Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection - Friday the 13th Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Victor Miller
1980, Region A, 95 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on September 13th, 2013
Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees
Adrienne King as Alice
Harry Crosby as Bill
Kevin Bacon as Jack
Jeannine Hill as Marcy
Laurie Bartham as Brenda
Peter Brouwer as Steve Christy
Walt Gorney as Crazy Ralph
Friday the 13th is the longest-running cinematic franchise not intended as a series. Much has been written on this collection over the past three decades and I am unlikely to contribute anything new, but I will attempt to entertain and inform. I am not looking to uncover any deep philosophical views hidden in the subtext of these films, nor am I going to dismiss the movies with the casual summary, "kids go camping and they don't come home." I will say that I have been a life-long fan of the series and that I subject those around me to mini-marathons of these films whenever the titular calendar date arrives. Where is all this rambling going? Stick with me...
Camp Crystal Lake is jinxed. According to the locals, it has a death curse. It seems the trouble started in the late '50s when a young boy drowned despite being supervised by a pair of teenagers. The following year the camp was forced to close when two counselors were murdered. Further attempts to open the facility were dashed with a series of fires and a scare involving a tainted water supply. Steve Christy is determined to repair his family's name by making the place successful again. When the last of his staff arrives, they are immediately put to work before Steve sets off to run errands in town. Later that night as a storm moves in, the counselors begin getting murdered one by one in increasingly violent ways.
Friday the 13th kicked the idea of the slasher film into high gear and shocked audiences with its unflinching approach to violence. Much has been made of Tom Savini's makeup effects and rightly so, as they appear to be the true star of the picture. While Kevin Bacon (Tremors) would go on to eclipse the rest of the cast, Savini became a celebrity in his own right. The film suffered only a small amount of cuts (roughly 11 seconds) by the ratings board to receive an R, but the backlash that followed would have the sequels facing multiple trips to the censors. The uncut version of the picture appears on this new release and is still powerful even though the hi-def transfer belies some of the magic tricks performed.
This first film in the series is kind of an anomaly when viewed along with the rest of the franchise it inspired. Unlike the sequels, it does not include the character archetypes that became so popular in the genre. These are responsible and thoughtful adults who do not deserve the punishment they receive. Sure they drink, smoke pot and fool around, but never in the presence of children and only after they have completed their work for the day. There is no angle for purity in this movie – you don't get to live just because you are a virgin. The cast of unknowns give solid performances across the board and lend an authenticity to the proceedings.
As a whodunit, Friday the 13th is guilty of not introducing the killer before the final act. There really is no way of even knowing a big reveal is coming when the villain is a person never seen much less mentioned before the end of the picture. I guess you could say there are a number of suspicious characters like the motorcycle cop or even Steve Christy who conveniently steps away before the murders begin. How awesome would it have been for the local prophet, Crazy Ralph to be the killer with his creepy old man hands drawing blood for god?!
Owing everything in inspiration to the success of Halloween, director Sean S. Cunningham and writer Victor Miller created a variation on Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians set in a summer camp and opted to place the murders in the spotlight, which resulted in cinematic gold. While not the first slasher, Friday the 13th cemented the formula, and many copycats followed with masked maniacs attacking people on holidays and at school functions for years to come.
The film has gone on to enjoy unprecedented success and spawned nine direct sequels to date, plus a remake and a crossover with its closest competitor A Nightmare on Elm Street. Unlike the other heavy hitters in the genre, Friday the 13th plays almost like a prelude to the rest of the films in the franchise; a story strong enough to start a revolution, even without the star of the show.
Reflections from Behind the Mask (may contain spoilers):
Betsy Palmer was the only star in the cast and her commanding performance went so against type that she is unforgettable despite her limited screen time. She shows up in the last reel and takes total control of this film. Perhaps there was not enough time to properly introduce the character, resulting in her tipping her hand almost upon arrival, but it is still a relief when she finally appears at the camp.
Mrs. Voorhees is a hypocritical psychopath. She wants to avenge the death of her son at the hands of horny teens. I get that, she's distraught. A year after Jason drowns, his mom sneaks into camp and murders two counselors who are getting frisky. It is unlikely the teens responsible for last year's accident were invited back, so these kids are simply killed for heavy petting. Making matters worse, she commits this act while young children are sleeping nearby!
She really should have no beef with any of these contemporary adults. Perhaps Steve Christy was the intended target all along. Would Mrs. Voorhees have been content to kill only him? She really doesn't even give the current staff a chance before attacking them within hours of their arrival. Annie pours her heart out to Mrs. Voorhees about wanting a career helping underprivileged children and gets her throat slit in response. To add to the weirdness, she then drives around with Annie's corpse in her car for the rest of the day instead of leaving her in the woods.
One more thing relating to motive: when Ned pretends to be drowning, shouldn't Mrs. Voorhees be relieved to see how quickly the others race to his aid? No, instead she kills Ned and hides under the bed while a couple makes love above her...creepy. And she tricks one of the most responsible characters from her cabin by pretending to be a child in distress just so she can kill her and later throw her through a window! Why does she feel the need to fight dirty and why is she wearing a bulky sweater in June?
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features for this collection will be discussed on the final page of this review.
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