Glover dance scene in The Final Chapter, give the franchise a nice hint of deadly sarcasm. This becomes the same deadly sarcasm that Writer/Director Don Mancini would take to the Chucky franchise after it grew out of being Child’s Play.
GJ Graham sets the bar for Jason that only Kane Hodder could top. The previous Jasons were running around just being sloppy, but this new Terminator style Jason takes his time and creates all the little Jason like nuances that shaped him into the Jason we all know and love. Thanks to Graham’s foundation, after this film, it was then on to Kane Hodder to don the mask for the rest of the franchise, at least until Freddy got his hands on him.
Friday the 13th - Part VII: The New Blood(1988):
Jason has spent many many years chained to the bottom of the lake, courtesy of Tommy Jarvis, but now he has resurfaced. Once he is back on the prowl for America’s naughty youth, he must face off against a telepathic girl who will use anything and everything around her to stop the madman in his tracks.
Gone is the sarcasm of Jason Lives, replaced by actual character developments and an actual story. Before Freddy fought Jason, Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) got her hands on him - or rather her mind. This story is interesting and watching the events unfold is mildly entertaining, but there does feel like something a tad bit off kilter. Kane Hodder makes his first appearance as undead Voorhees and does what he needs to do to make him menacing. The films only real major highlight comes from the famed sleeping bag kill. But throughout the whole film there just seems to be something askew, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Also in this film, a new element is entered into the Jason folklore. The element that some people deserve to die. This aspect is great because you can actually sit through all the character development, hate the person, and then cheer once Jason gets a hold of them. Such is the case with the heartless bitch Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan), the little snobby rich kid who insists on trying to connive her way between the sheets with whoever she sees fit, and Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), Tina’s would be psychiatrist using Tina to extort her powers for his own personal gratification. Both antagonists get what’s coming to them, a nice little delight that happens at least once in every flick of the genre after this.
Friday the 13th - Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):
The graduating class of Crystal Lake High are taking a cruise to New York City for their class trip. The only problem is that Jason Voorhees has awakened and stowed away on board. It up to a few members of the student body to confront the masked man, only to find their young lives cut short in the process.
The name of the movie is Jason Takes Manhattan. However, there is only a good four minutes in the movie where it is blatantly obvious it is New York. The rest of the film is in a studio or the Canadian equivalent. But the Big Apple is not even where the bulk of the story takes place; it’s on the ship itself. Which again confuses me even more. It’s Crystal Lake, Ohio, how exactly does one take a cruise from Ohio to New York? Even with Jason resurrected for a third time, even after he’s had huge confrontation with a telepathic girl, even after buying that he drowned as a boy...oh wait no he didn’t...I just can’t suspend enough disbelief to comprehend sailing over Pennsylvania.
With that logic aside, this is the last Friday the 13th movie. From this moment on Jason’s name is enough for the title, leaving the "Friday the 13th" moniker behind. As the last one in the franchise (not counting the two from New Line Cinema), the picture sews together every element from every one before it. There’s dark humor, there are characters that have it coming, there’s plenty of blood, and of course there is nudity and drugs. For the first and last time in the franchise, pot is a thing of the past. It’s the 80's remember? Coke is king. There are also some scenes of heroine use. But like all the films before it, when you do drugs...you will die.
It is from this chapter on that the continuity of the series went to hell. It is never explained how Jason got back from New York, and it is never explained how he got another mask. But up until this very installment Paramount’s Friday the 13th franchise was able to make some sense together as a whole, kind of. It’s a shame the studio stiffed director Rob Hedden on the budget, because then Jason actually would’ve taken Manhattan rather than Vancouver.
Alongside the four discs of eight films is a bonus disc, which includes a lot of goodies the previous barebones editions of these films lacked. There are the original theatrical trailers, over a dozen featurettes, and the notorious cut footage the MPAA didn’t want us to see.
Trailers on DVDs are not really cool unless they are from old movies. It’s always great to see how they marketed the flicks way back when. All eight of these films' trailers are found here, although they aren't exactly new. The skeletal garbage editions of the individual movies that have been out for years all had least a trailer, except parts VII & VIII. Now those are here too. Watching the trailer for Friday the 13th - Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan in pristine DVD quality is freaking amazing... the New York skyline, a jazz saxophone, a large crane shot, and the man himself standing there in his glory. It's a great site to see. Watching the trailers, you can see how they evolve in quality. The first couple give away too much of the film, but by the time the teaser for Friday the 13th - Part VI: Jason Lives rolls around, there is another tune to be sung.
“The Friday the 13th Chronicles” is a series of eight featurettes, which can be played consecutively or separately. In each featurette the cast and crew of the films discuss various aspects of how the movies came about. Not a lot of people show up for this little reunion but the ones that are there are a treat to see. The inclusion of the aging heroines of the first two films, Amy Steel and Adrienne King, is definitely a big surprise. Even Jason’s mother, Betsy Palmer herself shows up to give her two cents. Other cast members include Warrington Gillette (Jason, Part 2), Larry Zerner (Shelly, Part 3), Corey Feldman (Tommy, Final Chapter/Part V), CJ Graham (Jason, Part VI), Lar Park Lincoln (Tina, Part VII), and Kane Hodder (Jason, Part VII/Part VIII). The casts reflects on everything from how they were cast to how shooting was. Series creator Sean S. Cunningham as well other directors from the franchise discuss at length what they had going for them and what finally went to the screen.
