Friday the 13th

Little did director Sean S. Cunningham and co-producer Steve Miner realize that their little excursion into horror would become a cult success and spawn a franchise that still lives to this day. Working from a tight, economical script by Victor Miller, Cunningham set out to create what would become the first in a series of horror films where the hero seldom wins.

fridaythe13thdvdcoverJohn Carpenter started the “holiday” trend with “Halloween,” but it was that dreaded Friday that made all of the difference in the world for fans of horror and suspense. Here was a series of horror films where the audience rooted for the killer. Jason Vorhees was nothing more than a mere mention in the first film, the catalyst for a string of vicious killings that haunted Camp Crystal Lake. He drowned at the camp years ago as his counselors were making out in a shed. Now he has come back to haunt the camp, killing several counselors in the process.

Shuttered after the deaths, Camp Crystal Lake gets a reprieve in the late 1970’s, and is once again open for business. It’s also business as usual for the mysterious killer, who still stalks the counselors training at the camp. In grand, glorious fashion, the killer dispatches the counselors and the adults one by one. Cunningham, utilizing make-up effects by the great Tom Savini, came up with new and inventive ways to dispatch nubile young teenagers. As the series progressed, so did the gross out effects, eventually going 3-D for the third entry.

The first film’s effects were startling for their time. It was horrific to watch as these cheerful young people died in such gruesome fashion. One poor girl gets an axe shoved into her head. Another has her neck slit, while a young Kevin Bacon gets skewered while resting in bed. The filmmakers kept the killer’s identity a secret until the finale, at which point the cat was let out of the bag. Still, evil begets evil, and it wasn’t long before Jason rose from the grave to seek revenge. The first film is a marvel of low budget filmmaking.

Cunningham makes the best of no money, and manages to create suspenseful situations on a shoestring. His cast is interesting and believable, especially Adrienne King as one of the counselors who manages to survive for the sequel. Harry Manfredini’s music is a classic of its type, a spooky chorus of strings and haunting voices. A lot of films that followed “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” failed to understand the basics that made both of those films so endearing. Most of the imitators just picked a holiday and then started slaughtering people. “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” created myths and then lived up to them.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) 1.85:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

check.gif (406 bytes) Surprisingly sharp and clean original negative allows for an excellent digital transfer. Outstanding colors and saturation, flattering flesh tones and rock solid blacks combine to create impressive visuals. Depth of field is sensational considering the low budget lighting, while attention to detail is strong. Clean negative allows for pure whites and shadows, while I didn’t notice an ounce of compression artifacts or noise.

HEARING: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) Dolby Digital English Mono

check.gif (406 bytes) Dolby Digital French Mono

check.gif (406 bytes) Even though both soundtracks are delivered in mono, preserving their original theatrical format, they are still clean and to the point. Dynamic range of sound and a strong dialogue mix keep things jumping. No audible hiss or distortion.

ORAL: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: Clumsy

check.gif (406 bytes) Main and scene access menus

check.gif (406 bytes) Original Theatrical Trailer

PROGNOSIS: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) The original and the best. It’s a good thing they didn’t butcher it on DVD. A must for all Camp Crystal Lake alumni.

VITALS:

check.gif (406 bytes) $29.99/Rated R/95 Minut

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: FRIDAY THE 13TH

BIRTH DATE: 1980

HMO: Paramount Home Video


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