DVD & Blu-ray Review: Friday The 13th – Parts 1 Through X

jasonboxsetWith the re-release of the original film on Blu-ray, the first home video release of Friday The 13th Part 3 in ACTUAL 3D, and the remake of the original film hitting theaters this week, I thought it might be interesting to look at each movie in the series, as well as some of the different versions available for home viewers.

Cuz’ I like Jason Voorhees… he makes me smile.

SPOILER ALERT: Because many of the films in this series feel the need to explain their way out of plotlines from previous films, and because the very titles of subsequent movies can be spoilers, I’m letting you know in advance: I’m going to give you some spoilers. I’ll try to avoid some of the major plot points, but let’s face it, if you like these films you’re not terribly interested in compelling story arcs. I’m also not going to cover Freddy Vs. Jason. Although it’s not bad, I saw it as more of a Freddy film, with an extended cameo by Jason Voorhees.

Introduction: Slashers 101

I’m a slasher movie addict. I’ve seen a disturbing amount of these films, and there are definitely standouts in the genre.

Personal favorites My Bloody Valentine (recently remade, sadly) and April Fool’s Day (apparently in the process of being remade) never had the staying power of other slasher fare, but if you’re into this kind of movie, you should check into them. Not having an instantly identifiable killer probably doomed these titles to single releases, but on the bright side, without sequels they never degenerated to ridiculous excess (*ahem* Have you SEEN Halloween: Resurrection?) Both films are available separately, or if you want to double up on some great scares, you can get both on one disk for one LOW price. Do it… do it now… you won’t regret it.

That being said, the most popular slasher films have always been the Halloween and Friday The 13th series, and comparisons are inevitable.

Where John Carpenter’s Halloween films (parts 1, 2, and to a much lesser extent 3) have always been the ‘classy’ 80’s slasher flicks, Friday The 13th has maintained a position of carefully crafted camp and cheese. Originally planned as a blatant ripoff of the previously mentioned Halloween, Friday The 13th became a successful series in it’s own right, quickly distinguishing itself from just another ‘me too’ exploitation vehicle.

When you want steak, you watch the first two Halloween films, when you want a cheeseburger… you go with Jason Voorhees. I like them both, but for different reasons, and for different moods.

Ultimately, I would be doing Tobe Hooper a great disservice if I didn’t mention that the entire genre exists because of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Give the man some credit, even if his more recent films like Mortuary are frighteningly bad (no pun intended).

Enough of my historical pondering… let’s talk about Friday The 13th.

Friday The 13th

Take a struggling director, just trying to feed his family (Sean S. Cunningham), a handful of no-name New York actors, one relatively big name (Broadway’s Betsy Palmer), a motivated make-up artist (Tom Savini) and send them into the New Jersey woods to make a Halloween ripoff. Before Jason became an icon, this film worked on a deeper psychological level, not relying on blood and guts as much, and threading a decent murder mystery into the mix. Undoubtedly, the first film is the best of the series.

In case you were wondering, that IS a very young Kevin Bacon getting an arrow through the throat.

You should avoid earlier DVD releases, many of which had a poor video transfer and substandard audio. If you really want to appreciate the film, you’ll want the Uncut releases, which include several featurettes and a commentary track. If you’re just wanting a decent print of the film, and extras aren’t your thing,  you’ll want to get the film as part of the ‘From Crystal Lake To Manhattan’ box set.

Links:

Friday the 13th Uncut [Blu-ray]

Friday the 13th Uncut [DVD]

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th Part 2

Introducing the TRUE legacy of Jason Voorhees (his first appearance as the actual killer), this sequel still carries the weight of shooting on location in New Jersey… trust me, when compared to the later films shot in California, it makes a difference. The opening scene, tying up loose ends from the first film is almost worth the price of admission alone. Amy Steel (who later went on to star in April Fool’s Day) stands out as our virginal female protagonist, although the film gets just a little weird when she puts on Mrs. Voorhees sweater. Also, in a bizarre twist, when Jason is unmasked (he’s wearing a potato sack with one eye-hole, this is pre-hockey mask) we find he’s a deformed hillbilly.

