Friday the 13th (40th Anniversary) Steelbook Blu-ray Review: There Was This One Time at Camp Crystal Lake…

Confession time. The Friday the 13th franchise is one that I’ve largely ignored my whole life. Call it snobbery, call it what you will. The horror genre – especially the cheesy, teen slasher type – was not something in which I was largely invested in my childhood and that thought/feeling has kind of continued into my adult years.

I decided to finally give Sean S. Cunningham’s film a spin to have an official take on it and to see if I am able to just flip off my brain for a bit and enjoy some silly, ’80s slasher flick. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed the movie. Is it good? Not necessarily. Some of the acting is lousy, and the characters are mainly there as objects for the killer to stab or slash. Is it fun? Oh, absolutely. It’s a bloody fun time that, back in 1980, was considered shocking and graphic, but is considered tame by today’s standards. It is violent, yes, but it doesn’t reach anywhere near the torture porn-level of most of today’s serial killer films.

Friday the 13th kind of has a plot. The film opens in 1958 and shows two counselors at Camp Crystal Lake sneaking away to have sex. They are then both killed by an unknown and unseen assailant. Twenty-one years go by, and the camp – nicknamed “Camp Blood” – is reopening after the tragic incident. A group of new counselors (including Kevin Bacon in one of his earlier roles) arrive to help get the camp up and running again, only to come across the same terror that plagued the place two decades prior.

The characters are one-dimensional and the film sags in the middle section when they are playing games and making out. Once it gets to the kills, that’s when the film gets to be the most entertaining. The practical effects still hold up surprisingly well, and some of the kills are still effective and shocking without overstaying their welcome.

By now, it’s known by practically everyone – even those that haven’t seen the movie – that Jason wasn’t the killer in the first movie; it was his mother (Betsy Palmer). One of the more clever approaches the movie takes is by showing some of the kills from a first-person aspect, so we don’t see what the killer looks like. It’s a complete mystery until the final act. Palmer’s appearance is what makes the film even more fun – when she chews the scenery with every line of dialogue and hunts down the final survivor of Camp Crystal Lake. Jason is briefly seen in the film’s final moments, which set up the sequels that were to come.

The new steelbook release comes with a replication of the film’s original poster for the artwork and the phrase “Kill her Mommy, kill her,” which Palmer utters as she chases Alice (Adrienne King), written on the back cover. It’s a gorgeous collector’s edition for those who are fans of the film. The picture quality is superb, with many scenes looking like the film is a recent release. Other scenes do have some grain and dirt, but, as a whole, the remastered picture is incredible. The Blu-ray disc contains an unrated version of the film, containing 10 seconds of footage different from the original release. There is also a digital copy of the original film that comes with this new edition.

The special features are a collection of what has been featured on previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, including interviews with the cast and crew, a reunion special, and a collection of shorts called Lost Tales from Camp Blood.

No, Friday the 13th isn’t a masterpiece by any means. But it is silly fun, and it does make me curious to see the rest of the franchise. So, in that sense, it works, even for the non-hardcore horror fans.

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David Wangberg

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