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Friday The 13th – 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray Review)

Fridvay The 13th turned 40 years old this year. Granted, it happened during the beginning of the pandemic and lockdowns initiating so it feels it kind of had an underwhelming celebration. Happily, my friends Jason Coleman and James Oster were able to hold their rad Flicks For Fans event honoring the film. With the film in legal troubles, no further entries are able to cash in on the milestone. Maybe its the fact that multiple Fridays a year, the film gets highlighted by the same rankings, “Things you didn’t know”, top 10 kills lists and more that it waters the excitement down. Paramount could have brought some excitement with a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut for (at least) the original film. But instead we are seeing the same disc that released in 2009 repurposed again (So long ago that I worked on it before I moved out of Los Angeles) with different packaging. And even that got delayed and couldn’t hit the anniversary (Just announced on the day). Regardless, the packaging utilizes the original poster and is pretty cool looking. We’ll have a look here at it in this review.

I suppose since Paramount is repurposing the disc again, I’ll repurpose my review from the 2013 box set.

Film

21 years following the brutal slaying of two camp counselors, Steve Christie is reopening Camp Crystal Lake.  It’s a summer camp that has been dubbed “Camp Blood” due to those murders and bad happenstances like the water being poisoned.  The townsfolk are uneasy about it, but Christie is pushing ahead anyway.  The week before camp is to open, the counselors come to help set up and train before the children arrive.  The “death curse” lives up to its name as one by one, the counselors are unassumingly and savagely murdered.  And the person behind the grizzly events plaguing the camp for years will finally be revealed.

If Halloween was the film that provided the blueprint for the slasher film, Friday the 13th is the one that helped it to explode.  Sean Cunningham intended to knock off John Carpenter’s masterpiece as cheaply as possible to make the fastest buck he could.  Little did he know is he would set a trend and open the gates for many to follow.  While this knock off is nowhere near the craft of Halloween, the majority of the knockoffs were no Friday the 13th.  And to its credit, the film is its own thing as well.  Through its cheapness it was forced to become inventive, developing what would become state of the art gore effects and atmospheric settings.  And all of it came because they were being cheap and had to be inventive.

The film takes Halloween’s slasher blueprint and infuses it into an Agatha Christie (is Steve a homage?) Ten Little Indians murder mystery.  Unfortunately, the film’s whodunit winds up being one of the greatest cheats in film history, but I don’t think it takes much away from the enjoyment of the climax.  Retroactively, Friday the 13th’s final reveal is an unintended shocker for the eye of the first time viewer.  Pop culture has made it well known that Jason Voorhees is the killer in the series.  However, and for me, when I first watched the original, it came as a shock that when the hand/POV’s owner was that of Jason’s mother!  So, really, though not intended, the end is kind of a twist.

Tom Savini’s gore and makeup featured in the film is quite good and I think most of it still holds up.  Unfortunately, in this set is the unrated cut of the film.  The only difference is an additional angle shown during Kevin Bacon’s death.  The angle stinks as its very revealing at how the impressive arrow through the neck effect is done.  It looks super fake.  The rest of the deaths and effects prove to still be just as fun.  I still like the color of the blood they use.

The original Friday The 13th isn’t the best of the series.  This formula would end up being done, to varying degrees, better by others.  However, it still lands as one of the high marks of the series.  Some of it may be a little campier and silly to us nowadays, but it still has its charm and still works.  At the right impressionable age, this film could still manage to pull of the nail-biting suspense and fear we, too once had watching it in our youth.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

This is the same transfer as the 2009 release.  If you’ve not seen that, then you’re in for a real treat.  The 2009 transfer of the film takes something you’ve seen over and over for many years and makes it feel fresh again.  It makes Friday the 13th feel like you’ve never seen it before.  The colors are more bold than they ever been.  The image is sharper and crisper.  Crazy Ralph’s stubble is ever-present on his face as his lugs around on his Huffy warning of the Camp Blood’s death curse.  Patterns on clothing are now actually visible.  The only downside to this clarity is that this is the unrated cut which, as I mentioned before, features an extra angle on Kevin Bacon’s death that makes its look totally fake.

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

The campfire sing-a-longs ring fine in this English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track.  At times this track is quite impressive.  But at some points it’s just kind of standard.  There are some great moments where the score kicks in with a loud bump to try and jostle you in your seat.  The ambient sounds also are a pretty loud and discernable in this mix as well.  They are almost at times a little too loud.  The best news of all is that Manfredini’s iconic score has never sounded so good and commanding.

Additional Audio Tracks:  English Mono Dolby Digital, French Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital

Extras

Friday the 13th – 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook comes with a digital copy of the Theatrical cut of the film. All of these extras have been ported over from previous DVD & Blu-ray iterations of the film. The only thing new that is “extra” is the steelbook packaging.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Sean S. Cunningham With Cast And Crew

Friday The 13th Reunion (SD, 16:45) – A video from a panel from a Friday the 13th reunion event in 2008 featuring Betsy Palmer, Tom Savini, Adrienne King, Ari Lehman, Harry Manfredini and Victor Miller.

Fresh Cuts: New Tales From Friday The 13th (SD, 14:07) – A little mini doc with interviews featuring Ari Lehman, Harry Manfredini, Victor Miller, Robbi Morgan and Tom Savini.  Some repeated info from the reunion panel occurs.

The Man Behind The Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham (SD, 8:56) – Director Sean Cunningham reflects on the original and how he’s more interested in looking toward the future with his life and projects than sitting pat on Friday the 13th.  He also gives a little tour of his production office and some of his home.  Cunningham’s son also talks a little about working with his dad.

Lost Tales From Camp Blood – Part 1 (SD, 7:31) – A short, that looks like a fan film, depicting a couple hearing an intruder in their house late one evening.

The Friday The 13th Chronicles (SD, 20:34) – This is the first part of the multipart documentary from the From Crystal Lake To Manhattan box set that spans the course of the entire Paramount run of the series.

Secrets Galore Behind The Gore (SD, 9:32) – Another port from the aforementioned box set, that has Sean Cunningham and Tom Savini telling about coming up with and executing the effects for the original film.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:54)

Summary

Many of you who would be interested in this release likely already own the movie, which means this disc. If you’re collecting for collector’s sake, yeah the steelbook is pretty nifty. The word on the street is that something big is coming from Friday the 13th on home video in the near future. Maybe its a new box set? Best case scenario would be a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray set of the franchise, but I’m gonna assume its new transfers on standard Blu-ray (Still good!). But for this low fanfare anniversary steelbook, I’d say hold off for something a bit more excessive in celebration than how many times you can sell the same disc over and over.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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