Saturday, October 5, 2013

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

I’ve mentioned it before that I’m a moderate Friday the 13th fan. I always preferred the inventiveness of (the first few) A Nightmare on Elm Street films over the straight up slasher series. I’m a horror fan in general so I do understand its place within the genre and why it means so much to so many people.

A few years back a book titled “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th” by Peter M. Bracke was released that chronicled in excruciating detail the making of all the movies in the series (not counting the 2009 remake). It was an extremely interesting read that gave a lot of insight into the trials and tribulations of indie filmmaking, the extensive make-up work involved, dealing with an out-of-touch ratings board and paving the way for an entire sub-genre. Bracke managed to interview nearly all the cast and crew of all (at the time) eleven films and they each had great tales to tell about life with Jason Voorhees and his legacy.
Flash forward to 2013 and writer/director Daniel Ferrands (writer of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers/Halloween 6: The Producer’s Cut and director of the documentaries Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and Scream: The Inside Story) has released yet another mammoth documentary about a horror icon in Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th as a companion piece to Bracke’s book.

There are interviews with series creator Sean S. Cunningham and many of the actors, producers and directors of the many, many films that followed. Each movie gets its own chapter and self-contained set of interviews, documentary footage and photos.
This is an exhaustive documentary that runs for 400 minutes (6.66 hours… GASP!) and goes into some serious detail about certain films in the series and glosses over others. Regardless of its length, I found this just as entertaining and informative as the other horror documentaries Ferrands has made, but not quite as revelatory as the book.

Out of all the films covered I enjoyed the segments about parts 3 (in 3D), 5 (A New Beginning), 6 (Jason Lives) and 7 (The New Blood). I’m not a fan of some of these entries (3 and 5), but the chronicling of their creation is more fascinating than the films themselves.
The segment for part 3 was interesting to me due to the fact that for such a low budget film they broke a lot of new ground with the creation of a revolutionary new camera that filmed in polarized 3D and reignited the 3D craze in the early 80s. Also learning that this was to be the last film in the “trilogy”, brought full circle with Jason dead and the dream sequence involving Pamela Voorhees before the end credits rolled, was kind of cool. But of course the grosses changed everyone’s mind and another film was made the following year.

I knew that part 5 was to be in the same vein as Halloween III: Season of the Witch in that it would be the (supposed) start of a new direction where each new film would be a whodunit. What I didn’t know was that this was to eventually head toward the Tommy Jarvis character losing his mind and becoming Jason’s successor. That idea didn’t pan out, but it was a nice effort. I also never realized just how much nudity was featured in this installment. Director Danny Steinmann not only cast a Playboy bunny due to her breast size (instead of Darcy DeMoss who would eventually be cast in part 6), he bargained with the MPAA to trim some of the violence in exchange for more boob shots. And the machete through the vagina death?! Dude wanted to make a soft core porn film, not a slasher.
Part 6 is one of my favorites due to its tongue in cheek tone and self-awareness (pre-dating Scream). Hearing director Tom McLoughlin discussing his plan to reinvigorate the franchise with his gothic pulp horror sensibilities is a real treat, and it looks as if the cast and crew had an absolute blast making the movie. The original intention to introduce Jason’s father in the end is also kind of a rad notion, but I’m glad they didn’t follow through with it as it would most likely have taken the franchise into Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers territory. No one wants that now, do they?

Since part 7, The New Blood, is my favorite film in the series due to its fun twist of having Jason up against an equal in the form of the telekinetic Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) I was looking forward to seeing the stars of the film discuss their experiences. They all seemed to regret the cuts that had to be made to appease the MPAA, but not their experiences during the shoot. Kane Hodder and John Carl Buechler go into detail about their approach for Jason this time around and how it ended up influencing every film in the series from that point on was another aspect I enjoyed. I know there will never be a director’s cut since the deleted scenes were destroyed, but we can all dream can’t we.
Even though I found this a fun doc, it does tend to drag a bit during certain parts. The discussion of the casting of Crispin Glover in part 4 goes on and on, the explanation for the decisions made in regards to part 8 are kind of glossed over and no one seems to think it was a bad idea… especially the film’s director and the segment about the remake is boring and dull since hardly anyone involved with the film showed up to elaborate.

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th is a great doc that, like most of the other horror themed ones, outstays its welcome in certain areas. Regardless it’s informative and fascinating for fans of horror just like me. Just be prepared… it is fucking looooooooong! Plan for an intermission or two and you’re golden.

4 out of 5

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