Looking to cash in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Paramount Pictures hired Sean S. Cunningham to produce and direct a new horror film. That movie was 1980's Friday the 13th. It was not the first slasher film ever nor anything close to the best but something about it spoke to audiences all over the world to the tune of nearly $40 million. It spawned nine sequels, a television series, a Nightmare on Elm Street crossover film, a 2009 reboot, and numerous novels and comic books. Jason Voorhees and his hockey-mask-wearing, machete-yielding self has become a horror icon. The series is one of the most successful in horror film history.
Based upon the book of the same name, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th is a massive, all-encompassing, totally complete, seven-hour documentary about all of the films and the television series. It features over 100 interviews with nearly everyone involved in the production of any of the films.
It begins with a short introduction by Corey Feldman who goes on to narrate the entire thing. It follows chronologically through the series, giving about 30 minutes of time to each film and slightly less to the television series. The various participants appear as talking heads discussing their role in the film at hand, and fondly reminiscing about their own memories of the shoot. Interspersed throughout the film are short clips of the scenes being discussed, outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage, and other miscellanea that shows over the interview audio.
Every conceivable topic is covered from the difficulties of shooting on such low budgets to the escalating fights with the MPAA to the various directions the producers, directors, and executives wanted to take each subsequent sequel. Even so, there is no doubt information and details that are left out as the series encompasses so many films that it is impossible to include it all even with a seven-hour runtime. I doubt anyone but the hardest of hardcore fans will notice.
That length certainly makes this film something only fans will be interested in. I can’t imagine anyone sitting through this who isn’t already a fan of the series or interested in the history of horror. I consider myself a fan and to be frank, at times it was a bit of a slog. I also realized while watching that I’ve never actually seen Part VII or VIII all the way through, nor the non-cable versions of V and VI.
Certainly though, if you love this series, then this will no doubt get your slasher-juices flowing. I expect those willing to watch a seven-hour documentary on a horror franchise probably already know most of the facts given, but it's still fun to see the filmmakers and actors excitedly reminiscing about their parts.
I wish they’d spent a little more time digging into the cultural aspects of the films. They touch here and there why the films were popular and someone mentions the AIDS-era morality (where the kids who party and sex it up are the ones killed) but they never dig deep. The non-stop talking heads gets a little old as well and it would have been nice if they’d mixed something else from time to time. But ultimately this is a great resource for fans to relive the entire series, to gather a wealth of information, and to hear directly from the creators of this franchise that seems to have as many lives as Jason himself.
If, after seven hours of Jason, Jason, and more Jason, you are still jonezing for more Jason, you can queue up the audio commentary from director Daniel Farrands, author Peter M. Bracke, and co-editor Luke Rafalowski. Surprisingly, they have plenty to say through the entire seven hours. I have to admit that I did not listen to the entire thing, but on spot check it seems to be very lively and informative.
For a limited time if you order directly from the 1428 Films official site, you can get an extra disk containing another four hours of interviews.