What a great time it was to be a teen in the late 1970’s. No, I’m not referring to disco music. It was a great time to go to the movies. It was the culmination of the perfect date, and Hollywood was riding the beginning of a trend that remains alive and healthy today. I’m talking, of course, about the slasher film. You could argue that Hitchcock started the ball rolling in 1961 with Psycho, but it would be decades before that film would find its true audience and plethora of imitators. Although The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween came before Friday The 13th, can it be argued that any horror film franchise is as widely known? The truth is that even the man behind the film, Sean Cunningham, never really knew what it was that he had. It was never his intent to follow the film with a barrage of sequels. He also scoffed at the idea that Jason could become the centerpiece for future films. By now Jason has become such an iconic character that there is an entire generation out there that doesn’t know that Jason wasn’t the culprit in the first film. Jason’s stature has reached the heights of the classic monsters of the Universal days. While some of us hesitate to put his name and hockey mask up there with the likes of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, and The Mummy, the recognition and sheer dollars generated make it difficult not to. By the beginning of the 1980’s names like Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers would be scaring audiences around the world, rendering the classics somewhat silly in the eyes of a more visceral generation of teens.
Paramount has put together an impressive collection for fans of the franchise. Because of rights issues it includes only the first eight films, but they loaded on all of the vintage extras and some from the recent SHOUT mega set. This is a good budget way to get these films on Blu-ray if you don’t need quite all the bells and whistles from that set. Here are the films you’ll get:
Friday The 13th (1980)
It’s hard to believe, but in 1980 the slasher formula had yet to be born. And while Halloween laid down the foundation, this was the house that Jason built. By now it’s all old hat. You know exactly how it’s supposed to happen. There have been spoofs like the Scream series where these rules and expectations have been lampooned. It’s a shame, really, if you never got to see Friday The 13th before this style was so bloodily ingrained in your head. A group of teens gather at a lakeside campground in remote New Jersey. The camp was the scene of a horrific accident and subsequent murder rampage some five years earlier. Now someone wants to reopen the place the locals refer to as Camp Blood, but which moviegoers would long remember as Camp Crystal Lake. Despite warnings from the townsfolk, the teens gather to whip the place in shape for a summer filled with kids and fun. But on a stormy first night these teens would be eliminated one by one in “Ten Little Indians” fashion at the hands of a brutal killer. Victims would meet their ends under the most bizarre of circumstances. They would find themselves axed, skewered, and slashed. And as you know by now, but didn’t then, one will survive. The film would end with one of the most clever and effective jump scenes in movie history. No one knew then that a short epilogue intended only to deliver one final kick in the spine would give birth to one of the most infamous monsters in screen history.
It all works because these imaginative kill scenes are revealed through the magical touch of Tom Savini. There’s no denying that Savini has been a pioneer in the industry of bloody makeup effects. I’ve talked with Tom many times over the years, and even visited his workshop on one occasion. He has a healthy respect and reverence for the classic makeup artists who came before him. All around his work area are homages to the likes of Lon Chaney, Sr. and Jack Pierce. Here is where Friday The 13th delivers the bloody, disgusting goods. This stuff was more realistic than anyone had ever seen before. Although your mind knew that none of this was real, your eyes kept convincing you that it must be. The unsettling effect on your nervous system brought a smile to the likes of Savini. Combine these wonderful effects with some of the genre’s most atmospheric music, provided by Harry Manfredini, and this film made an impact no matter how many times you watched it. The eerie whispered echoes of Choooo Haaaaa still raise a hair or two on the arms of anyone fortunate enough to have been able to attend a screening in 1980.
If it seems I’m pining away for a bygone era, I don’t really mean to be. With today’s computer-generated environments, anything you can dream, you can now put on the screen. I thrilled at the marvel of Jurassic Park and was just as dazzled by the incredible work I saw on the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I’m happy for the advances that have been made in the nearly 30 years since the first Friday film. What I hope you might be able to do (it’s hard, but I was able to accomplish it somewhat) is to pretend you’re back in 1980 and you’ve never heard the name Jason Voorhees. And just try hard, not to be afraid.
Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
“You may only see it once, but that will be enough.”
That was the marketing slogan for the first Friday The 13th film in 1980. Apparently they couldn’t have been more wrong, because most of us have seen the film countless times, and no, it was never enough. The franchise would thrive with over 10 sequels or affiliated films, taking us right up to the present remake/reboot of that very first outing at Camp Crystal Lake. No, my friends, once was never going to be enough.
