I went back and forth trying to decide if I should watch Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. When I initially heard about the documentary I was immediately interested, largely due to the fact that it is directed by Daniel Farrands, one half of the directing duo behind the wonderful Never Sleep Again: The Elm Legacy. My apprehension came from the subject material. For as popular as the Friday the 13th movies are, I’m just not that familiar with the franchise. Of the 12 movies I’ve only seen four – Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter, Freddy vs Jason and the 2009 “remake.”
So I had a decision to make. Do I watch the documentary now and encountered numerous spoilers? Or do I attempt to watch all 12 movies first and then give the documentary a go? After a great deal of eternal debate I decided to jump head first into Crystal Lake Memories. I mean what spoilers could this really offer? I already know Jason’s whole setup, even without seeing all the films I know when he got his mask and yada yada yada. We know he’s never really going to die and there’s always going to be a final girl. These are your typical slasher elements, no big deal.
I’m quite pleased with my decision.
When tackling a documentary like this I feel it’s best to treat it like a miniseries. Watch an hour or two here and an hour or two there because it is extremely long. It covers 12 films, dedicating 30-45 minutes to each one, so you can understand how the time adds up so quickly. Personally I think watching the whole thing at once is information overload because there’s just so much being discussed. I needed time to take it all in, so I spread it out of the course of a few days. Fortunately Crystal Lake Memories is put together perfectly as each chapter is dedicated to one specific film in the franchise. In doing this it makes it easy to stop and pick things up again later. The film gives you a defined stopping point. I watched 2-3 chapters at a time until I reached the end.
I have to give major kudos to Corey Feldman. I’m not entirely sure how people feel about Feldman these days, but he was definitely a huge part of my childhood with significant roles in some of my favorite movies. Out of the 4 Jason movies I’ve seen he plays in the one that is far and away my favorite. Here he serves as the narrator as well as one of the folks being interviewed. He does a great job as narrator. I mean, he’s no Ron Howard, but he’s very engaging and seems to enjoy the subject. During the segments when he’s being interviewed for his roles in parts 4 and 5 he might come across a little cocky, but I think he may have been trying to joke around and have a little fun with it. All in all, very solid job.
I’m not going to go into too many details because there’s just so much that is covered. What I will do is give you the sort of outsider perspective I had while watching. Because I’m not a diehard, mega-fan of the series a lot of what I was hearing, especially the little details, where completely new to me. Apparently the original idea was for Jason to be named Josh? I had no idea! Also that would have been a terrible choice. Josh Voorhees? That does not roll off the tongue!
My favorite segment was focused on A New Beginning. As an outsider this was supremely fascinating as I had no idea that so many die-hard fans of the series hated this entry. Over the years I’ve heard plenty of people write off Jason X, but outside of that I thought fans pretty much loved every entry. I was shocked to find out that the Friday the 13th franchise has it’s very own Halloween III. Hearing all the different opinions on this film and what the intent was and what direction they had hoped to take the franchise actually made me a lot more interested in the series as a whole. When I finally sit down to watch the series, and I will because the watching of this documentary was immediately followed by me going out and picking up the boxset, I’m going to have such a totally different perspective going into every entry, this one in particular. This was probably the one really major spoiler I encountered that I didn’t already know about. I hadn’t the slightest clue that there was a movie with Jason but it was really just “Jason.” The more you know.
Aside from getting quite the shock, the segment dedicated to A New Beginning also gives us the thoughts of one Danny Steinmann. Steinmann directed A New Beginning and in doing so he seemed to have one goal – get as many boobies on screen as possible. I don’t mean to disrespect Steinmann, who has since passed away, but he definitely came off as the typical sleazy Hollywood director just trying to get as many women naked as possible and up on the big screen. He was very much in favor or promoting and selling filth and trash and to that I say good for him! Listening to him talk was one of the most entertaining parts of Crystal Lake Memories even though I had no idea what the hell he was saying. God bless you, Danny Steinmann, god bless you.
Another thing I learned is that the Friday the 13th series is actually quite heavily edited. A bunch of stuff that was in the initial cuts had to be removed due to censors and from what I understand a lot of that has never been put back into the movies on any release. The cool thing is this doc does show you some of these extended scenes. It appears that most of what cut was kills that are in the movies, but just chopped down. It’s kind of a bummer that some of them never made into the final products, especially because some required a lot of work.
Speaking of work, the special makeup effects throughout the series is quite brilliant. Even with all the cuts the franchises contains some of the greatest achievements in the history of practical effects. Whether it be Tom Savini or Carl Fullerton or Allan A. Apone, everyone involved did some really great work. There are a few moments in part 4 that are absolutely genius.
I only really had one complaint about this film and that’s with a few of the folks it lacked. Maybe they couldn’t get them and perhaps they tried, but I really wanted to hear from Kevin Bacon and Crispin Glover. I understand that they’re probably the two biggest stars to ever appear in the series so they’re probably much harder to get, but them not being there really bummed me out. I suppose it’s probably not fair to hold that against the filmmakers, but it is what it is.
If you’re a horror fan there really is no good reason not to check out Crystal Lake Memories. If you’re a big Friday the 13th fan it’ll probably appeal to you a bit more, but if you go in like me, it’ll be both entertaining and educational. Even if you don’t like horror but just love movies you will likely find this documentary enjoyable. You get to hear about how a franchise was born. You get to hear about the highs and the lows and it all comes from virtually every person that worked on the series. It’s all incredibly fascinating.
Crystal Lake Memories is now available on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.