October 13, 2004

DVD Review: Friday the 13th:From Crystal Lake to Manhattan

What follows is a brief look at each of the disks in the recently released Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set. Warning, some may contain spoilers.

Disk 1:
Friday the 13th. It has been a long time since I've seen this. As I watched it, it was like it was the first time. There were a few moments that I remembered, of course, but there was so much that didn't strike up a memory. Overall, it was actually a pretty good twist on the early slasher films. Very Psycho-esque, on a more base scale. But I guess most of you reading this are already familiar with this movie, so I won't go into a drawn out plot description, not that there is much there to begin with.
The acting is uniformly sub-par, but goes with the territory, you do get treated to an early screen performance from Kevin Bacon. It was directed by Sean Cunningham, who does a pretty good job at making the script interesting. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the top notch make up effects work of Tom Savini, always good to see his work.
Audio. Presented in it's original mono, it sounds decent enough, probably as good as it did when it was first released.
Video. Presented in it's original aspect ration of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced, it looks serviceable. It is dark and there are a few segments where the detail is lost, but this is probably the best it has looked since the theater, they were on a rather small budget.
Extras. None.
Bottomline. Decent start to the long running series that would end up a shadow of itself, but has not yet reached it's peak.

Friday the 13th Part 2. A decent sequel, not quite up to the Halloween II level, but still respectable. Jason makes his triumphant screen debut as a masked, well here it's hooded, killer of kids. Jason takes to the task in a sack with a single eye hole in it, using whatever pointed items he can find to carry about his duty of keeping the Crystal Lake Camp's gates closed. I like how he kept a shrine to his deceased mother, which ends up leading to his undoing by our daring heroine.
The acting is a step up from the first, although still high on the cheese factor. Steve Miner, who was an associate producer of the first film, slips into the director's chair to make his big screen debut, and does a pretty good job of it.
Audio. On par with the first, presented in it's original mono, it does a decent job.
Video. Similar to part 1, but a little brighter making it a better image all around, but still has the same soft look to it.
Extras. None.
Bottomline. Successful sequel which actually improves on the story threads that were laid out in part 1. In many ways this is a better film, but we are still building towards their high point.

Disk 2.
Friday the 13th Part 3. Originally screened in 3-D, this DVD release is not. What you are left with is a bunch of shots specifically made to take advantage of the 3-D processing, but here look rather silly without it. Lots of objects, pointed or not, directed at the viewer. Outside of that, this marked a moving forward of what would become the Jason we all know and love. The hockey mask makes it's first appearance halfway through this entry, and would remain for the rest of the run. Of the first three, this is the most fun, like the creators are getting a handle on this Jason guy. Killings are a bit more inventive, a little more blood makes it to the screen.
Audio. Presented in it's original mono, it sounds pretty good, it does the job.
Video. Presented in it's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and anamorphically enhanced. This is the best looking of the films thus far, clarity is up, detail is better, an all around cleaner looking print. Extras. Cast commentary with moderator Peter Bracke, Larry Zerner (Shelly), Paul Kratka (Rick), Dana Kimmell (Chris) and Richard Brooker (Jason). I sampled this throughout, and it was a good track, reminiscing the filming, behind the scenes. A good listen.
Bottomline. I liked this one, without the 3-D effect some of it looks really silly. Set right after the events of part 2 we get some nice continuity.

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter. Originally conceived as the final Friday film, it set out to finally end Jason's reign of blood. Tom Savini made his return here so that he could have a hand in destroying what he helped create in the original. This is my favorite one so far, I wasn't kidding when I said it was like seeing these for the first time. For one thing we get the decidedly wacky Crispin Glover, I have not seen a lot of his films, but he is always entertaining in a bizarre way, check out his dance moves. Another addition is Corey Feldman, the younger years, as a kid with a penchant for making scary masks, and would end up originating a character that would return a few times. This one still has your assemblage of pot smoking, beer drinking teens awaiting the slaughter, but it also has one of the more driven incarnations of Jason yet. He awakens in a morgue where he was presumed dead, before making his way back to his home turf to clean up the mess. Inventive kills, and some fun acting performances. Plus we close with what appears to be the end of Jason, but we know better.
Audio. Original mono track is here, and is one of the best sounding so far. Nothing to complain about.
Video. Preserved in it's original 1.85:1 ratio and anamorphically enhanced. The print isn't quite as clean as for Part 3, but still better than the first two. Overall a good presentation.
Extras. None.
Bottomline. My favorite so far, with the best acting, and of course, Glover and Feldman.

