Crystal Lake Memories (2013)
By: Devon B. on November 21, 2013 | Comments
1428 Films | Region Free, 1080p | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 400 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Daniel Farrands
Starring: Corey Feldman, Kane Hodder, Ronny Yu, Tom Savini
Screenplay: Daniel Farrands
Country: USA
In the 80s I wasn't allowed to watch the hip new horror movies, so I obsessed about the films that were off limits to me. I particularly wanted to see the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies and when I finally got to see them I loved most of the Nightmare films (not the fifth one, though) but only liked the finale of the first Friday the 13th and the silly Jason Lives. As the 80s became a distant memory I found myself cringing more and more at the Nightmare movies, and was absolutely amazed when I discovered I now enjoyed the Friday series. I'd always thought the Nightmare series concept was much more intriguing than the Friday one, but then I realised that maybe the Freddy character isn't that much cleverer than the idea of a knife-wielding mongoloid. In the first film Jason appears in a dream, but then in the next movie he's back. Maybe Jason is also a dream demon, but unlike Freddy he was successful at escaping into the waking world in his first sequel. My increased appreciation of Jason's series made it seem like I was maturing out of Nightmare and into Friday the 13th. It took me awhile to work out, but this actually makes sense. In Nightmare, the teens are usually the ones in the right and the adults normally cause problems more than they help, whereas in the Friday series Jason often acts a prude moral compass, offing teens as they recreate in ways that Fred Nile wouldn't approve of. In Friday the 13th adult sensibilities prevail, albeit in a very severe manner, making it the grown up option for slasher fans.

What all that means is I am a fan of the Friday series, but I'm a relatively new convert. I still think X, VII, III and VIII are excrement, but I really enjoy 2, IV and V these days, and still get a laugh out of Jason Goes to Hell. I may not like a third of the series, but I still have at least a passing interest in even those instalments, so when the people behind Never Sleep Again turned their sights on the Friday films I figured the end product would be worth a look, even if their first attempt, His Name Was Jason, was pretty lacklustre.

Crystal Lake Memories is in every way superior to the filmmakers first crack at the material, but those hoping to hear from Kevin Bacon will be disappointed that he's still using all of his six degrees to separate himself from the series. Instead we get Corey Feldman. Lots and lots of Corey Feldman, who even takes a minor swipe at Bacon and his ilk - meaning those that distance themselves from potentially embarrassing films, not those that form a terrible band with their brother which is much more embarrassing than a Friday the 13th movie could ever be. Feldman is the narrator, and while I guess that makes sense on paper, I don't know that his voice is really suited to the job. Anyone that's seen The Fox and the Hound will know Feldman is a vocal actor of the highest calibre, but I still think Betsy Palmer would've been a better choice.

That right there represents my only real issue with Crystal Lake Memories, that Corey Feldman wouldn't be my first choice for narrator. The documentary gives in depth coverage to each film in the series with every movie getting roughly a half hour, some get a little more and some get a little less. The mostly unconnected TV series' section is more condensed, but each of the films gets about the same amount of coverage.

Potentially this is another flaw in the film because this makes the documentary very long, and instalments that aren't that good get a lot of attention. I don't really think this is a problem, though. Firstly, I think most people will break the documentary up into a few different viewings, however it is hypnotic viewing so it hooked me in for several hours at a time. Because the documentary is segmented it's really easy to find convenient stop and start points, so the length isn't an issue. As for lesser instalments getting a similar amount of screen time, I'll admit I wasn't as interested in the parts on the films I didn't like as much, but presumably there will be fans out there that love those instalments and hate Jason Lives. This approach treats each fan equally, so people that think Jason Takes Manhattan is the best won't be disappointed. Except with their tragic lives because, really, thinking VIII is the best is pathetic.

