The team of 1428 Films is at it again, and this time they’re giving Jason Voorhees, the man behind the mask, his due. If folks loved “Never Sleep Again” and it’s extended run time, you’ll be glad to find out that “Crystal Lake Memories” is an exhaustive and lengthy documentary running almost seven hours. This allows for funny, wry, and honest looks in to every single installment of the series. Including the remake. With narration by series star Corey Feldman, “Crystal Lake Memories” traces the series back to when “Friday the 13th” began life as a low budget production at half a million dollars. Thanks to the introduction of Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left” along with John Carpenter’s iconic “Halloween,” the creators set out to make their own mark with a holiday themed horror film.
Filming in a New Jersey children’s summer camp in the middle of the fall, “Friday the 13th” took shape. What’s so refreshing about this documentary is that the producers and writers never actually sugar coat anything about these films. There is nothing glorifying about the chronicles of production of these films as the producer admits he wanted to rip off “Halloween,” and that he originally ran an ad for “Friday the 13th” in a newspaper to build interest. Without even knowing what he was making, considering there wasn’t even a script for the movie. Every time the viewer suspects director Daniel Farrands may gloss over an apparent fact, the documentary is quick to call an installment on its faults. This not only gives the documentary a refreshing honesty, but also allows viewers to celebrate the inherent derivative nature of the series.
For example when the writers begin discussing how they gave Jason a pillow case in part two, the documentary explores how the concept was painfully ripped from the killer of “The Town that Dreaded Sundown.” There are also call backs to parallels to horror films like “Twitch of the Death Nerve” (which many fans accuse Part two of being a rip off of), and “Carrie,” which the writers used as a template for “The New Blood.” There are also many of the franchise’s writers that admit fully that the series itself is filled with plot holes and sheer inconsistencies. While that may feel like the film is mocking the series, that only adds to the entertainment value, in the end. The documentary is by no means a love letter, but a fun and clever look at a popular if flawed series, much in the same way “Never Sleep Again” practiced.
There are interviews with almost the entire cast from all twelve films, along with some of the best anecdotes and insights in to the productions of these films you’ll ever see. There’s the admission by Adrianne King that she didn’t know her character would die in part two, and that her entire prologue was improvised, while new Jason Derek Mears discusses his hilarious prank on a cast member. We’re able to garner interviews with all of the Jason actors, and how they approached the character with their own personal stamp, while the directors explore the fun moments during the making of the films, while also giggling at the flaws. One of the prevalent themes is the directors’ battle with the MPAA and how their insistence on cutting the films down, completely softened the intended brutality of the entire series. There are angry recollections of involvement with the MPAA and their rigid guidelines, including from the director of “The New Blood” who insists the MPAA “raped” his film.
“Crystal Lake Memories” thankfully never slows down, exploring the coincidences that would inevitably arise in future installments, the thought processes behind films like “Jason Goes to Hell,” and “Jason X,” as well as a brief but interesting look at the controversial “Friday the 13th” series from the 80’s that had literally nothing to do with the films. As well, we’re given a look in to ideas that never came to pass, including the introduction of Jason’s father, the many, many ideas for “Freddy vs. Jason” and the efforts by many of the new directors to come aboard and shift thinking behind the series. For hardcore “Friday the 13th” fans like myself, “Crystal Lake Memories” is a treasure trove of information, and horror film history. Whether you love the series or not, this will offer a keen insight in to the process of horror film making, and how indie films can balloon in to billion dollar franchises with enough love devoted to the material.
On the Blu-Ray director Daniel Farrands, author Peter M. Bracke, and editor Luke Rafalowski combine forces to provide thoughts and memories on the documentary, and the movies. It’s a fun and lengthy audio companion to a fun and huge documentary. Fans that ordered from the official Crystal Lake Memories website were allowed a bonus disc of extra content that you couldn’t get when purchased from other online outlets. So naturally, I pre-ordered from the official website. If six hours wasn’t enough for you, the Bonus Disc comes with an extra four hours of extended interviews that are completely uncut, allowing many of the interviewees to discuss further in length about their experiences in the film, including the making of the signature Jason sounds, and the first Jason actor’s intent on getting in character, much to the delight of Kevin Bacon. Worth your money? Hell yes.