Easily the most enduring of horror franchises, Friday the 13th spawned ten sequels, a spin-off, and a reboot, making its antagonist, the goalie-masked Jason, both a horror icon and pop culture phenomenon. While all of the films have made it onto home video in one incarnation or another, fans have long clamored for a COMPLETE collection. The closest we’ve gotten, up till now, was Paramount’s excellent DVD set, From Crystal Lake to Manhattan, which collected the first 8 films in the series. Sadly, parts IX (Jason Goes to Hell) and X (Jason X), as well as the popular “team up”, Freddy vs. Jason, were the property of New Line Cinema, who acquired the rights to the franchise (sans the Friday the 13th name) in the early 1990s, after Sean Cunningham took the property to them following the poor box-office receipts of 1989’s Jason Takes Manhattan. Those rights would later be given to Warner Brothers in their acquisition of New Line in the early oughties, and, seeing as how it was rare (if not entirely unheard of) that two major studios would collaborate on a home video release, a truly complete set seemed unlikely.
With the Platinum Dunes remake of Friday the 13th, Paramount would, once again, return to the fold, and, in gearing up for said film’s release, presented the first three films in the series on feature-packed Blu-rays, while New Line gave us Freddy vs. Jason. Sadly, more than three years later, fans found themselves waiting for the rest of the series to hit Blu-ray, as neither Paramount nor New Line offered any hints as to when the remaining films would surface. While fans grew impatient, rumors of collaboration on a boxed set surfaced, and, today, what seemed like an impossible dream a decade ago is now a reality, as Paramount and Warner/New Line have finally brought all twelve films to Blu-ray in Friday the 13th - The Complete Collection; a massive, deluxe, feature-packed 10 disc set that will make even the most stoic Friday fan break down in tears of joy.
I’m not going to bother getting into too much detail as to my thoughts on each of the films, themselves, as they’ve been covered ad nauseum here and elsewhere, so, here, the focus is on the quality of the transfers, extras, and set overall!
Some fans may cry foul that these releases don’t deviate from the previously released DVD and/or Blu-ray offerings, but, to be honest, I don’t see a problem with that, especially in regards to the first three, pre-Roman numeral discs in the set; Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th Part 2, and Friday the 13th Part 3 (in 3D). Each of those Blu-rays offered a great assortment of extras as well as excellent transfers of the films, and, in my opinion, really couldn’t have been improved upon save for the inclusion of the unrated version of Part II, but, let’s face it; we ain’t getting it any time soon! What we do get are the same great HD extras that we got with the original Blu-ray releases (see original reviews here, here, and here!), as well as the standard definition stuff that was carried over from the groovy Special Edition DVDs, including The Friday the 13th Chronicles behind-the-scenes docos.
Disc four features, appropriately enough, Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter (aka part IV), and, while it doesn’t feature any new content, once again, we’re given the same great stuff that accompanied the special edition DVD, including a commentary track, behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes/deleted scenes, and more. The new transfer here is on par with Friday the 13th Part 3’s in that it’s not quite as sharp and refined as the first two films, but is still quite attractive, and only sullied by some inconsistent blacks and the occasional overabundance of grain. In terms of audio, the new 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track (all of the previously-available-on-Blu-ray films in the set - including parts 1, 2, 3, Freddy vs. Jason, and 2009’s reboot - employ Dolby True HD 5.1 tracks) sounds dynamite, with a really nice and immersive spread, crisp dialogue, and a rollicking Manfredini score! Extras are limited to the goodies found on the Special Edition DVD (a few upscaled to iffy 1080p), but they’re quality stuff, and include a really entertaining interview/retrospective with Corey Feldman, who obviously loves this stuff.
Disc five features the much (and deservedly) maligned part Friday the 13th Part V - A New Beginning, and, my personal favorite sequel after Part 2, Friday the 13th Part VI – Jason Lives. Both films feature excellent new transfers, with Jason Lives taking the edge over A New Beginning in terms of clarity and overall sharpness, but I credit that to the former’s better cinematography and “glossier” look. Both feature the aforementioned 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks, and, once again, Jason Lives takes the edge in terms of pure fidelity, but A New Beginning is no slouch, offering strong bass, clear dialogue, and a great representation of the classic score. As with Part IV, both films feature the same supplements included in their Special Edition DVD releases.
Disc Six features Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood, and Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan. I used to really dislike The New Blood, but I’ve softened my stance on it considerably in recent years, so I was happy to dig in and revisit this one in HD. I can’t say the same for Jason Takes Manhattan, however, as the old adage “you can’t polish a turd” proves true here. Still, as with other films, the move to HD has greatly enhanced the image and sound quality, with both looking really quite phenomenal when compared to their DVD counterparts. There’s still some inconsistency in the blacks (seeming a running theme, here), but the level of grain is of fine cinematic quality, and the image looks especially sharp and defined when the action is taken indoors or during daylight hours. The 5.1 DTS HD tracks are also an enormous improvement of the standard 5.1 tracks given the DVDs, with the effect most notable on The New Blood, with all its wonky psychic sounds and thunder booms. Once again, all extras are carried over from the Special Edition DVDs.
