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Friday the 13th (1980)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/3/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/3/2009

The horror remakes just keep coming and coming and there doesn't seem to be any way to stop them. In the past few weeks, we've seen My Bloody Valentine and The Uninvited hit theaters, and the new version of Friday the 13th is right around the corner. Purists will cry that these movies spit on the reputations of the originals and that it's simply a sign that Hollywood has run out of ideas. Being an optimist, I like to look at it another way. Even if the new film is terrible, it can shed light on the older movie and maybe bring us a new home video release of that film. And voila, 26 years after its theatrical release, the uncut version of the original Friday the 13th has come to DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Friday the 13th opens in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake. Two camp counselors sneak away for some cuddling and are subsequently killed. The scene then shifts to the present (or 1980 in this case). After sitting empty for many years, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) has decided to re-open Camp Crystal Lake, despite protests from the locals. He and his assistant, Alice (Adrienne King), have assembled a group of young adults to help them get the camp up and running. Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), and Ned (Mark Nelson) travel to the camp expecting easy jobs and lots of free time for partying. The first day that they are all together, Steve goes to town for supplies. While he is gone, the staff begins to disappear one by one. Have they simply ventured off to be naughty, or has something bad happened to them? As the body count rises, those who are left must not only try to survive, but find out who is doing the killing.

The Friday the 13th name has become synonymous with horror films, summer camps, the woods, and Jason. Of course, many forget that Jason only has a brief cameo in this movie. (As pointed out in the opening of Scream.) Director Sean S. Cunningham admits that he made Friday the 13th as an attempt to cash in on the success of Halloween. Of course, in Halloween, we know from the outset that Michael Myers is the murderer. Friday the 13th introduced the idea of making a slasher film into a murder-mystery, and most of the subsequent slashers followed this trend.

The “whodunit” aspect may be the only part of Friday the 13th which has any brains. Of course, the film was a huge success when it was released (grossing over 55 times its budget) and, as we all now know, it spawned nearly a dozen sequels. But, watching it today, the movie feels quite slow and shallow. I hadn’t seen the movie in a few years, and I’d forgotten how quickly much of the cast is killed. Thus, we are left with the third act with just one person being chased around the camp. What one must do when watching the film today is project yourself backwards to a more innocent time. Sure, there had been movies like Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Black Christmas, but those films were relatively tame in terms of on-screen violence. Friday the 13th was one of the first slashers to contains graphic violence, and when most think of the film, it’s the murders that they remember, not the scenes where the counselors attempt to bond.

The interesting thing about this newly released Friday the 13th DVD is that, for the first time in the U.S., we can see the fully uncut version. But, before you get too excited, know that there is only 10 seconds of new footage here. I know that some of that comes in the scene with the spear under the bed. The good news is that unlike the added footage in the recently released My Bloody Valentine DVD, the new footage here is scratch-free and matches well to the rest of the film.

Friday the 13th hacks its way onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain and no defects from the source material. (Despite the fact that Paramount likes to disown this franchise, they’ve clearly taken care of the film.) The colors are good, but the nighttime scenes are a bit dark. The image shows no overt artifacting or video noise, and the overall look belies the film’s age. The DVD contains a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This sounds like your average “newly created” 5.1 mix, where we get some stereo effects, one or two surround effects, and little else. The track is clear and free from hiss and the film’s infamous music sounds fine.

The Friday the 13th DVD contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY which contains comments from various speakers edited together. Director Sean S. Cunningham, author Peter Bracke, Victor Miller, Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Jay Cooper, and others. The comments sound as if they came from interviews, not an audio commentary, and they are rarely scene-specific. The "Friday the 13th Reunion" (17 minutes) took place in September, 2008. It was a panel discussion (probably at a convention) with Tom Savini, Ari Lehman (young Jason), writer Victor Miller, Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, and Harry Manfredini, and they discuss a series of topics. "Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th" (14 minutes) has modern interviews with Miller (on writing the film), Lehman (on playing young Jason), Robbi Morgan (on being the first modern victim), Savini (on the stunts and effects), and Manfredini (on the music). "The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham" (9 minutes) is an interview with the Director who discusses his career and shows off his house and some memorabilia. "Lost Tales from Camp Blood - Part 1" (8 minutes) is a new (?) short film which shows a couple being terrorized. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film (which shows nearly the entire film).

Paramount Home Entertainment has also brought Friday the 13th to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing some minor grain only during the nighttime sequences. The daytime scenes (especially the scene with the kids on the lake) are incredibly crisp and clear, and I would be willing to bet that the movie hasn’t looked this good since it was originally projected in 1980. The image shows some minor defects from the source material, but the colors look fine. The image shows a nice level of detail and OK depth in the exterior shots. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Again, this is a serviceable, but not great track. The stereo effects are OK, and there are a few instances where an off-screen sound will be heard in the left or right channels. The rain and thunder get some play in the surround channels. I noted no significant subwoofer effects.

The Blu-ray Disc contains the same extras as the DVD, plus two more. "The Friday the 13th Chronicles" (21 minutes) is a segment of a longer featurette which appeared on the 2004 Friday the 13th Boxed Set. It features comments from the cast and filmmakers who share their memories about the film. "Secrets Galore Behind the Gore" (10 minutes) is also taken from the Boxed Set, and it explores the special effects makeup used in the film. It contains some behind-the-scenes photos from Savini's archives.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long