Friday the 13th Box Set Reviews by Tim Hannigan

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From Crystal Lake to Manhattan: Jason Finally laid out in a box.

The first eight "Friday the 13th" films finally get some respect from Paramount Pictures (it’s hard to use the word final with this series – Part IV was ‘The Final Chapter’ and Part IX was ‘The Final Friday’). It’s unfortunate that Paramount owns so many great horror titles because they rarely give them proper DVD treatment.

The Friday the 13th series was an extremely successful franchise for Paramount, who own Parts I – VIII. The films cost very little to make – each one costing less than $5M, and yet they all made money. You don’t need an MBA from Harvard to know that spending on average $3M on a movie that makes $20M - $40M is great business sense. But for some reason, the Friday series has always been the black sheep of the Paramount family. These movies made truckloads of money while a lot of Paramount’s bigger pictures fell flat on their face.

Until now, Friday fans have had to buy the first eight films individually. No bonus features, except the odd trailer, and Paramount even changed the poster art for some of the films. With "From Crystal Lake to Manhattan", the series finally gets some extras, but unfortunately not the uncut versions of the films fans have been screaming for. It’s ironic that New Line Cinema, who got the rights to the franchise when creator Sean S. Cunningham bought them back from Paramount, has produced excellent editions of the later films, which are the weakest films of the series.

As I review each film I need to declare a bias. These were my favourite films growing up, and each holds a huge nostalgia factor for me which makes it difficult to be objective.


Friday the 13th

People who are aware of Jason as a pop culture figure are shocked to know that Jason is not the killer in the first film (unless they learned this in a great piece of trivia in "Scream"). The film is about a group of counselors preparing Camp Crystal Lake for the season. Back in the 50s the camp was closed when a young boy named Jason drowned, and then two teenagers were murdered. The locals believe the camp is jinxed, and that the camp owner is crazy for trying to reopen it. On Friday the 13th, the counselors fall prey to a savage murderer. The audience is unaware of the killer’s identity until the final act, when the lone survivor discovers that an old employee of the camp, Mrs. Voorhees, blamed camp counselors for letting her poor son Jason drown. She goes on a murderous rampage to prevent the camp from closing and to celebrate her son’s birthday – Friday June 13th.

The film is scary and extremely gory thanks to Tom Savini’s effects. The movie features a Carrie-inspired shock ending, which easily ranks in the top ten scariest moments in horror film history. What really makes the film work is the score by Harry Manfredini, which introduced the famous "ki ki ki ma ma ma". The score ranks with Psycho, Halloween and Jaws as the most memorable of the genre. I heard Wes Craven comment that he had seen the film without any music (he and director Sean S. Cunningham collaborated on "Last House on the Left"), and did not think it was very good. When he later saw the movie with the music he was blown away.

CASTING HIGHLIGHT:
A young Kevin Bacon has sex, smokes dope and…well you can guess the rest.


BEST KILL:
Savini’s effects are fantastic. If I had to pick a favorite moment of grue it has to be the decapitation scene at the end.

USELESS FACT:
This was one of the top twenty grossing films of 1980. The film was #18, grossing almost $40M.


GRADE: B+


Friday the 13th Part II

The roles are reversed in the second film, which sees Jason avenging the death of his mother. He catches up with the survivor of the first film and demonstrates why she picked the wrong woman to decapitate. Jason survives in the woods around Crystal Lake as a sort of feral child/man/beast. Five years after the first film, a counselor training center opens on the lake. The counselors are told to stay away from the old "Camp Blood", but Jason shows up to take his revenge on "anyone who dares enter his wilderness". Most of the counselors go into town for one last night out, leaving behind a small group. The group is picked off one by one by Jason. In the end, a counselor working on her degree in child psychology tries to use Jason’s oedipal complex against him.

This is one of my favourite Friday films. The pacing is quick, the acting is solid, and it has the most jump out of your seat moments of any of the films. Don’t look for Jason’s trademark hockey mask in this film. Jason hides his grotesque face under a sack with an eye hole cut out of it.

BEST KILL:
The effects suffered with the absence of Savini. It does feature one of the most memorable double murders featuring teens having sex and a spear.

