Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by RLJ Entertainment
Written and directed by Daniel Farrands
2013, 400 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 8th, 2015
Sean S. Cunningham
Two years ago, the independently produced Crystal Lake Memories: A Complete History of Friday the 13th was released by the production company 1428 Films. The documentary came with an unprecedented seven hour running time and I could not recommend the title highly enough in my original review. Now, RLJ Entertainment has acquired the documentary for a wider release and as my views on the material remain unchanged from 2013, much of that review is ported over here.
For over thirty years horror fans have followed the madcap adventures of the Voorhees family and their time spent at Crystal Lake. Mother was a cook at the local camp and had high hopes for her beloved son Jason. He wasn't a very good swimmer, but managed to be incredibly successful at changing people's lives and made quite a few headlines during his time growing up. After spending years at Camp Crystal Lake, Jason began to travel, first to New York, then to Hell and finally into outer space before returning home to revisit his roots. Jason has left a lasting impression on countless people that have crossed his path and he is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.
Friday the 13th was a low budget horror movie that sparked the longest running series of films not originally written as a series. Nine direct sequels, a crossover adventure with the villain of A Nightmare on Elm Street and most recently a contemporary remake. The franchise inspired countless marketing opportunities including comics, video games, novels, action figures and a television show that had nothing to do with the movies at all.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th is unquestionably the final word on the topic of all things Jason. Inspired by the book of the same name, the films are presented in chronological order and various members of the cast and crew are assembled here to share their reflections on the series. The documentary has an unprecedented seven hour running time, so each installment receives approximately forty minutes of specific attention before moving on to the next chapter. Composer Harry Manfredini returns with some original music and variations on the classic themes he composed for the majority of the franchise. Jason fans are ravenous for behind-the-scenes stories and have been a loyal audience, as the films have seen numerous re-releases over the years.
For decades Friday the 13th and its sequels appeared on several home video formats and while they were originally bare bones editions, soon a limited number of special features began to appear. Fans were thrilled with having the titles appear in the proper aspect ratio and as a bonus they received the original trailer on the disc. Paramount released a DVD box set in 2004 that collected all eight of the films they produced and included a handful of bonus content. In 2006, author Peter Bracke released his incredibly thorough and highly entertaining oversized book Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Bracke tracked down and interviewed countless participants from the entire franchise, many of whom had no idea there was a following for these films at all.
Three years later, a big budget remake was unleashed and Paramount created a line of elaborate DVD special editions of the first eight films that appeared on store shelves in time to ride the wave of renewed popularity. Anchor Bay Entertainment commissioned director Daniel Farrands (who had assembled the majority of the special features for Paramount) to create the ultimate documentary on the subject, the feature length His Name Was Jason. This piece was an entertaining mix of cast and crew members sharing their memories of the films, joined by a few fans that work in various aspects of the genre (filmmakers, web gurus... etc.), but the end result was a cramped experience of watching roughly eighty interviews in ninety minutes.
Following the success of documenting a gigantic franchise, Farrands went on to create the ultimate retrospective for horror icon Freddy Krueger with Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. The independently produced love letter came with an impressive four hour running time and covered each film at length. Now, using the same model, Farrands returns his attention to Friday the 13th and longtime fans will finally get what they have been screaming for. The participants appear genuinely thrilled that people are interested in hearing what they have to say all these years later. There are lots of nice touches sprinkled throughout including visits to original shooting locations and clips from deleted material for each film.
Crystal Lake Memories was self-distributed through 1428 Films as a Blu-ray/ DVD combo in 2013. RLJ Entertainment has opted to split the formats this time around, but otherwise content remains virtually identical to the original release. If for some reason you somehow missed this fantastic documentary, now is your chance to correct that oversight, immediately!
Video and Audio:
This new edition appears to carry the same video transfer as the original, but the audio receives a slight upgrade.
Crystal Lake Memories is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is spread across two discs with plenty of breathing room to avoid compression issues. Given the nature of this documentary, source material is culled together from years of content, a wide variety of archival clips appear at various levels of picture quality, as expected. All of the contemporary interviews with the filmmakers look pretty terrific.
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is an improvement over the original release in that the entire mix sounds more natural and balanced. The previous edition plays louder, but is also more front heavy, making the limitations of some source elements more apparent.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
There is only one supplement on this disc, the 7 hour marathon commentary session with Daniel Farrands, writer Peter Bracke and co-editor Luke Rafalowski. The guys are clearly enjoying the payoff to years of hard work and maintain a steady dialogue for the duration. This highly entertaining discussion is definitely worth checking out.
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