Friday the 13th: Uncut [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin & Noor Razzak (15th March 2009).
The Film

Looking back on the history of the slasher genre there are some arguable roots tracing all the way back to “Psycho” (1960), but if you really want to look at how slasher formula and function came into play, the obvious choice would be John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978). This film set the standards for the mysterious, fairly hidden male killer who stalked young teen victims while inspiring the audience to jump along. Yet a common misconception is the amount of violence actually in the film, as “Halloween” isn’t terribly gory and presents a fairly complicated set of ideas with fantastic direction and scoring. It wasn’t until 2 years later with “Friday the 13th” (1980) that the idea of the slasher was proven regardless of Carpenter’s brilliance as Sean S. Cunningham took the ideas of the formula to the full extent of marketability as they continued the tradition of the final girl through the incredible amount of sequels that would define the slasher genre of the 1980’s. Though I appreciate how “Friday the 13th” reaffirms the marketability of horror films and thus ensures the production of future films, however on its own, “Friday the 13th” doesn’t come close to the level of greatness as something like “Halloween.”

In 1958, two camp councilors at Camp Crystal Lake are murdered in the middle of an attic kissing session and soon after the camp is shut down for over 20 years. Yet now in present day 1980, the camp’s owner decides it’s been long enough and the camp should re-open again, bringing in a fresh young teenage crop of co-ed councilors to help bring the camp back into working order and start fresh that summer. While getting a ride to the camp, Annie (Robbi Morgan), one of the new councilors, hears that the camp was shut down because of the deaths at the camp after the two councilors were killed in 1958 and the year before where a boy drowned in the lake. Soon the new camp is under strike as the councilors are left alone while the owner goes in to town to get supplies, as they begin to be murdered by a mysterious killer.

The best place to start praising this first “Friday the 13th” would be giving Tom Savini credit for his effects work on the film. Though some of his best work was still to come (the makeup and gore in “Day of the Dead” (1985) is some of the best I’ve ever seen) Savini’s gift is still there, with some good machete slashes and a good arrow through Kevin Bacon. It’s not the best ever, but it gets the job done for its time and helps bring some of the fun to the “Friday the 13th” series, pushing more towards the absurd that would start to come into play later on in film.

Yet outside of Savini’s effects work it’s hard to find a lot to love about the film, other than what it helped spawn. The plot itself is very direct and straightforward in just being the ‘councilors go to camp, they’re horny and raunchy, they get killed’ movie, yet the story can meander a bit in the time it’s given and the writing of the dialogue avoids the iconic and the awesomely bad scales too well until near the end of the film. Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) brings the right level of crazy to the film to deliver her lines about Jason (Ari Lehman), but the rest of the characters are the definition of interchangeable, so much so that you get almost lost between the characters. I don’t want to imply that I’m looking for deep characterization, but even looking to pure formula, the “Friday the 13th” series still has a bit to go to reach the absurdly beautiful levels of it’s remake/sequel “Friday the 13th” (2009) (seriously, it’s good. Watch it.)

But overall, that’s not the fault of the original, the ability of the sequels and copycats to take it up a level is what pushes everything to more and more ridiculous levels with movies like “Sleepaway Camp” (1983) that take the camp, the absurd mother and the death to new heights. As an original copycat, “Friday the 13th” proves that horror just might be one of the most profitable genres, not to say they gross as much as big budget action films, but dollar for dollar they’re cheap to make, fun to watch and thus bring in loads of cash to the financiers through audiences looking for the guaranteed kills. “Friday the 13th” sets itself up for some later action, but on it’s own doesn’t bring much more to the table than a slightly gorier, less nude, more poorly directed “Halloween” knockoff with some good movies to be born from it’s creation.

Video

The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen this transfer is delivered onto Blu-ray in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression codec. This transfer uses the same master as the DVD edition as well, obviously this transfer features a higher resolution being in HD, and for a low budget horror film looks pretty good. Sharpness tends to fluctuate and some shots look a bit flat but overall the image is clean and crisp. Colors look better than they ever have and grain is not too heavy considering the limitations of the film stocks used back then.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as audio tracks in English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its TrueHD track. For the most part the track does a fairly good job of presenting the film's audio mix, however being a film that was originally presented in mono, this mix is an up-mix track that adds the surround channels and basically splits the audio. The result is a less impacting track that tends to feel a little hollow. Dialogue is clear and the music is also well mixed. It's not an aggressive track but it does the trick.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

This release, my guess to match with the release of the remake/sequel of the film, brings across some new extras; included are an audio commentary track, five featurettes, a short film and a theatrical trailer.

The audio commentary with director Sean S. Cunningham and including “cast and crew” is hosted Peter Bracke, talks with production members like Cunningham, editor Bill Freda and screenwriter Victor Miller as well as cast members like Betsy Palmer or Adrienne King. They make some interesting points made about Cunningham’s primary objective was to make a commercially successful film to keep making money. There are some good conversations about Cunningham and Miller’s inexperience in the horror genre before “Friday the 13th” and how they basically used “Halloween” (1978) as the slasher mold though is more of an audio conversation track than commentary as it isn’t directly aimed towards the scenes on screen at the time.

“Friday the 13th Reunion” runs for 16 minutes and 45 seconds. This featurette covers a special reunion event held on September 13th, 2008, featuring a panel of people from the original Friday the 13th, including Tom Savini, Ari Lehman, Victor Miller, Betsy Palmer, Harry Manfredini and Adrienne King. They discuss the casting of the film, the make-up as well as clearing up some of the character’s lack of returns or returns in the later films in the series.

“Fresh Cuts: New Tales from ‘Friday the 13th’” featurette runs for 14 minutes and 8 seconds and though it advertises itself as fresh stories is a little misleading since it does cover some of the same ground, even word for word, as the panel itself, though with more talk from Savini and other actors such as Robbi Morgan who bring the new stories to the film in terms of behind the scenes stories. A nice featurette that does a fair job of covering the film from the actors and crew’s set perspective.

“The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunninghamfeaturette runs for 8 minutes and 59 seconds and acts as a brief sit down interview with Cunningham spliced in with some stills and clips from the film, where he talks about the inspiration for the film and the creation of the film, though he admits there’s some fuzziness on what he went through. There’s not a ton of unique information different from the commentary track, but nice enough for an 8 minute interview that also features his son Noel.

“Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 1” short film runs for 7 minutes and 32 seconds. What exactly this has do with the “Friday the 13th” series other than using the recognizable music cues. It’s a low budget, poorly conceived wannabe slasher that gets sort of tacked on, if the extras letter grade is low it’s because of this short because honestly everything else was good. This doesn’t really have a place on the DVD. After a bit of searching there’s an interview with the short’s director Andrew Ceperley, where he explains these were conceived as fake deleted scenes, but they could have gone for more comedy rather than this quickly thrown together bonus.

"The Friday the 13th Chronicles" featurette runs for 20 minutes 33 seconds, recounts the development of the film and the making of the film as the director shares how the film was produced without a script or a start day of production. This clip covers the basics of the production and includes some repeated information that we've already seen in the previous featurettes.

"Secrets Galore Behind The Gore" is the final featurette which runs for , this is a cool look at the special effects of the film and the involvement of Tom Savini, the use of practical effects, make-up effects and how to shoot them to make it look authentic. Here we learn the tricks of the trade as we get an examination of key gore scenes from the film.

The original theatrical trailer runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D+ Video: B Audio: B- Extras: C- Overall: C

 


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