Disc Seven pairs up two of New Lines offerings (I’m guessing that’s why they gave Part IV its own disc despite not having any HD extras; so it would line up this way), Jason Goes to Hell – The Final Friday (I love how they got around not being able to use Friday the 13th in the title) and the farcical and fun Sci-Fi romp, Jason X. Personally, I enjoy the heck out of these two flicks, especially Jason X, as they really tried to inject some life into the Friday the 13th mythos by taking a lot of chances that weren’t entirely popular with fans. Sadly, we still don’t get the unrated cut of Jason Goes to Hell, but what’s here looks fantastic. The image is very crisp and clean, and the faded/muted blacks that were a minor issue on parts 3 through VIII aren’t evident here. As good as Goes to Hell looks, Jason X does it one better (as it should, seeing as it’s the more recent of the two films), sporting very nice detail, depth, and vibrancy. These two films get their previously released DVD extras, as well, with Jason X getting the very nice assortment that accompanied its Platinum Series release, while Jason Goes to Hell is complimented with a slightly less abundant amount of goodies, but does feature some of the trimmed footage fans have been wanting to see reinstated to the film.
Discs 8 and 9 give us Freddy vs. Jason, and 2009’s Friday the 13th (the theatrical version and “Killer Cut”), respectively, and, as expected, both of which are carbon copies of the previously released Blu-rays. That’s not a bad thing by any means, however, as both discs still hold up as technically proficient releases, with an excellent transfers, solid 5.1 True HD soundtracks, and a nice collection of goodies. I’m still not a fan of the newer film, but, of all of the discs in this set, it’s easily the best in terms of A/V quality, so it has that going for it (at least).
Disc 10 is the same bonus content DVD from the Crystal Lake to Manhattan set, and is loaded up with all sorts of great stuff, albeit in standard definition.
The Friday the 13th Chronicles is an 8 part series of short featurettes (the longest, fittingly, belonging to Friday the 13th, and running at just over 20 minutes) loaded with interviews and clips. One has the option of viewing each individually, or playing them all, with the total running time being that of a feature length picture itself. It's a wonderful retrospective, full of amusing anecdotes and insight, and makes for a great night's viewing on its own.
The Secrets Behind the Gore featurette is broken down into three parts, and features interviews with cast and crew members, as well as in-depth discussions and looks at the work of Tom Savini and FX Artist/Director John Carl Buechler.
Crystal Lake Victims Tell All is a funny short featurette chock full of interviews with cast members from the various films, in which they recall stories from the production, as well as how the series has effected them and their lives. It's a nice way to catch up with old "friends", and offers just one more glimpse into the world of the franchise.
Tales from the Cutting Room Floor features a selection of extended and alternate scenes from the original Friday the 13th, as well as The Final Chapter, Jason Lives, and A New Beginning. This is the segment that features all of that excised gore we've heard about, and it's a treat. However, the only film that really seems to have had a lot of its more visceral moments cut out is Buechler's A New Beginning, which features some gore of Fulci-esque proportions. That's a film I wouldn't mind seeing in all of its uncut glory, someday, and, listening to Buechler and Hodder commentate on the raw footage, one suspects it's just a matter of time before we do.
Friday Artifacts and Collectibles focuses on props, as well as assorted toys, clothing, and ephemera associated with the series. There's a nice look at the NECA collection, which features one of my personal favourite toys, the super-size 18" Jason figure that currently resides on the top of my coffin shaped DVD shelf.
The bonuses are rounded out by a collection of theatrical trailers from all eight films.
Of course, being that this disc is culled from the Paramount boxed set, the focus, here, is on the first 8 films, and, being that it predates the release of 2009’s reboot, there’s obviously no mention of that here. Still, it’s a great collection of goodies and the deleted content is worth owning the disc for alone.
The entire kit and caboodle is packaged in a sweet embossed tin, with the discs, themselves, housed in a heavy stock, sleeved “book”, filled with artwork, credits blocks, and little factoids. Also included is a miniature version of the excellent Crystal Lake Memories book, pared down to 40 pages of stills and essays. We also get a nifty Camp Crystal Lake Counselor iron-on patch, and a pair of Friday the 13th branded 3-D glasses (for Part 3, of course). It’s really a gorgeous set, and, to me, the convenience of having it all in one handsome volume outweighs the fact that the majority of the stuff here has been recycled from other releases. Yes, at an SRP of $129 bucks, it’s a bit on the pricey side, but we get seven films making their Blu-ray debuts, here, so even if you own a few (or all) of these already, owning the entire set on Blu-ray makes for a compelling enough reason to consider selling off what you’ve got and putting it toward this!
To call this set a must-buy is an understatement; if you're one of those Friday fans (like myself!) who’s been complaining about the lack of a comprehensive colllection, you've simply got no choice but to buy this set. The transfers look great, the bonus features, while not new, are still nothing short of superb, and the packaging is just beautiful! Do I wish we had some new stuff, or that the ALL of the bonus features were upscaled to HD? Of course, but this is still a great (and COMPLETE) collection of some of the most influential horror flicks ever, and definitely deserves a spot in your collection.