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Friday the 13th(1980)
Terror and suspense abound in this 24-hour nightmare of blood. Camp Crystal Lake has been shuttered for over 20 years due to several vicious and unsolved murders. The camp's new owner and seven young counselors are readying the property for re-opening despite warnings of a "death curse" by local residents. The curse proves true on Friday the 13th as one by one each of the counselors is stalked by a violent killer. This film is widely acclaimed for its horrifying and creative murder sequences.
For more about Friday the 13th and the Friday the 13th Blu-ray release, see Friday the 13th Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Writers: Ron Kurz, Victor Miller, Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby
» See full cast & crew
Friday the 13th Blu-ray Review
Paramount delivers with their release of this landmark horror film.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 16, 2009
You're going to camp blood, ain't ya? You'll never come back! It's got a death curse!
The Horror genre enjoys a somewhat unique cinematic history of building series through memorable characters terrorizing audiences in numerous entries. The trend dates back to the days of the classic Universal horror pictures, where The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, and a host of others famous monsters and villains appeared in picture after picture, but one could argue that it wasn't until the late 1970s and through the decade of the 1980s, what many may call the "golden age" of the genre, did the trend of returning characters and recurring themes in the pictures make its mark on Hollywood and particularly on audiences around the world. 1979 saw the first publication of the cult magazine Fangoria (though it would be several issues before it found its stride), and only a few months prior, John Carpenter's Halloween premiered, the film the first of the "big three" horror franchises to launch and set the standard for the Horror genre for years to come. Sandwiched between the release of Carpenter's slasher and 1984's debut of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street was the 1980 release of Friday the 13th, a small picture shot on a shoestring budget that has positively blossomed into the face of the Horror genre, the first title many will utter when asked to name a Horror movie franchise. Spawning nine sequels, a "vs." movie alongside Kreuger, and an upcoming remake, the franchise is both a trend-setter and the gold standard on which Horror longevity is measured.
Once known for its carefree summers, happy campers, and eager teenage counselors, Camp Crystal Lake has deteriorated over the years after an accidental drowning and the murder of several counselors the following year. Now, years later, the camp is re-built and on the verge of once again welcoming dozens of enthusiastic young campers, much to the dismay of the locals, who proclaim the camp cursed. Camp counselors, arriving early to assist with the final preparations, enjoy the hard work and reap the rewards, which includes drinking, casual relationships, and murder. As the sun sets, the wind blows in, the thunder rolls, and the rain pours, Camp Crystal Lake once again witnesses a night of terror as a mysterious figure, bent on revenge, brutally murders the counselors one by one.
Without spoiling the end of the film, it is safe to say that Friday the 13th courageously varies from other slasher pictures thanks to its rather unconventional nemesis. While the movie is absolutely straight formula through to the end, it works well for exactly that reason. Friday the 13th is the absolute standard of carefree, promiscuous teenagers-in-peril slash-and-hack filmmaking. Nevertheless, the picture always manages to throw a few curves at audiences, particularly in the case of the first of the "present day" victims, Annie. The first-time viewer, or even the repeat viewer who has not seen the film in some time, will believe her to be the heroine, the "last girl standing," the battered, bloodied, but not defeated female who will survive the experience, or at least survive through to the final shot. Director Sean S. Cunningham easily convinces audiences she will be the film's main attraction on the "victim" side of the ledger, and her death in the opening minutes of the film comes as quite a shock, the result of good filmmaking to be sure. As alluded to above, the movie plays as straight-as-an-arrow formula until the killer is revealed, but it does it so well from an entertainment perspective that it really doesn't matter. The victims are developed just enough to ensure that audiences become interested in their fates, though there is never any doubt as to what those fates may be -- and the film revels only in making sure each meets with a suitably memorable demise.
Speaking of the kills, and there are several rather bloody ones, Friday the 13th features its fair share of gore -- though it plays out as somewhat tame up against today's standards. Unlike many of today's horror movies, however, Friday the 13th tries to rely on real scares and a surprisingly decent story to make up for the lack of over-the-top blood, brains, and guts. Yes, it is possible to follow formula and weave an acceptable tale to carry it along, and this film's biggest asset is that it is the first in the series, and it does a fine job of being a good movie in its own right by creating a lore and setting up the subsequent films in the series. The acting throughout the film is passable at best; each performer is sufficiently good at playing an average hormonal teenager, and equally efficient at playing scared and, well, dead. Director Cunningham also lends steady, interesting direction to the picture. The handheld, first-person camera is used to fantastic effect here, as it puts the audience in the eyes of the killer in many scenes. This camera effect provides a very noticeable shift in the feel of the film, but fits in well, only making an appearance here and there. Otherwise, the film features straightforward, no-nonsense direction.
