IT’S IN THE BLOOD Creators Interviewed

Terry speaks to Writer/Lead Actor Sean Elliot and Writer/Director Scooter Downy about their film It’s in the Blood.

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 sean     scooter

Terry Wickham:  I know you both wrote the screenplay for It’s in the Blood. But who actually got the first seed of an idea for it? When did it first happen?

Sean Elliot:  It’s In The Blood is a derivation of a script I wrote for a screenwriting class some years ago.  I suppose the initial idea occurred to me a year or two prior to then, when I began brainstorming on a film that would not only contain character and plot elements that Scooter and I would be interested in exploring, but would also be feasible to produce on a low budget.  Keep in mind though the film you see on screen shares very little in common with the initial script/idea.  As soon as Scooter and I decided we were going to independently produce this project, the script underwent extensive revisions as the first stage of our collaborative effort; and by the time we actually shot the film some 10 drafts of the film had been written.

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Left to right; Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Scooter Downy in backseat shooting It’s in the Blood

TW:  How did you work together? In other words, what was your process? Did one of you write a draft, while the other polished or did you split scenes up?

SE:  Yeah, initially Scooter and I took turns writing drafts of the script.  I wrote the first draft and then he took the script and spent a few weeks rewriting it.  Once he finished his draft he handed it off to me and so the cycle continued.  Eventually we locked ourselves in a cabin for a month in the Colorado mountains and hammered out what I would consider to be the “real first draft” of the film we actually ended up making.   I believe this was our 4th draft.  All of the subsequent drafts that followed were 100% collaborative efforts between Scooter and I, where we both shared in all the responsibilities of polishing/revising/editing/etc.

TW:  What did you bring to the script versus Scooter (and vice versa)? I’ m sure you each have your own writing/story/character strengths.

 SE:   In this particular script, I guess the element(s) I am most directly responsible for would be the wilderness/survival aspects.   The very first draft I had written had largely been inspired by the movie The Edge, staring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.  I really like man against nature stories.  When it comes to Scooter and I writing in general, I would say I tend to focus on world building/mechanics, while Scooter is really good with characters/character development.

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TW:  How long did you spend writing it?

 SE:  We wrote roughly 10 drafts of the script, and when we finally got on set and the cameras started rolling, we threw them all out the window.

TW:  Was it hard to get financing? How long did it take to get the capital to make your movie?

SE:  It is incredibly hard asking investors for money to finance a film under the best of circumstances.  When you do not have any resume whatsoever demonstrating your ability to successfully write/produce/co-star/direct/etc. a film, it’s even worse.  Despite numerous pitches at varied venues (venture capital clubs, fund-raising parties, etc.) where we failed to generate any capital, we were really fortunate to find enthusiastic support from friends and family.

TW:  Did the financing company take script as it was or did you have to revise & alter it? If so, how much?

 SE:  Because this was primarily financed by friends and family, we were able to maintain 100% artistic control of the film, which was really a blessing.

TW:  Is either one of you from Texas? How did you end up shooting at Spiderwood Studios? Your locations have a rich and varied look.

 SE:  No, neither one of us is from Texas, but I had spent a year living there building up my acting resume.  It was actually sometime that year that I wrote the very first draft of the script.  A few years later, when it came time to choose a shooting location, I knew from the year I had spent there that Austin Texas had a really great film community with some of the best crew you can find anywhere in the world.  Once we decided to shoot in Austin, Utilizing Spiderwood Studios was a natural progression.  They have an incredible set up and are a fully functional studio.  They have a 200 acre wilderness back lot which is where we did most of our shooting.

TW:  Speaking of Spiderwood Studios and your locations, I read in Fangoria that you had trouble with snakes and spiders. Please elaborate. What kind of snakes and spiders gave you a problem and what exactly happened?

 SE:  We encountered every king of stinging, biting, clawing vermin you can imagine!  Rattle snakes, scorpions, water moccasin, copperheads, cottonmouths, wasps, bees, ants, etc.   I know Scooter has stories of his own, but my closest call was the night we were shooting an important sequence where both Lance and I had to be in the river.  No sooner had we finished shooting the scene and gotten out of the water when a really large water moccasin comes cruising up the river, right through the spot Lance and I had been not 30 seconds prior.   These kind of event became fairly routine for the crew.  It really is a miracle that we didn’t suffer any casualties while shooting this movie.

