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

 

CRYSTAL 001CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY 13th (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Corey Feldman, Kane Hodder, Sean S. Cunningham, John Buechler

Written by: Peter Bracke (book), Daniel Farrands

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £14.99

UK DVD Region: 0

Runtime: 400 minutes

Directed by: Daniel Farrands

UK Release Date: 9th June 2014

Distributor: Stax Entertainment

Daniel Farrands began his career in the film industry by scripting the much derided sixth entry in the Halloween series – The Curse of Michael Myers (though admittedly I’m quite fond of it), before then adapting the horrific Jack Ketchum novel The Girl Next Door. Since then however he’s gone on to build quite a reputation for detailed horror themed documentaries. He directed the excellent Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, while the prior year found him shooting His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday 13th. With that in mind it’s worth asking the question of why another Jason themed documentary? The simple answer is there is A LOT to tell, and with a 400 (!) minute running time this project manages to cover everything without once feeling padded out.

I guess if you spent your formative years in the 90s, the Friday 13th movies have always just existed to the degree that you often take them for granted. Even though I own each one, when you sit back and think that there’s TWELVE feature films and a three season TV show under the Friday 13th banner you realise that to tell the story from beginning to (potential) end is quite some achievement. Farrands has somehow managed to interview somewhere in the region of ONE HUNDRED cast members, directors, stuntmen, writers and producers in order to give a faithful retrospective of the horror franchise.

CRYSTAL 002We open with the comforting face of Corey Feldman who will be our narrator through the documentary, and as expected we initially learn about creator Sean S. Cunningham and his early years of directing the occasional softcore film before going on to get his big break as a producer of Last House on the Left. A solid 40 minutes is given over to the background of the first movie as we learn that the modus operandi was simply “rip off Halloween” before it moves on to detail the casting of a largely unknown cast, the hiring of make-up wizard Tom Savini, and the role Harry Manfredini played in creating the iconic score.

Each segment on the various movie chapters never outstays its welcome despite a solid half hour and more being given to each sequel. With Part Two the departures of director and cast is discussed as well as the prominent role of Frank Mancuso Jr, while Part Three sees in the 3D phenomenon and the return of Steve Miner. Part Four we have what many regard to be their favourite sequel with the addition of Joseph Zito as director not to mention the hiring of Corey Feldman to play Tommy Jarvis and the return of Tom Savini. Part Five however is a largely negative affair, and here is where the documentary gains great credibility. It doesn’t airbrush history and actors’ problems with director Danny Steinmann are openly discussed, such as his somewhat sleazy nature when directing the sex scenes and his generally unapproachable demeanour.

Part Six levels the accusation that it’s poor box office was largely due to the disappointment of the previous sequel, while Part Seven examines John Carl Buechler’s many issues with the MPAA due his penchant for gore as well as the welcome sight of Kane Hodder stepping into Jason shoes for the first time. Part Eight mocks the amount of time that was actually spent filming in Manhattan while with Part Nine we see the jump to New Line as well as the frustration of not being able to secure the rights of the Friday 13th name. In Jason X we see the series go in a brand new direction and one that ultimately failed, while Freddy vs Jason analyses the coming together of two of modern horrors most infamous icons. The remake is also discussed to a broad extent, but that’s something I personally can’t really dwell on!

CRYSTAL 003It’s impossible to quantify 400 minutes of endlessly fascinating information as well as to put across the unbridled pleasure of listening to people that you barely know telling engaging stories and reminiscing on the time they spent shooting these movies. What I can say is that despite my initial reservations on the running time, by the end I just sat despondently on my sofa pining for more. Granted, you can point out the few frustrations of this piece such as the absence of people like Kevin Bacon and Crispin Glover – but it’s a minor gripe that I’m presuming little could be done about. What’s more important is the fact that this documentary made me realise just how passionately I love these little slasher flicks, and as Corey sat around the campfire narrating the story, he made me feel like I was sat on the log next to him toasting marshmallows and waiting for Jason to emerge from the shadows.

