The Screening Room
friday the 13th trilogy
What began as a rip-off on the 1978 John Carpenter film, "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" morphed into its own silly franchise. Throw out your visions of Jason hacking up horny teenagers in the numerous follow up movies and the television series. This review concentrates on the first three 1980s movies.

"Friday the 13th," "Friday the 13th Part 2," and "Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D" are now available on DVD and Blu-ray. The first film of the series reviewed is on the Blu-ray disc, and the other two are reviews on the DVDs.

Even when these movies were released, I had no desire to see people get impailed, electricuted, and decapitated.  It always seemed that the twisted guys in my classes loved these gore fests. Now, almost 30 years later, I watch the films as they are: goofy entertainment. Sure, an arrow through the eye socket is pretty neat, but the first three movies are tame compared to the gore seen today in movies like "Saw."

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

On the special features of the Blu-ray release, there is an interview with screenwriter Victor Miller. He tells us the reason the first movie was even made. It's a rip-off on "Halloween," which scared the living daylights out of audiences in 1978. Using the formula of a tall, scary killer on the loose, and randy teenagers, "Friday the 13th" took the formula and ran with it.

Slasher movies had been around for years, but they were normally finely crafted movies like "Psycho" and "M." There's no mistaking "Friday the 13th" for having any of the craft of those films. It's also not nearly as slickly made on a low budget as "Halloween." Yet, it has its own charm. The fun is in seeing who gets whacked next.

Taking place on the deadly grounds of Camp Crystal Lake, young camp counselors have gathered to set up the camp. Little by little, they're killed in grusome ways by a mysterious killer. Those who've seen the movie know who it is, and it's not Jason.

The acting is fairly amaturish, which suits this movie fine. Indeed, future 1980s star Kevin Bacon is one of the victims and he gets it good and he's credible in his short time on-screen. The characters are as deep as cardboard and the audience doesn't care if they are killed. For some reason, the "Friday the 13th" script calls for a geeky guy to meet his bloody end. I guess that's why he's very annoying. You can't wait to see what the killer does to him.

The movie isn't bad considering its weak script, cardboard acting, flat direction and rip-off score. As least the filmmakers tried to up the ante with a surprise ending. If the movie was made and the endless sequels never showed up, would this film be revered? I think the fact that Paramount backed the franchise, and helped make Jason an iconic figure, helped. The movie simply isn't very good. It's standard of the drive-in fare one would see in the early-1980s. More than likely, had the film not become a hit, I wouldn't writing about it now.

Audiences flocked to films like this not because they were seeing a great film, but to watch teens get knocked off one-by-one. The gore was the key, and Tom Savini's work is praiseworthy. Clearly, some people who made this first film had a good time doing it. The other element that came out of "Friday the 13th" was Michael Manfredini's score. It does take cues from "Jaws" (at least that's how it sounds to me), but he added in the eerie vocal tracks. This was nicely spoofed on an episode of "The Simpsons."

The Blu-ray probably represents the film in the best way it's probably been seen. This is not a slickly made film to begin with, so the picture quality reflects whatever methods were used in filming it. The lighting is simple, and the film grain is perfectly natural for a film of this calibre. Don't go in expecting super sharp images.

The soundtrack has obviously been re-mixed and re-mastered in 5.1 surround sound. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is well presented, but it's nothing outstanding in regard to fidelity. The original mix was done in mono and probably used some poor quality mixing techniques. There is a sense of a panaramic soundstage in certain scenes, but it's mostly unnatural sounding compared to the original mono mix (included). It's not a bad remix/re-recording, but it's also not very dynamic.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)            
Paramount slashed the competition at the box office on the first "Friday the 13th" movie, so why shouldn't they make a sequel? The filmmakers decided to pretty much copy the first film, and now Jason is the killer.

This sequel pales in comparison to the first movie by a long shot. Not that the first film was a greatly made movie, but at least it tried to be a good drive-in movie. "Part 2" merely recycles most of the elements. The only main difference is that we now have Jason running around killing everyone with a sack over his head. It's an unecessary sequel that really doesn't make sense. Jason was dead. Long dead, and only shows up in a dream in the first film. So rather than keeping him dead, he's alive and killing!

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3: 3-D (1982)  
Considering that "Part 2" really didn't make a lot of money at the box office, Paramount decided to try the formula again, this time in 3-D. This is a slicker movie than the first two, using some better camerawork and looking more professional. Even the acting is better, but it's still the same old formula with a twist.

Trivia fans, this is the first time we see Jason in the now-famous hockey mask. Audiences of today, especially those who haven't seen the "Friday the 13th" films, would be surprised to see Jason now donning the mask.

The 3-D effects in this movie are hokey, relying more on people purposely shoving things in your face. It's easy to see why 3-D didn't take off in the early-1980s, because filmmakers were using the same annoying tricks and technology that had been around (at least) since the 1950s.

The movie is filled with some crazy 1980s stereotypes. One of the bikers is totally, like, a fashion and acting disaster. The movie also continues the "13th" tradition of having a nerd get bumped off.

The "Friday the 13th" movies will never be mistaken for art. They are silly slasher flicks that are watchable, if only for the fact you anticipate who's going under Jason's knife, ax, or some other low budget impaling.

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
DVD & Blu-ray Quick Glimpse

part 1
part 2part 3


Silly acting, silly gore and silly slasher music add up to some fun

Director: Sean S. Cunningham (Part 1)
Steve Miner (Parts 2 & 3)  

Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Amy Steel, Richard Brooker  

Too many to mention, but "Jason" fans will love them


Picture: Good
Sound: Good

The makeup effects were quite shocking then, but kinda neat and funny today

Aspect Ratio (1.85:1) and (2.39:1 on "Part 3")

Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby TrueHD (Blu-ray)

February 3, 2009
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