TW:  Casting Lance Henriksen as the father character Russell was an excellent choice. He fit the movie perfectly. Was he always your first choice and tell us how you got him?

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Lance Henriksen gets ready to do a scene It’s in the Blood

SE:  We had a short list of actors we were interested in pursuing for the roll that also included Will Patton, Robert Patrick and Ed Harris.  However, as soon as we talked to Lance we knew we had our guy.  Of all the people to read the script, He was the first to really “get” it.  Ultimately, Lance understood this character so well that he was able to bring a level of humanity to Russell that was above and beyond what we had envisioned for the character.

TW:  Sean was it always your intention to co-star in the movie or did that come about for another reason?

 SE:  Yeah, it was always my intention to co-star in the film.  We designed this project to give both Scooter and I the opportunity to do what we love.  After having been auditioning for a few years with limited results, I was tired of asking for permission to work.

TW:  Was it easy balancing your responsibilities as an actor versus producer?

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It’s in the Blood’s raven haired beauty Rose Serna

 SE:  This was one of the hardest parts of the entire process for me.  I had been so involved with the development/production of the film every step of the way, that when it came time to step back as a producer and concentrate on acting, it was very hard for me to relinquish that control.  The entire time we were shooting the film, Lance was always telling me to “surrender”.   It took me a long time to learn what that meant, but when I finally did it made all of the difference.

TW:  Scooter was it always your plan to direct this movie? Talk about your background. How did you become a filmmaker? What are the movies that got you interested in directing and what influenced this movie in particular?

 Scotter Downy:  From the get-go we developed the film as a way to to get feature film experience. But if James Cameron had wanted to direct it, I probably would have stepped down. Like most directors, I became a filmmaker by seeing way too many movies and behind-the-scenes documentaries. As a four year old I had an unholy fascination with Jaws which I watched over a hundred times. Then mom and dad bought a camcorder and editing software for me in high school and I started making spoof movies for the morning news program. This was thankfully before YouTube got popular. It’s In The Blood was influenced by lots of films — The Edge, Predator, Jacob’s Ladder, TV’s Lost.

TW:  Scooter, what was your vision for It’s in the Blood? Do you feel you accomplished what you set out to do?

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Lance Henriksen gets direction from Scooter Downy

 SD:  My vision was to make a character driven atmospheric fever dream of a horror movie that won the Sundance film festival and made millions of dollars. So yes and no.

TW:  What format and camera did you guys film with? Talk about your director of photography Mike Simpson as well. Your movie as a nice visual look, very green which I kind of wouldn’t picture Texas very green because of the heat. Was that captured live or done with color correction in post?

 SD:  We shot digitally on the RED-One. Mike Simpson is a tremendous talent. We originally wanted to shoot the film in the Pacific Northwest to give it that dense, primordial green look but were surprised to find something comparable in Bastrop Park outside of Austin. So the color was captured live and enhanced in post. We wanted to do a spin on the bleach bypass look while still flooding the wilderness scenes with intense greens and blues and with strong backlight at night to see deeper in the woods. The pastel colors in the flashbacks provide a nice visual contrast.

TW:  How’s the response been to It’s in the Blood so far?

 SE:  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  We were voted best horror film of 2012 by Planet of Terror, and were an official selection in over forty film festivals where we won a whole bunch of awards including Best Picture at Shriekfest LA.  We successfully achieved distribution, and the film is now available for rent/purchase on DVD as well as numerous Video On Demand platforms (Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, and a number of cable on demand providers).

SD:  Critically it’s been overwhelmingly positive. However for most audiences It’s In The Blood inspires wildly different reactions. It’s not your average horror movie — the focus is on atmosphere and the father-son relationship. The ambiguity at the end seems to be a sticking point for some while others appreciate the passion and ambition.

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Left to right; Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, with Scooter Downy getting ready film a pivotal scene

TW:  What’s next on your agenda?

