This has to be one of the most long awaited DVD collections since the format first launched. We got some early snapper box releases of mostly poor quality. It was only a matter of time before Paramount finally unleashed a killer collection on us. Well boys and girls that time has finally come. As we work our way toward Halloween we thought we’d offer an in depth look at each movie in the collection. So each day this week we will cover one disc of the five disc collection. On Friday we’ll look at disc five which contains the bonus materials.
Right away I can tell you I was a bit disappointed that the transfers are the same as those found on previous releases of the films. These are also not the uncut editions that have found their way to DVD in other countries. So is this set worth the bucks? Well stay with us and we’ll take a look….
Friday the 13th
Sean Cunningham had been working on children’s programming in the late 70’s but he had another idea, an idea that along with those of two other directors (John Carpenter, Wes Craven) would change the face of the horror genre forever. He set out with a meager budget to create the ultimate scary movie, and finally in 1980 he released Friday the 13th on the world. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years you’ve seen this movie. If that is the case and you haven’t seen it be warned this review includes some spoilers.
At a small summer camp called Crystal Lake a young boy was left to drown by two teenagers having sex. Later those two teenagers were murdered. The case was never solved and the camp was closed. Many years later a group of nubile teenagers set out to reopen the camp.
While they are preparing the camp to be reopen they do as teenagers do. They party, have sex and get into trouble. But at this camp, if you have sex or party you die! And so, the great slasher subgenre of horror films is born. In this first Friday the 13th there are ten brutal kills that included the use of such weapons as knives, arrows, and an axe.
This first movie includes one of the most famous and clever kills ever. After sex a young stud is stabbed from under the bed with an arrow right through his neck. One tidbit, if you didn’t notice that stud is none other than Kevin Bacon.
Friday the 13th played on the idea of the boogieman. He is hiding in the dark or under your bed waiting to get you, and it did it very well. The jumps and stingers that are considered cliché now were created in this movie. The morality play of if you get naked, if you smoke pot or have sex mans you get bloody has become standard in horror movies today.
This movie is probably the last great film from that magical time known as the 70’s when independent filmmakers went out and got money and made there movies without the studios breathing down their necks and the legions of politically correct momma’s boys waiting to cut it to pieces. Not to say this movie wasn’t originally cut, because quite a bit of the original gore was cut. But what remained was more than adequate. The movie was low budget so it had that same sort of documentary feel to it that made movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween work so well. Also, you can’t talk about Friday the 13th without talking about the score. That simple, horrifying score is now recognized the world over.
No this isn’t a perfect film. The acting is flawed and sometimes downright bad, and the story is very simplistic. But the things the filmmakers did right have gone on to influence horror films for over twenty years. There are great shocks, the effects are well executed for the time, and the twist at the end is fun. Oh and Betsy Palmer who plays Jason’s mother is perfect. No fan of horror can call his collection complete without a copy of Friday the 13th, easily in the top four or five most influential horror films of all time.
Friday the 13th Part II
The sequel to Friday the 13th plays similar to the sequel to Halloween. At the end of the first film we are left with a major question: is Jason alive or not? As it turns out, in the sequel he is. Alice, who survived the first film is appears again in the sequel and plays out the introduction of the film.
Again, we have a similar plot to the original. A group of young people set out five years after the first film to reopen Crystal Lake. Same deal as before, they party and have sex, and they die. Only in this film we finally see Jason dressed in farm clothes and a burlap sack over his head with a single eye hole cut out. Is he seeking revenge for the death of his mother, or for what happened to him as a child, or both? For whatever reason Jason has turned into a killing.
Jason’s look in this film always makes me think of another horror film from the late 70’s called The Town that Dreaded Sundown. The killer in that film wore what looked like a sheet over his head and tied around his neck with two eye holes cut out. The killings in this film were gorier and to me, even more brutal than those in the first. Again there were a total of 10 kills utilizing weapons such as a pitch fork, claw hammer, a spear, and a Jason favorite the machete.
For me part two really became interesting toward the end when Jason faced off against Ginny, played by Amy Steel. Steel was easily the best actor in this film and she gets to have some fun with the character toward the end. When Ginny and Jason face off in Jason’s shed the audience gets one of the very few looks into Jason’s world outside of his murders. The shed is well dressed by designers to look disgusting. It reminded me of a shed that probably sat behind the family’s house in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When Ginny dons Jason’s mom’s sweater you can almost see the stink emanating from the garment. If Ginny doesn’t get killed she’s gonna need a major bath. This is the first time we can actually feel a bit of sympathy for Jason. He was nearly killed by uncaring camp councilors and then they killed his mother. He is alone in the world and all he wants is for the camp to remain empty.
