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Friday the 13th: Uncut Deluxe Edition DVD Review

Friday the 13th: Uncut Deluxe Edition

February 11, 2009

Director: Sean S. Cunningham,
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon,

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DVD Review

Literally cashing in on the success of John Carpenter’s low-budget slasher film Halloween (1978), Sean S. Cunningham made his own no frills horror film with Friday the 13th (1980). Little did he know that it would give birth to a very lucrative franchise with a seemingly endless number of sequels. Like with the Halloween series, the first Friday the 13th is still the strongest and the one that holds up the best.

The film begins in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake with the death of two counselors. Flash-forward 22 years and a whole new batch of fresh faced teenagers are ready to be slaughtered. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that the camp now has a death curse or that all the locals warn outsiders to steer clear of the place. Of course they are systematically dispatched by mad Mrs. Voorhees (Palmer) who, in a nice twist on Norman Bates in Psycho (1960), is a schizophrenic with her dead son, Jason, sharing time in her head. The film also invokes the Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller by killing off a character you think is going to be the star early on.

The camp counselors are well cast. They don’t come across as affected and Cunningham draws real performances out of them. They don’t look like impossibly good-looking actors but actual people you might know. Cunningham adopts a basic structure of introducing the characters and then systematically killing them off with some excellent gore effects by make-up genius Tom Savini.

Released in 1980, this first installment still carries the residue from many of the excellent horror films of the 1970s, like The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Cunningham was a producer on Last House and obviously took Wes Craven’s nasty low budget film to heart by taking its scary, unpredictable vibe and applying it to their own films. There are also nods to Halloween (the spooky, point-of-view shots of the killer) and the film’s entire structure (and even some of the deaths) are ripped right from Mario Bava’s little seen, yet very influential, body count/murder mystery, Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971).

Special Features:

If you already have the box set that came out a few years ago your decision to double dip with this new version may hinge on how big of a fan you are of the films. In a nice touch, the studio has presented the film in its original uncut glory, restoring Tom Savini’s handiwork. However, this really only amounts to 9 or 10 seconds. However, it has come to light that the studio has, for some bizarre reason, zoomed in the image, which destroys the composition of certain scenes. Will we ever get a completely unmolested version of this film released on home video?

There is an audio commentary by director Sean S. Cunningham, moderator Peter Bracke and several cast and crew members, including editor Bill Freda, screenwriter Victor Miller, actors Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer. They takes us through an oral history of how the film came together with author Bracke filling in the gaps and providing a historical context. It’s great to hear all kinds of filming anecdotes on this engaging and informative track.

Friday the 13th Reunion” is a Q&A panel featuring some of the key cast and crew members at a convention in September 2008. They all talk about how they got involved, the famous ending of the film and several other topics. It’s nice to see these people reminisce about their experiences.

“Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th” features everybody from the reunion featurette telling more stories, some of which are repeats from that extra and from the commentary track. One highlight includes Savini telling an amusing story about his archery skills on the set of the film.

“The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham” is a decent interview with the man. He comes across as a pretty modest guy who is thankful for the opportunities that the success of the first film brought him. He still has fond memories of making it.

“Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 1” is a short film that clumsily apes the Friday the 13th films, right down to the same musical score.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 75%

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