SD:  We just finished a short animated film called  Political Earth (Preview)  which won the $5000 Third Place Prize for the Infowars.com Operation Paul Revere film contest.  It’s basically an animated political cartoon in the style of a nature documentary — a safari showcasing our world’s “political animals” — from the fat cats of wall street to the federal leviathan.  We’re hoping to turn that into a webseries soon.

 

Please visit the movie’s official site:

www.itsinthebloodthemovie.com

Author David Grove Interviewed

Terry gets the scoop from author David Grove about his latest book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th and his book Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen

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Terry Wickham:  Where and when did you first see John Carpenter’s Halloween?

David Grove:  I first saw Halloween on Halloween night 1984, when I was eleven years old.  I returned home from trick r’ treating and caught the ending of the film – just the last ten minutes or so, which I recorded on the old Beta machine we kept upstairs.  That was significant because recording horror films off television was something I did throughout the eighties, creating my own little video store of Beta tapes, which I watched over and over again.  Those memories, and films, burn themselves into you.  You can’t forget them, but what’s really weird about those kinds of memories – and this has to do with everything in life – is that they always seem like they just happened yesterday.  They still seem so real, even as years and decades go by.

 To finish answering your question, I saw the entire film – Halloween – soon after, in 1985, and watched it over and over again, particularly throughout junior high, through the end of the eighties.

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“The Boogeyman”, Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween

TW:  What kind of lasting affect did Halloween have on you?  I distinctly remember playing baseball with a friend the next day and just couldn’t get the images of Michael Myers out of my head.

 DG:  You know, it didn’t have the psychic effect that Friday the 13th had had on me years earlier.  Halloween was the first horror film I saw from an artistic point of view, in terms of actual technique and strategy being employed to create a truly powerful experience.  I used to read movie guides all the time, before I’d seen most of the movies.  Horror movies carried such a taboo growing up, and watching an R rated movie, either at home or in a theater, was a badge of honor.  I remember reading reviews of Halloween and being struck by the level of critical acclaim it received and I was blown away that a horror film could be considered so “good” in a critical sense.  Likewise, my appreciation of Halloween deepened in comparison to the gore-filed Halloween II (don’t get me wrong, I watched Halloween II countless times as well – throughout senior high even), which was seen as a “fall from greatness” compared to the first film.  My reaction was like, “Okay, why is Halloween seen as this masterpiece while Halloween II is regarded as being a gore-filled, uninspired sequel.”  I was intrigued by this, on a critical level.   What is suspense, and how is it created?

TW:  The time period you focus on in your book where Jamie Lee Curtis made all those horror films was special.  I remember that time with great fondness.  We’ve never experienced anything like that with an actress the same.  Why do you think we haven’t?

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Laurie Strode spots “The Boogeyman” in Halloween

DG:  I don’t think the climate’s ever been the same as it was during that golden period between 1978 and 1981 to allow an actress to assume that mantle again, but I also think Jamie was special and no one else has ever matched her, in terms of the qualities she brought to the horror genre, and what she meant – and continues to mean – to the genre.  Halloween was a classic that – along with the success of Friday the 13th – brought the horror and slasher genres into mainstream Hollywood, and as the star of Halloween, Jamie became the flag-bearer for the genre in that time period.  Halloween is the most highly-regarded genre film since the mid 1970s, certainly by me, and as the star of that film – as the scream queen – Jamie really set a standard, but she also crossed the entire trajectory between 1978 and 1981, starring in slasher staples – and blatant Halloween knockoffs – like Prom Night and Terror Train, being the “star” of the most productive period in John Carpenter’s career – with her roles in Halloween and The Fog – and really closing out the era with Halloween II, just as she walked away from the scream queen title and moved onto other roles.

 I refer to the period between 1978 and 1981 as a “golden age” because, for someone my age, the genre films made during that period serve as the benchmark for everything that’s happened in my life as a moviegoer.   That’s true for many people, judging from all of the remakes of those films.

TW:  What was your favorite Jamie Lee Curtis film post Halloween (of course I’m referring to her genre films) and why?

DG:  Wow.  That’s a tough question.  Jamie’s worked in almost every genre and proved herself capable in all of them, but she’s only been in one truly great film and that’s Halloween.  I don’t like most of the horror films she did after Halloween, even though I find them endlessly fascinating as a journalist in terms of her career and the context they fit into.  I loved her performance in Blue Steel, but I had mixed feelings about the movie overall.

