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His Name Was Jason (2009)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/3/2009

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

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/4/2009

When 2 or more projects with similar themes or interest suddenly appear in Hollywood, it's creatively known as synergy. While that's a clever euphemism, sometimes plain old “cashing in” is much more accurate and appropriate. With the remake of Friday the 13th being released on February 13, 2009, we’ve seen a lot of Friday the 13th-related activity this week. First, Paramount brings us a new DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of the original Friday the 13th, plus new DVDs for Friday the 13th Part 2 & Part 3. Now, Anchor Bay Entertainment brings us a new documentary which focuses on the entire series entitled His Name Was Jason.

His Name Was Jason (which is subtitled “30 Years of Friday the 13th”) takes its name from a line in the first film. But, the documentary does more than simply cover the first film. It tackles every film in the series, from the 1980 original up to the new remake (although there is no footage from the new movie). The piece features interviews with filmmakers and actors involved in every movie in the series, journalists, and actors and filmmakers who are simply fans. The documentary opens with an overview of the story of each movie. From there, it examines the making of each movie (with anecdotes from those involved), the Jason mythos, the fan response to the films, idiosyncrasies and continuity problems in the movies, and the future of the franchise. His Name Was Jason is hosted by special effects makeup legend Tom Savini, who did the gore effects for the original film and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

Summing up His Name Was Jason is going to be very simple. If you are a die-hard fan of the franchise, then you will love this documentary. If you are a casual fan (like me), then you’ll learn a few things from it. If you don’t like the movies, or know little about them, then don’t bother with this, because you’ll either be turned off or lost.

In the documentary’s defense, Producers Anthony Masi and Thommy Huston have gathered an astonishing number of interviewees for this project. The Director’s of most of the films are here (But one has to wonder where Steve Miner, who directed Parts 2 & 3 is.), as are a few writers, and at least one (if not more) actor from each film. They all seem to be very excited to be there and they all have anecdotes about the making of their film and its place in the Jason mythology. As one would hope, Producer/Director Sean S. Cunningham, who helmed the first film and has been involved in some way with the sequels, is on hand and he’s very candid about the fact that Friday the 13th was a rip-off of Halloween and was made simply to make money. There are several horror journalists present, and also the directors of the films Hatchet and Wrong Turn 2.

The problem with His Name was Jason is that no one here, outside of Cunningham and Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller, seems to have a very objective opinion about the franchise. Everyone here simply loves the Friday the 13th movies and we hear very few disparaging remarks about the movies. Even when they are discussing the fact that none of the sequels make any sense, it’s always in a “Hey, what are you going to do?” fashion. You’re wondering, “Isn’t this a celebration of the Friday the 13th franchise? Shouldn’t they be saying nice things about the movies?” Saying nice things is one thing, but His Name was Jason turns into a masturbatory love-fest, as one speaker after another gushes about how scary the movies are and all that they represent. If you’ve seen any of the Friday the 13th movies, you know that calling them scary is a bit of a stretch. There’s way too much discussion here about how Jason is an “unstoppable force of nature”. Seriously? You want to have an intellectual conversation about the Friday the 13th movies?

Again, if you are the kind of person who would go to a convention dressed as Jason (as we see in the doc) or get a Jason tatoo (as we see in the doc) then His Name was Jason is aimed squarely at you. If you’re like me and you’ve seen all of the movies, but can’t claim to love any of them, then you may want to move on. There are some interesting stories from the set here, but frankly, I learned more from the extras on the various Friday the 13th DVD releases. Producer Masi was also involved in the documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror and while it had its share of gushing, I felt that it gave a more level-headed approach to the films it was studying. If Jason still had cheeks, they would turn red from the unbridled adulation shown in His Name was Jason.

His Name was Jason gets stalker creepy on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The documentary has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The piece is made up of three elements, and they all look different. The host segments with Tom Savini are notably dark, but the image is clear. The interview segments look fine, although some of the speakers are nearly concealed in shadow. The movie clips and behind-the-scene photos vary in quality, but for the most part, they look fine. On the whole, the image looks good and rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, the audio is relegated to the front and center channels, as it’s comprised mostly of the interviewees comments. There are some sound effects from the movies which offer more stereo and surround effects, but these are few and far between.

The His Name was Jason DVD contains several extras for a documentary. The lone bonus on Disc 1 is "The Men Behind the Mask" (47 minutes), which offers interviews with the 11 actors who have played Jason throughout the series, from the first film to the upcoming remake. The remainder of the extras are on Disc 2. "Final Cuts" (78 minutes) contains interviews with nine of the directors of the series, as they discuss how they got involved with the films and how they approached the project. (The obvious absentee here is Steve Miner, who directed 2 & 3.) Similarly, "From Script to Screen" (31 minutes) provides interviews with five screenwriters from the series describing how they handled the mythos. "Dragged from the Lake" (21 minutes) has speakers discussing thirteen odd moments from the series. "Fan Films" includes four examples of tributes to the series made by fans, including an entry in the "Bunnies" series (I love those guys!) and a look at the Friday the 13th Nintendo game. Director Joseph Zito and actor Eric Anderson tour the set of the fourth film in "Closing the Book on The Final Chapter" (13 minutes). Similarly, actress Gloria Charles goes back to the part from Part 3 in "Fox Comes Home" (4 minutes). "Friday the 13th in 4 Minutes" (4 minutes) has three speakers rehash the stories from the movies. "Jason Takes Comic-Con" (4 minutes) shows the remake being hocked at the annual show in San Diego. "The Camp Crystal Lake Survival Guide" (5 minutes) is a faux educational film where those involved in the movies give tips on how to avoid Jason. "Inside Halloween Horror Nights" (7 minutes) offers a tour of the Universal Studios attraction. "Shelly Lives!" (2 minutes) is a faux infomercial with actor Larry Zerner.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long