FRIDAY THE 13th
The first of two thick books on the FRIDAY THE 13th film series. I haven’t read the 2006 coffee table hardcover CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES by Peter M. Bracke, but can’t imagine it’s much better than David Grove’s MAKING FRIDAY THE 13th. Written by an obvious fan of the series, this heavily illustrated paperback is a voluminous look at the eleven FRIDAY THE 13th films, penned with energy and enthusiasm. Of course you (like me) may not share that enthusiasm, but the book is an invaluable resource both for fans of the films and those of us wondering what all the shouting is about.
David Grove begins the book by discussing the production and distribution of the original FRIDAY THE 13th back in 1980, which its makers admit was largely a business proposition. The paper-thin premise--an unseen killer stalking and graphically hacking up a group of horny teenagers at a summer camp (blatantly lifted from John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN)--gave birth to the stalk-and-slash movie cycle, resulting in a flood of cookie-cutter imitations (THE BURNING, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, CURTAINS, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, TO ALL A GOODNIGHT, etc.). The film is also significant for featuring a youthful Kevin Bacon and giving the wizardly make-up effects artist Tom Savini a chance to shine.
Grove for some reason glosses over the most famous aspect of the production, the full page ad producer-director Sean Cunningham placed in Variety announcing the film even though there was no budget, cast or script to speak of. But the rest of Grove’s account is as thorough as anyone could possibly want.
This unfortunately means we get far more info that we really need about the many FRIDAY sequels, which Grove admits are of considerably lesser quality. They started with FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2, which appeared less than a year after part one. It was the least gory of the FRIDAYS (and so the most reviled) but significant for introducing Jason, the son of the killer in the first film. It was followed by an expensive 3-D installment wherein Jason first donned his famous hockey mask.
THE (so-called) FINAL CHAPTER followed in 1984, featuring some of Tom Savini’s finest-ever FX work. I was hardly the “Final Chapter” however, as A NEW BEGINNING popped up the following year, followed by JASON LIVES in 1986, the (allegedly) funny installment. Next came 1988’s THE NEW BLOOD, whose makers attempted to take on the competing NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET flicks by adding some new elements, most notably a psychic girl.
The misleadingly titled JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989) was next, wherein Jason did not take Manhattan, then JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY in 1993. Once again the “final” was a misnomer, as JASON X proved in 2001. And there was still one more film to come, the long-in-the-works FREDDY VS. JASON, in which Jason faced down A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’S Freddy Krueger. Grove predicts there will be many FVJ sequels, but to date none have appeared.
The book is packed with lively interviews with participants of the films under discussion. Grove to his credit is frank about those interviewees who had (understandable) misgivings about working on the series, such as the co-scripter of part 3, who admits that “FRIDAY THE 13th is a part of ancient history that we choose not to talk about...we just don’t want to be associated with that stuff anymore.”
But the fact remains that the FRIDAY THE 13th
movies are among the most recognizable and enduring of all modern horror films.
I think any true lover of the genre owes it to him/herself to investigate this
two decade-long phenomenon, and David Grove’s MAKING FRIDAY THE 13th
provides an ideal opportunity.