So let’s make something very clear right away. This is a set that calls itself “The Complete Collection,” but as any hardcore Friday the 13th fan will immediately tell you, this collection is nowhere near complete. Beyond the sequels that are making their first appearance in the Blu-ray format, there is nothing here that wasn’t already available on past DVD releases, and some of those previously released special features inexplicably didn’t make this set. While it may seem petty for me to start off complaining like this, I expect truth in advertising for any home media tied to such a hefty price tag. However, for any fans who have never owned any Friday the 13th flicks in the post-VHS era, this set will blow your mind (and then eat your brains in the morgue). Grab your camp gear, your weed and your condoms, and let’s sit down for a one-on-one with the big baddie Jason Voorhies himself.
Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection Blu-ray
As you can see, there wasn’t much effort put into making this set very attractive, as the sturdy tin casing features a lone image of Jason from franchise lowlight Jason Goes to Hell, I believe, instead of something more interesting, and the discs are similarly plain. I’ve never been a fan of disc-scratching cardboard cases, but at least it looks good, decorated with images from each film. As a nice touch, it’s all held together with a red elastic band featuring the words of Crazy Ralph, “I told the others, but they didn’t believe me. You’re all doomed!”
What’s that? You say you never judge a Blu-ray booklet by its cover and tin case? That’s fair. Judging the films and disc content are way more fun anyway. Just so I don’t have to keep saying it, the versions of each of the previously released Blu-rays (the first three and the last three films) are exactly the same here, so far as I can tell.
Friday the 13th
The first and arguably best film of the series, Sean Cunningham’s original Friday, looks and sounds as good as it ever did, and still stands up incredibly well for a “goofy kids get picked off by a madman (or madwoman),” especially when viewed in the same sitting as Marcus Nispel’s pretty dreadful 2009 reboot. The film’s obvious FPV nods to John Carpenter’s Halloween aren’t as blatant as they were around the time of the film’s release, and the kills are actually pretty tame by today’s standards. This is a trend that becomes increasingly more apparent as one goes through the series and the special features, many of which point a finger at the MPAA for forcing trimmed-down cuts of the films to alternately remove moments of gore and sex. In my mind’s eye, I remembered all of the pre-Jason X flicks drowning in blood and the sweat of horny teenagers, but it isn’t really like that at all to a certain extent.
Anyway, while the original may lose some of its homegrown appeal by having a high-def transfer, it was still low-budget enough so that the grain isn’t completely vanquished. As well, the soundtrack is balanced and Harry Manfredini’s signature string motifs are just as striking as they ever were. For special features, we get an enjoyable commentary from Cunningham, Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke and screenwriter Victor Miller, and it’s an in-depth take on the film’s production and inspirations, all while still being pretty amusing. Special effects master Tom Savini, Miller, Betsy “Mrs. Voorhies” Palmer and actress Adrienne King all show up for the “Friday the 13th Reunion,” and “Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th showcases quite a few interviews with Cunningham and others ,where a lot of the same information is rehashed, albeit enjoyably. These and “The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham,” another fact repeating bit, are all given the HD upgrade, while the Savini-centered “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore” and the behind-the-scenes extra “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” are both still in their original standard definition formats. (You’ll really be able to tell the difference on this and all the other discs). But Savini could be shown in dot matrix and he’d still be awesome. You’ll notice that the film’s star Kevin Bacon did not offer his time to show up for any of this.
The first six movies have a superfluous extra called “Lost Tales From Camp Blood,” which are newly-produced kills that are a homage to Jason and the films, but they don’t really have anything to do with anything. So while they’re fine on their own, I guess, I don’t understand their purpose. Bloodthirst? Sure.
Friday the 13th Part II
A film made for the obvious cash grab, Steve Miner’s sequel is still one of the franchise’s best, introducing the bumbling sack-headed Jason for the first time. And while the first film really brought the last minute scare into the genre proper (a slight ripoff of Brian De Palma’s Carrie), the second film solidified the “previous film’s survivor gets killed almost immediately” trope. Though the look and sounds of this sequel aren’t as high quality as its predecessor, it’s a long way from the cut that used to run on the USA network on my 19-inch tube TV.
Not as many special features here, unfortunately, and the biggest one centers on author Bracke talking about this film and his book. Then there’s “Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions,” which takes viewers to a few horror conventions. “Jason Forever” is a Q&A session between four of Jason’s portrayers, Ari Lehman, Kane Hodder, Warrington Gillette and C.J. Graham. You may notice that absolutely no one who had anything to do with this second film appears on any of the features. A commentary would have been nice.
Friday the 13th Part III
This set comes with two pairs of 3D glasses specifically for this third entry, also directed by Steve Miner. Unfortunately, the anaglyph 3D transfer did nothing to up the ante for high-definition, and it’s kind of a headache to watch. Sure, watching an arrow and a yo-yo come at your face is fun, but you’d do better watching the 2D version. That is, if you care to watch it at all. This is one of the weakest films in the series, focusing more on non-essential characters and the 3D gimmick rather than telling even a thinly-veiled story. But Jason does get his iconic mask here, so there’s that.
Oddly, this version is still missing the feature commentary that was on the Paramount edition, which would have been a great re-addition, had anyone bothered to change anything. “Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror” talks 3D effects, and the mask gets its own feature in “Legacy of the Mask.” “Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular” reflects on the genre at that point in the early 1980s. Good stuff for a not very good film.
