With the release of a new Friday the 13th this Friday February 13th mixed with the (third, maybe) rerelease of the first three films in new DVDs, I figured now is as good a time as any to reprint this classic series from a couple of years back, where I sat down and watched all 10 Friday the 13th films as well as Freddy vs Jason. To make this something more than a simple reprint series, I’m also reviewing the new DVDs on each of the relevant entries. Which I guess makes just the last 8 nothing more than a reprint series, but since this was a pretty fun series I don’t see the harm in that. This new edition of CHUD Goes to Camp Crystal Lake will culminate with my review of the new Friday the 13th, but it’s unlikely that it will be in the same format as the rest of the series. I’ll save that for my review of the DVD in four months.
Special thanks to Litmus Configuration for the amazing image above!
Friday the 13th (1980)
9 (Two throat slashings, two arrow piercings, three stabbings, one axe
to the face, one unknown cause of death somehow involving ropes and
blood and being tossed through a window as a corpse)
Best Kill: Mama Voorhees plays a new version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Sixteen Inches of Arrow through Kevin Bacon’s Neck.
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll:
Pre-credits sequence, fully clothed making out leads to brutal
stabbings. Kevin Bacon and his girlfriend have fully naked sex (you see
Bacon’s ass getting a mighty squeeze) before they are each offed. Bacon
also lights up a joint before he gets his. In another cabin three kids
play strip Monopoly while drinking beer. Bonus fun fact: landing on
Community Chest does not get you your clothes back.
The Comeuppance: Mama Voorhees gets a whole new perspective on the world as a machete sends her head careening off of her neck.
The Movie: Right from the start of the first Friday the 13th
many of the series’ signature elements were in place: extended shots
from the killer’s POV, that “ki ki ki ha ha ha” sound on the
soundtrack, and teenagers getting sliced and diced as a result of
engaging in some nookie in close proximity to Crystal Lake. But as the
film goes on it becomes more evident how very different this one is
from all the rest that follow.
Producer/director Sean Cunningham was obviously making a movie that ripped off the wildly successful Halloween, but watching the first Friday makes you realize that the touchstone was probably a little closer to Ten Little Indians
than what we recognize as a slasher film today: the killer runs around
without a mask or an identifying costume, and the whole movie is,
ostensibly, leading up to the big identity reveal (which is totally
botched anyway). The first Friday is
also smaller in scale than any of the sequels, with only six counselors
running around Camp Crystal Lake looking for opportunities to be
film opens with a pre-credits prologue set in 1959, showing us the two
murders that originally shut down Camp Crystal Lake. Flash forward to
Friday, June 13 1980ish and the camp is re-opening, despite the
warnings of local doomsayers like drunken loonie Ralph (whose dialogue
is almost literally all doom saying. He pedals around on his bike like
a deranged Margaret Hamilton repeatedly intoning “You’re all doomed!”
In an existential sense, who can deny that?). The first Friday
is almost quaint in how small the cast is – there are six counselors
and the camp owner, the porn-mustachioed Steve Christy (Agatha
reference?). We’re introduced to him when he’s shirtless in cut-off
jean shorts with a red bandana around his neck and aviator glasses
perched just above his glorious mustache. I can’t imagine sending my
kids off to any camp run by this guy, but then again we’re informed the
campers will mostly be inner-city types, so I guess they don’t have
killings begin pretty quickly – new camp cook Annie is hitchhiking to
Camp Crystal Lake and has the unfortunate bad luck to be picked up by a
camera operator. This film makes incredibly heavy use of the killer’s
POV, mostly because they’re trying to save the reveal of the killer’s
sex until the end. This gets pretty clunky, and you have to wonder why
no one just thought of giving the killer a mask, since Michael Myers
had already invented that look.