Regardless, this is the darkest of the series, and a good film overall.

A new DVD release of Part 2 has just hit shelves, and aside from being loaded with special features, it also has a superior video transfer.

Get the new release, or get it in the box set (without special features), but whether you’re a completionist or just looking to cherry pick the best of these movies, you’ll want to get this one.

Links:

Friday the 13th, Part 2 [DVD]

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th Part 3 – In 3D

Here’s where things start to go pear-shaped (as the brits would say). Significant in Friday The 13th lore because it marks the first appearance of Jason in a hockey mask, and because of it’s original 3D release… well… other than that, this movie is just plain bad. Frequently degenerating to staged gimmicks to ‘enhance’ the film for 3D viewers, it’s pretty much without substance (and that’s saying a lot for the genre). Indicating the crew’s inexperience with shooting 3D footage, you’ll encounter many scenes and setups where the cameras were obviously pointed at the wrong spot, 3D effects produce double vision, and serious image ghosting plagues the picture (when viewed in 3D). Add to that a few hysterically funny performances (unintentionally funny) and a B-grade makeup department (when Jason pops someone’s eye out, watch for the spring), and you’ve got the makings of a film that’s only saving graces are purely comedic.

I challenge you to watch Dana Kimmell’s performance as she relates how she ran across Jason one dark night… and lived to tell the tale. If you can make it through the poorly written dialogue, and her community theater delivery without laughing, you’re a better person than I am.

If you’re just looking for the gems in the Friday The 13th pantheon, feel free to skip this one.

Otherwise, if you’re determined to watch this pile of crap (preferably after a few beers), you need to decide whether you want it in 2D, or in it’s original 3D format. Fortunately, the 3D Edition also includes the 2D version, so if you can live without spring-loaded eyeballs (kinda) flying off the screen, and you’re interested in the box set, you can get it there.

Links:

Friday the 13th, Part 3 3-D

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th – The Final Chapter

Absolutely unremarkable in any way, this entry really is the Final Chapter to an extent. Jason finally gets his, and (believe it or not) for the first time actually DIES. From here on out, when you see Jason, he’s no longer an abnormally strong mongoloid guy with anger issues… he’s supernatural. The introduction of a professional ‘Jason Hunter’ is used for little more than exposition and an excuse to use some archival footage to pad the length of the picture. If you’re going to watch this one at all, do it to see a VERY young Corey Feldman playing Tommy, a boy with some serious emotional issues. Also of note, Crispin Glover makes an appearance in an outrageously funny party scene. What makes it funny? Crispin dances.

Yes, his dancing is THAT funny.

Maybe you’re a completionist and you want the whole collection, or maybe you’re a huge Crispin Glover fan… either way, I’ll include the links just in case.

Links:

Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th – A New Beginning

Would you believe this is one of my favorites in the series? Not a lot of acting firepower, but a decent script, and probably the best overall story since the first film. Tommy (the emotionally whacked kid from the last movie) has grown up, and he still has problems coping with things. You’d think that being the guy that rid the world of a notorious serial killer would be an esteem builder.

Tommy has some disturbing visions, and people start to die.

Is Tommy turning into the next Jason, or has Jason returned from the grave? Could it be some third thing I’m not mentioning? You’ll have to watch it to find out.

Some diehard fans despise A New Beginning. Me? I like it a lot. They should quit whining.

Links:

Friday the 13th, Part V – A New Beginning

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th Part VI – Jason Lives

Here’s where the series went from just TOYING with the idea of being campy, and embraced it fully. It didn’t just embrace it, it kissed it full on the mouth, even slipping it a little tongue.

And it worked.

Tommy (still grown up, still messed up) is not yet convinced Jason is dead… so he decides to dig up the body and burn it. Through a freak accident with lightning and a fence post, Jason becomes Zombie Jason.

Now that Mr. Voorhees is a card carrying member of the Undead, the murders are more spectacular, and the lengths people must go to in order to stop him become even more outrageous.

This is the Jason Voorhees that most people are familiar with: a shambling, half-burned, skeletal reaper. As bizarre as all that sounds, it freed the series up to make the character larger than life, without the conventional restraints of… you know… being mortal.