8.5 out of 10

 

Jason X (2002) Review

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Jason X (2002) Review:

Original Release date: (International,  April 26 2002)

Directed by: James Isaac

Starring: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Peter Mensah

Available now on DVD from New Line Cinema

Jason X shouldn’t exist.  It’s the kind of super sequel that you could imagine a group of Hollywood screen writers all sat around planning, deciding what to do with an aging franchise. There’s the obligatory reboot, perhaps a prequel, and then eventually one bored writer would pipe up with an idea like “Hey, let’s set  it in space!” , before laughing and going back to the drawing board. Fortunately for horror fans however this last part never happened.

From its initial premise all the way through until the credits roll Jason X feels like a joke that got out of hand, like a few filmmakers seeing how far they could take the punch line before a producer somewhere stopped them. What makes Jason X such a hugely fun and special film is that those filmmakers were never stopped; they were allowed to produce what can only be described as a film that is simultaneously one of the best, and worst slasher movies of the last decade. It’s a film that showcases just how enjoyable and utterly ridiculous the slasher genre can let itself become.

Jason X shouldn’t exist, but we’re lucky it does.

Opening in the ‘near future’ of 2008, everyone’s favourite hockey masked killer Jason Voorhees ( a welcome return for legend Kane Hodder) has found himself captured by the American Military who are performing experiments on the giant to reveal the secret behind his apparent immortality. After almost escaping from the brilliantly named ‘Crystal Lake Research Facility’ Jason is placed into a cryogenic sleep by plucky scientist Rowan Lafontaine (Doig) who finds herself frozen along with him.  Cut to the year 2455 and Jason and Lafontaine are discovered by an archaeology team exploring the now polluted and destroyed earth.

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To cover much more of the narrative would spoil a large part of the fun of Jason X, not only because there isn’t much more plot on offer but because watching the tale of Nano machines, robots and dismemberment unfold is ridiculously good fun.  Half of what makes Jason X so enjoyable is watching in twisted pleasure at just how ridiculous the film makers are willing to make the entire experience. Luckily however the lunacy is delivered with enough skill and clear love for the source material that Jason X is heightened to the status of ‘cult classic’ and not ‘shameless cash-in’. It’s not going to win any awards, it’s not particularly well written or even well-acted but Jason X is earnest enough to get away with being a “bad movie” because it’s such a fun experience.

There were a few times during my 90 minute love affair with Jason X that I felt a massive Joss Whedon (of Buffy the vampire Slayer and more recently Avengers Assemble fame)  vibe. There’s a kind of lighthearted approach to the film that makes it all the more enjoyable, like the filmmakers are in on the joke too so it’s okay to laugh without feeling too bad.
The plot manages to nod at Sci Fi favourites such as ‘The Matrix’  and ‘Aliens’  while delivering a number of brilliantly brutal kill scenes, the staple of any great slasher . In fact the now infamous ‘frozen head’ kill in Jason X is one of my personal favourites in all of horror cinema.  The whole film is packed with enough blood and guts to satisfy all but the most sadistic of gore hounds, and the Sci Fi setting is a breath of fresh air in a genre packed with deserted schools and murky swamps.

I can’t stress enough just how much of a treat Jason X is. It may be a cheesy treat that is pretty bad for your health, but that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable, and it owes a lot of its guilty pleasure factor to its Sci Fi setting.
While it may get a lot right, there are some elements of Jason X that seem out of place in a cinematic release.  Although the film had a proper studio budget the whole thing has this kind of low visual quality which makes Jason X look more like a particularly gory episode of Farscape than a full blown movie.  This isn’t a major issue, and indeed a lot of the cinematography and special effects are perfectly serviceable for most of the movie , it just a shame that some parts of Jason X look more like a porno than a slasher flick.  It’s simply a film stock quality issue however and in a way it just adds to the films’ campy, B movie charm.

Along with the questionable cinematography Jason X suffers from some pretty awful performances, outside of the core cast most of the actors seem like their either phoning it in or are so inexperienced they shouldn’t be in front of a camera. Of course this isn’t a huge issue when most of these people are going to be brutally assaulted by a now ‘hi-tech’ Jason Voorhees but for the few scenes where these people are trying to portray real emotions or deliver dialogue, it’s all very cringe worthy.

