These are the first eight installments of the slasher franchise, a franchise that is now bathedin the warm glow of nostalgia. The basic premise for all the movies is the same: a vengefulmaniac hacks up teenagers in retaliation for the drowning of little Jason Voorhees back in 1958.The films resemble each other so closely, and their plotting is so minimal, that viewers may beforgiven for having trouble keeping them straight. Herewith, a brief reminder of the salientdifferences.
Friday the 13th: the first, which features Kevin Bacon getting the arrow through thethroat, and wherein the killer is actually Mrs. Voorhees.
Part 2: here Jason takes over from mother as the killer, but his mask is a burlapsack.
Part 3: originally in 3-D, and the goalie mask arrives, thus completing the image ofJason we know and love.
The Final Chapter: the one with the lying title, and introducing Tommy as the Jason-slayer.
Part V: A New Beginning: the one with the phony Jason, and featuring a now-grownTommy fearing for his sanity. Is he the killer or not? And don’t you just love the pastoral title?Doesn’t it sound like a Hallmark movie-of-the-week?
Part VI: Jason Lives: Jason gets his groove back, accidentally resurrected by Tommy.From this point on, Jason is an explicitly supernatural figure.
Part VII: The New Blood: here we have a telekinetic heroine. Jason vs Carrie??
Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan: but not until the final act of the film. Most of theaction is on a small cruise ship.
Thereafter, original director Sean Cunningham reacquired the rights to the character and tookhim over to New Line, where it must be said that the quality of the films improveddramatically. These are all rather rudimentary tales, and a marathon viewing session is repetitivein the extreme. But this is still good, dumb, slasher fun for all that (hence the three stars), and forbetter or for worse, Jason has cemented a place in horror history for himself. I can’t bring myselfto complain about that. What is irritating, though, is that the “Ultimate Edition” claims arerubbish: these are still the cut versions of the films. More on that below.
The type of sound varies from film to film. Parts 1 through 5 are mono, 6 and 8 are in “Ultra-Stereo” (i.e. 2.0), and only 7 has a 5.1 option (which is your one chance to get the “ch-ch-ch-hah-hah-hah” effect in all its glory). Each track is fine of its type, but the fact that none of the monotracks have been remixed is disappointing, especially when you consider that Part 3 was releasedin “Ultra-Stereo” on VHS.
The same is true of the video. The aspect ratios range from 1.78:1 to 2.35:1 (all anamorphic).The blacks are all very good, but the image is sometimes murky. The colours are fine, thoughagain, some of the darker scenes in (for example) Part 3 have grain and ghosting issues. Noneof the films have been remastered; these are exactly the same transfers as have been availablefor years. And there has still been no attempt to present Part 3 in 3-D, so the non-stop pokingof objects at the camera comes across as pointless.
So. No 3-D, and no restored footage. Hardly “ultimate.” Adding insult to injury is a featureon the Killer Extras disc: “Tales from the Cutting Room” compares the gore scenes ofthe final edits with what existed prior to the cuts made to achieve the “R” rating. So it’s not likeParamount didn’t have the footage and couldn’t restore the films. They simply chose not to.The good news is that the other extras are quite solid. There are commentary tracks for Parts 3(with author Peter Bracke and the cast), 7 (Kane Hodder and director John Carl Buechler) and 8(director Rob Hedden), and these tracks are as good as the films can realistically be expected tosustain (Buechler and Hodder talk about, among other things, all the cuts to the gore make-up).
Back on the extras disc, “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” is an 8-part, 103-minutedocumentary, which is quite wide-ranging (Rob Hedden, for example, is very honest about hisown disappointment with how little Jason really took Manhattan). “Secrets Galore Behind theGore” is an examination of the gore effects; “Crystal Lake Victims Tell All!” brings back castmembers from the series; “Friday Artifacts and Collectibles” has directors showing off theircollections of props; and “Scary Trailers” is a look at, well, the trailers. The other bit of goodnews is that though the films are two to a disc, they are both on the same side. The introductoryscreen of each disc is animated and scored.
If you already own the series on disc, think twice about shelling out the money again: do youreally want to drop forty or fifty bucks on extras (because that’s the only improvement you’ll beseeing)?
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” 8-Part Featurette
- “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore” 3-Part Featurette
- “Crystal Lake Victims Tell All” Featurette
- “Tales from the Cutting Room” Featurette
- “Friday Artifacts and Collectibles” Featurette
- “Scary Trailers” Featurette