Blu-ray Review: Friday the 13th (Uncut)

My only copy of the original Friday the 13th came as part of the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set released back in October 2004. It was a decent release at the time, but considering each disc contained two films, the picture wasn’t perfect, but these are low budget horror films so the picture isn’t going to be all that great anyway… right? Surprisingly the Blu-ray release of Friday the 13th is so much brighter and clearer that the daytime scenes are noticeably crisp and richly detailed and the nighttime scenes, while quite grainy, reveal much more that was hidden in previous releases. For this reason alone I see this as a worthy addition to any Jason Voorhees fan’s collection, but there is a bit more to discuss.

In terms of the film there isn’t a whole lot to be said that hasn’t been said in the past. I am a fan of this film and personally enjoy the larger dedication to story than the majority of horrors show nowadays. Sure, this isn’t exactly a brainbuster in terms of script, but the kills are thought out quite well and there is a surprising lack of “don’t go in there” moments, which I can certainly appreciate.

Watching the film again one thing I noticed, and may have actually seen before and just don’t remember, is the brief smile that turns to terror on Adrienne King’s face after the film’s final kill. It’s an impressive piece of acting that adds a lot to the character. In my mind it is the best moment in terms of acting in the film, which let’s face it was never going to be called an actor’s film, and think it is as meaningful as the questionable smile on Amy Sumner’s face in Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Of course the comparison ends there since I believe Straw Dogs to be 150 times more terrifying than this film, but this one still holds its entertainment value after 29 years.

I already mentioned the improved picture, but it should be noted that while the aspect ratio remains the same in comparison to previous releases the picture has been cropped for this “uncut” version, which adds approximately 40 seconds or so and from what I understand is technically just the international version. Perhaps this explains the reason behind the cropping as the international version was cut that way, but as you will notice from the two screen captures below, there is the noticeable improved picture on the Blu-ray release, but it is also a much tighter shot as a substantial amount of information is lost on all sides of the picture.

Screen capture from the 2004 Paramount DVD release

Photo: Paramount Home Entertainment
Screen capture from the 2009 Paramount Blu-ray release. Notice the cropping on all sides, but also the additional detail and color quality of the picture. You can actually see much further back into the forest on this pic.

Photo: Paramount Home Entertainment courtesy of Blu-ray.com

Moving along, Paramount is to be commended for this release as not only did they try to entice consumers into buying the horror classic a second (or potentially third) time by introducing the meaningless extended cut, but they also include a large amount of new features including a Reunion panel featuring special effects make-up artist Tom Savini, Ari Lehman (Jason Voorhees), writer Victor Miller, composer Harry Manfredini and actresses Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King. The best of this are Palmer’s brief comments, especially when she calls the script “shit” and says she only did because she would get paid $10,000 for ten days of work and no one would ever see it. Good stuff.

The audio commentary is an edited together hodgepodge of talent guided by author Peter Bracke and includes director Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller among others. It was originally included on the 2004 international version released by Warner Home Video and it serves its purpose by giving added information, but I am never all that impressed by these edited together commentaries, they just loose their luster knowing everyone isn’t together.

Other new interview pieces include “Fresh Cuts: New Tales From Friday the 13th” which includes interview footage from pretty much the same people featured in the reunion piece and “The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham” which tours the original director’s home and includes a brief chat. The only other new feature is one of the stupidest inclusions I have seen called Lost Tales From Camp Blood – Part 1. This is a 7:30 short film featuring a couple getting killed by Jason and unless I am mistaken it was made specifically for this release. Why? I have no idea because it isn’t good for much outside of showing off the fact anyone — and I mean anyone — can make a horror movie. Really, it’s that bad. Other than that there are a few old school featurettes and the theatrical trailer.

Overall, this is a definite title a fan of the franchise should pick up. The Blu-ray transfer is a noticeable improvement over the DVD giving the viewer plenty of additional details lost in earlier releases, but it does have a significant amount of film grain in the darker scenes, which may be a deterrance if that is something that bothers you. The Dolby TrueHD audio is satisfying, but the fact this remains an ’80s film it isn’t exactly a surround sound track and mostly focuses on the forward channels. The new features are a mild bonus, but probably includes information most die-hard fans know already, but all-in-all this is a worthy addition to your collection should you be the type to occasionally feel the need to watch a solid horror that never really gets old.

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