They were warned…They are doomed…And on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them!
The slasher classic of the 1980s fares reasonably well on DVD, but fails to impress this jaded viewer of its post-modern predecessors.
As I’ve noted in previous reviews, I didn’t have the same movie viewing experiences growing up as others my age. I had seen the horror classics like Frankenstein or Psycho, but not the modern bloody slasher flicks. It was not until Scream was released that my interest was piqued and I decided to go back and see some of those horror movies I had missed. I began with two of the three slasher classics: Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I enjoyed both of them immensely, but I held off on Friday the 13th until just recently when it caught my eye at Blockbuster.
The DVD is what you would expect from a catalogue Paramount release. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Quality-wise, it looks like a low-budget flick from 1980 (which, of course, it is). The print is grainy throughout, and tends to look washed out. The DVD transfer is as accurate as possible to the source material. I did not notice any digital artifacts, the colors were accurate, and the black level was appropriately dark. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, so the judge shall simply shake his head in shame and move on. The only “extra” that is included is the theatrical trailer. Honestly, I can’t imagine why anyone would have gone to see this flick on the strength of the trailer. It’s the cheesiest trailer I’ve ever seen. It is transferred from a lower-quality print than the movie, but that’s fairly typical of trailers. It is also presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic.
For those of you unfamiliar with its plot, Friday the 13th is a campy (um, pun intended) tale of murder and mayhem at Camp Crystal Lake. In 1957, a young boy drowned at night at the camp. A year later (on Friday the 13th, natch), two camp counselors were brutally murdered while getting it on in the lodge attic. After those events, the camp was closed. Several attempts to reopen it over the years were met with ill results.
Now, the son of the original caretakers is attempting to reopen the camp. He has recruited six counselors and a cook to assist. We first meet Annie the cook, who is trying to hitchhike to the camp. She is picked up by an unseen driver, who ends up slitting her throat. This is the only unconventional twist, because Annie seems like the token “nice girl” of the story (she is working at the camp because she wants to make a career of helping children).
We then shift focus to the camp and the counselors. The entire bunch are stereotypical horror movie teens — drinking, smoking pot, and seeking nookie wherever and whenever they can be alone. Steve, the camp director, leaves for some unspecified errands in town. (He is just as reprehensible as the counselors. He hits on at least one of the teenaged girls, and flirts with a diner waitress, who looks like she was played by Walter Matthau in drag.) His absence allows the counselors to mess around, and gives the audience plenty of chances to view them from various menacing killer’s point of view shots.
It’s not long before one of them dies while investigating a strange noise in a cabin. Night comes, and a storm falls befitting the eve of Friday the 13th. One by one the teens die, some in rather creative ways, until only Alice, the nicest girl in this bunch of losers, is left. An older lady, who claims to be a friend of the original caretakers, confronts her. The woman reveals that she is Mrs. Voorhees, the mother of the boy who drowned in 1957. She blames the camp counselors for Jason’s death, so naturally that’s why she’s killing this bunch of counselors. The two women chase each other around the camp, resulting in some nice catfights, until finally Alice decapitates Mrs. Voorhees with her own machete. Alice escapes into Crystal Lake in a canoe, only to be pulled into the water by Jason, Mrs. Voorhees’ dead son.
Two cops rescue her, but they never find the boy’s body. This leads to the great closing line, “But…then he’s still out there.” Of course, we know that Jason returns as the hockey-mask wearing killer in multiple sequels. In fact, he’ll return next year in Freddy v. Jason, battling the killer from the Nightmare On Elm Street series. Aren’t crossovers grand? Word is that two different ending reels will be randomly distributed, one with each of the “heroes” walking away victorious. But I digress.
I purposely have not mentioned any of the actors because, well, they rose from obscurity to star in Friday the 13th, and then returned from whence they came. The only exception is the actor who portrays Jack the counselor — Kevin Bacon. This was before his break in 1982’s Diner, and well before he would show his talents in movies such as Apollo 13, Wild Things, and Stir of Echoes. Fittingly, he receives the most creative death — he is slowly impaled through the neck with an arrow by the unseen killer lying under his bunk. Man, that’s classic.
There was an episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Lisa were discussing Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.” Lisa remarks that people were easier to scare back when it was written. Bart replies, “Oh, yeah. Like when you look at ‘Friday the 13th, Part 1.’ Pretty tame by today’s standards.” That’s how I felt watching it. Gore-wise, and generally story-wise, it can’t hold a candle to recent slasher flicks like Scream or The House on Haunted Hill. Friday the 13th cannot even compare to the movies it blatantly rips off, like Halloween (with its many killer’s POV shots and punishments of the “sins” of wayward teenagers) and Psycho (though it reverses the mother-son roles).
I didn’t particularly expect this DVD to live up to the quality of recent releases, but Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street have both received far better treatment from Anchor Bay and New Line, respectively. I was under the impression that ownership of the Friday the 13th franchise had passed on to New Line, but perhaps that does not include the video rights. Hopefully this movie will eventually get the New Line special edition treatment rather than Paramount’s typically sloppy handling.
At a list price of $29.99, I can’t recommend this as a purchase except for the most ardent fans. As a rental, it will only appeal to genre fans.
One quick comment on the web links at the right. I tried to find a link to Fangoria Magazine, but sadly it doesn’t look like they’ve built a site yet. It’s just about the best source of info out there on films in the horror and sci-fi genres.
The filmmakers are commended for releasing a piece of horror film history, but it is hoped that they have attended film school in the 20 years that have passed since its release. Paramount is sentenced to provide an excellent special edition of Braveheart for inflicting bare-bones discs…oh my god, what are you doing with that axe? AAAHH!