Friday the 13th - From Crystal Lake to Manhattan review by The Grim Ringler

If youre like me, and a fan of the horror franchise Friday the 13th, its hard not to hate Paramount Pictures. It was bad enough that when the studio first decided to release the films to DVD they did a half-assed job of it, teasing the fans by making them wait over a year for the first eight films to be released and then releasing bare bones editions, insisting that that was as good as it was gonna get. Then came the Nightmare on Elm Street Boxed Set that shamed Paramounts pathetic release and showed how much New Line respected and appreciated their franchise and its fans. Not so Paramount. The Friday franchise had always been the bastard child, the unwanted baby, and its fans seemed more like an annoyance than anything else. We fans begged and pestered the studio to come around, to release the films in special editions with all of the gore that had been notoriously excised returned and the with any and every extra that could be conjured up. To help the case of the fans was that the director of Friday VII, John Carl Buechler was anxious to get back into the editing room to put an uncut version together and was more than willing to work for free to get the film out to the fans. The studio was silent and the fans were patient. Then the studio sold the rights to the franchise to New Line and more films were made and, worse for Paramount, special editions were released, and the fans were enraged. But the films were still pulling in fans, and with the release of Freddy Vs. Jason, it was readily apparent that this ugly step-child of theirs was still a bankable icon, whether they liked it or not. And so the rumors began that a boxed set of the first eight films was underway. The fans were jubilant. The rumors were that it would be a nine-disc set, with every film featuring a commentary and an unrated edition if there was one out there. For me, this was a dream come true. The Friday films were what got me into horror in the first place after seeing it at a drive-in at age six. I was scared then, and I was hooked. As time went by though the set began getting pared down until what we fans had dreamed of and begged for was but dreams again. The nine discs shrank to five, the unrated editions never surfaced for varied reasons, from not being able to find the footage, to not knowing how good of shape it was in, to a general disinterest in presenting the footage in its context and the commentaries were halved so that only four of the films would have them. Huh? The silliest thing of all was that the Alice Cooper video for his Part VI song Man Behind the Mask was ditched. It was as if the studio wanted to punish the fans and the films and had promised things just to take them away. After hearing that the set was being, well, eviscerated, the fans divided. Some refused to buy the set at any cost, for any reason, defiant and insisting that if the fans bought it then a better, more fully realized set would never see the day, while the rest, like me, knew better. As half-assed as the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan set might be, there was no way wed get better. The studio just didnt care enough to do a better edition and at this point, why punish ourselves and deny ourselves this set wed waited so long for, even if it wasnt what wed hoped for or been promised? So me, I gave in. I bought it. Not terribly happy that I did, but excited to finally have the damned movies I had been waiting for so long to collect. I had waited through the initial releases, had resisted the temptation to buy them then, but now, well, for me, the waiting was over.

So what do I think, having made my way through the set?

While I am far from happy with how the set turned out, and am frustrated at the flashes of brilliance the set teases you with, I have to admit that, despite the efforts of the studio, the boxed set is a success.

With the set you get all of the Paramount films in the franchise (which go from part one to eight), four commentaries, and a disc with documentaries and excised footage. Perfect? Far from it. But it isnt awful. The films, despite being two to a disc, all look as good as they ever have and have aged rather well. There are some artifacts and the images arent pristine, but then, it was probably expecting a bit much to think that each film would be re-mastered. The sound is decent, but wont blow your speakers away, which is a shame as this is a series that could have really played with surround sound effectively and really messed with audiences. Its all silly that Part 3 isnt presented in 3-D as it was shot and as fans have been dying to see it. The commentaries are hit and miss. All four of them (for parts 3, 6, 7, and 8 ignoring the two best entries one and two completely for some odd reason) are sincere, but only the commentary for part three really holds your attention. This is a cast commentary and its obvious they had fun making the film and drop the science on what it was like to work on the film and, better, on a 3-D film. The documentaries show a lot of promise but are too shallow. The docs on the eight films have some great interviews, but while part one gets over twenty minutes, the rest vary from five to ten minutes worth of interviews and information. Which seems silly. I get the impression that a lot of the people involved in the films washed their hands of them which is funny to me seeing as they helped get people like Kevin Bacon into major movies in the first place and didnt want to be bothered to talk about them. Three cheers to Corey Feldman for actually wanting to talk about his experience in the films. It would have been nice to have some ideas though as to what the story ideas were, what the shooting titles were (each film seemed to shoot under a nom de plume so that fans wouldnt converge on the sets), and any other info they might give. And I have to say I was kinda angry that Part V is barely even spoken about in the series being that it was a pretty bold move in making a film without Jason being truly in it. The special effects interviews with Tom Savini and John Carl Buechler are good but again, too shallow. The Friday films revolutionized gore and horror effects makeup and thats sort of a big deal. The fun for me came in seeing the seventeen-minute short on a lot of the excised footage. The presentation is interesting but flawed they let you see a side-by-side comparison of what was seen in the film and what was removed, but you should be able to have the choice of just seeing the gore footage full screen. And its frustrating in that you know that there was still some stuff they left out but which is still absent nonetheless. Its fun footage though and what I really got out of it was that Part VI really could have been a much more effective film had they left some of the post kill footage of Jason in, where he watches the dead victim for a beat or two afterwards. It gives the scene a creepy resonance and makes Jason more menacing. There is a very short doc with interviews with some of the cast members of the films but this too feels rushed and overly shallow. I cant believe that only about ten to twelve people from the movies would speak about them. Come on. There are also trailers for the films as well and those are fun to see, especially the early films when it was still finding its legs. The last thing on the bonus disc is a featurette on some of the props and collectibles out in the market but this is all but worthless. There has been SOOOOO much released since the films came out, especially in the past few years, and none of that is covered. None of the toys, Halloween costumes (the hockey mask has become a staple at Halloween), the international doo-dads, any of that. And where the hell is the photo gallery? Where we could see at least photos of the gore that was cut, of the filming, of the POSTER ART which is long gone by now. This is stuff that fans would have loved to have, that horror mags would have given up, and which would have taken little to implement. The box art of the set is very striking, I will admit, and does well by the series, though I am frustrated by the art for the DVDs themselves.