TW:  Where and when did you first see Friday The 13th?  It obviously left an impression on you, talk about it.

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 DG:  I saw Friday the 13th at home on television when I was about eight and, yes, it had a huge effect on me. I’ve never been so scared watching a film since.  I remember the sequence near the end of the film where Alice is back in the main cabin, after discovering Bill, and then the bodies start flying out at her (Brenda and Steve) and you don’t know where – or who – the killer is, and she’s trying to hide and barricade herself, and it’s just pure terror.

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Bill (Harry Crosby) in Friday The 13th

TW:  I’ve got my own thoughts but why do you think the remakes of Halloween & Friday The 13th were so bad (I don’t think they should have even been made) in comparison to the originals?

 DG:  I don’t think they were remakes.  Halloween was a Rob Zombie film – in the worst sense – and was full of his own peculiar touches, and it was padded with back-story that only serves to demystify the legend, and the Michael Myers character.  The 2009 version of Friday the 13th isn’t a remake of the 1980 film, but rather similar to the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, in terms of style, tone and execution.

TW:  Pinpoint the Top-5 things about Friday The 13th that make it the classic that it is.

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Tom Savini’s Special-Make-up Effects stood out in Friday The 13th

 DG:  The unseen identity of the killer.  The concept of such gruesome bloodshed set against such a remote, apple pie setting.  Tom Savini’s effects and the way they were executed.  Betsy Palmer’s appearance and her terrifying performance.  The lake scene at the end.

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This scene made many, including this writer, to jump out of their chair in Friday The 13th

TW:  I never read your previous book about Friday The 13th that was published by Fab Press.  What’s the difference between On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th versus that book?  Is it possible for me to get a copy of that first book to review?

 DG:  The first book covered the entire series (and the TV series) with about a quarter devoted to the first film.  The new book is full of new information about the first film – and the planning and the people involved with the film – as well as lots of new information about old information, such as the casting, financing,  what went on in Blairstown, and especially the people.  I have one pristine copy left and they’ve become collector items, having sold out completely, and they’re expensive.  Maybe someone will reprint it one day.  I’m flattered that the first film has become a classic film book for fans, but I know On Location in Blairstown will that take to a completely different level.   This book takes the reader back in 1979 – before, during and after the making of the film.

TW:  Have you ever visited Blairstown, NJ and Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco?  I had the chance about ten years ago and really enjoyed seeing those locations in person.  It wasn’t easy getting clearance from the Boy Scouts of America but I eventually got the Ok.

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Sign to Camp Crystal Lake (actual location Camp-No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey) in Friday The 13th

 DG:  No, I haven’t, and I heard they don’t welcome unwanted visitors.  In the book, I relied on the memories of the cast and crew, as well as pictures (including pictures taken in 1979) from visitors.  I’d like to go there.  They requested a book.

TW:  How’d you like the character (Elizabeth Solley) that Jamie Lee played in The Fog?  It’s one of my friend’s favorite parts she’s done.  He told me he wished he could find a girlfriend like that character.

 DG:  I found out way too much about Jamie’s films, and her work in the films, to be able to simply watch and enjoy the films anymore.  Her role, much like her mother’s role in the film, was really a patchwork on the part of Carpenter and Hill, just so they could squeeze Jamie and her mother into the film.  I like her too, but I don’t think there’s much of a role there.  I’ve always felt The Fog plays much better on television, a format in which the film’s flaws are less apparent.

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Left to right:  Adrienne Barbeau, John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh on the set of The Fog

TW:  Do you ever wish that John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis would have made more films together?

DG:  Yes, absolutely, and I really got into that in the book.  Carpenter and Hill were like surrogate parents to Jamie – career-wise – and they had a special bond, although they weren’t joined at the hip or anything like that.  I don’t think either Jamie or John ever imagined that they’d never work together again, as director and actress, but they went their separate ways, as did Debra Hill.  I don’t think Carpenter was ever the same again.  The success of The Fog and Escape from New York seemed to foretell mainstream Hollywood success for Carpenter in the big studio system, but it was a nightmare for him, while everyone around him – everyone who started out with him – seemingly went onto bigger and better things, including Jamie.  Carpenter and Hill needed Jamie in that early period, but there came a point where Jamie didn’t need them anymore.