This first Friday
doesn’t need to go into logical gymnastics to get the teenaged victims
to different parts of the camp; there are very few moments in this film
where you’ll be wondering why someone would be throwing away their life
just to find their boyfriend/investigate a sound/getting a beer. Most
of the splitting up is done while it’s still light out, and well before
any killings come to anyone’s attention, and a heavy rainstorm explains
why nobody notices that people are missing – everybody just assumes
that everybody else is taking refuge in a cabin somewhere, getting
high, laid or both.
kills here aren’t the best of the series, although Tom Savini’s genius
is obvious with a couple of inventive ends, including the Kill of the
Movie, Kevin Bacon taking that arrow through the neck. Not only is this
Mama Voorhees’ feminist response to the inherent violence of the
patriarchal society’s sex act, which Bacon has just engaged in, it also
sheds some weird light on Mama: she was under that bed the whole time
Bacon was making sweet, whimpering love to his girlfriend, getting the
springs sprung right in her face. What a pervert.
there are only six characters (early on Steve runs out to do some
errands – read that as ‘be a weak red herring’ – and doesn’t come back
until late at night and just in time to take a hunting knife to his
rain slickered gut) the dispatching happens pretty quickly. Mama
Voorhees shows a little bit of playfulness – she hides the bodies and
then takes the axe out of one girl’s face and places it in her bunk,
and even tucks it in! Maybe the strangest thing Mama does is hide
outside one girl’s cabin and imitate her son, Jason Voorhees, drowning
in the lake. When the girl follows the cries for help she ends up
getting killed (offscreen), which raises an interesting question about
Mama’s intentions. She’s there to keep the camp closed but also to get
some transferred vengeance on the counselors who let Jason drown back
in 1957 (for those keeping track at home, this date and his stated age
make Jason older than my dad), but when a counselor reacts in a prompt
and diligent way to cries for help, she gets killed anyway.
group is whittled down to two and then just our Survivor Girl, Alice,
is left. And this is where the movie really becomes very different from
the rest of the F13
films: Alice runs into Mama Voorhees, who suddenly and without
explanation completely changes her modus operandi. Previously, when the
filmmakers were trying to keep her sex a secret, Mama Voorhees operated
in complete silence. Now she introduces herself to Alice and pretends
to be a friend before slowly dissolving into homicidal madness. This
big reveal, by the way, completely fails because it essentially boils
down to “All along the killer was… this character who never appeared at
any other point in the film!” It would have been so much more effective
to introduce Mrs. Voorhees right at the top of the film. At any rate,
the whole movie kind of falls apart here, as Alice and Mama Voorhees
engage in a very long, very drawn out chase and fight. In later Friday
films, Jason would take serious injuries that would seem to kill him
and would then get back up to hunt his prey – his mom just keeps
getting slightly knocked out before getting up again. The whole
sequence is without pacing or tension, but it is endlessly hilarious to
see a besweatered middle aged woman with Mr. Ed dentures going at it
with a teenaged girl. Finally the fight ends up on the shores of
Crystal Lake and Alice gets a hold of Mama’s machete and lops her head
The filmmakers would never kill Jason in so final a way, even after he became a zombie (with the exception of Jason X,
but that was just a prelude to making him a cyborg), and you can see
why – you just can’t bring Mama back for part 2. Luckily, Tom Savini
had an idea for a final scare in the film, which was to rip off Carrie
and have Alice floating on Crystal Lake in a canoe and dream that Jason
jumped up from the depths and dragged her under. This wasn’t in the
original script, but it did pave the way – conceptually, if not at all
logically – for Jason showing up in Friday the 13th Part II. And while Mama Voorhees showed off some incredible strength during the course of the movie, most of Friday the 13th
remained reality-based; up until this finale, which sort of hints that
maybe Alice wasn’t completely dreaming. That opens the door for the
series to go in very, very wacky directions.
By modern standards Friday the 13th is a little tame; it certainly has nothing on the Final Destination films, for instance (and by the way, wouldn’t a movie like Final Destination, where bad luck was killing people in entertaining ways, make more sense for the title Friday the 13th
than some knife-wielding lady with a Sandy Duncan hairdo?). It’s also
endearingly serious – not in that it thinks it’s a heavy drama, but in
that it aspires to be a tense thriller and not just a body count pile
up, as the later movies would become. And by keeping the killer almost
completely offscreen, Friday the 13th
is one of the few films in the series (and the genre) where the doomed
teenagers are actually the protagonists – the reality of most of these
films is that we’re rooting for the killer to do his work in
entertaining ways, but the killer here is mostly a non-entity.
