Posted: 06/10/2009


Friday the 13th parts IV, V, and VI

(1984, 1985, 1986)

by Jason Coffman

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The release earlier this year of the “reboot” of the Friday the 13th series led, inevitably, to the re-release of the original film series on DVD. No studio in their right mind is going to let a prime excuse to double-/triple-/etc.-dip go by! While Paramount did a great job with the first film— finally releasing the uncut version on DVD in North America for the first time was an auspicious start— their reissues of parts 2 and 3 left something to be desired. Perhaps reacting to the fan uproar, the next round of Friday the 13th reissues are a nice return to the example set by the first DVD.

After all this time, pretty much everyone knows where they stand on the Friday the 13th series. While the common consensus is that the films are all pretty much the same with different casts, parts IV through VI find the series in a transitional period. Paramount, happy to count the money when each installment was released but thoroughly embarrassed by the series, planned for part IV to be the final film in the franchise (hence its subtitle The Final Chapter). Looking to make this one count, Tom Savini was brought back to do the makeup and effects for the first time since the original film, and director Joe Zito was hired to direct.

The Final Chapter is possibly the best of the series, with a great cast of teenage corpses-in-waiting that includes a very young Crispin Glover and featuring Corey Feldman as the on-screen representative of the film’s target audience: the budding horror fanboy. Zito brought the film an action-film sensibility— let’s just say there are a lot of people and things crashing through windows— which some fans enjoyed and others thought compromised the series’ established “rules.” Naturally, the film raked it in at the box office and Paramount quickly set the wheels in motion for the next installment, The New Beginning.

Perhaps one of the most maligned sequels in horror film history, A New Beginning takes place ten years after the events of the previous film and sets up the Corey Feldman character— now grown and played by John Shepherd— as a possible replacement for series “hero” Jason Voorhees. After a pretty weak bait-and-switch, the film leads to an obvious setup for the next film. Luckily, the filmmakers on part VI (Jason Lives) decided to pretty much throw everything from part V out the window and, for the first time in the series, took a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach. It’s actually one of the stronger entries in the series as well, with a nice streak of black humor underlining the mayhem.

All that is to say, for most viewers, is that IV is “the one with Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman,” V is “the one where it’s not Jason,” and VI is “the funny one.” If that describes your views on the series, these reissues are probably not on your radar, but fans of the series or the curious might find this a good place to start.

The Final Chapter is the most feature-packed of the three. In addition to about 15 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by Zito (the scenes are dailies without sound), an alternate ending (with commentary by Zito and Kimberley Beck), and a couple minutes of Crispin Glover doing takes of “Jimmy’s Dead Fuck Dance Moves,” the film has two commentary tracks. The first features director Joe Zito and other cast and crew, and the second is by Adam Green (director of Hatchet) and Joe Lynch (director of Wrong Turn 2: Dead End). They’re both worth listening to, but for hardcore fans the Green and Lynch commentary is the one you’ll probably want to hit first. They’re both huge fans of the series and this entry in particular, and it’s clear they’re very excited to be doing the commentary.

A New Beginning is, unsurprisingly, pretty light on the extras. It features a commentary with director Danny Steinmann, actors Shavar Ross and John Shepherd, and “the biggest fan of part 5 in the world” Michael Felsher. They sometimes state that they’re all in on the commentary to defend the film, but they spend most of their time joking about it. By the end, they hadn’t changed my mind at all— this one is still unquestionably a low point in the series.

Jason Lives gets back on track with around six minutes of deleted scenes that are great to finally see, but the quality is pretty rough. Perhaps the most interesting feature here (aside from the commentary by director Tom McLoughlin with some cast and crew) is an alternate ending done with storyboards and featuring the voice of Bob Larkin (the cemetary caretaker in the film). It’s cool to see, even if it’s tough to imagine where the series would have gone from there.

Additionally, each disc has a “making-of” featurette running between 11 and 15 minutes with thoughts from many of the cast members of each film, as well as continuations of the “Lost Tales from Camp Blood” series that has been running through the whole series of reissues. Your mileage may vary, but I haven’t been too interested in this particular feature although I appreciate the effort on Paramount’s part to present some new content along with the standard special features. New to this round of reissues is a series of featurettes called “The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited,” an In Search Of…-style mockumentary about the violent history of Crystal Lake. The tone of these is pretty goofy, though, which may put off fans or other people who feel the films are plenty goofy on their own.

Overall, this round of reissues is well worth a look even if you previously forked over for the standalone discs or even the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan boxed set. If you’ve been holding off on definitive DVD editions, these are no-brainers— with Blu-Ray gaining market share and who knows what beyond that, these are likely the best DVD treatment these films are ever likely to see. Now let’s see what Paramount does for The New Blood and Jason Takes Manhattan!

Jason Coffman is a film critic living in Chicago.

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