Studio: 1428 Films
Director: Daniel Farrands
Writer: Daniel Farrands, Peter M. Bracke
Producer: Thommy Hutson
Stars: Corey Feldman, Wes Craven, Tom Savini, Robert Englund, Sean S. Cunningham, Kane Hodder, Erin Gray, Alice Cooper, Frank Mancuso, Jr.
Cast and crew from a dozen films and the television series offer recollections of the entire “Friday the 13th” franchise.
Ready for a nearly seven-hour documentary on the “Friday the 13th” film franchise? The prospect of spending more time with behind-the-scenes recollections than it takes to watch any four of the movies in the actual series inspires either unfettered enthusiasm or exasperating dread. That is the same line that separates those for whom the documentary is intended from those who should steer clear like a teenager avoiding Camp Crystal Lake. The running time alone makes it perfectly clear that this is a viewing commitment for serious fans only.
Director Daniel Farrands and producer Thommy Hutson previously teamed on a truncated version of this same material for the 2009 documentary “His Name Was Jason,” which ran for a comparatively scant 90 minutes. “Crystal Lake Memories” is a less rushed and more polished approach towards honoring three decades of an iconic horror franchise with spirited devotion and attention.
First on the extensive task list of upgrading their 2009 effort is focusing on franchise cast and crew recollections as opposed to a random inclusion of celebrity fans and website pundits waxing nostalgic on favorite scenes and what the series means to them personality. Nothing against their opinions, but “Friday the 13th” deserves a retrospective that leaves its viewers informed and engaged. Sentimentality fuels fond memories in the moment before morphing into quickly fading satisfaction. A pointless straggler or two still wanders in on occasion. Naturally, the girl who played a baby at six months old in “Jason Goes to Hell” has nothing of substance to offer, but it is at least admirable that the filmmakers made a visible effort to track down everyone they possible could.
There are still some noticeable absences. It is unsurprising that bigger names like Jared Padalecki, Crispin Glover, and Kevin Bacon are nowhere to be found. But really, what would Kevin Bacon actually have to offer to a “Friday the 13th” documentary besides his name? More unfortunate are missing names like Steve Miner, the only director to helm two “Friday the 13th” movies, which also happen to be two of the best-regarded films in the series.
The most significant improvement over “His Name Was Jason” is the chronological arrangement of segments devoted to each chapter in the series. Not only is the presentation ordered in a sensible time tunnel format, but it also makes the whopping amount of material easier to digest in smaller increments. This is how “Crystal Lake Memories” breaks down:
Introduction – 0:00-0:05 (5 minutes)
Friday the 13th (1980) – 0:05-0:45 (40 minutes)
Friday the 13th Part 2 – 0:45-1:22 (37 minutes)
Friday the 13th Part III – 1:22-1:55 (33 minutes)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – 1:55-2:33 (38 minutes)
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning – 2:33-3:05 (32 minutes)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives – 3:05-3:41 (36 minutes)
Friday the 13th: The Television Series – 3:41-3:51 (10 minutes)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood – 3:51-4:20 (29 minutes)
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan – 4:20-4:43 (23 minutes)
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday – 4:43-5:06 (23 minutes)
Jason X – 5:06-5:25 (19 minutes)
Freddy vs. Jason – 5:25-5:56 (31 minutes)
Friday the 13th (2009) – 5:56-6:26 (30 minutes)
Additional Reflections – 6:26-6:36 (10 minutes)
End Credits – 6:36-6:40 (4 minutes)
It is difficult to envision a complete 400-minute viewing in one sitting. After awhile, scenes of actors reminiscing about their favorite kills or reinforcing the notion that Jason Voorhees is a pop culture phenomenon blend together and become tiresome. More than a few minutes are given over to plot summaries, recaps, and personal reflections on what the series means to each individual. These non-essential moments are more irritating when the runtime turns into a grueling marathon. Appropriate pacing is required.
On the whole, “Crystal Lake Memories” is more honest than its predecessor. Clips of actors and creators acknowledging that something “sucked” or pointing fingers of blame at another party for dips in the series’ popularity are included in refreshingly upfront moments. “Crystal Lake Memories” is unafraid to address items like “Friday the 13th” creator Sean S. Cunningham’s origins in softcore pornography whereas “His Name Was Jason” did things like make its segment on the 2009 reboot merely a commercial for that film.
While the majority of the previous documentary’s hiccups are cured, there are several fair criticisms that can be leveled at the production. For one thing, few of the interviews are actually new. From the backgrounds and the wardrobes, it is plain to see that the majority of the talking heads are culled from footage originally shot for “His Name Was Jason.” Some of the same sound bites are even recycled. With only a four-year difference between the two films, it is hardly a major offense, as the insights are still mostly current. Although it is slightly jarring in scenes such as when “Jason Lives” director Tom McLoughlin looks different enough in a new interview that his footage from “His Name Was Jason” appears to belong to a different person altogether.
Other elements of the film will either be pros or cons depending on each viewer’s tastes and personal affinity for the series. Seeing Corey Feldman included as a major presence is a boon in theory, but his repetitive intonations and delivery across six plus hours do not always make for the best narration. Such nitpicks may be irrelevant, however. No one but the truly diehard are going to tackle this mammoth beast without an inherent appetite for every extra minute they can possibly put their hands on. Some minutes have far more value than others, but “Friday the 13th” fans will want it all no matter what.
“Crystal Lake Memories” makes “His Name Was Jason” irrelevant with its remarkably balanced devotion of time considering the number of entries covered as well as the details that are critical to understanding the franchise’s timeline and enduring popularity. Casual observers and anyone with only a passing interest in the ongoing saga of Jason Voorhees would be better off elsewhere. Then again, this documentary is meant purely as a depthless treasure trove for the true fans of Jason and Camp Crystal Lake.
Review Score: 75