Friday the 13th: Parts IV through Jason Goes to Hell
At this rate, we’ll be here until next Friday the 13, so let’s streamline the rest of the new-to-Blu-ray releases, many of which were largely the same, save for a central gimmick. The Final Chapter featured Corey Feldman shaving his head and killing Jason in one of the best kills of the series. A New Beginning introduced a man-in-a-mask Jason Voorhies imposter, which many fans saw as a franchise cop-out. Jason Lives is the first version of the truly supernatural Jason, as resurrected by lightning. The New Blood also rips off Carrie (along with Firestarter with its telekinetic lead character. Jason Takes Manhattan should have been an epic urban horror, but budget constraints kept most of the action on a party boat, and only got dumber from there. Jason Goes to Hell has long been the least favorite entry among fans, and while I actually enjoyed its buffoonery, the idea that the “spirit” of Jason is transferable between people really didn’t sit right with people.
And while the original New Line DVD featured the unrated cut of Jason Goes to Hell, which featured more gore and sex, this Blu-ray version only contains the lame theatrical release. If you can’t watch a girl get cut in half while she’s having sex, then why watch a movie at all, right? They also dropped the DVD’s commentary from the director and screenwriter, so the only special feature here is some “TV Version Alternate Scenes,” making this the worst disc in the box, and one that has had fans rabid since this set’s specs were released.
Fortunately, the rest of the films all got commentary tracks, with A New Beginning receiving a truly hilarious and tongue-in-cheek approach from director Danny Steinman and some of the cast. The Final Chapter features a guest commentary from directors Adam Green (Hatchet) and Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) that was a treat to listen to, getting a fan perspective on the film in particular, but also on the franchise and slasher films in general.
You’ll find almost all the same features that were on the original DVDs, with loads of to-be-expected behind-the-scenes stuff. Parts 6-8 offer up some rough-cut deleted scenes featuring gorier kills, and Jason Lives writer/director Tom McLoughlin even introduces us to Jason’s dad through an unfilmed sequence that producers didn’t want for the film. Except for JGTH, you’re really getting a lot of good stuff for these lesser-quality films, almost all of which look and sound as great as can be. Note that “as great as can be” does not necessarily mean “great,” and it doesn’t help that most of these were doubled up onto the same discs.
Jason X, Freddy Vs. Jason, 2009’s Friday the 13th
Like the first three releases, these are carbon copies of their original Blu-ray releases, all of which look and sound superior to all of the previous films. All of the special features are retained, thankfully, as particularly Freddy Vs. Jason was stacked with extras.
While I still haven’t been able to allow the corniness of “Jason goes to space” dilute itself in my brain, the commentary with director Jim Isaac, screenwriter Todd Farmer and producer Noel Cunningham at least gave me some insight as to why it was created, and I can’t really knock them for trying something new, even if it made nary a bit of sense, especially when put into the context of the series as a whole.
Ronny Yu’s FVJ probably should have been included in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, as this was much more of a Freddy Krueger movie than it was a Jason Voorhies movie, but I’m not complaining about its inclusion. I loved this movie, knowing full well how ridiculous and unserious it was, as I’d been waiting for it since it was first teased at the end of JGTH, and it featured the final performance by Robert England in the role that made him a genre legend. And as I said, there are a slew of extras here, including a commentary, a lengthy talk about the film’s decade-long development problems, and a ton of deleted scenes.
The Friday reboot, which is almost always too dark to fully enjoy in its high definition, is probably my own personal least favorite in the franchise. While the special features, which mostly focus on bringing Jason back, do a good job of making me feel like this should have been a good movie, it’s just as cookie cutter as the least original entries. And while there is a fair amount of gore and sex, it somehow comes off as even more gratuitous than ever before. The longer “Killer Cut” version is the way to go to get the most out of the boobs and blood, though I cannot stand the “Picture-in-Picture” extra that interrupts the feature with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Just give me a commentary and section off the rest of it.
”Killer Extras” Bonus Disc
This DVD (not even upgraded to Blu-ray) is also a previously released inclusion. The “Friday the 13th Chronicles” gives BTS footage from the first eight features, though some of them are already featured on the films’ discs, as are the “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore” that also showed up elsewhere. Gotta love doubled up extras. “Crystal Lake Victims Tell All! Tales from the Cutting Room Floor” was pretty interesting, showcasing a bunch of the film’s actors talking about their particular deaths and how the franchise affected their lives. Finally, “Friday Artifacts and Collectibles” delves into some of the toy lines the films inspired, as well as some of the film’s props that those involved with the franchise have kept for themselves. It made me quite jealous, as I wanted all of it.
The Final Cut
Again, this isn’t the best set that could have been put out, even though it is still pretty spectacular. Two additional extras include a plain-looking iron-on “Camp Crystal Lake Counselor” patch, and a colorful booklet which sadly only contains excerpts from Bracke’s amazing retrospective book. Incidentally, Bracke just released the tie-in 4-disc Blu-ray for Crystal Lake Memories, which clocks in at over six hours. So it’s obvious you might want to get that if you want all of the features that this set should have included, but as far as watching the films themselves, it’s hard to think that any future release will beat this one. I give it eight out of ten machetes, or severed legs, or hockey masks, or whatever sounds best.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment put this release out, fittingly, on Friday the 13th. You can order the set over at the WB Shop.