Daniel Farrands began his career in the film industry by scripting the much derided sixth entry in the Halloween series – The Curse of Michael Myers (though admittedly I’m quite fond of it), before then adapting the horrific Jack Ketchum novel The Girl Next Door. Since then however he’s gone on to build quite a reputation for detailed horror themed documentaries. He directed the excellent Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, while the prior year found him shooting His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday 13th. With that in mind it’s worth asking the question of why another Jason themed documentary? The simple answer is there is A LOT to tell, and with a 400 (!) minute running time this project manages to cover everything without once feeling padded out.
I guess if you spent your formative years in the 90s, the Friday 13th movies have always just existed to the degree that you often take them for granted. Even though I own each one, when you sit back and think that there’s TWELVE feature films and a three season TV show under the Friday 13th banner you realise that to tell the story from beginning to (potential) end is quite some achievement. Farrands has somehow managed to interview somewhere in the region of ONE HUNDRED cast members, directors, stuntmen, writers and producers in order to give a faithful retrospective of the horror franchise.
We open with the comforting face of Corey Feldman who will be our narrator through the documentary, and as expected we initially learn about creator Sean S. Cunningham and his early years of directing the occasional softcore film before going on to get his big break as a producer of Last House on the Left. A solid 40 minutes is given over to the background of the first movie as we learn that the modus operandi was simply “rip off Halloween” before it moves on to detail the casting of a largely unknown cast, the hiring of make-up wizard Tom Savini, and the role Harry Manfredini played in creating the iconic score.
Each segment on the various movie chapters never outstays its welcome despite a solid half hour and more being given to each sequel. With Part Two the departures of director and cast is discussed as well as the prominent role of Frank Mancuso Jr, while Part Three sees in the 3D phenomenon and the return of Steve Miner. Part Four we have what many regard to be their favourite sequel with the addition of Joseph Zito as director not to mention the hiring of Corey Feldman to play Tommy Jarvis and the return of Tom Savini. Part Five however is a largely negative affair, and here is where the documentary gains great credibility. It doesn’t airbrush history and actors’ problems with director Danny Steinmann are openly discussed, such as his somewhat sleazy nature when directing the sex scenes and his generally unapproachable demeanour.
Part Six levels the accusation that it’s poor box office was largely due to the disappointment of the previous sequel, while Part Seven examines John Carl Buechler’s many issues with the MPAA due his penchant for gore as well as the welcome sight of Kane Hodder stepping into Jason shoes for the first time. Part Eight mocks the amount of time that was actually spent filming in Manhattan while with Part Nine we see the jump to New Line as well as the frustration of not being able to secure the rights of the Friday 13th name. In Jason X we see the series go in a brand new direction and one that ultimately failed, while Freddy vs Jason analyses the coming together of two of modern horrors most infamous icons. The remake is also discussed to a broad extent, but that’s something I personally can’t really dwell on!
It’s impossible to quantify 400 minutes of endlessly fascinating information as well as to put across the unbridled pleasure of listening to people that you barely know telling engaging stories and reminiscing on the time they spent shooting these movies. What I can say is that despite my initial reservations on the running time, by the end I just sat despondently on my sofa pining for more. Granted, you can point out the few frustrations of this piece such as the absence of people like Kevin Bacon and Crispin Glover – but it’s a minor gripe that I’m presuming little could be done about. What’s more important is the fact that this documentary made me realise just how passionately I love these little slasher flicks, and as Corey sat around the campfire narrating the story, he made me feel like I was sat on the log next to him toasting marshmallows and waiting for Jason to emerge from the shadows.