Paramount has been working their way through the Friday The 13th series of films first on DVD and then on Blu-ray. They appear to be the result of some restoration and worthy nostalgic trips back in time in bright new high definition.
Part 2 begins with an appearance by Adrienne King returning briefly to the role of Alice, the lone survivor from part 1. Alice is having nightmares about her night of terror at Camp Blood. Well … you get the point, and Alice most certainly does here. Now Alice doesn’t live here anymore, the key word being “live”. With Momma Voorhees out of her head, who’s going to deliver the slice and dice? From here on out, it’s all Jason.
There’s a new campground opening along the shores of Crystal Lake. This time it’s a training camp for camp counselors. Whatever the reason, it’s going to bring more horny teens than ever to the place the locals lovingly refer to as Camp Blood. Gathering around a bonfire, the leader decides to give it to the kids straight about Jason. He tells them the story of the first film and hypes up rumors that Jason is still alive and no longer a little boy. The idea now is that he witnessed the killing of his mother and is now on the warpath. After telling the story, he declares Jason out of their system. Unfortunately, nobody told Jason that. Half of the teens head to camp for a “last night out”, while the other half remain behind. After far too much talking and not enough slicin’, the party gets started, and the teens begin to break off into their own hookups. That’s the way Jason likes them. It’s another rainy night, and Jason begins to take out the kids one, or two, at a time.
This film sported a higher budget than the first, and it shows mostly in a slicker feeling to the image. There are more teens and more kills than the first film. In an attempt to give us more of what they thought we were looking for, someone forgot to bring along the fright. What’s missing here is the wonderful skill of Tom Savini. Most of the kills here are predictable and done quickly with little love for the lingering camera. None of the kills are particularly imaginative, and there isn’t a one that leaves us with that reality punch in the stomach that makes us do a double take in our minds. They’ve replaced quality with quantity, and it’s amazing that Jason made it past this far more mundane film.
Manfredini’s score is actually better here. He improved on the creepy elements of the first film and provided less of the Psycho steals. We get plenty of that whispered menacing sound that has become as trademark for these films as Jason’s hockey mask. By the way, there is no mask here. Jason wouldn’t find that iconic piece of film history until the third film. Here he has a cloth sack over his face, until the big reveal.
It should be noted that both Sean S. Cunningham and Tom Savini were offered the film but decided to walk away. It was both of their idea that the Friday The 13th moniker should apply to a series of anthology films. They figured a new element would be used each year to keep the idea fresh. Neither man thought it was a good idea to use Jason in a continuing collection of films. Jason was merely a jump scene for the first film and never expected to carry the franchise. Watching this movie, you almost get the impression they were right. History proves otherwise, and it would be Jason, indeed, who would become the face not only of a film franchise, but for the slasher genre at large.
This might be one of my least favorites in the series. I do rather like the performance of Warrington Gillette as Jason. He seems more organic here than he will be in future incarnations. At some point he becomes almost machine-like. This is the beginning, really, for Jason. Looking something like the Elephant Man, he actually manages to get a little sympathy. It’s not a good film, but the character would evolve and grow over the years. Jason would have a lot to learn, like the various filmmakers who would bring him to life over the next two decades. We had a lot to learn as well, like “Axes, knives, lanterns, and saws, they can all be trouble”.
Friday The 13th Part 3 (1982)
It didn’t take the Friday The 13th film series long to reach down into the gimmick bag. The sad thing is that the franchise didn’t really need a gimmick. Steve Miner returned to the director’s chair, and he delivered an important, if not great, entry into the franchise’s history. Jason would, for the first time, don the hockey mask that would make his image the iconic horror visage it remains today. This was also an important film because a young makeup artist from this staff would break out to become one of the best in the business. Stan Winston was an uncredited artist on this film. Of course, I have no way of knowing what was his, but can there be any doubt that he left his mark throughout the film? Winston didn’t often talk about the film at all. It’s almost as if he never considered it a part of his resume, but he’s likely the biggest thing to come out of the movie.
There’s nothing new at all in the story. A fresh group of teens converge on another section of the banks of Crystal Lake. This time we’re on a farm that just so happens to border the bloody lake. Jason sets about doing what Jason does, and soon there are less and less of the teens going around. In 2D the film looks silly at times. There are so many obvious scenes intended strictly for the quick 3D effect. These moments include a wash pole, an eyeball in the hands of a Crazy Ralph clone, a snake, and a passed joint. Unfortunately these stretches make this the slowest of the Jason films. Still, there’s plenty of killing to go around, and while the effects don’t quite catch up to Tom Savini’s work in the first film, there are more creative moments here than in the second film. With a new system in place, the MPAA didn’t feel the need to go crazy in chopping the film, so it benefits from a smoother edit than the second film had.
