"FRIDAY THE 13TH: DELUXE EDITION DVDs"
by Kevin Carr
With the remake of “Friday the 13th” tearing through theaters, Paramount has given fans a chance to relive their early days at Camp Crystal Lake. Before you start criticizing the new reimagining, check out the original films again on Deluxe Edition DVDs to see if they are as good (or as bad) as you remember them.
Many people may remember “Friday the 13th” as the beginning of the slasher movies, but they forget that “Halloween” came out two years before. In fact, Victor Miller (who wrote the original “Friday the 13th”) is quick to recall that he was approached by Sean S. Cunningham to rip-off “Halloween” because it made so much money.
However, what resulted wasn’t just a piece of garbage, as the critics of the day dismissed it. It’s not as brilliant as John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” but the original “Friday the 13th” is a pretty innovative film. it definitely started the slasher train rolling after its release in 1980, and it paved the way for masked killers everywhere (even though true fans know that it didn’t follow the same killer story as its sequels).
The “Uncut” version, now available on Deluxe Edition DVD may be unrated with new elements added, but I don’t recall much of a difference from the last time I saw the film in its entirety (which was when I was in college). Still, it’s a fun bit of teen terror, even standing up by today’s standards.
What makes the movie work is that the slasher genre hadn’t been set in stone yet, and there are some choices that director Sean S. Cunningham makes in the film that work against type. Not all the deaths are shown on screen, and the use of Harry Manfredini’s haunting theme is the only thing that identifies a kill is on the way.
Sure, the acting is bad and the production values are pretty low, which actually works toward the film’s benefit. Without graphic death scenes, a lot (but not all, of course) is left to the imagination. However, when the blood is on the screen, it works in the low-budget context, thanks to gore-meister Tom Savini.
“Friday the 13th” will never be remembered as great cinema, but for the fast food culture of the 1980s, it was fun... and it had one of the best one-two punch endings in horror movie history.
The new DVD comes with a nice selection of bonus features. In addition to a commentary by director Cunningham and his cast and crew, there is a new documentary with memories of the film as well as a spotlight on Sean S. Cunningham himself. There’s also a “Friday the 13th Reunion” and a new death from the fresh “Lost Tales from Camp Blood” made for the video series.
It didn’t take long for “Friday the 13th” to become a legend, and like the “Saw” movies now, the filmmakers planned sequels on an annual basis. The first installment was “Friday the 13th: Part 2,” which gave us the Jason Voorhees killer like we know and love him today. Wearing just a bag over his head (since the hockey mask won’t be introduced until Part III), Jason is a formidable foe but not yet superhuman.
The movie opens with Alice (Adrienne King), the last survivor from Crystal Lake, being attacked in her home. She finds Pamela Voorhees’ severed head in her refrigerator, and Jason breaks in to kill her in a vengeful rage. Soon, the film moves back to Crystal Lake, or rather a camp nearby. Some counselors decide to explore the legendary Camp Blood, which puts Jason on their tail so the body count can rack up again.
As sequels go, especially to run-of-the-mill fast food cinema, “Friday the 13th: Part 2” is pretty decent. By this movie, which predated the other slasher sequel “Halloween 2” by a few months, the slasher film had already started to become standardized. We find ourselves still in the woods, where Jason would remain before he went to Manhattan, Hell and outer space in later films.
In some ways, “Friday the 13th: Part 2” is the movie that “Friday the 13th” could have been, since this is the first time that Jason himself had started killing people. It is the first one to give Jason life beyond a flashback and a dream, and it set the stage for the masked, indestructible killer.
Not as good as the original, but still pretty fun, “Friday the 13th: Part 2” serves up more of the same and continued to be fresh enough before its many other sequels got too silly.
The new DVD comes with a retrospective of the film called “Inside Crystal Lake Memories” and a spotlight on the many faces of Jason Voorhees as horror conventions. Another horror convention – Fangoria’s Chiller – makes an appearance with four Jason Voorhees featured in a panel discussion. Finally, in addition to the original theatrical trailer, there’s another installment from “Lost Tales from Camp Blood.”
By the time “Friday the 13th: Part 3” was to be released, the filmmakers were already looking for something to keep it fresh. The choice this time was the use of 3D images. Released almost entirely in 3D, this slasher film became a spectacle of the cinema house beyond just the continuing story of Jason Voorhees.
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I’d love to see this film re-released in digital 3D to offer a true experience because until DVDs really took over the marketplace, you didn’t have much of a chance to see this film in projected 3D. This Deluxe Edition DVD comes with two sets of 3D glasses, and you can choose to watch the film in 2D or 3D at home.
Again, “Friday the 13th: Part 3” covers familiar ground. More counselors come to the woods, and that means more fresh meat for Jason Voorhees. Even though this film was released only two years after the first, it’s pseudo-serious tone has started to change. A bit of goofiness comes out with a biker gang terrorizing the counselors before getting killed by Jason. There’s also the constant practical joker (played by Larry Zerner) who gets on everyone’s nerves.
Still, thanks to Zerner’s character, Jason first dons the infamous hockey mask that has become an icon of horror movies.
With this film, there’s more sex, more nudity and more creative kills. Jason remains formidable rather than completely immortal, so this film still has the feel of the preceding two. The body count is still manageable (at only a dozen, as opposed to the 20-plus body bags needed for parts six and nine) and still feels like a film from the early 80s, although the big hair and high jeans hint of things to come.
The DVD doesn’t come with any bonus features, aside from the theatrical trailer. However, getting a chance to watch the gimmicky 3D effects in this film with the glasses at home is still pretty fun. And if you want to lower the prevalence of the anaglyph double-image, try using both pairs of glasses at once.