While this sequel didn’t innovate the genre it did officially introduce us to an icon of the genre: Jason Voorhees. It also still suffers from bad acting and almost no plot. But do we actually watch these films for plot? Part two was directed by Steve Miner who went on to direct films such as House and Halloween H2O.
Friday the 13th Part III
Director Steve Miner is back for another dose of Camp Blood mayhem with the third film in the series. This film is still plagued with the typical problems of the first two but this time Miner seems to have refined his talents as a director as this film is scarier than the second, it has more story, and finally we get a splash of humor added to the series.
The day after the end of the second film a new group of kids show up at Camp Higgin’s Haven next door to Camp Crystal Lake. It seems that Jason doesn’t care for his neighbors either. This group is pretty typical of the series accept for the addition of a chunky nerdy guy who is into special effects and very nervous around girls. One of the girls has also come to the camp for reasons other than simply partying and sex. She has been here before. She went through a traumatic experience at this camp that has haunted her for years and now she’s back to face her demons. She also hopes to rekindle a relationship with her boyfriend Rick, who still lives in the area.
There’s also a couple that come straight from the Cheech and Chong school as they seem to be more interested in smoking massive amounts of pot than even having sex. The guy really looks the hippie burnout part and the girl doesn’t. Did anyone other than me notice how much older this couple looked than the rest of the group? Is that supposed to be a subtle hint at what too much pot will do to you?
This film gets back to making the series scary. Jason is bigger, stronger, angrier, and more determined to kill than ever before. He never says a word but you can just feel him getting angrier with each attempt by a camper to stop him. This installment is one of the scariest in the series.
Two other things really make part 3 stand out. The first and most effecting to the series in the long term is the introduction of the hockey mask. He takes this mask off the poor unsuspecting nerdy kid. The minute he slips that mask on he becomes more intimidating and scary. The other thing is that this film was shot in 3-D. So, there are a ton of things jumping out at the screen throughout the film. Some are Jason’s weapons of death. Others are yo-yo’s, a wallet, an eyeball, and even a doobie (hey this is 1982!). These were obviously meant to give theater audiences a thrill and to make them laugh. Paramount has unfortunately decided not to release a 3-D version on DVD but these obvious 3-D elements are still funny and really add some levity to the much gorier and scarier murders of this film.
Friday the 13 Part 3 is easily as influential on the series as the first film. The acting is better overall than the second film with a few exceptions, the murders are scarier, the characters are much better developed than the second film, and the the story compared to the second film is much better developed. Oh, and this installment takes the number of kills up to 12.
Friday the 13 Part IV: The Final Chapter
Part 4 sees the addition of a new director in Joseph Zito and the return of gore guru Tom Savini to the franchise. Zito got the job as director after one of the financial backers for the series saw a movie that Zito had made called The Prowler. Zito mentions that every film in the franchise was made like it was going to be the last one and this one is no exception as it could have easily capped the series.
Jason wakes up in a morgue where he was taken at the end of the third film. In his typical single mindedness he kills some hospital staff and heads directly back to Camp Crystal Lake, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.
Jason discovers that not only has a new group of youngsters rented a cabin on his land but a single mother with a teenage daughter and nine year old son live in a house a few miles from the lake. Having the plot split across the family, the partying kids, and Jason was a great new dynamic to the story. With this installment the plot is pretty much the same as previous films but at least the character dynamic offers some variety.
The director mentions that he decided to throw as much in the film as he could and see how far the studio would let him go. He wanted a family with a young kid, he even wanted twin girls, and he got them. This film features the most male and female nudity to date in the series. I don’t think many fans complain about the upgrade in nudity because by then it was a staple in slasher flicks. It just seemed like the original film started out as the little indie horror film that could and by the 4th film morphed into a low budget studio film that threw nudity on screen to make a quick buck rather than invested in the story. But just when the film seems like it’s going over the edge into nothing but visceral imagery we get the nine year old Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman in one of his most memorable roles, and a young stud quirkily played by Crispin Glover. These characters are some of the most interesting and well acted of the series.
