'Friday the 13th 1-3' DVD Reviews

Gorehounds and grue-girls, get ready to place your salivary glands on stun. If you thought last month's My Bloody Valentine resurgence was a great bit of nostalgic nastiness, well you haven't seen anything yet. Yes, that's right: We're all just so freakin' excited about that Last House on the Left remake. No, just kidding. It's the reboot of the Friday the 13th series that has the horror fans torn between "OMG I know it's gonna suck EGGS!" and "Hey, I'm hoping for the best. On opening night." And to help get the fans excited enough to open their wallets more than once, Paramount has decided to re-release the first three Friday the 13th flicks onto DVD. And Blu-Ray, but only on Part 1. Weird.

If you're half the jolt junkie that I am, then you're already well aware that the original Friday the 13th has been released numerous times in Region 1 form. So, as much as I love the scrappy little horror flick, what the HELL would make me want to buy it again? What's that? You say that some of the legendarily "excised" gore-bits have been reinstated, thereby earning this release a designation of "uncut"? Wow, actually that's pretty awesome. Here's my $12.99.

But to those who've wandered into this review unsure of the whole "Friday the 13th" thing, here's a quick run-down on chapter one: A bunch of young adults (or old kids, depending on your perspective) are up in the woods, getting the facilities ready for the kids. Only ... on their first night at camp, a crazy lunatic shows up and starts hacking people to shreds. It's an unapologetic rip-off of Halloween, sure, only with extra blood in place of crafty tension -- but I still believe that the original Friday is one creepy film. It probably has a lot to do with the sparse setting and no-frills characters, but something about the mundane being severed by the horrific always works for me. And it works darn well here. So to answer the inevitable question: This is my favorite of the series. And I'd rank the sequels in this precise order: 2, 4, 6, 3, 7, 5, 8 -- and I don't count the New Line stuff (Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, and Freddy vs. Jason) as official sequels. I'm picky like that.

Fair warning to the SERIOUS horror freaks: This "uncut" version is precisely the same version that's found on the UK DVD. I mention this only because lots of you nuts may have the UK version. Lord knows I do. If memory serves, the demises of Marcie and Annie are both a bit nastier, as is the final fate of Mrs. Voorhees, but don't go in expecting a lot of new footage. Both the "uncut" and the theatrical edition run 95 minutes, so clearly we're not talking about new SCENES. Also recycled from the UK DVD is the audio commentary with director Sean Cunningham and several cast & crew members (spliced in all random-like). Fans of the flick will (of course) dig the chat-track, even if some of the info is halfway redundant.

So there's a little extra splatter and a commentary to enjoy, but what about the NEW goodies? Fair question. First up is "Friday the 13th Reunion" (16:45), which is a fan-friendly discussion panel from a recent horror convention. Participants include Ari Lehman, Tom Savini, Adrienne King, and Betsy Palmer ... and if you need me to tell you who those people are, then frankly I question your allegedly undying commitment to the Friday the 13th series. Next up is "Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th" (14"08), a collection of more traditional interview segments. Heard from here are screenwriter Victor Miller, composer Harry Manfredini, and the adorable Bobbi Sue Morgan ... an actress who can accurately claim to be the FIRST KILL in the Friday the 13th franchise, (Unless you count the flashback prologue with the two horny teenagers, because they both also got killed.) Closing out the featurettes is "The Man Behind the Legacy" (8:59), which is a nice little visit with Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham. He owns a very nice house, too!

Then we get a "nice try but meh" novelty called "Lost Tales from Camp Blood -- Part 1" (7:32), which is just as clumsy as the title implies. Basically a short film that's kinda set in the Voorhees universe. I say skip over that and head straight to the original Friday the 13th theatrical trailer, which is also included here and is twice as amusing as the "Camp Blood" thing.

So Paramount bought Friday the 13th for peanuts, and the thing went on to gross about $40 million in the U.S. alone. And that's in 1980 money. So clearly it was sequel time. If the original fans were worried that the producers would "shake things up" too much on Friday the 13th Part 2, let us all look back in hindsight and laugh out loud at such an idea. Not only did the first sequel follow the established formula to an almost Pavlovian degree, but the entire series simply lurched on with (pretty much) the same exact screenplay each time out: A bunch of thinly-drawn young adults with (maybe) one personality trait apiece would venture somewhere close to the original stomping grounds of the Voorhees clan ... and then they'd get chopped up. Sure, some of the sequels used humor (part 6!) and some were extra-nasty (ooh, Part 4), but Part 2 is where the freshly-painted sequel machine was just getting warmed up.

