Now here's a DVD on my radar.
Read below for the shocktillyoudrop review and DVD specs.
In the same way that it's difficult to remember a time when we thought of beaches and the ocean without associating them with Jaws, it's just as hard to remember how we once looked at that other perennial of summer - summer camp - without thinking of Friday the 13th and Jason Voorhees.
With twelve films (including Freddy vs. Jason and the upcoming remake) spanning nearly thirty years, the Friday the 13th series has permeated the cultural consciousness to the point that even those who have never seen a Friday film are familiar with Jason and his trademark hockey mask. He's as recognizable as Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, or the legendary movie monsters of the past like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, or the Wolf Man. Now the full-length documentary His Name Was Jason from director Dan Farrands (who, as a screenwriter, penned Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers) and writers/producers Thommy Hutson and Anthony Ma (Ma worked in milar capacity on the 2006 Halloween documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror) attempts to be the definitive look at the saga of Jason Voorhees, assembling many of the main players in the Friday the 13th universe along with assorted fans, filmmakers, and journalists to share their memories and thoughts on the phenomena. The results aren't perfect but fans of the series will find His Name Was Jason to be a welcome and ncere appreciation of one of horror-dom's most enduring franchises.
While horror films historically never find much critical support, from the beginning the Friday the 13th films have been more disparaged than most. Whereas other horror franchises have at least a clasc first outing to their name, a film that fans and critics agree is exceptional - like the first Halloween, the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the first A Nightmare on Elm Street (even the first Saw earned some accolades) - Friday the 13th doesn't have that. Even though the Sean Cunningham-directed original was a sleeper smash in its day, it's never found any appreciation among critics - after all these years, it's still strictly the fans who continue to embrace that first film and the series as a whole.
The reason fans love the Friday films and critics hate them is likely one and the same - Friday the 13th is all about embracing the art of the kill. It's not about suspense; it's not about mind-bending twists. Friday the 13th made its name by bringing gore to the people. Friday the 13th was the vehicle that allowed splatter FX to penetrate into mainstream culture and for that contribution to the world, fans can't withhold their gratitude and critics can't stop being indignant.
Friday the 13th didn't invent gore FX by any measure - years before there had been H.G. Lewis' infamous films of the '60s and early '70s but unless you frequented the drive-ins in the Deep South, chances are you weren't familiar with the likes of Blood Feast. And while some horror fans were steeped enough in foreign fare to be familiar with a much-cited antecedent of Friday the 13th - Mario Bava's 1971 Twitch of the Death Nerve - that film also hadn't reached a broader audience. The Omen films of the '70s popularized the 'body count' sub-genre, in which the movie's plot was all about facilitating a series of spectacular demises but those deaths - while sometimes bloody - were usually steeped in outrageous happenings like malfunctioning elevators rather than, say, a man dragging a machete across a victim's exposed throat. Tom Savini's groundbreaking work in 1978's Dawn of the Dead kicked the door open for splatter in a big way but with its unrated status and independent distribution, it was more of a midnight movie than a mainstream success. Savini's subsequent work on Friday the 13th may have been much tamer in comparison to Dawn but it was dramatically more graphic than what mainstream audiences were then accustomed to - and when Paramount picked up Friday the 13th and gave it a wide release with heavy promotion in the summer of 1980, that's when everything changed for a generation of horror fans. The Friday the 13th films instantly became the 'gateway' drug that weaned many kids into a lifelong love of gore FX. When fans recount their favorite Fridays or their favorite moments from each film, it's always first and foremost about celebrating the most inventive, ingenious, and brutal kills. And that's an aspect to the Friday films that its opponents will never be wholly comfortable with.
As fans themselves, the makers of His Name Was Jason have so such hangs-ups and they - as well as this doc's many interviewees - understand that the Friday the 13th films are not grim or psychologically ponderous. They're all about fun - a grisly kind of fun, perhaps, but fun nonetheless. In covering the long-running series, the makers of His Name Was Jason have adopted (with mixed results) a looser, more scattershot approach than the chronological approach taken by Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. The events of the Friday films to date are quickly recalled in the first fourteen minutes or so with the remaining bulk of the documentary addresng the recurring stock elements that every Friday film has to include - the many hapless victims, the rare relient survivors, the gore FX, the T&A, and Jason himself - and the remake's cast and crew discuss their ambitions to revive Jason for a new audience.