As a horror franchise, the series was always hit and miss. I think they get a lot of guff unfairly for being what they are pop-horror. I never got how movies like the James Bond franchise got a pass and were well regarded despite that the stories were generally the same and we ALL know Bond was never gonna die. No, these are not great films, and are far from art, but they ARE fun popcorn horror films that give the audience a thrill and thats all most movies can hope to do. What I found interesting too was there is far less sex than I remember the series having. I always thought it was sex and nudity a-plenty but while there is sex, it is pretty chaste and is usually pre or post-coitus. It is also interesting, to me, that parts 2, 3, and 4 are all set within the span of a few days. And despite how cheesy part 5 can be there is a, swear to god, moment where the film pretty much stops so a girl can practice the robot in her room. CLASSIC! its a hell of a thing to watch the entire film and find out its, essentially become a murder mystery. The big let down in the series is part 8, which I can appreciate, but which really fails in everything it attempts. I think it was a mistake in the franchise to move away from the characters which happened from four onward and to focus more on Jason and the kills. The characters were always incomplete sketches, but you do feel bad when Shelly, the loser who gives Jason his mask in the first place, dies. And hell, I forgot that Jason was essentially a hillbilly in the second episode, how funny is that? It was also a HUGE misstep when the films made Jason more of a character and less of a shadow. I suppose it was one of those things that the studio wanted and the fans might have clamored for, but it doesnt work. Seeing Jason stalk around aimlessly, watching people, and all of that, it just isnt effective. The power in Jason is that he is a monster; he is a heartless killer, seeming to appear from nothing and retuning to it. They filmmakers have yet to fully take advantage of that. Of him. I loved the briefly glimpsed excised scenes of Jason hovering over his victims after the kill, watching them. He is a very effective monster, and there are flashes of this, but they are few and far between, ditched in preference of a mindless killer with a big tool shed. I did decide two things having watched the films all together

-Jason is psychic. Seriously. He was a mongoloid kid when he drowned and my guess is he had or developed a sort of psychic ability that allows him to always know where his victims are. Which I am guessing at, but which seems to fit. And is kinda creepy.

-Jason kills when people enter his place his area. He is a specter of revenge that attacks those who enter his camp, his lake, and his world. Otherwise, he sorta keeps to himself. This changed in Part 8, and was a mistake, but otherwise its always been a matter of him protecting his turf.

The Friday the 13th franchise is a hit and miss affair, as I stated, and as a fan, I can accept this. Even the best loved of the series part 4 has its very cheesy moments. I sill hope that either they kill old Jason off for good and all or start looking for new, interesting people to work on the films. Too many hacks have been allowed behind the scenes over the years and, while this is no classic character, Jason is a horror icon and, like Michael Myers and Pinhead, deserves better than hes gotten.

Friday the 13 fun, very effective murder mystery with some great kills 8

Friday the 13th Part II interesting turn in that we finally see the boy in the lake, Jason, and it begins the franchise in earnest 7

Friday the 13th Part III sadly not in 3-D, but very well made and funny, definitely one of the better entries 7

Friday the 13th Part IV the final chapter great entry with some bumps but a wonderful end for Jason, who really was to die here 8

Friday the 13th Part V a new beginning not nearly as good as I remember, but an interesting detour in the series 6

Friday the 13th Part VI Jason lives the true new beginning, brings Tommy back one last time, and has some interesting ideas 7

Friday the 13th Part VII the new blood better for its ideas than its execution, it does let us see Jason get his ass KICKED though 7

Friday the 13th Part VIII Jason takes manhattan there really is little to redeem this one. Bad idea, bad execution, and an interesting but bad ending 4

An incomplete but ably done boxed set and the best we Jason fans are apt to get. But if the is the best we get, well, its not as bad as a lot of us thought itd be.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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