USELESS FACT:
The film was directed by Steve Miner, who also directed Part III. Miner worked as an assistant on "Last House on the Left" because he happened to live near the location of the film. He later went on to direct interesting films like "Warlock" as well as such memorably horrific programs as "Dawson’s Creek".


GRADE: B


Friday the 13th Part III (aka Friday the 13th Part III in Super 3-D)

Picking up just after Part II, a group of College students go to an old summer house on Crystal Lake for the weekend. The woman whose family owns the house had been attacked by a grotesque man there years ago, and is uneasy about returning. Much drug use and fornication ensues, as does the murderous wrath of Jason.

Paramount really dropped the ball with this film by not finding a way to release it in 3-D. I was seven when the film was released theatrically, so until recently I had only seen it on TV or video. Fortunately, the Royal Cinema in Toronto puts on a 3-D festival every year, and I have seen the film in 3-D three times. The 3-D version is fantastic. Watching the movie without the 3-D effect is nowhere near as fun. The movie introduces the hockey mask for the first time, as well as the big hulking Jason (he was small in Part II) everyone is familiar with. The movie is a decent slasher flick, and the lead actor is very good. The 3-D version is considered by many to be the best 3-D film ever made.

BEST KILL:
Again, no Tom Savini. It does, however, have a young man who likes to walk on his hands who learns how to do the splits in the most painful way you can imagine.

USELESS FACT:
The 3-D technology for the film was developed in Toronto Canada (yeah!). I attended a screening with the developer of the technology. Paramount flew them down to Hollywood, and planned to use the 3-D technology for Star Trek III. They experienced a lot of difficulty because of the space effects, etc. in Star Trek, and decided to use the 3-D for Friday the 13th instead. This film sparked a 3-D frenzy including the Jaws and Amityville series.


GRADE: 2-D version C+

3-D version A


Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

The first "Final" film in the series picks up immediately after the third. Jason escapes from the morgue where his body is taken, and returns to Crystal Lake. He finds a divorced mother and her two children living near the lake along with a house full of college kids who…wait for it…enjoy sex and drugs. One of the mother’s children is Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). Tommy is interested in horror, video games, and creates make-up effects and latex masks. Another interesting character in this film is Rob, who is the brother of Sandra from Part II (who got skewered by the spear). He is hunting Jason. He knows the history, and is prepared to take revenge for his sister’s murder. He meets the Jarvis family, and tells them about Jason. By the time they realize Jason is there he has already cut his way through the teenagers and sets his sights on the Jarvis family. Tommy finally kills the unstoppable Jason in a very gruesome way.

This is considered by many to be the best film of the series. It is very gory, and Jason is ferocious. Director Joseph Zito keeps Jason in the shadows for much of the film. Tom Savini returned for this film and the make-up effects are second to none. A great, scary time.

CASTING HIGHLIGHT:
Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover in the same movie!

BEST KILL:
Tough to call. This is Savini at the top of his game. The best kill is probably Jason’s bloody demise at the end.

USELESS FACT:
This is the first film in the series to have a sub-title – even though it is an absolute lie – ‘The Final Chapter’. Every film in the Paramount series that followed had a subtitle.


GRADE: B+

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

The Final Chapter made sooooo much money, producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. decided they should make another one. From Part V on the box office tallies dropped. Given the cost of making the films, however, they were still profitable.

Tommy Jarvis is haunted by visions of Jason after killing him as a child. Now a teenager, he has been committed to a youth care facility located at a farm. One of the other resident psychos brutally murders another teen at the facility. Following the murder, the people at the farm begin to fall prey to a murderous psychopath wearing a hockey mask. The body count rises, and Tommy must face-off against the killer. Once the killer is dispatched, Tommy realizes that the killer was not Jason.

I would say this is the worst film in the series…but we’re getting to Part XIII. Taking Jason out of a Friday the 13th movie was the dumbest thing they could do…with the exception of sending Jason to New York. Awful, mean-spirited, and definitely not the direction to take the franchise.

CASTING HIGHLIGHT:
The kid who played Dudley on "Diff’rent Strokes".


BEST KILL:
My brain cells watching the film.


USELESS FACT:
Someone gave this movie the greenlight!


