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DVD: His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th (2009) - 2-discs
Film:  Very Good    
DVD Transfer:  Very Good    
DVD Extras:   Excellent  
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Anchor Bay / Starz
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1 (NTSC)

February 3, 2009



Genre: Documentary / Horror / Slashers  
Broad and very amusing chronicle of Jason Voorhees and the hugely successful Friday the 13th franchise.  



Directed by:

Daniel Farrands
Screenplay by: Thommy Hutson, Anthony Masi
Music by: John Corlis
Produced by: Thommy Hutson, Anthony Masi

Oodles and oodles of cast, crew, fans and critics of the series.

Film Length: 90 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.78:1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Dolby Stereo
Special Features :  

Disc 2: The Man Behind the Mask - extended interviews with all of the men who played Jason Voorhees / Final Cuts: extended interviews with the directors / Dragged From the Lake: more stories from Camp Blood / From Script to Screen: interviews with the screenwriters / The Camp Crystal Lake Survival Guide / Jason takes Comic-Con / Fan films / Friday the 13th in 4 minutes

Comments :

After Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006), co-writer/producer Anthony Masi and Anchor Bay/Starz trained their sights on Paramount’s Friday the 13th franchise, and although there wasn’t any horror or Jason Voorhees convention on the go, there were plenty of cast, crew, and assorted talent willing to discuss their encounters with the masked killer responsible for decades of teen mayhem.

Makeup artist Tom Savini serves as the doc's host, wandering through the sets of Universal’s Friday the 13th slaughter house attraction - a grisly interactive amusement where actors re-enact nasty traumas - and the interviews and numerous film clips are strung together by Savini’s dry, mordant delivery, which often has him pausing due to a near-hysterical girl who screams her way through various rooms.

It’s an effective linking device that teases viewers and leads into tightly edited interviews on specific topics, with rotating comments from the major stars, heroines, directors, special effects members, and critics/fans. Sections include the franchise's evolution, basic plot structure (wronged boy grows up with a need to kill horny teens), and franchise twists and turns and absurdities, as well as Jason’s ongoing status as a beloved horror and pop culture icon.

On the plus side, the doc covers a good chunk of ground, and only reveals a handful of plot twists and choice gore moments, so there's no worry about major spoilers.

The franchise’s evolution is somewhat similar to the sometimes nutty changes and concept wrangling Halloween writers had with Michael Myers, and there’s a few candid criticisms from writers and directors regarding Jason getting blown up real good, dueling a telekinetic blonde, and that trip into space in Jason X (2001) where he becomes the uber-Jason.

If there’s any problem with the franchise, it’s that Jason isn’t a deep enough character to evolve; once his mom is dispensed with early on, he becomes the hockey-masked monster that nothing can kill, and while ardent fans may regard him as three-dimensional, it gets a bit thick when Jason is characterized by Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) director Joseph Zito as a learning, thinking, silent force of evil in the lengthy extended interview galleries.

Sure, Jason runs because he has the instinct to sense danger, but he's still a mutant beefcake with the sole goal to kill moving boobies or pickleheads. Zito's description of Jason's 'adaptability' is equally funny because knowing a hacksaw would effectively slice off a head doesn't really add much to his character; the use of alternative tools may even be an indication of Jason's lack of preparation, since the machete is his preferred weapon.

The doc’s weaknesses are more technical: chunks of John Corlis’ score tend to consist of looped phrases and guitar solos that become interminable during longer topic discussions; the edits between subjects to construct a flow of themed comments kind of rolls on before there’s a decicive close; and the use of grainy zoom-ins and flipping the image backwards to create some visual diversity is just dumb and dated.

(Some producers and directors share a paranoid fear of talking heads – which admittedly can be deadly – but if the verbal content is interesting and doesn’t drone on for long stretches, there’s no reason to muck around with peoples’ heads and faces. Syndicated movie shows went through the reverse-image silliness a decade ago, and it’s disappointing to see it applied so fervently throughout the doc.)

The other flaw is the decision to close the doc with a lengthy piece on the 2009 re-imagining/rebooting/remake. It’s not as jarring as the last reel of the making-of featurette in Lionsgate’s My Bloody Valentine (1981) DVD, but it’s still product placement under a veil of mild pop culture/franchise ruminations.

The original cast/crew interviews are peppered with nostalgia and a sense of humour for the older films, whereas comments from everyone involved with the remake are spiked with the usual over-zealousness and self-importance that dominates EPK featurettes.

Anchor Bay's doc provides a brisk overview of the series, and feels more genial and earnest than the featurettes included on Paramount's boxed set of the first 8 films. Also of note are the lengthy extended interviews, of which directors Joeseph Zito (Part 4) and Danny Steinmann (Part 5) are the most important, since neither were given the chance to record commentaries for the Paramount box.

We've heard Sean S. Cunnngham cover the same ground in prior docs - notably Starz' Going to Pieces (2006) - whereas directors of the later sequels are unlikely to get such an opportunity to preserve their views on camera by Paramount, since the studio has only given Parts 1 and 2 Special Editions. (Part 3 was recently released with the 2D and 3D versions, but lacks the commentary track on the prior boxed set edition.)

Like Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, this is a worthy doc that gives the sequels their own fair share of attention, and disc 2 is loaded with a long gallery of interviews, fan films, and fake ads that will keep one busy for at least another 90 mins. Director Daniel Farrands' other documentaries include a pair chronicling The Amityville Horror weirdness.


© 2009 Mark R. Hasan

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