In this installment Jason finally gets to kill 13 on Friday the 13th utilizing implements such as a hacksaw, a corkscrew, a garden harrow, and when all else fails crushing a head with his bare hands. Any fan of gore films can easily tell that Tom Savini is back on the case because the kills are super gory and very creative. On that note I have to say that I’ve always thought that several of the kills felt harshly edited, probably to maintain the “R: rating, and they still feel that way with this release.
I love this installment. It doesn’t really do anything for the story in a positive way but it does feature some great characters and the best killing of Jason in any of the movies to date. Corey Feldman has said that he’d like to reprise his role as Tommy Jarvis and face off with Jason one last time. I think that would be great fun, similar to what was done in Halloween H2O.
Friday the 13 Part V: The New Beginning
And now my friends, welcome to my least favorite film in the series. It had been a while since I watched it so I didn’t remember right away why I like this one the least I just remembered being disappointed by it. Now to discuss why I disliked it so much I may have to give away some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it skip to the last paragraph.
Tommy Jarvis, Jason’s killer from the previous film, is now a teenager. He’s been committed to a mental facility for quiet some time. Now he’s being sent to a halfway house out in the country for the final steps of preparing himself to return to society. There’s only one problem, other patients are getting brutally murdered not long after he arrives. Tommy is seeing Jason all over the place but no one else is, not even the audience. The only times we really see Jason up to the climax of the film are when he’s standing in the distance apparently mocking Tommy. We see his hands make some kills but that’s about it.
Early on in the film one of the patients is killed by another patient. This sends that patients father into a rage, and what does he do for apparently no reason? He decides to dress up like Jason and start killing off other patients. This movie isn’t set at Crystal Lake (although it looks like it) and it doesn’t even feature a real Jason. The guy playing Jason doesn’t get to be him until the very end. So, it isn’t really all that scary.
This installment barely has anything to do with what makes the other films in the series enjoyable. I understand the director’s attempt to take the series in a new direction and I applaud his attempt, but it just wasn’t successful. If I’m watching a Jason movie I want lots of Jason screen time and at the end I want to see that mangled faced monster, not some guy off the street.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Now this film is a horse of a different color. It features most of what you might expect in a Jason film but it’s the first attempt by a director to go a little campy with the series. In some instances it’s very successful, but there are also some mistakes.
Tommy Jarvis is back again, this time in his twenties, and he’s brought Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter with him for good measure. They are headed for Crystal Lake because Tommy feels that the only way he can stop his nightmares is to get closure with Jason Voorhees. His plan: to dig up Jason and cremate his body. Well he does manage to dig Jason up, but when lightening strikes the handle of a shovel the electricity revitalizes the killer of Camp Blood! Yes this is a bit of a silly way to bring Jason back I know. But really, what way wouldn’t be silly?
So with Horshack killed by Jason, Tommy rushes into town to convince the sheriff that Jason is back and killing again. The town and camp have changed names and Jason has been chalked up as a legend so the sheriff resists Tommy’s insistence that Voorhees is back. Of course after many grizzly murders the sheriff finally changes his tune.
This chapter is actually quite humorous. My favorite part of the film is when the caretaker of the graveyard pauses and speaks to the audience right into the camera. The humor that doesn’t work for me are the jokes built into the kills. There’s one sequence where a man’s face is smashed into a tree that when his body falls away the blood is splattered into a smiley face. Also this film is the cleanest and least gory in the series. The main reason we watch these films are for the kills right? They are pretty timid in this chapter. But, on the whole I enjoyed Jason Lives. Parts of it are very funny and C. J. Graham does a great job as Jason. He is even able to play it kind of funny at times. There’s one sequence where a counselor is walking through a cabin where the girls are all sleeping. Jason is walking outside the building right alongside her. Every time she passes a window he is there keeping pace with her. What cracks me up is his body is facing in the direction he is walking but his head is completely turned to look in the window. You just have to see it. It actually comes off as intimidating and funny at the same time. He does it again in the climax of the film as he walks into the water of Crystal Lake. The humor is successfully funny without to harshly spoofing the series and Jason stays scary while being a bit funny at the same time. Jason Lives is a fun and different installment to the series.
