You never know how as an adult you will react to what you enjoyed as a child or teenager. After all, the “Friday the 13th” franchise was aimed right at my teenage sweet spot. The debut film was released the summer of my 14th year and its heyday lasted straight through to my high school graduation. I was the demo, and many a Saturday night was spent with friends at the dollar theatre or in front of HBO laughing at the exploits of Jason Voorhees.
Yes, back then the series was a lark; a joke. We laughed at the bad acting, bad dialogue, bad plots, and the fact that Jason never died. What we paid for was to look at naked girls and slayings.
Sampling the first six films again for the first time in thirty-plus years — in this phenomenal collection of all 12 films film Jason appeared in (including 2003’s “Freddy vs. Jason” and the 2009 remake of the original “Friday the 13th”) — resulted in a surprise revelation: these movies are a blast to watch, and the first three are legitimately well-crafted, tense, and scary.
What I expected was a trip down memory lane, not to get caught up in the thin story and the equally thin mythology. But now that I am no longer a “too cool for school” teenager, and actually sat down to judge the franchise on its own merits, I was completely won over and am eager to finish the last six.
The primary goal of a film is to pick a target and hit it — that is the whole game. And if you don’t overshoot with arty conceits or undershoot with laziness, there is no reason a slasher film about a hulk in a hockey mask creatively killing horny teenagers can’t be a success. The first three entries are just great slasher pics. Period. Laugh all you want at what doesn’t matter — the atmosphere, direction, camerawork, and Harry Manfredini’s superb score all come together to create legitimate scares, especially in the final thirty minutes.
The two that follow what was supposed to be a trilogy, aren’t quite as successful; but the pacing and wildly inventive “kills” still make for a good time. Part six, though, is a successful attempt to mix things up with the kind of knowing humor that would define “Scream” a decade later.
It is also fun to watch the now-famous mythology unfold. In 1983, watching Jason put on his hockey mask for the first time wasn’t a big deal–even to the filmmakers, who were merely looking to replace a pillow case. In hindsight, though, you know you are watching a piece of iconic cinema history. You are also watching the unfolding of the production anguish as in fits and starts the studio killed and revived Jason because the ongoing popularity of the series always seemed to catch everyone off guard–especially elite critics like Roger Ebert, who loathed the series.
Jason completists will find themselves in Hog Heaven. Each film is loaded with its own pile of special features, as is a loaded 13th disc. The purchase also includes UltraViolet copies of the entire collection.
‘Friday the 13th: The Complete Bluray Collection’ is available at Amazon.com.