Hitting store shelves shortly before the release of the new remake of "Friday the 13th" (which comes out on....Saturday the 14th) are "Special Editions" of the first three "Friday the 13th" pictures. The first film, which arrived in theaters in 1980 and became an unexpected box office success, taking in just under $40M at the box office.
The picture opens at Camp Crystal Lake in the late 50's, where a couple of camp counselors sneak away from the rest of the group for a little one-on-one time. However, an unseen figure comes in and kills both counselors. Cut (drumroll) to 20 years later, where the camp is making an attempt to re-open, despite its dark history - which is still clearly on the mind of some of the town residents.
One-by-one, we're introduced to the counselors: Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), Alice (Adrienne King), Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Ned (Mark Nelson). Before Annie gets a ride to the camp, she's given an ominous warning by a local that she'll never come back. Early on, the counselors discuss the camp's rather gloomy nickname of "Camp Blood", but don't take it seriously - at least until they start to feel as if they're being watched during a swim.
While director Sean Cunningham's low-budget film isn't technically stellar even by 80's standards, the picture does do a lot of things right: it uses the forest setting superbly to create a claustrophobic setting and ramp up the tension once the counselors start dropping and the ones who remain feel as if the woods are closing in on them. The performances aren't great, but most of the actors involved offer decent efforts.
The second film came only a year later, and was similarly successful - not critically (although that was no surprise), but commercially. The picture starts up shortly after the events of the first film (the first few minutes provides a recap for those who didn't see the first film or simply forgot), and while Jason wasn't really seen in the first film, it quickly becomes clear in the second picture that he's on the loose.
Meanwhile, at Camp Crystal Lake, Paul (John Furey) is going about the not-too-bright task of trying to re-open Camp Crystal Lake. Once again, the old man in the town gives a warning to the new counselors that they should stay far away from the camp, and even Paul's stories of the events of the past are met with skepticism - even from Paul.
While director Steve Miner's work has not been held in the highest regard (his most recent effort is the Jessica Simpson direct-to-video comedy, "Major Movie Star"), his work on the "Friday the 13th" sequel is generally effective, as the movie does a terrific job ramping up the tension as the counselors quickly realize how true the stories about Jason really are.
While the second film offered an intense, fast-paced horror flick, the less-successful third film (which saw Miner make a return to the director's chair) offered the gimmick of 3-D (which is available here via an optional 3-D version and glasses. Yet again, another group of young people who don't seem to ever pay attention to local history arrive at Camp Crystal Lake and soon find that they're in the midst of a cat-and-mouse game with Jason. While the picture has its eerie/creepy moments, it's a weaker effort than the first two films.
The first film is presented in an "uncut" version.
VIDEO: For a low-budget effort from nearly 30 years ago, "Friday the 13th" actually doesn't look too bad. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks pretty fresh: while some mild softness is seen at times, the picture is mostly crisp and detailed. Edge enhancement wasn't an issue, but a couple of minor traces of pixelation were spotted. There were a few minor specks and marks on the print used (as well as a reasonable amount of grain), but less than one might expect from a low-budget film from the time period. Colors remained natural and reasonably well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
The second and third films are also presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and looked relatively similar to the first film in terms of image quality. While neither sequel looked remarkably well-defined, most scenes at least did look crisp and reasonably detailed. Some mild-to-moderate grain was seen, but didn't cause any irritation. Flaws included some light specks and marks, as well as a few minor instances of edge enhancement. Colors looked reasonably bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: All three films are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio isn't exactly aggressive - nor would one expect a set of films from this era. Surrounds are not used too extensively, but the rear speakers are brought in for some support of the score, as well as occasional sound effects and ambience. Audio quality is generally satisfactory for the era - while effects can sound a little tinny at times, effects, music and dialogue mostly came across sounding clean and clear.
EXTRAS: The first film offers a commentary from director Sean Cunningham, whose thoughts are accompanied (the comments have been recorded separately and edited together) by members of the cast and crew. Packed with quite a few participants, this audio track does provide a great deal of insights regarding the production (casting, development, reaction, stories from the set), with little in the way of pauses of silence.
"Friday the 13th: Reunion" is a 16-minute documentary that shows a Q & A session about the film that was recorded in 9/2008. The group has a lot of fun taking questions from audience members and sharing both insights into the production, their reaction to the film's legacy and some stories from the set. "Fresh Cuts" is a collection of new interviews from crew members, while "The Man Behind the Legacy" has director Sean Cunningham discussing his thoughts on the legacy of the film and his role in the first film in the franchise. Finally, we get the trailer and "Lost Tales From Camp Blood", a 2-parter that continues on the "Deluxe Edition" of the second film.
The second film has "Inside Crystal Lake Memories", which is an approximately 11-minute interview with author Peter Bracke, who discusses the experience of gathering interviews with over 200 people related to the series and combing through old studio archives and other rare materials. "Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions" talks about the fans who visit the cast and crew at convention stops. "Jason Forever" offers interviews with the actors who have played Jason. Finally, we also get the film's trailer.
The only extra for the third film (aside from the theatrical trailer) is the fact that the 3-D version (as well as old-school 3-D glasses) are included.