This was a time of the resurgence of 3D. It was actually getting to be quite common for the third entry in a film franchise to use the gimmick. Some of those films were quite good in their own right, like The Amityville Horror 3D. Some of them were sacrilegious nightmares, and none more so than Jaws 3D. Like the same trend in the 1950’s, it was gone almost as soon as it had come into our lives. We all got some cheap thrills, but mostly had to watch some bad movies. This one was somewhere in between. Sure, it’s hokey and not as scary as other Jason films, but it had its moments. Like all genre fans, all I want from a film like this is that they “give me something to scream about”.
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
When the cast and crew went about their work on Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter it appears that it really was intended as a sendoff for the popular franchise. There had been a turnover at Paramount, and the powers that be thought the slasher cycle was pretty much over. Now whether any of that is true is anyone’s guess. Everyone associated with the project claims that that was their firm understanding from the beginning. Writer Barney Cohen insists that the Paramount brass made it very clear that he was supposed to kill off Jason with such Hollywood “grammar” that there was little doubt he was dead and gone forever. We, of course, know that Jason might very well be dead, but he’s far from gone.
It’s minutes from the events of the previous film. Police and paramedics are on hand to clean up the mess left by Jason in full 3D glory. Jason’s body is taken to the hospital morgue. Fortunately for Jason, the place is has a couple of teen attendants with those raging hormones that bring out the best in our hockey-masked avenger. After a little play time with the attendant and nurse, Jason is once again on the loose. Meanwhile a group of teens are moving into a remote house out in the woods. The only neighbors are the Jarvis family. There’s single mom (Freeman), daughter Trish (Beck), and young Tommy (Feldman). Tommy is a monster fan who has a Tom Savini-like ability to create killer monster masks and prosethics. He’s a bit introverted and nerdy. Little do they know that Jason is going to crash the new neighbors’ party. It’s left to Tommy and sister to take Jason out, supposedly for good.
It’s the typical Friday formula. A group of teens acts as fodder for Jason’s unstoppable rage. The difference is the introduction of a pretty young boy who ends up standing up to the monster. Corey Feldman would go on to be both famous and infamous over the next few years. Here he’s barely nine years old and actually does a pretty good job. Let’s face it, these films aren’t known for their collection of A-list actors, and Feldman was certainly a step above the norm. Not that some rather famous talent hasn’t emerged from these kinds of films. Johnny Depp and the original Freddy nightmare come to mind. The other future name here is Crispin Glover, who like Feldman would go on to have a mixed reputation on and off the set. Glover can be an amazing actor at times, but he also has this rather incredibly creepy persona that doesn’t appear to be totally all character. Both Glover and Feldman have been known to be real pains to directors throughout their careers. Oddly, it’s Feldman at only nine years old that we’re told was the real monster on the set.
The real story here is the return of Tom Savini to the makeup f/x department. That automatically means a step up in the effects and the realistic killings that had become the crucial missing element in the first two sequels. With Savini at the helm, the audience is invited to linger on the effects, almost daring them to spot the flaws or the mechanics behind the magic. There are no quick cuts here. Jason is allowed to linger on his job. It’s certain that a good makeup f/x man is the best friend an actor playing Jason can have. The only real disappointment here is the look on Feldman in the climax when he attempts to make himself up as Jason. It’s not Savini’s best work. I’ve met him a few times over the years. I can tell you he LOVES cake. Every time I’ve brought up that particular makeup, his usual eagerness for talking about his work shuts down and he changes the subject. I get the impression he was not satisfied with it at all. The closest I ever got to a reply was a shake of the head and a “Gino, Gino, Gino”.
The collection of characters is pretty good. You get some dress-alike twin babes, a pudgy hitchhiker, the usual horny drug addicts, and a few nerds tossed in for good measure.
No matter what Zito and the others say, this film never has that look of finality they all claim was demanded. Even if you take away the creepy Feldman glance at the end, which was added later to remove that “grammar” of finality, the film never appears any more settled than any film of this ilk. You pretty much have to take all of that with a grain of salt. Where there’s money to be made … “Let’s just put that into the computer and see what it comes up with”.
Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
We were all told that the fourth film in the Friday The 13th series was going to be the last. From the cast and crew to the studio execs, it was official: Jason was dead and gone. Time to move on. But it took less than a year for a new chapter to be tacked on to that final one. The fifth entry into the franchise would contain one of the more limited budgets. But it wasn’t the budget cuts that have made this one of the most highly criticized films of the series. It’s the total disregard for the tradition of the films and the poor choices that were made in making this film. The movie was filmed with little fanfare. This was in the days before the internet made such things all but impossible. It was made under the name Repetition to hide the true nature of the shoot from anyone who caught wind of the production. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to try to diminish the film’s buzz. It brought in a very disappointing $21 million at the box office. That might have had a better chance of truly killing Jason than anything else.
Director Danny Steinmann’s only real credit was a porno film. You can’t mistake the tendencies in this outing. It certainly contains a greater amount of nudity than any of the other films. The sexual scenes are by far more graphic. Meanwhile Jason was relegated to an almost nonexistent part in the film. The kills all are very quick and happen mostly outside of camera range. The obvious excuse is that the MPAA had reined down hard on these films, and to an extent that was true. The real problem here was a lack of both imagination and money. Tom Savini was again gone from the scene, and his replacement couldn’t carry Savini’s latex jockstrap. The series went from using barrels of stage blood to a couple of toothpaste tubes’ worth. Finally, the killer isn’t even necessarily Jason at all. It’s almost impossible to criticize this kind of a film for being ridiculous, but the series reached a low point with this outing.
As the film begins we find a group of redneck Hee Haw type boys digging up Jason’s grave. Hiding in the shadows is Tommy (Feldman) who took Jason out in the previous film. Looks like whoever buried Jason made the mistake of including his machete and trademark hockey mask in the grave with him. Jason makes quick work of the good ol’ boys while Tommy watches. The next thing you know, it’s years later and Tommy is waking up in the back of a van. Was this a memory or a bad dream? We never really know for sure. Tommy (Shepherd) is now a teen and is still suffering the effects of his encounter with the masked killer. He’s been in a loony institution for the years since. Now he’s being transferred to a half-way camp out in the woods. I’m sure that everyone in the audience already saw where this one was going. There Tommy befriends young “Reckless” Reggie (Ross), the son of the camp’s caretaker. The neighbors aren’t too happy when they learn that these mental patients will be staying at the nearby camp. The most vocal is Ethyl Hubbard (Locatell) and her inbred son Junior (Sloan). The two are like something out of Deliverance. The fear is soon proven true when one of the residents takes an axe and kills another. Vinnie (Barrile) is taken away kicking and screaming from the camp. Soon there are more and more folks turning up dead around the half-way camp.
But this is more of a psychological thriller than a typical slasher, or at least that’s what it attempts to be. Is the killing actually being done by Jason? Is it Vinnie? Maybe it’s even Tommy, who appears to be somewhat possessed by the fabled killer. Or is it someone else entirely? It’s not that hard to figure it out. You might want to pay close attention to the hockey mask worn by the killer.
The film does have one of the largest and most eclectic casts of characters in the series. We’re not just talking horny teens here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s more than a fair share of jiggling and making out going on here. But there were more kinds of fodder for the killing machine. We had some rednecks, cops, and locals to throw into the mix. Still, the film never was able to hit its stride and deserves all of the heat it’s taken over the years for being one of the weakest of the films to come out.Upon revisiting this film, I tried hard to like it even a little bit. Unfortunately it lost everything I liked about the series. The short and unimaginative kills. Heck, even the aftermath shots look about as real as a cartoon version would. There is an interesting bit of trivia here. Playing the part of Tina is an actress named Debi Sue Voorhees. In the commentary we learn she got the part, not because of her name, but the size of certain parts of her anatomy. I bet she loved hearing that. Sorry, Debi Sue. Ultimately there’s nothing remotely scary about this film. Of course, that might just be me. “Where I come from you learn to be scared of nothin’.”
Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
“Just because our parents keep telling us that Jason was only a legend, doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. What if he did come back here looking for the camp counselor that caused him to drown as a boy, searching for the one that decapitated his vengeful mother? And you do know what today’s date is, don’t you?…Happy Friday the 13th.”
Legend or not, Jason’s back in the sixth Friday the 13th film, and he’s out for more blood than ever before. Filmed under the fake name of Aladdin’s Sane, in an overt tribute to director Tom McLoughlin’s favorite musician, David Bowie, the new film was a return to the franchise’s more established roots. Gone are the psychological thriller aspects of the previous disaster. Jason is back, and there’s no mistaking him for anyone else again. As the titles implies: Jason Lives.