Starting with the appropriate choice of FX guru Tom Savini as host (with his segments filmed on the grounds of Universal Studios Hollywood's Friday the 13th: Camp Blood attraction), many fondly remembered faces make appearances here. Every film in the series is represented by select cast members and behind the scenes talent who share their stories. One of the great pleasures of His Name Was Jason is in being reacquainted with actors and actresses who most viewers haven't seen in many years. Bedes the actual anecdotes being recounted, it's a thrill all its own to see how the years have treated people who - by and large - retired from the limelight after their stints at Camp Crystal Lake. The pasng years show on some more than others but it's terrific to see everyone who's assembled here - especially in light of those no longer with us, such as Friday the 13th's Laurie Bartram (Brenda), Rex Everhart (the truck driver) Walt Gorney (doomsayer extraordinaire Crazy Ralph), Part 2's Tom McBride (Mark, the wheelchair victim), Part III's Steve Susskind (slobbish shop owner Harold), and A New Beginning's Mark Venturini (the ax-wielding Vic, who triggered that film's events by slaughtering hapless Joey).
Among the many contributors to the series who are still alive and well, there are some misng faces from this doc that His Name Was Jason feels frustratingly incomplete without. Although I'm sure the filmmakers sought out these gentlemen's involvement, without the input of key players like Part 2 and 3 director Steve Miner, producer Frank Mancuso Jr. (who guided not just all the Paramount sequels but the Friday the 13th TV series, sans Jason, as well) and Part 2 writer Ron Kurz (who was brought into the world of Friday the 13th through his connection with the series' original Boston-based financial backers) a crucial aspect of the series' development is under-represented. The most important entries in the series in regards to its longevity are Parts 2 and 3 - those are the films that made Friday the 13th into a durable franchise - and with no one to authoritatively comment on the creative decions made in those films (such as the choice to install Jason as the killer when Cunningham was against making the character anything more than an element of Alice's dream, and the choice to continue to stick to the familiar body count formula when early discusons on Part 3 involved a potentially more psychological approach with Amy Steel's character in a mental hospital), there's inevitably a major gap in His Name Was Jason that keeps it from being definitive. To have the director of Parts 2 and 3 be nowhere to be found but yet the banana-eating hitchhiker from The Final Chapter is there to reminisce only points out the highly random quality of the participants.
Another debit against His Name Was Jason - to the fault of Paramount, rather than to the filmmakers - is the frustrating lack of any uncut footage. The double impaling from Part 2 is discussed but yet the misng footage isn't represented. Bedes that scene, the unused alternative ending to Part III, the post-mortem discovery of Joan Freeman's mother character from The Final Chapter (along with a dream sequence that was supposed to end that film), and the many truncated kills from A New Blood are all stuff of legend to fans and with not a ngle clip shown from these cut scenes in His Name Was Jason, it's seems clear that Paramount will never inconvenience themselves to locate this footage - despite the long-standing demand for it.
Ade from those directly involved in the series, a full roster of genre filmmakers and journalists - such as Hatchet director Adam Green, Wrong Turn 2 director Joe Lynch, Fangoria's Tony Timpone, Dread Central's Uncle Creepy, and STYD's own Ryan Rotten among others - are also called on to supply their own inghts on the series. The most curious interviewee is actor James Roday, who plays Shawn Spencer on the USA Network series Psych. As the only non-genre figure to be interviewed, his presence here is hard to figure.
If you're looking for the definitive source for Friday the 13th lore, Peter M. Bracke's indispensable book Crystal Lake Memories wins the golden machete. That remains the more illuminating chronicle (for example, the notable contribution to the series from the late Phil Scuderi - one of the three owners of the Boston-based theater chain Esquire Theaters who funded the first Friday and maintained control in the early sequels - is one that would entirely fall between the cracks of history without Bracke's book and the testimony from the likes of screenwriter Ron Kurz). But as a celebratory overview of the series - and not quite the “ultimate retrospective” �s touted as - His Name Was Jason is a choice cut of its own.
