Friday the 13th
There is no doubt that one of the most popular types of movies ever is the horror flick. The convention goes back to the earliest days of cinema with such great films as ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Wolf Man.’ These films also started a tradition of providing the basis for a full-blown franchise. Each of them inspired one sequel after another. In recent years the venerable horror film has been delegated to a string of cheesy, poorly made flicks. They are done fast and cheat with little if any plot is depending only on gallons of phony blood, fake guts, and even less real exposed breasts. The reason why movies of such dubious quality continue to be made is simple; audiences flock to them. They are the favorites for frat guys and high school boys all over the country. The fact that many younger fans seem to have forgotten is there is a different way to make a film of this type. Having a real story contained in the movie is possible. Paramount has come up with something that all fans of the genre will relish; the re-release of the start of one of the most popular horror franchises around, ‘Friday the 13th’. Yes, horror fans Michael Myers is back again with the first three films of the series done up better than ever before. This is the film that set the bar for many of the horror flicks that would follow. It has the remote summer camp, horny counselors, and an insane killer. If this format sounds familiar, it is since it has been rehashed in a plethora of movies that came after this. Twenty-eight years ago when this film was released it was novel; it reset the bar for the genre and fans flocked to it. Initially, the critics expressed some misgivings about the movie but like a lot of films as the years passed it would transcend this and become a true cult classic. Many current horror film fans were either not born or still in diapers when this movie was released. They need to watch this to understand the immense impact this film fully and the subsequent franchise would have on the genre. You will most likely want to get all three films in this new release series even if you have one of the many previous DVD editions.
The credited writer of the screenplay, Victor Miller, would spend most of his career with horrible monsters in horror films. He would go on to write many of the sequels for this franchise and contribute to later installments of the ‘Halloween’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ series. There is a little irony that Miller would eventually wind up writing for a daytime soap and that his very first film script would be a family comedy. The important thing to remember about this story is there was craftsmanship to it. It contains all the required elements of this type of film and as mentioned established many more. First, you need an isolated location. Help cannot be at hand as the killer stalks and murders his hapless victims. It is usually best if the place is something that is normally familiar and friendly. In this case, it is a once deserted and run down summer camp. This also opens the door for another requisite, a good-looking cast. The guys and handsome and the girls pretty and hormones are in great abundance. Next, the killer has to come up with imaginative ways of getting rid of those pesky teens. In the case here these methods will seem fairly tame to the modern fans. Horror had not yet reached the level of unbelievable ways of slicing and dicing a human being. Back then Kevin Bacon getting stabbed through the bed he was resting on after sex, of course, was shocking. Yes, a very young Bacon is in this flick. The final reveal of the movie is now famous and contrary to the belief of many the main character in all the other films of the series, Jason, is not shown except as a child in flashbacks.
This was the only horror film in the career of director Sean S. Cunningham. He did go on to helm a couple of science fiction flicks and worked with Miller on his family comedy just before taking on this project. Having a director who was not tied to horror was a big advantage to this film. There was a feeling that it was more of a thriller or mystery than straight horror. This approach added more dimension that most films of a similar vein. There have always been a lot of comparisons between this film and John Carpenter’s masterpiece, the original ‘Halloween.’ That film was more psychological than this one. Friday the 13th’ was a visceral work that may have lacked the amount of gore that films have today, but in its day it was something else.
The movie opens with a flashback to Camp Crystal Lake 1958. The night is filled with the voices of teens singing camp songs. The camera switches to the point of view of the killer moving through the cabins where the children are sleeping. Back with the consoles a boy and girl break away to go outside for a little fun. The put down a blanket, and just as the guy is getting to second base, the killer gets them both. We then move up to the present day. Annie (Robbi Morgan) is on her way to Camp Crystal Lake to start a summer job. In town, a strange old man, Ralph (Walt Gorney), warns her that the camp was closed down after a series of murders took place there. Undaunted she continues. Once there she meets the other teens working to reopen the camp; Ned (Mark Nelson), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill (Harry Crosby), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Alice (Adrienne King), and Brenda (Laurie Bartram). The new owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), is determined to ignore the bad reputation of the place and bring it back to its former standing. During a break from work, the kids are swimming at their pier, and it becomes obvious that someone is watching from the woods. Soon the deaths start to happen, and the teens are trying to flee for their lives.
The film is a slower pace than most horror flicks and many of the sequels in the franchise. It takes almost forty minutes until the first sex scene and resulting death to happen in the current period. This is a lost art in the genre; taking enough time to build a plot and introduce the characters. The film remains a classic because it was innovative and that alone makes it worthy of any collection.
Paramount did an excellent job with this re-release. It contains a new video mastering in high definition and a brand new remixed Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. There are interesting extras provided including a commentary track by the director and crew. The cast of the film was reunited in September of 2008 for a special featurette contained here. There is a look at the director and something called Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th. This disc has the first part of ‘Lost Tales of Camp Blood. Also available is a Blu-ray version of the release. This is one to have and enjoy over and over. One of the greatest things about the Blu-ray format is all the space that is available even after you take the increased bandwidth requirements into account. This allows the studio to revisit and frequent greatly expand the extras that the can provide. This is certainly the case with the follow up of the ‘Killer Cut of this film. Of course the video and audio are in the best possible formats to add to the experience. The 1080p video is very well done making the film look better than ever, the color palette is typically well done, and the contrast is excellent especially in the many dark scenes, The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 concentrates on the front speakers, but there are a few surprises with the rear set.
Posted 06/03/09 (Blu-ray) Posted 04/26/2018