A soundtrack by Alice Cooper, a larger budget, and a distinct visual style that was lacking in previous films makes this one of the better Friday movies. Catch it.

Links:

Friday the 13th, Part VI – Jason Lives

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th Part VII – The New Blood

Ok… so by now you’ve figured out that Zombie Jason can’t be killed, right? So in this installment a young girl named Tina has psychic/telekinetic powers, and she manages to accidentally release Jason from his watery imprisonment. She has to right the wrong.

Got it?

Not one of my favorites in the series, but it’s not bad. Really, it’s only for collector’s or a rental.

Links:

Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Friday The 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan

The last Friday movie that easily fits within ‘canon’. From here, it gets a little weird.

A boatload of college kids head for New York to party, via Crystal Lake (huh?!?). In the process they inadvertently release Jason (again). Mr. Voorhees takes a pleasure cruise, slicing and dicing his way to the Big Apple, before meeting an untimely demise at the hands of a ham-fisted environmental message. Seriously… the scene with the ‘Rocker’ antics while playing an unplugged guitar (while obviously never actually holding an instrument before) pretty much sum up the entire film: you don’t know what you’re doing, get off the stage.

Slasher movie… you’re doing it wrong.

Links:

Friday the 13th, Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan

Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan [DVD Box Set]

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

Oh HELL no! After several years of legal wrangling, buying and selling of the rights, and complete mismanagement of the franchise… we get this turd.

The movie opens with some promise. Naked girl showering? Check! Jason chasing previously mentioned naked girl through the woods? Check! Military squad leaping out of the trees and blowing Jason into tiny, tiny pieces? Ch… Hey wait!

And that’s the last you see of our intrepid zombie, until the very last scene of the film.

Apparently Jason’s evil cannot be contained, so when the coroner (trying to figure out exactly which one of the four thousand bullets actually killed Jason) eats Mr. Voorhees heart, he becomes possessed. Yeah, I get late night munchies too, but I don’t think I’m going to chow down on a zombie heart any time soon.

At any rate, this possession can be passed from person to person, like a cold, or socialism.

The rest of the film passes through a string of ordinary people being possessed and doing the dirty work. There’s also a cameo by Freddy Krueger, a vagina monster, and in a manufactured plot point, Jason has a sister.

The story is bad. The acting is worse. The makeup is shameful.

This was New Line’s first attempt at a Friday movie, but that’s no excuse. It’s not included with the Box Set because it’s not from Paramount, but it shouldn’t be included on general principle. Being a fan of the series, I own this one… it’s still in the shrink wrap.

And it can stay there.

If you really MUST own it…

Links:

Jason Goes to Hell

Jason X

Jason is being held in a high security vault by the U.S. government; they want to study him. Jason goes berserk, kills lots of people, and then get the whole lab bathed in liquid nitrogen, freezing him AND his intended last victim of the day.

450 years pass, and students on a field trip to ‘old Earth’ find Jason and transport him back to their ship.

Yeah… we evidently don’t get any smarter in the future.

I was on board with this movie until Jason is rebuilt into a robotic professional wrestler by nanotechnology (let’s call him Cyber-Zombie-Jason).

It was about that time the series went too far, even for me.

Far from being a bad film, it was actually a lot of fun. Just not the Friday movie I was expecting, or hoping for.

The ‘death scenes’ in Jason X are by far the most inventive of the series, have some nice effects, and make it a worthwhile rental, maybe even a purchase.

In what has to be the most CLASSIC slasher moment in history, Jason runs onto a ‘holodeck’, where he is confronted by two young women campers in sleeping bags trying to incite him to murder (buying time for the true victims).

‘We like premarital sex!’

Jason stuffs them in their sleeping bags, and beats one camper to death… using the other camper.

Seriously funny… seriously.

You can find a good deal on this below, just know what you’re getting into. It’s camp, it’s space, and it’s not really the Friday The 13th you’re used to.

Links:

Jason X (New Line Platinum Series)

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1 Comment

  1. Verry good post
    Thank you!


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