The film begins with Tommy, once again outside of the mental institution where he still resides, this time played by a third actor, Thom Mathews. He’s joined by Horshak himself, Ron Palillo, as Allen. Together they’ve sneaked into the cemetery where Jason is buried. They intend to dig him up and burn the remains. Tommy gets a little carried away and stabs at the worm-infested corpse with an iron pole from the yard’s gate. Lightning strikes the pole and envelops Jason in his grave. And just like Frankenstein’s monster, Jason is back in business, enjoying some playtime with Horshak.
The town on Crystal Lake has had enough of the infamy Jason has brought them. They’ve now changed the name of the town to Forest Green and decided that Jason was a myth and that none of the massacres ever happened at all. Tommy escapes Jason’s resurrection and attempts to alert the cops that he’s alive and killing once again. Sheriff Garris (Kagen) recognizes Tommy and dismisses him as merely crazy, but when the bodies mount up he begins to suspect that Tommy is behind the murders in order to convince the world that Jason’s alive. Tommy manages to escape with the help of the sheriff’s teen daughter, Megan (Cooke). Needless to say, with Jason on the loose there’s going to be some bloodshed. This time Jason fodder includes weekend-warrior paintball office execs, a cookie cemetery caretaker, a yuppie couple out on a midnight champagne picnic, and the usual assortment of horny teens. There’s a new group at Camp Blood, now renamed. This time the teen counselors have some rug rats to protect.
This is one of the better of the films from the series. There’s a good cast of victims, and the idea of having someone trying to alert the people is an added bonus. The kills still don’t measure up to the stuff Savini had done, but they are more imaginative than most. At least we’re back to the gallons of movie blood, and Jason is really Jason again. This film also does the best job of adding more humor to the franchise without ever making Jason look too silly or less menacing. There’s a James Bond spoof intro that pretty much lets you know you’re in for a more amusing ride than in previous slasher films. The humor never gets out of control, and you’ll find this the most refreshing Jason film in quite a few outings. Tom McLoughlin appears to be the first director in the sequels who seems to get it. The result is a film with higher production values than we’ve seen since the first film and a steady pace that appears to move just right. He doesn’t rely so much on the jiggling females or make-out scenes. He allows the natural flow of the horror film to play out in a way most slasher films have ignored before and since. It’s a shame he did not continue with the series.
The nice thing about these films is that everyone knows who Jason is. That means you’re pretty much up to speed. You can really start anywhere with these films and let the lesser entries go without wasting your time. While this film is the third leg of a kind of trilogy, it still stands very much alone. You can start right here if you want. I can’t think of a better place. The director sat through a marathon of the first five films before starting work on this one. Why not start a Jason marathon at your house? “Some folks have a very strange idea of entertainment.”
Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
by David Annandale
Plot? What plot? Oh, right: traumatized telekinetic teen accidentally raises Jason from the bottom of the lake. Jason kills folks. That’s about it. But you don’t watch these for the plot –you watch them for the killings. These are, sad to say, relatively restrained, and some of Jason’s tool acquisitions are silly (where did he get that electric hedge trimmer from?). The characters (I use the word loosely) are even more interchangeable than ever, and the continuity goes all to #%&@ in the latter part of the film. Who’s running where and why? Who knows? There’s some nostalgic pleasure to be had here, but not much more than that.
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
I have a bit of a soft spot for this one, because I saw it the night before I got married. And while the film didn’t really hold up well over the years, I’m happy to say I am still married. It was really a return for me. I was back in Reading, PA where I was born and saw the first of the Friday The 13th films, and there was a kind of nostalgia effect that had me liking the film more than I did on repeated viewing.
The idea is that now you can take a cruise ship from Crystal Lake out into the ocean and end up in New York. That’s exactly what happens here as Jason gets caught up in the anchor of said ship and gets whisked away to Manhattan, where he brings his slasher antics to the Big Apple. The film is loaded with clichés, and quite honestly was the end of a particular run of the franchise.
The films are spread over just six discs with the final four films coming two to a disc.
I have to admit that these films brought me back to my teen years. I sat and collected my moments of nostalgia watching what was a milestone event in the lives of us young moviegoers at the time. Now we’ve gone so far beyond this film that terms like “torture porn” describe where the genre has gone. For now I want to remember some things just the way that they were. If you’re a fan of the film or genre, this one is a must-own. You say you haven’t ever seen them? “What, did you just get off a spaceship or something?”