His Name Was Jason (2009)
By: Mr Intolerance on June 13, 2009  | 
DVD
Anchor Bay Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:0 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English (FHI) Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Daniel Farrands
Host: Tom Savini
Writers: Thommy Hutson, Anthony Masi
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
According to the script-writer for the first Friday the 13th film, thirty years ago producer/director Sean S. Cunningham, fresh off the back of two commercial flops – family films, incidentally – called up Victor Miller and said, "Halloween is making incredible money at the box office, let's rip it off." From such humble beginnings with dubious yet understandable motives was a franchise born that has gone on to bury much of its contemporary competition.

I'm by no means the world's biggest Friday the 13th fan. As a matter of fact, I'd probably say I only really like parts 1, 2 and 4 out of the 12 films bearing the title, or at least some part of it. Jason Voorhees, that poor retarded kid at the bottom of Crystal Lake, is not one of my favourite franchise icons, although I do recognise his importance to the genre. I'm not really even that much of a fan of the stalk'n'slash genre – I've always thought that telling teenagers that the reward for sex is a machete in the face or an arrow through the neck is kind of weird. I am, however, a big fan of documentaries, and am pretty relentless in my watching of extras packages on DVDs, and pretty much exclusively read non-fiction about horror film – so when I saw this doco about the Friday the 13th series available, I thought – hell yeah, I'll buy that.

I wasn't disappointed.

I don't think you need to be an obsessive fan of a particular film-maker's work, or a certain genre, or even a particular franchise in order to find a doco about it interesting – good documentary film should work under it's own steam; I mean Peter Jackson's mockumentary Forgotten Silver was about a film that didn't exist made by a director who never was, and that was pretty fucking good, and if you even question the brilliance that was This Is Spinal Tap, then I hate you. This is a good documentary, and that's that, regardless of what you think about the Friday the 13th franchise.

The presentation of the film is a little amateur-hour at times, with special effects guru Tom Savini as the talking head guiding us through the different aspects of the franchise with a script that's bad enough to stop a speeding horse dead in its tracks, and is oddly patronising at the same time – as if the target audience have never watched a Friday the 13th film in their lives (and the linking device of having a screaming woman running through the shot gets very old, very quickly). I can kind of understand that a documentary might need to address a broad audience, but honestly, one which has such a niche market, as identified by the title, can very probably get by with assuming some knowledge on the part of its audience. I mean, really, who's going to be buying this flick, the franchise sight unseen, with its molded Voorhees ice-hockey mask slipcase who isn't a fan of the films already? Short sighted ice-hockey fans?

The basic idea behind the film is to take you by the hand and guide you through the various stages of this iconic stalk'n'slash franchise with the following chapter titles giving you an idea of what to expect: Birth of the Franchise, Who Is Jason Voorhees?, The Friday Formula, Jason's Greatest Hits, The Monster Makers, Sole Survivors, Unlucky 13th, Where Is Crystal Lake?, Super Slasher Hero and 2009 and Beyond. Throughout the load of them, the doco interviews a wide range of folks, cast and crew, involved in the making of the films. There's a great deal of depth, and when considering the Extras package as well, probably the most exhaustive retrospective on these films that it'd be possible to make – if you're a fan of the series, you need to have this film and the book Crystal Lake Memories on your shelves right now.

Whatever the fuck you might think of these films (even one of the directors states that he considers them to be the cinematic equivalent of comfort food), you can NOT deny the fact that the Friday the 13th films are indeed a phenomenon. Jason has entered the cultural psyche over the last 30 years in a way in which Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Candyman, Pinhead, or Chucky never have – you name them, Jason's hockey-mask-clad face really does overshadow them all – when you've been caricatured numerous times on The Simpsons you know that you've made it big. Me – I'm not really a fan like I said, but fuck it, respect where respect's due – the Friday the 13th films kept audiences in horror cinemas, and that needs a big tip of the hat, right there. You see a hockey mask, and who do you think of? And then you glance terrified over your shoulder, looking for the big dude (usually Kane Hodder) with the machete...
Video

The picture, in 1.78:1 and anamorphically enhanced looks fine – although with some of these films shot in different aspect ratios, the footage might well suffer as a result. Mind you, given that you rarely see more than about 45 seconds from any one particular film in a row, that's probably not so much of an issue. Hey, three decades on and all...

Audio

Again, this is variable, depending on whether we're watching footage from any on the Friday films, or doco footage shot later. It's adequate to the task at hand here.