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The unbeatable team of Debra Hill and John Carpenter

TW:  It’s a real shame that Dimension didn’t pony up enough money to have those three work together on Halloween H20.  They were a winning combination together and I can only imagine the film we might have got out of the situation.  I actually liked the job Steve Miner on that film, but would have preferred the original people again. How do you feel about it?

DG:  I didn’t like the film, but it was harmless, and I think Jamie deserves credit for putting the pieces of that project together and making it a financial success, at least.

TW:  What made you want to write another book on Friday The 13th?  Were you unsatisfied with your first attempt?  Did you uncover more information after the first book was published? I believe Crystal Lake Memories came out after your first book was published, right?

DG:  I liked the idea of writing a book on the making of a single film and since I’ve spent over a decade covering Friday the 13th, it seemed like the perfect choice – if I had enough new information, which I quickly discovered I did.  If that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have finished the book.  I was unsatisfied with the first book only in the sense that I have no real passion for any of the films except the first one, which I felt warranted a book of its own.  I think even the most diehard fans of the film – and the readers of my first book – will be surprised by this new book, and they’ll enjoy it very much.

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Crew of Friday The 13th, DP Barry Abrams front bottom left & Director Sean S. Cunningham center in white shirt

TW:  Do you have that big Friday The 13th soundtrack box set that was released a few years back?  I really wanted a copy of that but it was sold out too fast.

DG:  No, but I desperately wanted a copy of the sheet music to put in the appendix section of my book, and it was simply unavailable.  There’s a detailed section on the music in the book, including the “Sail Away, Tiny Sparrow” song, which is so disarming to hear in the film.

TW:  Before you found out what Harry Manfredini’s echoed voice said in Friday The 13th, what did you think it said?  I always thought it was saying “Get Out.”

DG:  When I was a kid, I thought it was ha-ha-ha.

TW:  What are your favorite Jamie Lee Curtis moments/scenes in the following movies and why?

Halloween

DG:  One favorite moment is when Laurie and Annie are driving in the car and Laurie mentions her crush on Ben Tramer, and just the scared, nervous look on her face.  A second moment is when Laurie walks out of the kitchen with the pumpkin and then she just flops down on the couch, as if she’s exhausted from running around with the kids and just needs a rest.   She has your sympathy.

The Fog

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Jamie Lee Curtis & Tom Atkins in John Carpenter’s The Fog

DG:   I like the banter between Jamie and Tom Atkins when he picks her up.  I like it when she asks him, “Are you weird?”

Prom Night

DG:  I like the trembling emotion she shows at the end of the film when she’s looking down at her dead brother.

Terror Train

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Kenny Hampson (Derek McKinnon) and Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Terror Train

DG:  I like the moment at the end when Kenny forces Alana to kiss him and just the disgusted, snarled expression on Jamie’s face when he pulls away from her.   It plays into Jamie’s own androgynous sex appeal.

Road Games

 DG:  Jamie doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the film, so I’d say the dialogue between her and Stacy Keach.  I thought they had good chemistry together, not in a romantic sense, but a comic sense.

Halloween II

DG:  Jamie probably says less than 100 words in that film.  I’d say the scene where she shoots Michael in the eyes.

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Laurie Strode defends herself against Michael Myers in Halloween II

Halloween H20

 DG:  There’s one moment in the film where Laurie references her murdered friends and that was the only moment in the film where I felt a connection between H20 and the first film.

TW:  If you could have had your choice, which story direction would you have taken Laurie Strode in Halloween II?  It’s pretty much agreed that she was kind of wasted in Halloween II confined to a hospital bed, though I still like the film.

DG:  Wow.  I would’ve liked to have seen Laurie become a psychiatrist – to take over the Sam Loomis role – and either be confronted by Michael Myers, or another child in Haddonfield who is, in essence, the reincarnation of Michael Myers and the evil he represents.

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“The Boogeyman” comes out of nowhere to get Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween

TW:  In my opinion, Terror Train is one of the Top-10 Slashers of All-time.  Claustrophobic train setting, the opening scene is terrific.  Jamie Lee looks great and David Copperfield brought a mysterious touch to the table.  How would you comparably rate it?

