JANUARY 30, 2009
A sentiment that many of the cast and crew on the Friday the 13th films share is that they thought their respective film, or at the very least, their role in it, would be forgotten in a couple of years. But as we all know, that is not the case, and now after two pretty in-depth books about the franchise, we have His Name Was Jason, a 90 minute documentary chronicling the franchise’s legacy from the perspective of both the filmmakers/cast, and some of its supporters within the horror community.
Unlike the books, which tackle each film one at a time, the doc spends about 10 minutes quickly summarizing the 11 films (the remake is discussed near the end of the film, sans footage or even stills) before getting to the real meat of the movie: the impact of the series as a whole. Film personnel and assorted celebrities spend the bulk of the film providing their thoughts on a variety of topics, including the MPAA battles, Jason’s different looks, and even the NES game (Adam Green’s synopsis of that disaster is worth the price of admission alone).
The great thing about the movie is seeing everyone again. Let’s not beat around the bush - it’s not often you watch an F13 film and recognize a bunch of folks. And since the big guns (Kevin Bacon, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover) don’t appear anyway, it allows us to spend more time with folks like Final Chapter’s Judie Aronson (still SO hot), New Beginning director Danny Steinmann (who hasn’t made a film since), and the cast of New Blood (almost all of whom appear). Some haven’t aged well, others have (hello there, Jensen Daggett). But the omission of a few (such as Steve Miner) just reinforces the fact that those who DO want to talk about it have fond memories of their time at Crystal Lake. This movie’s a celebration, and so if folks didn’t want to be there, chances are we wouldn’t care what they have to say. Fuck em.
One gripe is the “I Love the 80s” feel about the movie. I can understand having someone like Adam Green around (the F13-inspired Hatchet is the only non-Friday film in the movie to make an appearance), and even horror journalists, most of whom grew up as fans and are now reporting on the franchise’s newer developments. But why the hell is James Roday from the non-horror show Psych taking up screentime? Why is Seth Green and some other guy rambling about what Friday characters should and shouldn’t do? Not that their comments are invalid (Seth Green is actually pretty hilarious), but I would have preferred all of their appearances confined to (brief) “How Friday has affected pop culture” section or whatever, and keep it to the personnel the rest of the time. Again - Paramount has really dropped the ball when it comes to providing extras for these movies, so this doc is probably the only time we’ll get to see these people reminisce. I don’t want Victor Miller’s screentime shortened so we can make sure Felissa Rose can speak her mind.
Luckily, there are lots and lots of supplemental material that fill in some of the gaps and make the package better as a whole. The bulk of the extras are on the 2nd disc, but disc 1 also contains longer interviews with all of the Jason actors, running about 45 minutes total. Some great anecdotes are included here (Ted White apparently couldn’t stand Corey Feldman), and it’s interesting to see how different the actors look from one another, and also how differently they recall their time behind the mask (White was originally dismissive of the role, and now embraces it, for example). The remake’s Derek Mears also proves to be the most appreciative of the other actors - whereas most of them point out how they didn’t want to do anything that the other guys had done, Mears took efforts to offer little tips of the hat to his predecessors via specific poses and such.
Be prepared to spend about three hours on disc 2. Over an hour of longer interviews with the film’s directors (all of them save Miner are present) kicks things off, and like with the actors, you’ll get a lot of great little anecdotes while realizing that some have fonder memories than others. Then there’s about 20 minutes’ worth of deleted scenes from the movie, in which certain topics are covered by two or three individuals. A few of the screenwriters also offer longer thoughts, and it’s worth noting how much more direct and honest they are when compared to their film’s respective directors (best line comes from Victor Miller: “Sean may call it an homage, I call it grand theft cinema” - regarding the Carrie-inspired ending).
The rest of the stuff isn’t as exhaustive. A pair of featurettes in which Fox from part 3, and Rob and director Joe Zito from Final Chapter, take you on a tour from a main location from their respective film is a great idea; I wish they had done one for every film. Then we get a collection of “fan films”, which are amusing but hardly essential (Zero Punctuation need not worry about Angry Video Game Nerd) though the “Rupert Takes Manhattan” one is worth viewing for Jason’s letter alone. Adam Green, Joe Lynch and Uncle Creepy then spend four minutes explaining the entire series, which is a pretty damn funny little bit. Then there’s a “Crystal Lake Survival Guide”, in which pretty much everyone interviewed for the film tells you what not to do when visiting the area (“Don’t step around Jason’s body”). Some Comic Con interviews with key folks from the remake are also included, and I’d like to point out that I was actually in the room when they were shot (you won’t see me though, I was too busy on my ultimately fruitless attempt to score one of the posters you’ll see behind the talent). Finally, a bit called “Shelly Lives”, which I will let you discover for yourself.
It’s kind of sad, but also very telling, that the most exhaustive and “complete” special edition for an F13 movie yet isn’t even an actual franchise entry. Paramount and New Line have never really delivered a top notch, overloaded set like this for any of their films (though at least Paramount is currently trying to make amends for their pitiful boxed set), so it’s nice to see them beat at their own game by Dan Farrands, Anthony Masi, and the rest of the folks behind this film. Take Steinmann, for example: he’s nowhere to be found on Paramount’s release of part 5, but Farrands and co. got him to talk for hours about it. It’s nice to know that someone with the power to deliver the things that fans want will actually use their position to get it to them, while Paramount offers us insultingly stupid filler like “Lost Tales From Camp Blood” on their discs. Don’t settle for renting disc 1 from Netflix, because you’ll be missing out on most of the fun. Every F13 fan should own this set, period.
What say you?