There isn’t really much that I can say about Friday the 13th that hasn’t already been said over and over. So, with that in mind, I won’t attempt to say anything new. But I will touch briefly on a few things I love about the flick (and a few that I don’t). However, I want to spend most of this critique getting into what’s most important to horror fans when it comes to a limited edition re-release: The special features. More on that in a moment.
As for what I love about the film, Friday the 13th deserves much credit for helping to kickstart the slasher subgenre. Black Christmas and Halloween (and arguably films like Psycho and Peeping Tom) may have done it first. But Friday the 13th proved the slasher formula was sustainable. And it has been repeated, much to the delight of fans, many times since.
In addition to paving the way for the slasher boom of the ’80s, Friday the 13th is also noteworthy for its gruesome, envelope-pushing effects and for (briefly) introducing us to Jason Voorhees. The scene where young Jason pops out of the water at the end made me jump out of my skin the first time I saw the film. And, to this day, it remains one of the most memorable sequences in horror history.
Do I think it’s the best in the series? Not necessarily. I tend to think the second installment is the better film (a point our Nat Brehmer makes right here). But if it weren’t for the original, which smartly melds elements of the giallo with the slasher template, there would never have been a part two.
As for what I’m not crazy about: I think the fatal flaw of Friday the 13th is that it breaks one of the cardinal rules of the giallo. It does not introduce us to the killer until moments before she is revealed as being the killer. Simply inserting Pamela Voorhees into the narrative sooner would have fixed that problem and made it an even better film than it already is.
Now, as promised earlier, let’s discuss the bonus content. While the special features are a nice touch and there are plenty of them, they are all ported over from previous releases. On one hand, I get this: Betsy Palmer is no longer with us and anything in which she appears should absolutely be a part of this release. But Paramount really did nothing to differentiate this from the 2009 Blu-ray release. In fact, every single bonus feature, including the commentary track are ported over from its prior Blu-ray bow. If you already own that, the singular reason to purchase this limited edition disc is for the (admittedly cool) SteelBook packaging.
As always, I am truly grateful for the complimentary copy I received from Paramount Home Entertainment. But If I were a fan (which I am) who already had the 2009 Blu-ray (which I do) I wouldn’t invest in this. I dig the SteelBook packaging. A lot. But I don’t think there’s enough to differentiate this from the previous HD release. And seeing as how we are in the era of 4K, it’s a little surprising that this (as far as I can discern) is the exact same 1080p transfer of the film that was included on the 2009 Blu-ray.
The bonus features are a lot of fun to rewatch but what strikes me as odd is that they contain many of the same anecdotes and stories that are featured on the film’s commentary track. Case in point: About ten minutes into the commentary, Sean S. Cunningham tells the same story about teenagers facing their mortality that he does in one of the interview features.
Moreover, the commentary track is not really a conventional commentary track. It’s bits and pieces of interviews strung together and played over the film, many of which don’t actually relate to the scenes which they accompany. I really wish Paramount would have brought the surviving members of the original cast and crew together and sat them down to watch the film and talk about it. That would have been so much more exciting and would have given fans more reason to shell out for this anniversary edition release.
The Steelbook release of Friday the 13th will bow on June 16th, 2020.