Disk 3.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.
The second appearance of Tommy Jarvis in what turns out to be a rather humorous entry in the series. It was also the second entry not to feature Jason as the killer, trying to make us believe that he was finally killed in the prior film. It had a pretty good amount of blood, but that couldn't save that cheated feeling without Jason in it. Still I was entertained, I liked it better than the third one..
Audio. Like all of the previous entries it is in mono, which actually sounds good. Can't really complain about any of the mono tracks, they all do a pretty good job.
Video. Anamorphic 1.85:1 just as the previous entries, also does a good job and looks really good.
Extras. None.
Bottomline. Not bad, but not terribly good. I liked how they tried to go in a new direction, but ultimately, we want Jason!

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Another good entry in the series, also marks the first appearance of zombie Jason. Up until now Jason had either been more or less human, or not present period. We also get the third, and final, appearance of Tommy Jarvis. This film just plays out really good, interesting kills, a fun cast, and the zombie Jason. The zombie variety is my favorite flavor of Jason.
Audio. The first to not be presented in mono, we get stereo sound. It is presented in stereo and is also a good sounding track.
Video. Anamorphic 1.85:1, it's original aspect ratio. Again looks very good, no complaints!
Extras. We get an audio commentary from writer/director Tom McLoughlin. I sampled some portions of the track, and it is very good. He talks for most of the film, not many dead spaces that I found. He recounts tales of filming and kills that got trimmed. Worth a listen!
Bottomline. Very good entry, one of my favorites. Zombie Jason!

Disk 4.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.
Or more aptly: Jason versus Carrie. Again, not too bad of an entry, had some nice drama and an attempt at interesting characters. Our heroine had a bad experience at Crystal Lake, where she was the cause of her father's death. Years later she returns with her mother and a doctor who has his own motives. There are also the required teen fodder. This sets up a pretty elaborate finale, which pays off pretty well. This is also the first appearance of Kane Hodder as Jason, who is my favorite Jason actor. This is also one of the better Jason designs.
Audio. We get the original stereo as well as a newly created 5.1 track. They both sound very good.
Video. 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Again, looks very good, the video is getting progressively better as the films get newer.
Extras. Audio commentary with Kane Hodder and John Carl Buechler. This is an OK track, Buechler is good, relating tales from the shoot, background information, and cuts made to the kills. Hodder, on the other hand, liked to give Jason really bad lines which gets kind of annoying really fast, although he still seems like a nice guy. Worth a listen.
Bottomline. Another one of my favorite entries, with a really good Jason design. Fun movie.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason takes Manhattan. The final Jason film from Paramount prior to selling the character to New Line Cinema. I don't really know how to approach this one. It is extremely silly, possibly the silliest entry. I like how they tried to move Jason away from Crystal Lake, but they didn't spend enough time in New York. The acting is decent, direction not too bad, trying to inject a little humor into the happenings. Kills were pretty good. Kane makes another good appearance as Jason, and also Jason's look is very good. We also get the inklings of a good guy turn by the big guy. Jason was believed to finally be over, but his death was, besides short lived, rather anticlimactic. He should have been back at Crystal Lake, not in a New York sewer. This was also the first film to not include a pre credit recap of the prior film.
Audio. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the track sounds very good.
Video. Anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation looks good. This is probably the sharpest looking of the series thus far.
Extras. We get a commentary from director Rob Hedden. It is not a bad track, although he tends to slip into the trap of just describing what is on the screen, we still get some interesting back story into the filming and MPAA cuts.
Bottomline. Not a bad entry, but a whimper of an exit for the Paramount series. I did enjoy it in a campy way, and it is not the worst of the series.

