Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by 1428 Films
Written and directed by Daniel Farrands
2013, Region A, 400 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 13th, 2013
Sean S. Cunningham
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 who have crossed paths with him and he is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.
Friday the 13th was a low-budget horror movie that sparked the longest running set 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 have followed since the original film released in 1980. 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 here in chronological order and various members of the cast and crew are assembled 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. There are plenty of reference clips from the movies, hundreds of rare production stills and gorgeous pieces of international artwork throughout. Title sequences and chapter heads perfectly mirror the original film they cover and composer Harry Manfredini returns with some original music and variations on the classic themes he created for the majority of the franchise.
For decades, Friday the 13th and its sequels appeared on several home video formats and while they were originally bare-bones releases, 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 it 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 feature length His Name Was Jason, that would serve as the ultimate documentary on the subject. This piece was an entertaining mix of cast and crew members sharing their memories of the films, joined by a few fans who 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 gracious and seem 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.
As the films made their long awaited debut in the giant Blu-ray release Friday the 13th – The Complete Collection, this documentary arrived the same day (a Friday the 13th no less!) and serves as the ultimate companion piece that is the best gift the series could have ever received. I highly recommend picking this up immediately.
Video and Audio:
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, meaning that a wide variety of archival clips appear at various levels of picture quality, as would be expected. All of the contemporary interviews the filmmakers are directly responsible for look pretty terrific
The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix that is simple and effective. There are a few moments when the audio dips during reference clips, but the majority of the content and all of the current interviews sound fine.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided.
The main supplement on this disc is a jaw-dropping seven-hour commentary session with Daniel Farrands, writer Peter Bracke and co-editor Luke Rafalowski. The guys are clearly enjoying the payoff of years of hard work and maintain a steady dialogue for the duration. Definitely worth checking out.
The only other bonus on this disc (understandable considering the impressive length) is a set of trailers for Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead and a promo spot for Adrienne King’s wine label.
A copy of the documentary is also included on DVD in the same package.
If you order this title directly from the company's website, you will get a bonus DVD of extended interviews. What at first glance may appear be a few minutes here and there is actually much more thorough as the material has a running time of almost four and a half hours. Not all of the content is polished, as these segments were never intended for the final edit, and audio levels vary from time to time. In addition to the interviews, there are a few added-value items hidden throughout, particularly in parts three and six. Ari Lehman's band, First Jason, closes out the material with a concert performance.
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