CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: A COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH (Movie Review)
Trevor Parker takes in the epic seven hour (!) documentary, based on the oral history book of the same name by Peter M. Bracke.
It’s taking a valiant effort to keep this review from degenerating into a tirade against big studios Paramount and Warner Brothers, specifically their lack of consideration shown to horror fans with each successive release of the FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH films to the home market. Let’s leave it to stating the fact that in the Paramount boardrooms, their FRIDAY movies were once considered something akin to trading in blood diamonds—meaning an investment addictively profitable but morally reprehensible. This stodgy stance has cost fans over the years both in the lack of archiving or preservation pertaining to the elements of the series’ early entries, and also in the middling-at-best extras and features included with disc releases. For an immensely popular series that has endured for decades and birthed a visual recognized instantly around the globe (even in countries oblivious to the game of hockey), a record of the full truth behind the creation of the FRIDAY franchise has always felt like a fan dream never to be realized. Until now.
From filmmaker Daniel Farrands and the team behind the untouchable 2010 NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET documentary NEVER SLEEP AGAIN comes CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: A COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH. Based on the hefty oral history book of the same name by Peter M. Bracke, this expansive FRIDAY buffet (four hundred minutes in total) sprawls across two Blu-ray discs (or two DVDs, also included with the set). The doc includes recent interviews with a diligently assembled roster of FRIDAY cast and crew, as well as location visits and older interview footage previously released in a much truncated form as DVD extras and as part of Farrands’ earlier and inferior FRIDAY doc attempt HIS NAME WAS JASON. Thank goodness for this bank of older footage, as Farrands and crew were thus able to include for posterity comments by the late Richard Brooker (Jason from PART THREE), Danny Steinmann and Jim Issac (directors of PART FIVE and JASON X respectively), allowing for as complete a picture of the series as it will ever be possible to get now that those three voices are lost to time.
The love here is apparent from right from the pressing of ‘play’, with the opening credits in the familiar typeface of the Paramount era, while specially-commissioned new music from series’ composer Harry Manfredini saws over the soundtrack. MEMORIES then leads in with a bumper skit featuring narrator Corey Feldman by the campfire, riffing on John Furey’s recount of the Jason legend from PART TWO. From there, it’s talking heads bolstered by rapid snippets of the corresponding FRIDAYs and clips from other films to illustrate references, fascinating behind-the scenes still photos—even pages of vintage FANGO coverage. The real heroes of MEMORIES would have to be editors Andrew Kasch, Michael Benni Pierce and Luke Rafalowski, pulling the reins tight on mountains of footage so that the doc never slows or lags during the marathon seven hours of running time.
Each of the twelve FRIDAY installment gets its due consideration, and the segments are informative (and long) enough to act as separate docs if Farrands had so chosen to release them that way. The sequels and the folks behind them are allowed the respect and time to either argue their case (Director Joe Zito’s determination to have teen characters the audience might actually care about assuredly paid off in the peerless PART FOUR) or to simply hang themselves (take director Adam Marcus struggling to justify his bizarre and arrogant choices with the ridiculous JASON GOES TO HELL). This inclusivity (even the unrelated FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH T.V. series gets a quick run-through) makes MEMORIES enormously entertaining on a number of angles: fans of the entire series will adore the hilarious anecdotes and feel the warmth from the many actors and crew who look back on what was were often very challenging conditions with fondness and gratitude. It’s also, haters be damned, a celebration of strong women: despite the obvious layer of exploitation and the legion of disposable bubble-headed cuties in the supporting cast, there’s no denying that the FRIDAY series is home to some of cinema’s bravest and most resourceful female characters, and MEMORIES well underlines this point.
MEMORIES will also be edifying for the series’ many detractors, as finances always overrode logic in the course of embarking on a new FRIDAY. Messy continuity is often a source of embarrassed laughter from interviewees as the series plodded on in a haphazard and contradictory fashion (Tom Savini, on his extended bonus disc interview, opines that fans are “conditioned to be dumb” for being asked to swallow how Jason was somehow lurking around the woods alone for all of those years prior to PART TWO). Thirdly, MEMORIES makes for an illuminating portrait of working, blue-collar Hollywood: there were no award ceremony gowns or champagne flutes to be found around a FRIDAY set, as ambitious young actors and filmmakers with scant industry leverage battled interfering executives, restrictive budgets, and their own misgivings about the material and its supposed effect on society. Hindsight can hurt, as more than once a FRIDAY alumnus speaks with great regret about turning down an appearance in the next sequel because they were sure they had outgrown the series for what proved to be a very elusive bigger and better.
In addition, MEMORIES gives us a couple of trailers for other horror docs, and a very sweet advertisement for actress Adrienne King’s wine label. There’s a commentary track from Farrands, Rafalkowski, and Bracke that adds a fan perspective as the filmmakers discuss FRIDAY reminiscences, minutiae and clichés of the series, and the stories behind who did and did not participate in MEMORIES.
There’s more: ordering directly from the filmmakers at www.crystallakememories.net will net you a bonus four-hour long DVD while supplies last. This DVD has extended interviews from most of the participants, and while there was nothing earth-shattering held back for this disc and the footage is cut together a rougher manner than in the main doc, it’s a worthwhile addendum of more production tales, personal histories, and opinions on the allure of Jason Voorhees and the FRIDAY series as a whole.
There’s no better word to bestow upon MEMORIES than ‘comprehensive’, and it’s the second exhaustingly fantastic documentary from Farrands and company. For owners of the MEMORIES book, this should be considered as more of a companion to than a replacement, as Bracke’s written record still betters the doc for sheer amount of detail—although MEMORIES does offer fans the superficial thrill of allowing us to see how the years have treated our favorite Final Girls (answer: very, very kindly). And if forced to choose between the two, MEMORIES is a whisker short of the more focused NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, but that may be this reviewer’s NIGHTMARE bias talking and MEMORIES should absolutely be an automatic purchase for FRIDAY fans (or non-fans) alike. Grab a copy, call in sick to work, and dive in!