My viewing experience with Crystal Lake Memories ranged from intrigued to enthralled, with the exception of Jason X which I felt didn't warrant as much coverage even in the name of equality. Oddly, Jason X was the only individual film that I thought really missed a key element because no one mentions that the story was stolen from a sketch comedy show, but I guess it's such a shithouse movie that maybe knowing that won't make it seem any worse. Anyway, my interest in Crystal Lake Memories did take a while to build, I think because it starts with the first film, naturally, and the DVD for the original film has a good doco on it. So the first 45 minutes or so of Crystal Lake Memories I didn't learn a lot of new stuff. Things really took off for me when the documentary moves on to Part 2, because I wanted to hear about its connection to Bay of Blood. Because I've never warmed to III I found myself somewhat impatient for its section to end, but that was also because I wanted to get to what I felt was the big selling point of the documentary, in depth coverage of IV through Jason Lives. I initially thought I would lose interest at VII, but that film's section turned out to be fascinating thanks to a recurrent theme in the documentary: censorship. VII really was hit hard by the censors, and while I'm not sure that gore would save the movie, clearly what the fans got was not the movie that was originally intended. I really liked Jason Goes to Hell when it came out so enjoyed its portion even though I don't like that film as much now. I was intrigued with how Freddy vs. Jason would go because the filmmakers already covered that movie in Never Sleep Again, but really all that was required was a shift in focus from Freddy to Jason, so that was mostly new information. The remake/reboot/secretly part XI was a bit odd at first because it's didn't seem old enough to warrant the same analysis the other films got, but I eventually found myself completely engrossed in that section of Crystal Lake Memories, too.

One thing that's unusual about Crystal Lake Memories, aside from the fact that it's a seven hour documentary about Friday the 13th that is never boring, is that it manages to be absorbing even though there doesn't seem to have been too much friction making the films. There were the censorship problems, and sometimes producers caused strife, but it seems like those involved were mostly having a good time, so the documentary isn't using real life dramas to augment interest.

Crystal Lake Memories is incredibly detailed. I know there are other people the filmmakers would've liked to have interviewed, but even if they had secured everyone on their wishlist I don't know that they could've made a better film because this is just an amazing effort. The bar has been raised, no doubt impaling other unsuspecting documentary makers on its way up.
The Disc
The documentary comes in a four disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with the film spread across two discs in either format. I popped in the DVDs to see that the content was the same, but watched the film itself on Blu. It's a bit hard to do a video review on the documentary because there's a lot of variance in quality between the elements. The main interviews look a little dark, but are usually clear. Sometimes there's a bit of noise or murkiness, but for the most part the interviews look fine. What really looks good are some of the clips from the series, which made me want to revisit the movies in HD. The clips from the censored bits can be a bit rough, particularly for VII, but that's the only way the footage was available.

Audio is a 5.1 lossy mix which is fine given the movie's mostly people talking. It's a front heavy mix, but I don't know that surround sound would've made much difference. The soundscape expands a bit more when the film gets to clips from the later movies, which is probably the reason it is a 5.1 mix anyway.

There are only two extras, but one's a doozy. The less important extra is a collection of trailers for Never Sleep Again, More Brains! and the art/wine business of the survivor girl of the first film. The other extra is a commentary track. That's right, this nearly seven hour film has a commentary track. When I first saw that I was like, "What the fuck can they talk about for seven hours?" The answer is lots. The track is with writer/director Daniel Farrands; Peter Bracke, author of the book version; and editor Luke Rafalowski. As expected they are all huge fans of the films, and the track is like one giant geekgasm. They discuss all sorts of things like their personal experiences with the franchise, the origins of the book, roman numerals versus alpha numeric, the homogenising of the horror genre, improving on His Name Was Jason and all sorts of other trivial stuff. The fact that I found all the trivial stuff interesting made me feel very nerdy, but I enjoyed the track quite a bit. Oddly they talk about how the film told everything that needed to be told, so it's curious they decided to do a commentary track for it, but I'm glad they did. I couldn't listen to it all at once or anything, but then I couldn't watch the whole film at once, either. They do wane a little by the time they hit the reboot, occasionally descending into fits of gibbering or giggling, but they regroup and refocus quickly so the track ends well.

For the lucky people that pre-ordered the set direct from 1428 there is also a bonus disc. This is not some half-assed bonus disc, it's nearly four and a half hours of additional interviews and the occasional sketch. Not all the interviews have been fully processed so the footage is a bit rough in some cases, but the disc is well put together. Taking a similar format to the main documentary, the extended interviews are broken up into sections focusing on each film. The average person probably won't need to see all this extra footage, but then the average person probably wouldn't ever buy a seven hour documentary about Friday the 13th. The best of the bonus disc are the sections on IV, VII, X and the reboot, but unless someone is obsessed with those particular entries it wouldn't necessarily be worth hunting down. Honestly, I thought X fared better on the bonus disc than in the main feature, but that's simply because the bonus disc doesn't have any cutaways to clips from the film so I didn't have to revisit the actual movie at all while watching it. I found the whole 4 ½ hours engaging and well put together, and I'm glad to have it, but it's by no means integral to the set and fans shouldn't avoid buying the doco simply because it no longer comes with the bonus DVD.
The Verdict

I think I know more about the Friday the 13th series than I do about my own life after watching all this stuff.

Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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