FRIDAY THE 13TH
Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Betsy Palmer,
Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi
Morgan, Kevin Bacon
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 95 Minutes
Release Date: February 3, 2009
“Jason was my son…and today is his birthday.”
What a year 1980 was for the movies. The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining, Raging Bull, Ordinary People. Some of the greatest movies ever made managed to pop up during one single year.
And yet, it was the same year that saw the beginning a sub-genre that would eventually become every critic’s worst nightmare. The closest we had seen to pure horrific brutality at the time were Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it was the financial success of John Carpenter’s Halloween which led to countless filmmakers trying to replicate the same formula for a blood-hungry audience. Friday the 13th was the first movie to do this, and thus the slasher movie craze had officially begun.
Shot in New Jersey on an extremely low budget, the movie quickly became a monster hit. This led to what had to be one of the fastest growing movie franchises at the time. A sequel would turn up almost every following year, along with the increasing disgust of film critics everywhere. I remember Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert expressing true hate for the franchise.
But before the franchise even started, Friday the 13th was conceived as nothing more than an attempt to cash in on the success of Halloween. Of course, what basically differentiated this from Carpenter’s film was the level of gore. Halloween had little to no blood in its entirety, where as Friday was looking to set a record for the amount of blood it could get away with.
And the story itself would pave the way for all future slasher movies to come. A group of teens come to enjoy a fun time at a summer camp, only to get picked off one by one at the hands of a killer lurking somewhere in the woods. Would it surprise you at all that I just revealed the plot to pretty much all of the Friday sequels?
The movie opens in on Camp Crystal Lake in 1958. Two camp counselors sneak off from a sing-a-long to enjoy some alone time. They are soon interrupted by an anonymous figure that kills both of them before they have a chance to explain themselves.
Cut to twelve years later, where a band of teens set foot on the same camp grounds, in spite of warnings from the local townsfolk that the area is cursed. But the sexually charged group of young folks don’t listen and proceed to enjoy a summer of fun. Before long, the young folks are taken out one by one by way of knife, arrow, ax and other assorted tools.
Of course, this movie always brings with it the interesting notion that Jason, the iconic killing machine associated with the Friday franchise, is nowhere to be found. Even I was unaware of this when I first saw it many years ago. Though by now it’s no big mystery as to who the killer is in this installment, I won’t go in to detail. For all I know, dear reader, you could be a complete virgin to the world of Friday the 13th.
And I haven’t even gotten around to what I think of the movie in general, and despite my rating I’ve kept mostly a sarcastic tone throughout the review. Though I think the film’s got a number of flaws and shortcomings due to the production value, Friday the 13th is unquestionably a milestone film in the horror genre, and still holds up to this day as long as you can enjoy it as an outlandish slasher film. And this new Uncut version does not disappoint in the gory kill scenes, which definitely go on longer than I initially remember (in particular, the memorable scene where a then unknown Kevin Bacon has an arrow erupt from his chest).
Truth be told, my final opinion of the movie will be determined by the upcoming remake which I do plan on seeing. For the most part, remakes of classic horror movies have been unspectacular at best. However, judging by what I saw in the trailer for the Friday remake, I seriously think this one has a chance at being superior.
The budget kind of shows for this movie, even in Blu-ray. Truth be told, I've never seen an edition that I would consider exemplary, and that may just be what fans will have to deal with. The high definition transfer is an improvement, but even 1080p technology can't take away the fact that there is a lot of grain and murkiness in the darker settings and what I can only describe as a mild, overall softness to the images.
No complaints with the new TrueHD track...sound is critical in horror, and Paramount has delivered an exceptional surround track that makes the campsite and outdoor scenes more ambient than ever. Dynamic range is fairly strong, and the music score sounds lively.
Some bloody fine extras make their way onto this Blu-ray, where as the previous DVD had nothing but a trailer. To start off, we have a fun and informative commentary track moderated by Peter M. Bracke, a devoted fan of the series and author of the book “Crystal Lake Memories”, and featuring director Sean S. Cunningham, screenwriter Victor Miller, composer Harry Manfredini, editor Bill Freda, assistant editor Jay Keuper and actors Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King. Next we have two featurettes; “Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th” and “The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham”. Also included is “A Friday the 13th Reunion”, which features a panel discussion with cast and crew members at a horror convention. Lastly, we have the first of a two-part short film titled “Lost Tales From Camp Blood” and a Theatrical Trailer.
Though it’s actually not my favorite movie in the series (which will be revealed somewhere down the road), Friday the 13th remains one of the most influential movies to ever grace the horror genre. The new Blu-ray release provides a great reason to revisit the blood-soaked land of doom known as Camp Crystal Lake.