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It’s hard to be too tough on Jason X. I love the film for what it is, a silly and completely brainless slasher flick that’s doing its best to cater to fans of the franchise. The negative elements of the film like the bad acting, laughable set design and low fi visuals are what I want out of a film like Jason X.  They all combine together to make a film that feels like a true B movie slasher, the kind that was pioneered by the Friday the 13th franchise.  It was for that reason that I felt right at home with the shameless entertainment that is Jason X .What’s amazing about the film is that even though it was filmed in a new millennium it stands side by side with the other Friday the 13th movies, if this is a good thing or not depends purely on your tastes as a horror fan.

We’ve seen the character in his ‘gritty remake’ and it just felt soulless.  Jason X gives Voorhees his big, bloody and bombastic send-off (the ending of the film is truly a sight to behold) that will please diehard fans and series newcomers alike, I loved Jason X when I first watched it and  ten years on it’s still able to put a smile on my face.

8/10

Friday 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) Review

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FRIDAY 13th Part VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
Dir. Rob Hedden                 96 mins
Paramount Home Entertainment

As part of July’s SLASHER month on UKHS, us toiling writers were given the exciting challenge of three slasher themed reviews. I did my first last week with Humongous featuring as a slasher that I’d always wanted to see but never got round to. This is part two – a favourite slasher. The word to emphasise here is undoubtedly ‘a’. Friday 13th Part: VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (or F13:VIII for the sake of my word limit) is far from my favourite slasher – but it is ‘a’ favourite simply because it took my slasher cherry.

You always remember your first time, and with it being with Jason it makes it even more vivid. Imagine it, a 13 year old teenager home alone with the big box Paramount release of F13: VIII on VHS. It’s undoubtedly the film that takes sole credit for me wasting… sorry, having my life enhanced for the last 23 years by daily interactions with horror films of every sub-genre, but predominantly slasher movies.

With an opening credit sequence that firmly shouts “this is the 80s”, we join high school students Jim and Suzie aboard a boat cruising Camp Crystal Lake where Jim handily provides us / his girlfriend with a brief yet informative back-story of Jason Vorhees. At this point we are about to embark on the greatest re-animation sequence in movie history. As the boat drifts along, it happens to snag an electricity cable lying on the bed of the lake causing it to rupture, sparks fly everywhere including onto the rotting corpse of Jason Vorhees who is jolted into life. It is indeed a miracle.

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Jason however appears to be without his mask. Fear not though, Jim up on the boat there happens to have a spare hockey mask with him that he’s left lying about after trying to scare Suzie with his fabled Vorhees impression, and it’s not long before the legendary killer had seized possession of it and is masked and ready for murder. Needless to say poor Jim and Suzie are victims #1 and #2, and we progress on to the crux of the story and the voyage of the SS Lazarus and its passengers who are graduating students from Lakeview High School. There’s some great characters amongst them too, including a crazy rock chick with a penchant for on deck guitar solos, and a nerdy guy who’s insistent on recording a video diary. It is 1989 though, so the video camera he carries around is about three times the size of his head.

The voyage progresses but not before some cautious words from a Crazy Ralph imitating naysayer who announces “this voyage is DOOMED”. Thankfully no-one listens and we engage in 90 minutes of  slasher gold as the trip, as expected, grinds to a halt mid-point due to several casualties. The few survivors manage to row ashore which happens to be New York City, to engage in a very memorable finale.

This isn’t a good film. It has some of the most convenient exposition you could imagine, terrible acting, and has also dated immeasurably. That said, even all these years later it’s a really fun watch. Kane Hodder is awesome as Jason Vorhees, as he always was with that intimidating frame, an aspect often missing from contemporary horror. The ingenuity of the kills is great as well which is some achievement considering we’re on the eighth film in the series.

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Overall though, even after so many years I’m still very happy to call this a favourite horror of mine. It’s an ideal starting point for the newbie horror fan too, although admittedly that may also be from the point of view “if you can get through this, you can get through anything”. 1989 was not a vintage year for horror, and this exemplifies why, in saying that though that’s also what makes F13: VIII a cheese-fest worth watching.

Actual Rating – 4 out of 10
Dave’s Biased Rating – 9 out of 10