Friday the 13 Part VII: The New Blood
At Crystal Lake near the site of the final fight between Tommy Jarvis and Jason Voorhees a young girl named Tina accidentally kills her father with burgeoning uncontrollable mental powers. Later at age 17 she returns to the home where she grew up, and the lake where she killed her father. Her mother and a doctor accompany her to help her work through her guilt. Quickly it becomes apparent that the doctor is more interested in her mental powers than in her mental health.
She meets some young people staying nearby and is invited to their house for a party. While at the party she begins to have premonitions of her new friends being murdered. In a fit of rage Tina actually revives Jason from the bottom of the lake causing her premonitions to come true.
Eventually she and Jason face off in one of the coolest victim meets Jason scenes in any of the films. It almost looks old west, like these two are standing ready to draw their weapons. When Jason makes a move she uses her abilities to force him down into a puddle. Then she electrocutes him. Of course this just ticks him off and the chase begins. She even drops half a house on his head and he still keeps on comin’.
She realizes that she can’t fight him on her own. She needs the help of one man, her dead father.
When I first saw this chapter I did not like it. Looking at it now I only feel slightly better about it. This is a Jason movie, not Firestarter or Carrie, this is Jason. I didn’t like the whole subplot of a girl with telekinesis. I felt it took away from the darker aspects of the films and made them less scary.
One thing I did like about this chapter is the introduction of the best Jason of them all, the man, Kane Hodder. He brings the aggression back to Jason. Doesn’t that sound odd considering Jason is always killing people? Wouldn’t that mean he’s always pretty aggressive? It’s true though. Watching Kane play Jason you could almost see him getting more and more angry as Tina keeps trying to stop him. This movie should be called Jason Gets Pissed!
The kills are fairly harrowing and as I said Jason is really good in this one, but I still can’t get passed the crazy girl who can levitate stuff subplot thing. It’s fun, but not one of the better installments.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
This movie has one glaring issue with it that just drives me crazy. The issue is this: How does the boat get from Crystal Lake to Manhattan? Ok, for those that don’t know here’s how the story breaks down. The graduating class of Lakeview High are taking a boat trip to Manhattan. So, they all meet at Crystal Lake to catch the boat. It’s called Crystal Lake, not Crystal River! Throughout the series the lake has never looked so large that it would be connected to the ocean in some way. It just doesn’t make any sense at all. I know, I know this is a Jason movie so most of it doesn’t make sense but come on, try a little, please.
So, once again Jason is awakened from his water grave and he jumps on board the boat for a little hacking and slashing. A few of the students and Jason actually make it to the big apple in one piece. But even in the city that never sleeps there’s no hiding from Jason. On the run from Jason the students also have to deal with the thugs that hang out at the docks.
Jason doesn’t seem to be phased by the big city. He just lumbers along killing when necessary and sometimes just threatening those that get in his way. I guess he’s saving his energy for the high schoolers. Case in point: He’s walking along and destroys a jam box that a group of thugs are listening too. They want retribution. Instead of killing them, he raises his mask to reveal his deformed face to them. Of course they run away. Now does that sound like Jason to you? No of course not. Also, the streets are covered with people so you’d think the streets would be running red with blood. Nope, not in this installment. Here Jason has become quite the discriminating killer.
Granted, there are some funny moments in this film, especially the murder of the boxer, one of my favorite kills of any movie of all time. But when Jason makes to much fun of himself it’s hard to be afraid of him. Also, he’s out of his environment, the concrete jungle just doesn’t work for Jason. Part of what makes the Friday the 13th movies scary is the isolation, the “No one can here you scream” thing. Manhattan just didn’t work for me, but at least it was really Jason and not some pissed off cabby with a jockey mask.
As a capper to the series it may actually work if you are of the mind that Jason draws his abilities to stay alive from Crystal Lake. By killing him away from the camp he may not be able to rise again. From that point of view using this film to end the series is interesting but it just isn’t delved into. Look for the feature film debut of Kelly Hu.
The Movies Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
There are scratches and dust galore but colors look well balanced. There’s good detail in the bright scenes while darker scenes can get a bit murky. All of the movies look about the same with the newer movies only looking slightly better.
The audio again is a basic stereo presentation. Everything sounds nice and clean but there’s no immersive audio. The only exception is Jason lives which does some interesting things with sound and is presented in 5.1 audio.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This ultimate edition release features five discs each in individual THIN pack amaray cases, all inside a cardboard box that features the hockey mask artwork. The packaging is nice but it doesn’t really seem “ultimate” to me. There’s no lobby cards, no booklet with liner notes, nothing but the discs.
