Blu-Ray Review: Go Back to Camp Crystal Lake With ‘Friday the 13th: Uncut’

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No votes yet Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Every time a movie gets remade, you can expect the original to appear in some varying degree of “special” edition on the home market. A week-and-a-half from the Michael Bay produced and Marcus Nispel remake of “Friday the 13th,” Paramount has unleashed deluxe editions of the original on Blu-Ray and the first two sequels on DVD.

The funny thing about revisiting Sean Cunningham’s original slasher hit is that one is reminded of the fact that it’s really not that great a movie if you judge it outside of its influence. Cunningham was never that interesting behind the camera. The film is a slice of nostalgia that holds an important place in movie history and is a must-own for even the most casual horror fanatic, but it’s really not that well-made.

Friday the 13th: Uncut was released by Paramount Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Friday the 13th: Uncut was released by Paramount Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Photo credit: Paramount Home Video

Some could even argue that “Friday the 13th” did more harm than good. It inspired countless slasher movie rip-offs that just kept getting worse, even within its own franchise. Don’t believe me? You can watch the decline of the franchise in the second and third films, also released in “Deluxe Editions” this week. Honestly, the best thing that “Friday the 13th” may have done for the history of film was to give a start to Kevin Bacon’s career. And, of course, that creepy music.

Friday the 13th: Uncut was released by Paramount Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Friday the 13th: Uncut was released by Paramount Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Photo credit: Paramount Home Video

Of course, all good horror fans will pick up “Friday the 13th” on Blu-Ray, but some buyers on the fence may be curious about what’s so “UNCUT” about this edition. The answer is not much. It’s only about ten seconds of gore in two scenes.

The Blu-Ray presentation of “Friday the 13th” looks great. It’s certainly a higher quality video transfer than we’ve ever seen for a Voorhees movie.

I have to admit, I was concerned about “Friday the 13th” in HD. A lot of low-budget movies don’t hold up well on Blu-Ray. Not only do movies like this need a little bit of grain, but more clarity can often amplify makeup or effects flaws. The 1080P transfer for “Friday the 13th” is excellent and it further proves that what Tom Savini accomplished was truly impressive. Seeing an arrow come through Kevin Bacon’s throat in HD is a true event for horror fans of the right generation.

The audio isn’t quite as remarkable. As often happens with thirty year-old films on Blu-Ray, turning a low-budget mono track into a Dolby Digital 5.1 track can lead to mixed results. The music sounds great, but the dialogue and sound effects have an echo that makes them sound incorrectly mixed.

The commentary by Cunningham and his cast and crew, including the writer, editor and stars Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King, is definitely interesting but also a little repetitive and overdone. Cunningham spends a lot of time talking about how the gore reputation of his film has been overblown, pointing out, correctly, that there’s actually less than a minute of gore in the entire film.

But he’s missing the historical context of what “Friday the 13th” meant to the genre and what drove critics like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who notoriously hated the film. The perspective, plot, and drive of the film made it easier for audiences to root for the killer. Cunningham compares the kills in his film to magic tricks on several occasions and that’s interesting, but it misses the storytelling idea that we are supposed to root for an on-stage magician and perhaps we shouldn’t root for a mass murderer.

Friday the 13th: Uncut was released by Paramount Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Friday the 13th: Uncut was released by Paramount Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Photo credit: Paramount Home Video

Still, it’s an interesting listen that will be of serious interest to ’80s horror nuts and features a ton of great trivia. The analysis of why homosexual men like slasher movies is fascinating enough to warrant a listen and Palmer’s background details on her character, like who Jason’s father was, is great stuff. Although I should say that I don’t need to hear any more old-school horror directors complaining about extreme modern gore levels. Something about a pot and kettle comes to mind.

The commentary is informative enough to make the Blu-Ray version a must-have for horror fans, but there are also three new featurettes that are included on both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions - “Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th,” “The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham,” and “Friday the 13th Reunion,” all presented in HD.

“Fresh Cuts” is a fifteen minutes featurette of interviews with the people who contributed to the commentary. “Legacy” focuses more on the director himself and “Reunion” is just footage from a Q&A at a horror convention with Victor Miller, Palmer, Tom Savini, and more. It’s not nearly as exciting as you would hope it would be. Don’t come looking for the Betsy Palmer and Kevin Bacon 2008 reunion.

The Blu-Ray version includes two exclusive featurettes but they are both imports from the previous series collection release - “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” and “Secrets Behind the Gore”. It’s pretty standard stuff that most fans will have seen before.

Finally, “Friday the 13th” includes the original trailer and a short fan film called “Lost Tales From Camp Blood: Part One”.

“Friday the 13th, Part Two” and “Friday the 13th, Part Three: 3-D” are, tragically, not released on Blu-Ray, but have been remastered in high definition on standard DVD, Deluxe Editions with 5.1 surround mixes and new special features.

“Part Two” includes “Inside Crystal Lake Memories,” “Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions,” “Lost Tales From Camp Blood - Part 2,” “Jason Forever,” and the theatrical trailer.

“Part Three:3-D” includes no special features but does come with 3-D glasses and include both the 2-D and 3-D versions of the film. A large number of people have only seen part three on VHS, where it was presented in only 2-D, so they’ll be able to see Jason in a whole new dimension for the first time.

Before you see the new “Friday the 13th,” do your research and see where the legend of Jason Voorhees began with the Blu-Ray release of this classic horror film and the DVD releases for its two sequels.

‘Friday the 13th’ is released by Paramount Home Video and stars Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, and Kevin Bacon. It was written by Victor Miller and directed by Sean S. Cunningham. It will be released on February 3rd, 2009. content director Brian Tallerico

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