It’s 1980. The Reagan Years are upon you. The country is hopeful it will soon come out of the toilet bowl it was in for the last four years, and while things may seem bleak, you’re one of the lucky ones that still have a job, a girl, and a reason to live. As April becomes May and the days grow considerably hotter a little at a time, what better way to take a break from it all than driving you and your sweetie down to the local movie house for opening night of a new horror film you really haven’t heard all that much about entitled Friday the 13th?
A likely scenario for most teenagers and young adults growing up in the early eighties, made even clearer by the fact this film – made on a little more than $500,000 grossed nearly $40 million at the time of its release. While it wouldn’t be fair to say the film was unlike anything moviegoers had seen before – after all, Halloween debuted only two years prior – it struck a nerve somewhere in our popular culture that has never quite healed. Whether that nerve continues to be one of extreme horror or warming nostalgia is anyone’s guess. The important thing is that people still care. Now nearly 30 years later, our country is once again in the toilet bowl, once again putting its faith in a charismatic leader, and once again getting ready for the launch of a Friday the 13th horror film. To celebrate the upcoming event, Paramount delivers (at long last) the uncut version of the original film, never before released in the United States.
Friday the 13th Uncut: Deluxe Edition gives viewers more gore than ever before along with a variety of special features to commemorate the film’s approximate three-decade run. The story? Well, there never was much of one, but for the record, it involves a group of horny teenagers refurbishing an abandoned camp only to be slaughtered by a knife-ax-spear-wielding killer. Kevin Bacon is one of the teens. Tom Savini does the effects. All of it is held together quite well by Sean S. Cunningham’s direction and Harry Manfredini’s creepy score. It lacks depth, but it’s of a much higher pedigree than the flood of imitations that came after it.
Appearing in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film suffers very little from the chasm between its inception and this current release. Day scenes are still strong and vibrant. Night scenes are surprisingly crisp, all except for the opening two kills, where quite a bit of graininess can be seen with little effort. Still an amazing transfer, the real news is in the seamless inclusion of long-lost footage. No work-prints here, every second feels like it belongs.
Piercing, shattering, shocking, the Harry Manfredini score lends the film much of its power and the 5.1 mix makes it sound better than ever. Truthfully, the film’s audio strengths all ride on the broad shoulders of the Manfredini score. It’s always there, overpowering ambient noise, and announcing the ominous presence of the killer. Strong volume and dialog levels sweeten the deal.
Extras are few, but effective – exactly the kind of materials fans will enjoy. They include:
Commentary by Director Sean S. Cunningham with Cast and Crew: Cunningham’s fondness for the film still shows through on this track. A lot of materials are presented here that reappear on subsequent bonus features.
Fresh Cuts – New Tales from Friday the 13th: Victor Miller’s amusing anecdote about how the script came in to being is a highlight from this feature. Essentially, he admits that Friday the 13th was always intended as a rip-off of Halloween.
The Man Behind the Legacy – Sean S. Cunningham: This feature focuses on the man that started it all. Cunningham keeps a very healthy viewpoint regarding the film. He is appreciative of everything it did for him, but unwilling to dwell in the past. Instead he continues to work on new projects with son Noel, expressing eternal gratitude to fans of the franchise.
A Friday the 13th Reunion: Sorry, no Kevin Bacon. Several others are missing, too. But viewers do get to see Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer as they are today. No catfights this time, however.
Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part I: Perhaps the most surprising and pleasing addition to the disc is a short film shot on digital video, but masterfully handled nonetheless. A simple 8-minute feature with two new victims and more Jason-inspired violence, it’s interesting to see where Paramount will go with these on the other Friday releases.
Closing out the features is the original theatrical trailer.
Finally, a new wrinkle is added to the original film. Fright fans should rejoice at the worthwhile bonus materials and the added gore from Savini’s masterful palette of nastiness. The A/V presentation continues to dress the film up right for modern audiences. Hardcore horror fans, this is a worthwhile double-dip for sure.