Overall, I like the whole series, some films more than others, but that's usually the case with any series. Below are just some random observations regarding the whole series (keep reading, after this is a short look at the extras disk):

  • I was surprised by how many of the kill blows were off screen. A large portion of he kills could not be seen. Now I know why the die hard fans are clamoring for the uncut versions.
  • It was interesting listening to the commentaries how much more there was to a lot of the kills.
  • I was surprised that Jason was pretty consistent throughout the series, some inconsistencies to be sure, but overall kept the character true.
  • I will always prefer the zombie Jason. There's something about the movements and overall design that I like.
  • The acting is cheesy throughout the run, occasionally a performance will step up a bit, but not too often.
  • Always check you logic at the door, watching Friday the 13th movies requires it's own set of logic.
  • There is never a real story involved, a few attempts are made, but it comes down to how many people get killed.
  • I can't believe the series has lasted as long as it has.
  • I wouldn't mind seeing part 3 in 3-D, I never have.
  • I can't believe how new these films seemed, how little I actually remembered from them. The only one That I remembered start to finish was Part VIII.
  • Crispin Glover and Corey Haim give the best performances of any of the actors, both in Part IV.
  • I liked the whole Tommy Jarvis arc. I like how it was played out over a number of years and 3 films.
  • It's nice to watch films that rely on practical effects and stunt work as opposed to being full of CGI, I have nothing against CG, but practical effects work at times feels more authentic.

Ranking best to worst:

  • The Final Chapter
  • Part VI: Jason Lives
  • Part VII: The New Blood
  • Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
  • Part 1
  • Part V: A New Beginning
  • Part 3
  • Part 2

Of course this could change with my mood, the time of day, any other factors, but there it is. I generally prefer the later ones as they seem to have more fun with formula.

Disk 5: The Killer Extras.
Well, after getting through all of the extra stuff on this disk my first reaction was that I want more. The extras are pretty good, but I expected more. I am not complaining, mind you, The set is very good, but some more in depth information would be nice. At the same time, these were low budget films, I have no idea what extra footage may exist. Let's look at them:

The Friday the 13th Chronicles. This is an 8 part featurette looking at the making of each of the films with interviews with cast and crew. Each section has varying success with Part 1 getting the most attention. This is the meat of the extras, but isn't terribly complete. There are some interesting anecdotes sprinkled throughout. We also get to see some footage from the films.

Secrets Galore behind the Gore. This is a three parter about the make up effects for Jason on parts 1, 4, and 7. Tom Savini did the make up of part 1 and we get to see how he did some of them. We see Tom again when he was brought in to work on the 4th film during the production. It is a great conversation with a master of monster make up. As a part of this they also take a look at Tom's school which is also interesting. The third portion is with John Carl Buechler who directed and did make up for Part 7. All together a bit brief, but interesting.

Crystal Lake Victims Tell All. An interesting collection of interviews from the cast members relating tales from the set and remembering their kills. Not bad.

Tales from the Cutting Room. This segment was excellent and annoying at the same time. It showed a lot of the excised kill footage, some in close to finished form, some in rough cut, and most in split screen. The problem doesn't lie with the presence of the footage, it is great to have, the problem is the split screen. This would have been a good use for the angle feature, instead we are stuck with this split screen junk. The footage itself is excellent, more gore is more better.

Friday Artifacts and Collectibles. This featurette concerns itself with various props which went missing during the shoots, or what those involved were able to liberate, the best probably being the tombstone from part 7. There is also mention of NECA and there marketing of Jason related figures. Kinda cool, but essentially rather fluffy.

Original Trailers. Lastly is a collection of trailers for each of the films, all of varying quality. Most are in pretty rough shape, some are widescreen, others full frame. It's funny to see how corny some of those old trailers were.

Overall it's a pretty good disk of extras. I'd love to have seen maybe a hour long doc for each film with extra footage either reintegrated, or at least using the multi-angle feature. Overall I am happy for what I got as I had been putting off all of the individual releases forever, the only one I had was part 8.

Disk 6: Jason Forever (Best Buy exclusive)
This is a half hour long panel discussion with four of the previous actors to portray Jason. They were: Ari Lehman (Part 1), Warrington Gillette (Part 2), CJ Graham (Part 6), and Kane Hodder (Parts 7-10). It was an good panel moderated by Peter Bracke, who also moderated the commentary track on Part 3. We get tales of how they came to get the part and how they approached creating it. Kane was the most vocal about it. The odd thing is that this seemed to be produced specifically for the boxset, but somehow ended up being broken off for this "exclusive." Anyway decent none the less.

And that concludes this look at this boxset, I hope you enjoy it!


jiri said...
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