Extra Features
Fucking loads of them – over four hours worth. Seriously, this is one of those sadly few instances where the horror fan wins out, and wins out big time. If you're a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, you should be all over this like white on rice. This was obviously a labour of love for someone deeply in love with the Friday movies in a way that I never really got, and I salute them for the passion they brought to this doumentary. To begin with, there's a doco called The Men Behind the Mask, which interviews all of the actors who've played Jason – this is some pretty interesting shit right here; check this out if you're a fan – you won't be disappointed; it's a fucking beauty of a doco – and it's from a 2009 perspective, with the re-make already factored in. So it's about as up-to-date as you could hope for.

And then we hit the second disc, and there are so many more special features for you to find: Final Cuts gives you a series of extended interviews with the various directors of the Friday films, from Cunningham (always entertaining) to Nispel (who seems to view horror film as product only, with little regard for the fans themselves, unlike many of the other directors who at least consider their audience to be more savvy than the average film fan). In some regards, this was more entertaining, and certainly more informative, than the main feature. From Script to Screen gives you interviews with some of the screnwriters from the series – again, this is really quite interesting stuff, and definitely needs to be seen by the fans. Although the interview with the knuckleheads who wrote Freddy Vs Jason and the remake might irritate you – they certainly irritated me. Dragged From The Lake gives you a whole bunch of amusing and/or interesting anecdotes from the whole course of the series – again, this is a good watch; one very much for the fans – a real pay-off; some of it is actually pretty scary – Adrienne King's tale of her stalker after the first film is kinda harrowing, to put it mildly.

Fan Films is exactly what it says – and when the first one is called "Freddy Versus Jason in 30 Seconds With Bunnies", you kind of know what you're getting into. And yes, it's funny. So is "Jason Hurts" - a short public service announcement about Jason's struggle with chronic depression. The other two films are pretty amusing, too – none of it seems terribly essential, however. Closing the Book on The Final Chapter features director Joseph Zito and one of the actors wandering about on the original locations of the film, reflecting on the film. Some good anecdotes abound – the one about Crispin Glover's arrival on set, in particular.

Fox Comes Home takes us back to Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D, and the barn where Fox gets pitch-forked and "hung out to dry". Again, interesting stuff – Father Time has taken a bat to the location, but it's nice to know these places are still out there. Friday the 13th in Four Minutes is a pretty fucking funny summation of the series pointing out its various flaws, but obviously still showing a fair amount of love for it at the same time. Jason Takes Comic-Con is a DreadCentral.com interview with the cast and crew of the re-boot of the franchise. Probably the least essential part of this otherwise awesome Extras package. Still interesting, though – although the bint who plays Whitney is extremely fucking irritating.

The Camp Crystal Lake Survival Guide: Helpful Tips to Stay Alive at Camp Blood is a pretty damned funny tongue-in-cheek featurette with many past and present members of the Friday the 13th cast and crew giving you the dos and the do-nots of life, and imminent death, at Camp Crystal Lake. Inside Halloween Horror Nights is a look around Universal's Friday the 13th attraction Friday the 13th: Camp Blood, effectively like a ghost-train for the post-MTV generation, although I wouldn't mind a look around it. Shelly Lives – a mock commercial a la the one from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery about henchmen. Amusing, but not essential. All up, though, this is one seriously good package of Extras.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As it stands, I think that Halloween: 25 Years of Terror is a superior documentary, and appeals to its target audience more successfully and more effectively. This film tends at times to treat its audience the way I treated Friday fans when I was in high school – as lame-brained half-wits who only watch films to see boobs and blood and wouldn't recognise a decent narrative if it jumped up and bit them on the nose; an unfair assumption on my part – for those people, the Extras package is where it's at, their reward for loyalty to the franchise – makes it a keeper for those fans. I don't know how many times I'd be able to sit through a collection of Jason's "greatest hits" kills – although realistically, that'd be the only reason for me to watch any of the films in the first place. I have the strange feeling that this film will sit in the rather dusty part of my collection alongside the Friday the 13th films I haven't watched since I bought the parts 1-8 From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set two or three years ago. I thought I should own them as a serious fan of horror, the way I own all 8 Halloween movies, for example – in each franchise's example, I should have given up years ago. Buy what's good, not what bears the franchise name. Given the Friday the 13th name, this is the best retrospective you are likely to get. Full marks to the people responsible for making something so comprehensive. It's well worth watching, even if you're not a big fan of the series – take it from me.

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