There are four commentaries spread across the discs. Three of the commentaries are excellent offering more depth to the viewing experience and being quite humorous. The commentary by the Director on part 8 is very bland and by the numbers for the most part. There’s nothing worse than hearing a commentary where the director sits and describes the action as it plays out on screen, boring. In contrast I loved the commentary on part 7 with director John Carl Buechler and Jason himself Kane Hodder. The two play off each other very well with Buechler sharing stories on everything from his special effects work to his directing style and Hodder sharing on set anecdotes. But my favorite parts of the commentary are when Hodder gives Jason a voice spouting off lines as Jason before kills, priceless. The commentary with the director on Jason Lives is also a good time as the director shares his memories of making the film and how he wanted to do something different with the franchise. The cast commentary on part three can be a little noisy at times with multiple people talking at once but overall it’s interesting and fun. It’s great to see these actors still support the film. The bad thing is there is no commentary on the first film. This is the one you really want a commentary on, the film that started the franchise and influenced so many copycat movies for the past 20 years.
The meat of the extras are on disc five. First up is a series of cast and crew interviews organized in the chronological order of the films called The Friday the 13th Chronicles. The longest amount of time is spent on the first film as the director Sean Cunningham discusses how he and his partner came up with the idea and their process to getting the film made. Tom Savini also offers a lot of detail on how the special effects were done on the films that he participated in. These segments can be watched individually by movie or as one long featurette.
Next up is a three part featurette that covers the special effects of the series called Secrets Galore Behind the Gore. The special effects of the films are discussed by those who made them happen. Also, an interesting addition is the discussion of Tom Savini’s school for special effects that includes behind the scenes footage of the facility.
Crystal Lake Victims Tell All! is a featurette where those that have been slain by the masked one share stories regarding their deaths. Some of the stories are repeated from the commentaries or from the Chronicles interviews but the new stuff is interesting. This segment felt like it could have been mixed into the larger featurette.
Tales From the Cutting Room is something the fans have really been waiting for: a series of deleted scenes from the films. The deleted scenes are presented in a few different ways. Some are just played and others are shown as they were originally in a small window with the theatrical cut played at the same time for comparison. Some of the scenes feature additional gore and some are simple cutaways that were removed for the final cut. What’s here is interesting but it seems very skimpy for eight movies that were all hacked to death by the MPAA.
Friday Artifacts and Collectibles is a featurette with the director’s discussing the souvenirs they took from their movie as well as some convention footage of Friday the 13th toys and collectibles. The director of Jason Lives has the coolest stuff!
Finally there are trailers for all eight films. A poster gallery would have been really cool. What about television spots? What about a still gallery? What’s here is all quality but it feels very lightweight for an Ultimate Edition. Some basic things like images, a booklet, are left out. Some major things that are left out include Director’s Cuts with gore put back in of these films and new transfers. These transfers are good but they are the same ones that came out years ago. These film deserved new transfers with upgraded picture and sound.
The extras are good but Paramount really needs to take a look at Ultimate releases from companies like Anchor Bay that really give the fan bang for their buck. Look at the Dawn of Dead Ultimate Edition from Anchor Bay for example. For one movie there are two feature length documentaries and three different cuts of the film! It’s great to finally have all eight of these films in one package but the extras should have been more extensive.
This box set has been one of the most long awaited releases since the format was born. Yes the films have been out individually for years but they were basic releases. The fans have wanted all these films pulled together and released as a special edition. Now that it’s finally here some will be disappointed. Many fans expect brand new state of the art audio and video transfers on a special edition. Not here, the transfers provided are good (most of Paramount’s standard transfers are of a higher quality) but they are the same transfers that have been out for years. Also, the fans are looking for director’s cuts of these films since it’s so apparent from the bonus features as well as from watching the movies that they have been hacked up like a pot smoking camper. Not here, just the cuts that we’ve all seen for years.
So, for the fans that already own the movies the only reason to pick up this release are the new extras. There are some great features here but not as much as I had expected. It’s great to have all the films together and the bonus features while sparse, are of a good quality. Die hard fans shouldn’t think twice but mild to moderate fans may wanna check the bonus features out first to see if its worth the upgrade.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10