Do me a favour, okay True Believers? Don’t tell my lady that my most favourite present this Christmas wasn’t the men’s cologne she got me, it was CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH.
(She’s probably guessed it already, though; I’ve only used the cologne once, but I’ve stayed up for the last few nights after she’s gone to bed, to watch these DVDs like it was porn, as she never properly appreciated the slasher oeuvre).
When I write a review, I usually ramble on for a bit about something related to the subject I’m discussing; it’s a habit I picked up from Carl Kolchak, and it helps when you want to stretch out a review longer than just saying, “This was shit”. But I don’t have to do that with this.
CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES, from the makers of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY, and based on Peter Bracke’s book of the same name (Scott gave us a sneak peak of this back in 2012 here) is one of the best DVD documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, calling it a ‘documentary’ might be doing it an injustice, because it’s also a retrospective, and a tribute, and spans over several discs, the total running time an impressive 6 hours and 40 minutes (or, if you prefer, 6.66 minutes!). It is everything you ever wanted to know about the movies but were afraid to ask – or, if you’re like me, everything you probably already knew, but a lot more, and all in one package.
Remember when DVDs first came out, and the best part about them was not just having the movie, but all those Special Features? The trailers, the Behind the Scenes footage, the talking head interviews? Sometimes those were better than the movies themselves (I have the DVD set of Tim Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES, but I only ever watch the Special Features to see them designing the make-up, and teaching the actors how to walk and move like apes).
Now, the makers of CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES haven’t just collected old Special Features and such from the various movies – simply because there was hardly any to begin with. THE FRIDAY THE 13TH movies have always been the unappreciated child to the studios making them, whether it was Paramount, New Line or Warner Brothers – the movies were cheap and nasty, but they made money, but that doesn’t mean they were going to be treated like their more respectable output like THE LOVE GURU and CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES.
But what the makers of CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES have done is make a set of thirteen documentaries, separated in chapters on the DVDs, where you can jump around to go learn more about your favourite FT13TH movie (Mine? Not telling, you’ll just make fun of me). And in each chapter we get oodles of interviews with everyone in front of and behind the cameras who are still alive, film clips, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, commercials and the like. But despite this flexibility, there is a cohesion throughout (It’s narrated by Corey Feldman, who appeared in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER – the fourth one of twelve, by the way – and the documentary opens with him and a bunch of kids around a camp fire, while Corey tells the story of Jason Vorhees).
While I’ve spent my time jumping around to learn more about my favourite movies in the franchise, I’ve been fascinated with how the movies and their focus has evolved over the decades. In this age where Marvel carefully plans and coordinates all their superhero movies and TV shows years in advance, and George Lucas has been meticulous in deliberately degrading his STAR WARS saga and needlessly rebooting it like a goldfish with attention deficit disorder, the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies have been more organic, going in directions no one expected, least of all the filmmakers. Watching these is like looking back at old photographs of yourself, and all the clothes and hairstyles you wore and the people you hung out with; some admirable, others you wish you could forget.
(Another big plus I’ve found with these documentaries is the lack of agenda; unlike Behind the Scenes docs made at the time of a film’s production, where those involved are out to sell their movie, so everyone will be ass-kissing everyone else, the people interviewed here, while clearly loving the movies and the work they did on them, aren’t going to tell you that they stand up there with the works of Fellini or Kurosawa.)
With over 150 people interviewed, including Alice Cooper, Kane Hodder and Tom Savini, you will learn things you never expected. Among them:
*The first FRIDAY THE 13TH was made for under $500,000 in 1980.
*Star Adrienne King ended up with a real-life stalker following the release of the movie. She was also meant to star in the second one, but her agent asked for too much money, so they ended up killing her character in the opening scene!
*The third one, FRIDAY THE 13TH ushered in the second wave of 3D movies in the 80s; this was also the one where Jason’s iconic hockey mask first appears, Jason having worn a bag on his head previously.
*Ted White, the man who played Jason in the fourth film, THE FINAL CHAPTER, hated child co-star Corey Feldman, and the scenes where White terrorised Feldman probably had a bit more relish to it than expected!
*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING was meant to pass on the mantle of killer from Jason to Feldman’s character, but Feldman was too busy filming THE GOONIES to do more than a cameo. This was also the time when the MPAA began to sit up and take notice, forcing the studio to begin trimming the more graphic death scenes.
*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES’ writer/director Tom McLaughlin, ordered to bring back Jason as the primary killer, infused this entry with his love of old Universal and Hammer horror films, literally sparking Jason back to life with a bolt of lightning! This was also the one with Alice Cooper’s song He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), which would also feature on his album Constrictor.
*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) was originally meant to feature Jason battling Freddy Krueger but Paramount and New Line could agree at the time. It also gave us the first appearance of Jason as played by genre favourite Kane Hodder, while the movie itself was disdainfully described as ‘Jason Meets Carrie’.
*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN was originally meant to have featured Jason a lot more in the Big Apple (or Vancouver, where it was actually filmed), but budget restrictions meant more and more footage actually had to be shot on a cruise liner (and yes, everyone involved also asks why a cruise ship was on what was supposed to be a tiny summer camp lake, and how did it get out to the ocean and then New York City?) There was also a bizarre sequence filmed for the end, where the child version of Jason would be seen crawling out of the adult Jason’s mouth, but fortunately, saner heads prevailed and it was cut.
*The ninth instalment, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY was one done by New Line, and was called this because Paramount still owned the title rights, and wouldn’t let New Line use FRIDAY THE 13TH. This was also the one where Jason was made out to be some body-hopping monster, a la SHOCKER, with throwaway references to Freddy Krueger again, as well as the Necronomicon.
*The tenth movie, JASON X, suffered from a) being shit b) being set in space c) being shit d) New Line telling director James Isaac to make the movie more like SCREAM, hence the infamous hologram scene with the self-referential humour, and e) being shit
*The eleventh movie, JASON VS FREDDY (Okay, this was my favourite of the series), was long in development, and among the ideas considered as to how the two icons would be connected included one where Freddy molested young Jason, then drowned him to keep him silent. Hmm…
And this is only a taste of what you’ll find out. In addition to all of this, and a final chapter which rounds off the series to date, there is also an audio commentary track with author Peter Bracke, writer/director Daniel Farrands, and editor Luke Rafalowski, giving you even more information than you expected.
I suppose if there is any drawback to this, it would be the relatively minimal amount of coverage given to the other aspects of the franchise that fans might know about, such as the comic books, novels, and in particular the television series of the same name, which ran from 1987 to 1990, and concerned a small team of people seeking to retrieve a series of cursed antiques sold to people around the world. It was pretty graphic for its time, and was a precursor to TV series with similar themes like WAREHOUSE 13, though it didn’t have any direct connection to Jason (except for a brief glimpse in the title sequence which suggested that his hockey mask might have been one of the cursed objects – good luck trying to get that off him!).
In conclusion, I highly recommend CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES to anyone who might be interested in learning something, or something more, about these films. In fact, you’d probably get more of a kick watching these than some of the movies themselves!
Director: Daniel Farrands
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains (unless you count Jason as a zombie, in which case…)
Reviewed by Deggsy. The D is silent. In case Jason’s around…