“Secrets Galore Behind the Gore” is a series of three featurettes involving all the little tricks the filmmakers had up their sleeves in creating the victims in Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter, and The New Blood. Included is some rare footage mixed with behind the scenes photos and a sneak peek at “Godfather of Gore” Tom Savini’s effects school.
The “Crystal Lake Victims Tell All!” featurette includes the various cast members looking back, telling their stories of what it was like to be in a Friday the 13th movie as well as their reaction to how the films are viewed by society. It even includes a pathetic pitch by Corey Feldman proclaiming he is “The Jamie Lee Curtis to Jason’s Michael Myers”, and how he would be interested in doing a “Friday the 13th 2.0”. Corey, the boat left years ago. You’d be lucky if they even let you do craft service on a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
The last featurette, entitled “Friday Artifacts and Collectibles” talks with several directors from the franchise about what little pieces of memorabilia they have from their work. Director Rob Hedden (Jason takes Manhattan) shows off his framed clapboard as well as the guitar used to kill the rocker chick. John Carl Beuchlar, director of a The New Blood, shows off his original design for how Tina’s father was supposed to look rather than the mung faced L.L. Bean guy who came out of the lake in the original cut. Finally, Writer/Director Tom McLoughlin (Jason Lives) shows us his little garden in his backyard, which features Jason’s tombstone as well as showcasing Jason’s coffin. It’s definitely a nice thing to see all these years after once getting re-familiar with the franchise.
Finally there is “Tales from the Cutting Room”, a collection of deleted and extended footage from a majority of the films. Most of the scenes are understandable as to why they were cut, but the real shockers come from watching some of the stuff edited out of Friday the 13th - Part VII: The New Blood. This extremely raw footage expands just about every kill. For instance, in the notorious sleeping bag kill, instead of one massive whack against a tree there originally were six continuous bashes. When the token black guy gets killed, instead of the two-second, blood-inducing head crush, there is a long scene where Jason just squishes the head to the size of a walnut with enough blood coming out his head to make Quentin Tarantino blush. There are various other more graphic kills, but those two especially stand out immensely. Now, does this mean there should warrant an uncut version of the films? Well, it would be cool, but I’m content the way they are.
That’s not all folks, there are commentaries located on the movie discs for half the films in the set. Both cast and crew from Friday the 13th - Part 3, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII give their input as the movies play.
The commentary for Part 3 features Larry Zerner (Shelly), Paul Kratka (Rick), Dana Kimmell (Chris), and Richard Brooker (Jason), all moderated by author Peter Bracke. With the exception of Zerner, none of them appear on the bonus disc, so to hear from them is great thing, especially listening to the guy who played Jason talk. Who knew Jason was British? The commentary basically centers on how hard it was shooting the film since it was in 3D. They share stories of what it was like and even joke around how Zerner gave birth to the franchise by giving Jason the mask. It's quite a delightful little commentary, although I don’t understand why Bracke was there.
Writer/Director Tom McLoughlin flies it solo in the commentary for Part VI, but in no way does he let himself bore us to tears. The majority of the time he spends pointing out every little thing we might not have noticed as well as discussing his take on the film’s dark humor. McLoughlin sounds like a cool guy and it’s a shame he’s stuck doing TV stuff right now. All in all, this is a nice solo commentary.
Director John Carl Buechler and Jason himself, Kane Hodder, spend the majority of time during the commentary for Part VII bitching about how the MPAA kept screwing with them because of the content. To get an idea on how recent this was recorded, Beuchlar states “The Passion of the Christ is a lot bloodier than this movie, they didn’t have a problem there.” They go on to call the MPAA ratings board “a bunch of housewives in Encino”. It’s great to sit and listen to these guys just rip into the MPAA and the studio. Is this possible? 9.9999999 times out of 10 commentaries consist of a lot of sucking up to studio heads and producers. Hodder and Buechler just let loose on everyone, all while actually commentating on the events of the actual movie. This commentary is definitely on the list of some of the best commentaries I’ve heard on a DVD.
Writer/director Rob Hedden (Part VIII), spends his commentary lamenting over how he got screwed out of the budget and how Jason really was supposed to “take Manhattan”. He proclaims “it’s Jason Takes a Cruise Ship”. He speaks at great length over the original idea of having the group get to New York in the first act rather in the third, as well as his original idea of having scenes shot at Madison Square Garden, The Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge, all of which the studio axed because of budgetary reasons. This commentary reminds me a lot of that joke on “The Simpsons” where Kevin Costner's commentary for The Postman is nothing but an apology. Hedden is continuously apologetic about the title's false advertising but still has that little bit of pride in talking about it. Again, another non-boring solo commentary.
So there you have it. That’s Friday the 13th - From Crystal Lake to Manhattan: Ultimate Edition DVD Collection. It is definitely a worthy purchase for those out there who dug the franchise. As much as most avid fans would’ve wanted a 24-disc super-duper deluxe platinum uncut limited special edition, this is what you are going to have to settle for, and by no means is it a bad thing. I’m highly satisfied by the material in here. What sucked was having to own all ten movies in the franchise previously and having the only featurette in the series be from Jason X featuring Moriarty from AintItCool. Sure Kevin Bacon no showed, sure Kelly Hu had better things to do, but what we got is what we got. I’m perfectly content with what Paramount gave us, and I look forward to the next flick featuring that gigantic hockey puck.