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Well here it is; the film which spawned an endless amount of sequels, spin-offs and rip-offs. It even spawned a television series, a comic book and even a terrible Nintendo game (I don’t know about the series or the comic, but aside from the fact that it was set in Crystal Lake, the game had very little to do with the film). The film like so many others puts a group of teens (who will likely indulge in the drugs and pre-marital sex that killers hate so much) in a situation where they will be murdered one at a time by sharp objects. This unfortunate group is a bunch of kids who have been hired to work at the Summer Camp at Crystal Lake.

Friday the 13th
It is here where things start to go a little sour. It seems that this lake has a bit of a curse. Years earlier, a little boy drowned and a few years after that, two kids were murdered in one of the shacks. The camp was closed, until now. The killer who as responsible for the two murders years ago seems to be angry that the camp is open again and begins a hunt of each young inhabitant. Yes, Kevin Bacon gets stalked too.

I remember in ninth grade I had a frustrating argument with a guy who claimed that Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were just rip-offs from Friday the 13th. If I was brainless I might have agreed, but it makes no sense considering both were made years before. There is a small point there though. All these films share a similar formula. This first instalment in a series of ten (eleven if you include the totally awful, unwatchable Freddy vs. Jason) does not stray in this formula. In fact his follows it almost to the letter.

Take a group of promising young stars, put them in the middle of no-where, have them screw and do drugs, have one go missing, have the others not notice or just make a lame excuse for it, find inventive ways for people to die, wait until everyone is dead until we find out who the killer is before a showdown with the final survivor (usually a very attractive young lady). Almost every slasher follows this formula and Friday the 13th is no different. It does well with the formula, especially in finding inventive ways to kill people. We see all sorts of mutilation here involving knives, axes, even an arrow! There is also a level of restraint in the gore which makes it more enjoyable. Perhaps not twenty-five years ago, but by today’s standard it’s pretty tame. I really hate it when movie mistake gory and scary for each other. Blood does not make a movie scary!

Friday the 13th
This works well as Friday is much more focused on atmosphere than it is on blood and guts. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some pleasant surprises here for those who are really into the bloody parts, but those who have trouble with it won’t be too put off as most of it is after-the-fact. Also, compared to some of the gore you see today, what you will see here is pretty funny (for example, an actor’s neck getting twice as long during a death scene).

Atmosphere is the source of the fear here with all sorts of creepy effects. For starters, this is the film that started the very famous ch-ch-ch-ka-ka-ka rhythm which comes from the woods. It’s spine tingling in its eeriness. Also very creepy is the first person perspectives used to show the point of view of our killer. This works wonders for when the victim turns to see no-one, but we know where the killer is hiding—very creepy!

Although still able to get a few scares across, time has treated some aspects of this film badly. I touched on this earlier, but it is mainly the gore effects which seem almost laughable at times compared to what movies offer today. The decapitation scene (I’ll say no more) is an absolute riot! Viewers may also find that movie from the seventies and eighties are not nearly as scary as they once were, Friday the 13th is surely guilty of that with some scares getting though, others just being shrugged off. Some performances may also ‘daggy’ by modern standards (can you really see the guy from the opening scene getting laid in today’s world, I don’t think so). It may not be as easy to take Betsy Palmer character so seriously now days either.

Those die-hard horror fans will love this, that’s for sure. Those who are indifferent to the horror gene will see plenty to like here. Personally I enjoyed going back to where it all began. Before this I had seen Friday the 13th films seven and eight, as well as Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X and it is really hard too see how it all started here! The sequels seem like a totally different thing and don't carry on the style of this film at all. This film shows off some very effective styles of horror film-making which still get used today meaning that it is a worthy an very important horror film. For any horror buff, or just film buff it’s worth a view just for that reason. Don’t expect too much though. Time has gotten to this film a little. Also don’t expect the famous masked maniac Jason to appear here—he appears in part two.

Friday the 13th
Video
This release gets a 1:85.1 widescreen transfer. I am unsure if that is the film’s theatrical ratio. When looking at video quality, one must consider that the film is twenty-five years old and was shot on a pretty low budget, even for the day. Considering the age, the transfer has its ups and downs. The good thing here is that colour detail is as good as it could be, as are skin tones which are very impressive. This is good as it means not too much is lost in many of the darker settings of the film.

Unfortunately there are some pretty horrific problems as well. The film is grainy, very grainy. The grain almost ruins some very fine shadow detail. Not only that, film artefacts are a major issue. There are some shots which you manage to be artefact free but overall it is a huge problem and is noticeable to pretty much any eye. Again, you can’t be too hard on it though considering the age and budget.

Audio
Anyone miffed that the only option here is a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono track in three languages? Yeah, me too. A surround track might have just been able to re-creative some of the scares that have been lost over time. Oh well, the film was originally in Mono so I guess this makes sense. The Mono comes in English, French and Italian. Despite the limitations of one channel, the sound is decent enough. Dialogue is clear and I didn’t detect any sync problems. The music is very intense and there is a nice balance between background noise, music and dialogue for a mono track. There is a low level of distortion which is comparable to an old VHS, but overall, this track is adequate.

Friday the 13th
Extras
Take that R1! We get extras and you get barebones!

First off is a Commentary. It’s a different one as well. It is hosted by some guy called Bracke. Bracke introduces several members of cast and crew who talk about the origins and inspiration for the film as well as horror movies in general. Some of the key players are Director Sean Cunningham, Writer Victor Miller, Composer Harry Manfredini with Actors Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King among others. A good listen for horror fans, others may be lost.

Next up is a twenty minutes documentary ‘Return to Crystal Lake’, which interviews the most of the people from the commentary only here we get to se some interview footage from the ‘master of splatter’, Tom Savini, about the gore effects. Fan will at it up. Others should also enjoy this tight little documentary. Closing the deal is the trailer. It’s good to see some effort was put in and some decent extras were included.

Friday the 13th
Overall
Friday the 13th is an aged, but still very competent horror flick that will give a scare here and there. If you have an interest in films you may want to check it for some of the very effective techniques that make creepy at its best. If Hollywood still uses these tricks today, this flick no doubt has done something right. It’s easy to see how this went down as a genre classic. The DVD has highs and lows. The video is average and perhaps could have had a little more effort put into its clean-up. The audio suffers from the lack of a surround track, but still does all right for itself. The extras are straight the point and should prove interesting to whoever gets their hands on this disc. Overall, a solid, but unremarkable package.


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