Whether you're a newbie to the Jason-verse or a long-time, old-school slasher freak who's been following the franchise since 1980 -- this has been a pretty good month for you. (OK, for us.) Not only did we just get three new "Deluxe Edition" DVDs from Paramount, and not only do we have only a week to go before the highly-anticipated remake, but now we get a rock-solid documentary that's full of trivial tidbits, amusing anecdotes, and unexpected insights. Sure, if you're one of those Jason-philes who owns the fantastic Peter Bracke tome Crystal Lake Memories (and the lesser-known but also decent David Grove book Making Friday the 13th) and ALL of the different DVDs, then a lot of the material found within His Name Was Jason may sound a bit familiar. But at least the producers were smart enough to enlist some new faces from the horror scene and journalist pool ... plus there's no denying that the franchise itself is well-represented.
In other words, about three dozen actors, writers, directors, FX guys, horror critics, and insightful fans have been invited to talk about all things "Friday," and although this fan-friendly doco starts off with a somewhat linear trajectory, after about 25 minutes it becomes sort of random and scattershot. But still, it works. After a basic but informative trip from Friday the 13th (1980) to Freddy vs. Jason, the documentary jumps from place to place with little direction ... but at least all of the destinations are fun. One of the best segments focuses on Jason's most creative carnage, and while it's great to hear some insights from each director, the absence of Steve Miner (Parts 2 and 3!) is really curious. The guy also went on to direct a Halloween sequel, so I can't see why he couldn't show up for this piece. But just about everyone else has!
From the on-set war stories of numerous Jasons to a brief mention of the franchise's troubles with film critics, from the well-documented MPAA struggles and all of Jason's iconic moments ... you sure can't say the producers didn't cover all the bases. And it's not like the interview subjects treat this series like it's Shakespeare. All involved seem well aware that the Friday the 13th machine is a pretty basic one, but also have no problem admitting they dig it anyway. One sequence shows a bunch of fans pondering the various plot holes and sequel shrapnel that Jason has dealt with, and I sat there very grateful to learn I wasn't the only one who ever wondered about that stuff. (I still don't understand the ending of Part 8.)
So while His Name Was Jason is pretty much a big-time "love-in" for the fans (made by some fans), it's still filled with enough meaty INFO to qualify as a full-bore documentary film. Produced by the guys who did the equally cool Halloween: The Shape of Horror, His Name Was Jason is well worth the $14 sticker price. It's a feature-length fan-friendly documentary that's got lots of fun stories, it comes with a fold-out poster and a free ticket to the Friday the 13th remake, AND it has about four hours worth of Jason-flavored supplemental stuff!
Disc 1 offers the 90-minute main feature and 46 additional minutes of interviews with Jasons from Ari Lehman (Part 1) to Derek Mears (Platinum Dunes remake). Not counting the trailers for Hatchet (woo!), Behind the Mask (yeehaa!), and Laid to Rest (looks good!), that's 136 minutes of Jason mania.
Flipping over to disc two ... makes me think I'm gonna need a new keyboard. OK, first up is "Final Cuts" (107 minutes!!), which is a lot like the "Jason interviews" from Disc 1, only this time we're talking with directors Sean Cunningham (Part 1), Joseph Zito (Part 4), Danny Steinmann (Part 5), Tom McLoughlin (Part 6), John Carl Buechler (Part 7), Rob Hedden (Part 8), Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell), James Isaac (Jason X), and Marcus Nispel (Friday '09). (Wait, where's Ronny "Freddy vs. Jason" Yu?) Logically, up next is "From Script to Screen" (31 minutes), which offers additional interviews with screenwriters Victor Miller (Part 1), Barney Cohen (Part 4), Todd Farmer (Jason X), and Damian Shannon & Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason AND the remake). Obviously these three blocks (the Jasons, the directors, the writers) are just for the hardcore fans who want to pick through every little piece of Jason-fried trivia ... but that's pretty much who the documentary was made for. So I say good job for including so many pieces of high-end cutting-room floor material.
Next up is "Dragged From the Lake," which runs about twenty minutes and is best described as a "catch-all" deleted scenes section. Here you'll find most of the geekier, more "inside" pieces of franchose lore. As such, I loved it. Then we get four "Fan Films," including one with those animated bunnies and a very funny one from "Angry Video Game Nerd" at Cinemassacre.com. Also included are "Jason Hurts" and "Rupert Takes Manhattan." The 14-minute "Closing the Book on The Final Chapter" has actor Erich Anderson and drector Joseph Zito walking through the Part 4 location and sharing memories. Similarly, "Fox Comes Home" (3:49) has actress Gloria Charles wandering into the barn from Part 3.
"Friday the 13th in Four Minutes" is the whole dang series as (profanely) synopsized by Adam Green, Joe Lynch and Steve Barton. Funny stuff, and doubly so if you happen to know these knuckleheads. The 5-minute "Jason Takes Comic-Con" is the remake's big coming out party, as entertaningly covered by Dread Central. Another fun bit is the 5-minute "Camp Crystal Lake Survival Guide," in which ALL of the cliches and sterotypes are cataloged and punctured. "Inside Halloween Horror Nights" (7:02) is an amiable tour through the seasonal L.A. attraction, and "Shelly Lives!" (2:20) is a goofy little comedy short from Part 3 clown Larry Zerner.
Overall a massively-packed two-disc set for the Friday fans, and most of the material is grade-A stuff. I would have enjoyed seeing maybe one or two anti-Friday opinions (maybe a film critic or two?), just to balance the equation, but considering this package was tailor-made for the fan-base, it's a lot more comprehensive that it had to be. Frankly I can't imagine the slasher fan who wouldn't have a good time with this 2-disc Jason-fest.