The Screening Room
THE STUDIO GATE
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
"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.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All
DVD & Blu-ray Quick Glimpse
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
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)
DVD RELEASE DATE
February 3, 2009