The Men Behind The Mask: Sharing space with the full-length documentary on disc one is a collection of solo interviews with every actor who has played Jason over the years. These offer some good moments, even for fans familiar with all the facts of the series. The best of the bunch are Part 2's Steve Daskawicz (aka Steve Dash) and The Final Chapter's Ted White, who aren't shy about dishing dirt (White amungly confesses to a having a vehement dislike of Corey Feldman during Final Chapter's shoot). And the latest Jason, Derek Mears, evinces a true enthuasm for the role.
Final Cuts: Solo interviews with all the directors, save for Miner and Ronny Yu. All interviewed offer affable and candid commentary on their respective entries in the series, including Tom McLoughlin discusng his scripted but never filmed attempt to introduce Jason's father into the series and Adam Marcus revealing Sean Cunningham's MacGyver-esque ability to turn a Shop-Vac into an air cannon.
From Script To Screen: This extra contains interviews with some notable Jason scribes past and present. The original's Victor Miller, Final Chapter's Barney Cohen, Jason X's Todd Farmer, and Freddy vs. Jason and the remake's writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift all speak about their contributions to the franchise. Jason X's Todd Farmer is the most forthright of the bunch, venting about his disappointment in how his screenplay for Jason X was altered along the way to diminished results.
Dragged from the Lake: A random grab bag of further reminiscences. These are mostly humorous - such as pondering the contents of Shelly's lunch pail. But amid the fun, Adrienne King offers an emotional recollection of her traumatic dealings with a stalker as well as her eventual embrace of the series and her part in its legacy.
Fan Films: A collection of four fan films, all going for laughs (like Freddy vs. Jason in 30 Seconds with Bunnies) rather than splatter or scares.
Clong the Book on The Final Chapter: Director Joe Zito takes us on a stroll through the Jarvis house from The Final Chapter along with actor E. Erich Anderson who played the ill-fated Jason hunter Rob. The Jarvis home looks uncannily unchanged from twenty-five years ago and Zito and Anderson offer plenty of behind-the-scenes trivia from the shoot, including Ted White's instructions to Kimberly Beck to not hold back during their fight scenes, Zito's decion not to show Joan Freeman's death, and the fact that a young double was hired to shave their head in place of Corey Feldman who wore a bald cap for the scene where he has to impersonate Jason.
Fox Comes Home: Actress Gloria Charles (Fox) returns to the locations where Part 3 was shot. The area is pretty dilapidated these days (the barn is still intact but the house burned to the ground, leaving nothing but stone steps) but it's a kick to take a present-day stroll through such ghts as the dock where Jason first strolled in to movie history with his hockey mask on.
Friday the 13th in 4 Minutes: Adam Green, Joe Lynch, and Steve 'Uncle Creepy' Barton recount the entire Friday saga in humorously compressed detail.
Jason Takes Comic-Con: From the floor of last year's Comic-Con, the folks from Dread Central interview F13 '09 stars Derek Mears and Amanda Righetti, along with producer Brad Fuller who all show a commitment to doing right by the series.
The Camp Crystal Lake Survival Guide: Helpful hints on how to survive your time at Camp Blood, including such gems as "hiding in a sleeping bag won't make Jason go away."
Inde Halloween Horror Nights: This is a 7-minute walk-through of the Universal Studios Hollywood Friday the 13th: Camp Blood attraction, as hosted by creative director John Murdy. This is such a detail-orientated production that the barn set from Friday Part 3 comes complete with the smell of manure and on the set of a recreation of the double-penetration from Part 2, condom packages are scattered on the nearby nightstand. Of course, as every fan knows, at Camp Blood there's no such thing as safe sex.
Shelly Lives!: Finally, we vit actor Larry Zerner in a comical short that spoofs his post Part 3 life as an entertainment lawyer, here repring his role of Shelly as a defender of slasher victims' rights in a faux-commercial complete with some famous props littering the background and the return of a fellow Part 3 victim.
That does it for this exhaustive two-disc extravaganza. Even without the participation of some essential figures from the history of Friday the 13th and the continued absence of any uncut footage from the Paramount vaults, this is a must-have for fans of the franchise and the look ahead it contains to the remake is enough to suggest that the best may be yet to come for Crystal Lake's favorite son.