GRADE: D


Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Just when you thought the franchise had finally died, along comes writer/director Tom McLaughlin to breathe new life into the series. The film focuses on Tommy Jarvis once again, who escapes from the mental institution to destroy Jason’s body once and for all to end his delusions about the killer. In trying to destroy Jason, he accidentally brings him back to life (my bad). He runs to tell the Sheriff, and finds him self in jail for creating a disturbance. The town of Crystal Lake has changed its name to Forest Green. The last thing the locals want is someone stirring up Jason stories again – especially as Camp Forest Green is about to open. Tommy is driven out of town, as Jason makes his way back to the camp. With the help of the Sheriff’s daughter, Tommy finally figures out a way to stop Jason for good – return him to the bottom of Crystal Lake.

The movie is very well done. It is very funny (intentionally), features some creative kills, and has some pretty good scares. It also feels like a much bigger movie than the other films with everything from guns, car chases and a wicked soundtrack featuring Alice Cooper. This movie has everything you could ever want from a Friday the 13th film, and bringing Jason back to life as an unstoppable zombie killer was brilliant.

CASTING HIGHLIGHT:
Genre fans will recognize Thom Matthews who plays Tommy Jarvis from another fantastic franchise – Return of the Living Dead. Oh – and Horshack from ‘Welcome Back Kotter’.

BEST KILL:
There are so many in this film. Probably the best is when Jason folds the Sheriff in half – backwards.

USELESS FACT:
The first film since Part I which actually takes place on Friday the 13th. The first time Jason gets shot.


GRADE: B


Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

A teenager with telekinetic powers (think Carrie – only hot) killed her father in Crystal Lake as a child. Her psychologist, who is out to exploit her abilities, brings her back to the lake, hoping to create huge psychokinetic reactions. Of course next door to where they are staying, there is a group of kids renting a house for a party. The girl tries to bring her father back from the dead using her powers, but unleashes Jason from his watery grave instead. Much killing ensues, leading to a final showdown between the telekinetic teen and Jason.


The last twenty minutes of the film are probably the best twenty minutes of the franchise. It features a fantastic showdown between the telekinetic and Jason. She electrocutes him, drops a roof on him, hangs him, burns him, and smashes various objects into his face. The rest of the film is fairly typical, feeling more than just a little flat. This is the best Jason in the series, a combination of Kane Hodder’s presence, and the outrageous makeup effects from director John Carl Buechler. Jason is rotting, and you can see his ribs exposed through his flesh. Even his knee joints can be seen as he stalks through the woods. And when the mask comes off it is great. They must have studied all the previous films, as every mark from every axe, machete, boat motor, etc. is here.

CASTING HIGHLIGHT:
Kane Hodder owns this role, and is the best Jason of the franchise. Also watch for Terry Kiser of "Weekend at Bernie’s" fame (if you consider that fame).

BEST KILL:
The best kill of the entire series is in this film. It involves a girl in a sleeping bag, a tree, and a hell of a swing!

USELESS FACT:
The first time we see Jason operate any form of machinery.


GRADE: C+


Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Writer/director Rob Hedden had been involved in the short-lived, and completely unrelated, ‘Friday the 13th The Series" on television. He pitched two ideas to Paramount – one had Jason on a boat, and the other had Jason go to New York. They combined the two ideas and gave us the lowest point in the entire series. Jason is brought back to life by some stupid underwater electrical wire which was accidentally installed over top of him. He gets on a boat full of…dramatic pause…teenagers who like to…stop reading my mind…have sex and use drugs on their way to New York City. He kills people on the boat. Survivors leave the boat to go to Manhattan, and he follows. He then kills people there.

The only good thing about this film is that Kane Hodder got to play Jason for a second time – the first actor to do so in the entire series. Other than Kane, the movie is stupid. The lead character has a back story where Jason, as a child, tried to drown her in Crystal Lake. Jason learns to teleport, and people running away from him then find him in front of them. The ending is nothing short of moronic, as Jason is transformed by toxic waste back to a little boy.

CASTING HIGHLIGHT:
Watch for Kelly Hu (X2, The Scorpion King) in a small role.

BEST KILL:
A boxer loses his head when he tries to go toe to toe with Jason.

USELESS FACT:
Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason in "Freddy vs. Jason" has a small role and did stunt work on the film.


GRADE: D -

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