Although Steve Miner took over from director Sean Cunningham, Friday 2 feels a lot like its predecessor ... although the lensing is decidedly more slick, the kills are exponentially more creative, and the "young adults" are decidedly more nubile. (Mmm, nubile. Like that one brunette who goes skinny-dipping. What a doll!) As a villain, poor Jason was stuck between being a figment of the imagination in Part 1 and the hockey-masked icon of Part 3, but there's something specifically feral about this version of Jason. Maybe it's the tilted sack he wears on his head, or the fact that the poor nut actually has a little shack with his dead mother's head in it ... but there's some real gritty chills here. Quaint and corny to the horror youths of today, perhaps, but still well-crafted enough to please this old bloodhound.

And right about now is when I'm remembering that the first eight Friday the 13th films were once released in a big box set that's presently sitting on my "shrine" shelf. It's probably pertinent to note that, in that multi-disc set, neither Friday 1 or 2 has ANY extras. (Part 3 does, but we're not up to Part 3 yet.) The first featurette is "Inside 'Crystal Lake Memories'" (11:16), which is a conversation between Dark Delicacies owner Del Howison and Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke. The latter offers some pretty cool insights into Friday Part 2 and the series in general, but Mr. Howison comes off as kinda, well, cue card-y. Overall a very solid little piece, and yes, Bracke's book is worth the semi-hefty price tag. (And Dark Delicacies is one AMAZING store. Google it.)

"Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions" (6:50) takes a cursory but colorful look at, yep, Jason's impact on the "horror con" circuit, and "Jason Forever" (29:26) gives you plenty of chit-chat with former "Jasons" Ari Lehman, Warrington Gillette, C.J. Graham, and Kane Hodder. No audio commentary for Part 2, unfortunately, and we close the disc with "Lost Tales from Camp Blood  -- Part 2" (8:55) and the original theatrical trailer for Friday the 13th Part 2.

Then we move over to Friday the 13th Part 3, which is both the most exciting and the most disappointing of the three new "Deluxe Editions." Disappointing because, aside from the Part 3 theatrical trailer, we're offered NOTHING in the extras department. And that's doubly annoying when you consider that the "box set" version of Part 3 comes with a cast and crew commentary. Hmph.

BUT ... It sure looks like Friday the 13th Part 3 is about to re-join the 3-D community, because this DVD comes with two (2!) pairs of 3-D glasses. Yep, right there on the menu screen it says I can choose between the 2-D and 3-D version. How very nifty. How well the 3-D technology actually works on your home theater may vary, but let's get the movie out of the way first:

Much like its pair of predecessors, Friday the 13th Part 3(-D) is about a bunch of stupidly-written young people who wander into the woods and get slashed, skewered, sliced, and sawed by a lunatic who (eventually) wears a hockey mask. It was only Chapter 3 and already the series was beginning to look like a spoof of itself. One need only look at the moronic "Cheech & Chongette" characters who meander through Part 3 to see how much effort went into the screenplay. But that's OK. We're talking about franchise formula filmmaking here, and .... nah, I just can't do it. As much as I love this series, I just can't think of anything all that nice to say about Part 3.

OK, the 3-D. So lame. Rubber snakes and yo-yos? Really? Fine, once the carnage starts cooking then some of the 3-D gags work pretty well, but (as is often the case with a Friday the 13th movie), you have to struggle through 29 minutes of tedium just to reach the good stuff. And to its credit, Part 3 does leap into the mayhem with appreciable mania. (In other words, the flick has a massive body count, even going by Jason Voorhees' standards.) But it's just too smitten with the cheesy 3-D gimmick to ever work as a half-decent horror flick ... and I'm sorry but that waka-chika "Jason meets Disco" theme is just the height of hilarity.

Now, I must say that the 3-D didn't work all that well on my end, although it must be noted that A) I don't have the fanciest television, B) I'm partially color-blind, and C) I had a headache. But still, even if I said the 3-D was awful and didn't work AT ALL, you'd still want to check it out for yourself. Plus it's a novelty to own at least one 3-D DVD. And lord knows I'm not buying Jaws 3 or Amityville 3.


So there you go: If you're wondering if you NEED these DVDs, considering that you already OWN the 8-movie box set that you probably got on eBay for 22 bucks, I'm not really sure what to say. Given that I'm a Friday freak like Indiana Jones is a relic freak, I'm pleased to add these ones to my collection. Plus it should be noted that Part 4 (The Final Chapter), Part 5 (A New Beginning), and Part 6 (Jason Lives) will ALSO be getting the "deluxe" treatment from Paramount very soon. So either hold on tight to that old box set (which is still a great little collection) or start saving those nickels!