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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/31/00

Friday the 13th
1980 (1999) - Paramount

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Friday the 13th Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/D-

Specs and Features

95 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (15 chapters), languages: English and French (DD mono), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"You'll never come back again. It's got a death curse!"

Say what you will about the Friday the 13th films, but they have earned their place in cinematic history. They're not particularly classy or original films (an understatement), and the rough edges sometimes surface just as much as the actual intended product. But in the end, they accomplish their main objective - they're scary and fun. For that reason (and that reason alone), I'm a little easier on the Friday the 13th film series as a whole. Good or bad, it helped pioneer the low-budget horror craze that overtook Hollywood in the early to mid-eighties.

The story starts in 1958, with a wholesome bunch of camp counselors singing squeaky clean camp songs at scenic Camp Crystal Lake. Naturally, two of them head off for some together time (translate: sex), and are butchered mid-act by an unseen killer. The poor things. Flash forward a few decades to the same camp. After being closed for several years, a new batch of nameless, faceless counselors are prepping the camp for its re-opening. The camp is now lovingly referred to as Camp Blood by the town folk, who are none too happy to see it open its doors again. And sure enough, soon after the counselors get there, the murders start again... and they start disappearing one by one.

Those not entirely familiar with this series may be disappointed, because this is a virtually Jason-free movie. No hockey mask, no machete. He doesn't make his killing debut until the second entry in the series. Outside of a very young Kevin Bacon, the only really memorable actor here is Betsy Palmer. As Mrs. Voorhees, she is prone to some of the most hysterical, hammiest over-acting this side of Showgirls. Even her tour-de-force can't save the ending of this flick, that drags on far too long for its own good.

Friday the 13th is one of those POV horror films where the camera acts as the killer, and stalks the young cast members in hopes of being a "whodunit." Like many of these cheaply made horror films, that particular aspect of the movie falls flat on its face. In this case, it's because the killer isn't even revealed until the last scene or two of the film. It's light on suspense, but Friday the 13th succeeds in producing at least a handful of really good scares. Tom Savini's gore handy work is understated and effective in this film, especially when compared to some of the later films in the series. Awards-junkies should note that Friday the 13th garnered two nominations for the inaugural year of the Razzies - Worst Picture and Worst Supporting Actress for Betsy Palmer.

For the first time ever, Friday the 13th is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 (and it's anamorphic too). The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but it's a mostly good looking picture. The predominant issue with the transfer is digital artifacting, which becomes a slight distraction in some of the darker scenes. Shimmer also becomes apparent in a few scenes that show strongly patterned backgrounds and foregrounds. On the upside, color reproduction is surprisingly good (if slightly over-saturated) and produces some vibrant reds and greens. Edge enhancement is obvious at times, but only on occasion. Given the age of this film, I'm amazed to see that there wasn't more in the way of aged-related print defects. All in all, not too bad.

For audio, we're given an adequate mono mix of Friday the 13th (along with a French mono track as well). It gets the job done, but provides little else in the way of excitement. Dialogue is distinct, but just a tad on the quiet side. Bass response is okay, but is somewhat shallow and ineffective. Harry Manfredini provided the music for almost all of the Friday the 13th films. His score is highly derivative of Bernard Herrmann's work, but manages to create mood and aid in producing a few scares. It would have been more effective in establishing mood if it were channeled through the surrounds in a new 5.1 mix, but oh well. On the whole, the sound quality is acceptable.

What can you expect for features on this disc? Well... if you're familiar with Paramount discs even in the slightest, you'll know that, for a movie of this caliber, you're only going to get the trailer. The good news is that it's been given anamorphic enhancement. The bad is that it's a horrible (not to mention misleading) trailer. It's just plain dumb.

On the whole, Friday the 13th is an entertaining little flick, that only hints at what's to come later in the series. It's a love it or hate it type of thing, but there are a whole lot of people that dig these films. Friday the 13th took the successful Halloween formula and ran all the way to the bank with it. I'm glad Paramount finally took the dive and started releasing these films on DVD. Lack of features notwithstanding, this disc will definitely be appreciated by those who are used to seeing these films on worn-out, low-quality VHS tapes.

Dan Kelly
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