In a lot of ways Friday the 13th is The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings
trilogy of Jason movies that would follow (Parts 2, 3 and 4 all take
place over the course of about 24 hours). The first Friday establishes
the world and the basic template, but the mythology really starts to
grow in the films to follow. Actually, the Friday films most closely follow the Star Trek
model: the first one is sort of ponderous and not exactly what you’re
hoping for when you watch it now, while the next three are pretty
terrific and tell one long story. Then there’s a fifth film that is
like a smack in the face, a sixth that’s a return to greatness, and
then a bunch of sequels featuring characters and concepts you don’t
even recognize anymore. Also, there end up being space ships.
Friday the 13th scores:
Two and a half Retard Jasons out of four.
Next: Friday the 13th Part II introduces Jason, Mama Voorhees makes a surprise appearance, and a kid in a wheelchair takes the loss.
The New DVD: Apparently Friday the 13th has been remastered in high def (there’s a Blu-Ray available. As I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, I can’t tell you how it looks), but the standard def DVD doesn’t seem to have all that much on the last box set version. The picture’s not terrible, but it’s not a revelation, and I’m assuming out of the kindness of my heart that the quality is a reflection on the original elements and not any modern work ethic.
What supposedly sets this apart from previous releases is that this is the uncut version of the film. You’re going to need to have a phD in Jasonology to really squint out the differences in versions, as I believe a little less than a minute of total footage was chopped from the original release. Apparently this cut is exactly the same as the one that was released in the UK a couple of years back; for completists even these few seconds of spurting blood make a big difference, but the truth is that this wasn’t the Friday most mutilated by the MPAA (that honor goes to Part VII: The New Blood, and I don’t believe any elements of any quality exist that could be incorporated back into the film. You can see video tape of the uncut kills on the previous box set, and I’m sure they’ll be included in the eventual Part VII triple or quadruple dip).
The real bit of interest here should be the new special features, which I found modestly lacking. Part of this comes from the fact that I’m a big Friday nerd, which means I have devoured Peter Bracke’s invaluable Crystal Lake Memories, not only a great and comprehensive book about the making of the film series but simply one of the finest film books I have ever read. In fact, I’d recommend this book to people with no interest in the franchise because of how authoritative it is when it comes to examining the world of low budget sequelizing.
There’s a commentary track that’s a Frankenstein monster of older interviews. None of these are bad (although the fact that there’s no Tom Savini is a little baffling), but they are sort of generic and none are scene specific. Would it have been so hard to get Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King and Sean Cunningham in a room together for 90 minutes? Frankly I would have rather heard them reminiscing than chunks of interviews strung together. The highlight of the commentary is Peter Bracke’s contributions; frankly I’d also rather have heard a track featuring only Bracke.
Especially because much of the information in the commentary ends up in the two documentaries on the disc. The first is Friday the 13th Reunion, which is essentially just a panel discussion from a convention. Ain’t nothing wrong with that per se, and it would make a nice secondary special feature, but here it’s one of the main special features.
Next up is Fresh Cuts: New Tales From Friday the 13th, which doesn’t really quite live up to the title. It’s a series of interviews with some of the same people on the commentary and on the convention panel; a number of stories get told more than once.
Finally, there’s Lost Tales from Camp Blood, for which I can’t even summon up the ability to be nice. This is the FIRST in a planned eight part series that will span all the new DVDs, and it’s pretty terrible. It’s a generic stalk and slash scenario scored with Friday music but having no other relation to the characters or concepts. Two people get stalked by a killer who is not Jason or Mrs. Voorhees at a place that, while possibly a camp could also be a condo in Burbank, and are killed. That’s it. This is what slasher haters think slasher films are all about, and sitting through the almost 8 minutes of this segment will make you understand where they’re coming from.
This special features are, for the hardcore, a touch anemic. But they’re decent enough intro features for someone getting into the series via the reboot, and it’s nice for the hardcore to have these films in decent transfers on their own discs, as opposed to the flippers that came with the box set. And to be honest, I’d probably buy these just for the cool lenticular covers. Yes, I’m that lame.