Thursday, 7 January 2016

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)

Back in 1974 movie goers got a taste of the first real horror icon that would go on to become bigger than the franchise he first appeared in. I refer of course to the chainsaw wielding man-child, Leatherface. This large, imposing maniac with his huge weapon of death turned the horror world upside down and kinda introduced the lumbering mask wearing killer. Now even though I don't believe there is a connection between Leatherface and Jason, I can't help but feel that the 1974 cannibal did have an influence on the Crystal Lake killer, amongst others. Up next in 1978 was the John Carpenter classic 'Halloween' which again changed everything. As we all know this movie introduced us to yet another iconic killer in the form of the mask wearing Michael Myers. Just two years later in 1980, and influenced by the silent Myers, the low budget slasher movie 'Friday the 13th' (kinda) gave birth to Jason Voorhees, or at least planted the seed which would eventually spawn the Jason we all know and love today.

Back in 2010 Wes Craven's iconic horror creation A Nightmare on Elm Street got a huge 4 hour documentary covering every aspect of the franchise, every movie, everything, up until the remake (which wasn't covered). There have also been a few solid docs based on Michael Myers and the Halloween franchise, so it was inevitable that Victor Miller's creation would get its own huge epic making of. This gigantic documentary also covers every aspect of the Friday the 13th franchise, every movie right up to the 2009 reboot/remake, including the short lived TV series, and chatting with virtually every person involved with the franchise, obviously including directors, stuntmen and makeup artists. Add to this tonnes of behind the scenes pictures, cut scenes, outtakes, clips, design work on effects, props and outfits, location information etc...This is the ultimate encyclopedia of knowledge for this movie franchise.

This marathon of horror kicks off in the capable hands of the one and only Corey Feldman...indeed. Yep a downright obviously, heavily, fake tanned Feldman (almost looking orange!) sits around a dark spooky campfire with a bunch of other faceless people. Yep you guessed it, the idea here being he's telling the others all about the fable of Jason and Camp Crystal Lake, I believe they are all supposed to actually be at the lake, ingenious huh. Feldman actually narrates the entire documentary and to be honest, he does a good job with it, he never acts stupid or anything,  he narrates sensibly with a much respect. I'm just not too sure why we needed the crappy campfire set sequences that bookend the doc, very cheesy, very obvious.

Unsurprisingly the documentary starts off right at the beginning with the first movie and naturally with all involved with its initial setup. People such as Sean S. Cunningham (looking like Michael Bay), Tom Savini, Vic Miller etc...You are taken through virtually every process in the creation and development of each movie, discussions on characters, casting, effects, scripts...the whole enchilada. Most of this is obviously in interview form with the various people whilst you are hit with lots of pictures and behind the scenes footage.  Every concern and notion appears to be discussed from the tiniest detail to the largest problem, stories from people both behind the camera and in front of the camera, for all of the movies (including people in small roles, cameos and all the blokes that played Jason). Depending how knowledgeable you are on the franchise will presumably determine how much you discover and enjoy what is brought up. Each of the movies are explored in separate chapters and tend to run for around the same amount of time depending, although some have more gritty info than others.

For example in the first 13th movie, the entire sequence of Jason popping up in the finale was merely a joke, a visual gag to shock with no real intentions by anyone to take the character forward. In fact this finale was supposedly a rip-off from the 'Carrie' movie finale, no one ever suspected a franchise would spawn from the movie, so it was just thrown in there. It was also interesting and amusing to find out that Ebert and Siskel both hated the first movie, offering scathing reviews and warning how dangerous it was to women and any young people watching. After much success with the original, in part 2 the basic story makes no real sense. The rights had been purchased by Frank Mancuso Sr. of Paramount and they had big plans for the newborn franchise, a movie every year. Despite concerns from some people it was insisted that Jason Voorhees be brought back into the fray even though his character wasn't really part of the original movie.

In part III the infamous hockey mask is first introduced into the franchise (I guess that became popular then huh) and the movie was originally released in 3D. In part IV the actor playing Jason (Ted White) really disliked the young bratty child star Feldman and wanted to actually kill him, plus director Joseph Zito was very harsh on the cast resulting in Judie Aronson developing hypothermia. Part V didn't see the return of Feldman even though he actually really wanted to do it. He was already filming 'The Goonies' so was only able to make a brief cameo. Part VI was the best movie of the bunch for me, I think visually it looked terrific, Jason is at his absolute prime here and it stars horror cult icon Thom Matthews. Its still corny as fuck for sure, but its the epitome of the 80's horror bound action genre if you ask me, its nearly flawless for all round trashy gore.

Part VII was originally supposed to be the giant clash of horror icons with Freddy entering the fray, alas that didn't happen after the studios failed to come to an agreement. So instead the powers that be simply threw in a second rate Carrie-esque type character for Jason to fight. Obviously it wasn't the actual Stephen King created character, but lets be frank here, she looked pretty darn close. Part VIII was easily the weakest concept (for the time), we've run out of ideas so lets just have stick Jason in New York, voila! It added nothing new accept for a city backdrop, but again it was pretty damn 80's which was sweet. Part IX was never known as part IX because of rights issues, hence it became 'The Final Friday' with a complete reboot of the Jason mythology. Again Jason v Freddy was originally thrown around, but instead it became a story about a demon possessing bodies or whatever. Finally it comes to part X, the greatest, tackiest idea ever...actually played out, Jason goes into space and also becomes half Terminator (sort of), best synopsis ever. Eventually we got Freddy v Jason and in all honesty, it wasn't that bad. Ronny Yu seemed an odd choice for director, Hodder was controversially dropped introducing Ken Kirzinger as Jason, there was no Wes Craven, and Pinhead of the Hellraiser franchise was at one point a possibility as was Corey Feldman. Finally this endurance test ends with the reboot, the Michael Bay produced reboot that no one really wanted and the director didn't seem overly bothered about.

Overall from what I can tell, over the franchise, all the movies (or most of them) appear to have plenty of reshot/edited scenes for either time constraints or their graphic nature. There are also numerous cut or alternate endings for some of the movies along with tonnes of alternate ideas either at the writing stage or beyond. As I've already said, your enjoyment will come down to how much you already know, I have only skimmed over a small fraction for the purposes of my review. I'm willing to bet even the most ardent Jason fan won't know everything mentioned here, surely there will be some intriguing surprises for some. Either way this is still an excellent documentary that covers nearly everything (I would imagine). Actually the book which came out in 2005 (same title) supposedly includes even more information, more dirty secrets that for some reason haven't been covered here, or were but maybe cut? To be honest there were so many stories of negativity between various people over various things throughout the franchise I wouldn't be surprised if certain things were cut or deliberately not included. So maybe this isn't the ultimate inside look at the franchise, maybe the book is, nevertheless, this is still a worthy edition to any fanboys collection.