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“ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN: THE MAKING OF FRIDAY THE 13TH” (Book Review)

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Author David Grove is a FRIDAY THE 13th superfan who admits such with pride in the introduction to his latest effort, the hefty and illuminating ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN: THE MAKING OF FRIDAY THE 13th (available now from Author Mike/Dark Ink books). Grove has penned plenty of genre-oriented tomes in his day, including 2004’s well-received MAKING FRIDAY THE 13th: THE LEGEND OF CAMP BLOOD, and the existence of his latest poses the question as to how he could ever best the scope of that well-reviewed initial immersion into the Voorhees universe. the answer is that, instead of trying, Grove focuses here exclusively on producer/director Sean S. Cunningham’s first stab at the slasher franchise exclusively, and does so affectionately – yet objectively –  and even stops to muckrake a bit of choice gossip for those that care about such things.

BLAIRSTOWN’s credibility is in check from the first printed words as FX legend Tom Savini pens the foreword, a wry mini-memoir about how the film affected him personally and professionally*. From there on in, it’s Grove’s voice and his key subjects (plenty of F13 alumni are interviewed) taking the reader from the conception to execution to release of the film that Leonard Maltin once famously claimed lowered the SAT scores of young Americans everywhere. The author’s dry, matter-of-fact prose won’t win any awards, but the tales told are fascinating, especially to this writer who admits a less than masterful grasp on the FRIDAY legacy.

Grove claims in his preface that a good portion of the book is made up of new interview material, and though I can’t determine if any of it is recycled from CAMP BLOOD, all of it is compelling, including the aforementioned bit of dirt, in which it is suggested Cunningham knew star Adrienne King in the biblical sense on set. Of course, none of that tabloid nonsense matters, but it’s an interesting aside nonetheless and will make some ardent admirers of the film examine King’s turn a bit differently. Other, less privacy-invading revelations include the fact that most of the cast were never on set together at the same time due to their conflicting schedules, and that Savini himself (who got the gig because of his landmark work on DAWN OF THE DEAD) co-directed and choreographed the climactic brawl between Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer.

And though printed exclusively in black and white (a shame in that one of the 80’s most notorious bloodbaths isn’t realized here in any shade of red, save for the cover) the hundreds of stills—both on set, behind the scenes and new set re-visit images—are a real treat (though many bear the patchy mark of cheap scanning). Grove has also jammed in other essential supplements like the shooting script and schedules, as well as filmographies of all involved.

The highest compliment we can pay a book like BLAIRSTOWN is that its creator genuinely cares, and that level of interest and constructive obsession shines through on every page. FRIDAY THE 13th will always be the dirty cousin of its closest kin, John Carpenter’s masterful slasher blueprint HALLOWEEN, but Grove celebrates that grit. This is a good book about a group of good people making low movies to make money and accidentally creating a classic. Recommended.

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*For more Savini F13 musings pick up the latest issue of GOREZONE here.

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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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