Friday the 13th Blu-ray, Video Quality
Friday the 13th sets up camp on Blu-ray with a well-done 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. This is a rough-looking film in many spots, and the opening sequence, in particular, isn't all that pretty, but it looks good considering the source. It's excessively grainy and rather dark, but improved clarity and resolution over previous releases is immediately noted. However, once the film gets past the opening credits, it opens up to a sharper, more colorful, and more richly detailed presentation, revealing plenty of impressive visuals. The opening shots of Annie hiking to the camp are well done; the exterior shots of the town and the interior of the store both look great. The film truly shines in these bright, outdoor, daylight sequences; colors are bright, but not overly so, and natural; the greens of the grass, the coarse, gray pavement of the streets, and the bright red color seen on several vehicles all come together for a look that is about as close to eye candy as one can get from a now-vintage and low budget horror picture. Even background details remain solid; clumps of trees and dense foliage never look like green globs, but rather appear natural and distinct, even at a distance. As the film moves along and day turns to a rainy, cold night, the dark, dreary, foreboding look seen in the opening moments of the film returns, but the transfer remains impressive. Blacks are fairly noisy, maybe a bit crushed, but they remain a deep black rather than a shade of gray. The print exhibits a few speckles here and there, but the source is in very good shape otherwise. Longtime fans of the film should be ecstatic with this presentation. Newcomers need be aware that the film is grainy, and that the grain is retained to nice effect throughout, and that Paramount has definitely delivered on this release.
Friday the 13th Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Friday the 13th slashes onto Blu-ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack in addition to a monaural presentation. This is a nice audio presentation in the context of the source. It is somewhat front-heavy but also rich and full sounding; the score heard over the opening credits is particularly impressive, playing as lifelike and intense, with a very fine sense of hearing a live performance. Throughout the film, sound effects and dialogue are strong, maybe sounding a bit unnatural, but its more due to the source rather than the soundtrack on the disc. Chapter six offers up the sounds of an impending storm, though it comes across as more of a hiss rather than a well defined, natural sounding weather maker, but again, it's due more to the limitations of the original sound mix rather than the Blu-ray soundtrack presentation. Friday the 13th could have arguably benefited from a remix to incorporate the back channels and subwoofer more, but as always, it's better to stick as closely to the original presentation as possible. This lossless track allows room for the track to breathe a bit, spread out across the front, and offer more in the way of fidelity and clarity. It beats the mono soundtrack hands-down without becoming an entirely different animal.
Friday the 13th Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Paramount's Blu-ray release of Friday the 13th features plenty of special features. A commentary track with director Sean S. Cunningham, author Peter Bracke, screenwriter Victor Miller, and others, headlines the package. The track is spliced together from different sources, but still flows well enough. There is plenty of fascinating information to be heard here, on the background of the production and the team, how the story came together, information on and from the cast, the score, and plenty more. Fans will enjoy this track a great deal. 'Friday the 13th' Reunion (1080p, 16:45) features a 2008 panel discussion recounting memories from the film. Participants include special effects make-up artist Tom Savini, "The very first Jason" Ari Lehman, writer Victor Miller, actresses Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King, and composer Harry Manfredini. Fresh Cuts: New Tales From 'Friday the 13th' (1080p, 14:07) features a hodgepodge of information, including the influence of Halloween on the picture, casting, special effects, the music, and more.
The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham (1080p, 8:58) is a solid sit-down piece with the film's director. He discusses the influence the film has had on his life, the film's purpose, the making of the special effects, the participation of his son Noel in his work, and his thoughts on the sequels. Lost Tales From Camp Blood - Part 1 (1080p, 7:31) is a goofy, dimly lit short where a couple are killed by Jason. The 'Friday the 13th' Chronicles (480p, 20:34) is an additional piece that mostly recounts information already gleaned from previous supplements, delving into the early stages of the production, the effects, the ending, and more. Secrets Galore Behind the Gore (480p, 9:32) takes a closer look at the film's gruesome special effects. Concluding the supplements is the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:34).
Friday the 13th Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
No doubt about it, Friday the 13th is a classic of its genre. However, it hasn't achieved that status because it is necessarily a great film. What it is is a fantastic example of the now tried-and-true horror movie formula, not to mention the first film in one of the most lucrative and long-lasting horror franchises in the history of cinema. This entry sets the stage well for the rest of the films, features plenty of dead teenagers, a good twist, and a memorable ending. Hopefully, Paramount will see fit to release the subsequent entries in the series in the coming months, and continue to release them as quality Blu-ray product. The studio's release here is excellent. While Friday the 13th isn't a glamorous movie, it translates well to high definition, and the movie has never looked better. The soundtrack is suitable, the lossless mix adding a bit of atmosphere and clarity to the also-included mono presentation. Finally, Paramount has included a healthy dosage of bonus materials sure to satisfy fans. As one of the definitive Horror pictures in the history of the genre, and as a quality Blu-ray release, there is no reason not to make a spot in the collection for Friday the 13th. Easily recommended.
Friday the 13th: Other Editions
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