 DG:  I loved that movie as a kid, but it didn’t hold up when I watched it later on, in terms of logic and story.  It’s a well-made film – a well-made slasher film – and makes good use of its location, and the reveal of the killer is very effective, although a cheat.  Yes, I’d probably pick Terror Train as my favorite of the rest of her scream queen films, although I always find Prom Night compelling to watch, not in terms of character and story – because the film isn’t very good – but in terms of being a time capsule of the era in terms of teenage life and the film business and especially in terms of what was going on in Jamie’s life and career during that period, which I detail in the book.

TW:  It’s been a long time since I saw Road Games on VHS back in the early 80s.  What are your thoughts on Richard Franklin’s film and Jamie Lee’s performance in particular?

 DG:  It’s clever, it’s a work of craftsmanship, but I don’t really care for it.  I don’t think it’s particularly scary, and I don’t think it plays fair with the audience in terms of how the killer is always able to move around.  That takes away the suspense.  It’s not bad.  It certainly has its fans.  I spoke to Richard Franklin just a few weeks before he died.  I don’t think Jamie is used very well in the film.  She’s under-used, and there’s a whole story about that, in relation to her being cast in favor of an Australian actress, which was very unpleasant for Jamie.

TW:  What’s your Top-5 moments in Friday The 13th and why?

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Jack Barrell (Kevin Bacon) gets it via Tom Savini’s amazing work in Friday The 13th

 DG:  Bill on the door.  Bill was so nice and the effect was so grisly.  The Kevin Bacon scene because of the effect’s execution.  The lake scene was a real chair-jumper.  I love the scene in the cabin where Marcie and Jack are having sex and the camera reveals Ned on the top bunk.  I love the way the camera stalks Brenda as she moves around the archery range.

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Brenda (Laurie Betram) is in the wrong place at the wrong time in Friday The 13th

TW:  What book was more difficult to write out of the two books we are talking about?

 DG:  They’re all tough, but the Jamie Lee Curtis required an investment of time and energy that I probably wouldn’t be able to do again.   Sitting in “the room” all day, week after week, going over everything, putting it all together.  Those aren’t good memories.

TW:  What’s your next book about and/or what’s in the pipeline?

 DG:  One thing that I’ve learned about myself is that when I have an idea for a book, I make it happen.  I do it.  I finish.  You know, with the Jamie Lee book, I remember it was the spring of 2002 and I was watching one of the Halloween DVDs in my basement at night and it was the one with Mark Cerulli’s excellent featurette.  I remember thinking about Jamie Lee’s work in the Halloween, and the other films she appeared in, and how she really dominated that era – an era that made a big impact on me growing up.

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Michael Myers (Nick Castle) is coming to get you in John Carpenter’s Halloween

 When the Jamie Lee book came out in 2010, I did an interview and casually mentioned that I was going to do another Friday the 13th book.  Word spread and so I kind of had to do it.  I started writing in the summer of 2011 and here we are now, so you can see the investment of time that goes into these projects.

 I’d like to do a biography on Jan Michael Vincent.  Maybe I’ll do that next, because it would be easier than the other two projects I have in mind.  One is a book on the teen/college sex comedies from the early to mid 1980s.  I have a title for that: Horny Teenagers: The Rise and Fall of the Teen Sex Comedy Film, 1981-1985.  The other book I’d like to do is a book on Frank and Eleanor Perry, the legendary husband and wife filmmaking team who made such great films as David and Lisa, The Swimmer, Last Summer.  Now that would be a big project.  You know, I’d have to travel to Los Angeles and Connecticut where each of their papers are.  They’re both dead, and most of their colleagues are dead or are very old, which is much the same story with Jan Michael Vincent, who I find to be a very intriguing person.

TW:  Do you have a website where people can follow your work?

 DG:  No, but if you Google me, you’ll find everything you need to know.

TW:  Thank you for all your dedicated work on these two brilliant books.  I think I can speak for most horror fans by saying that your books have made our world of horror undoubtedly better.

 

Thank you very much for your support.

 

David Grove

Friday the 13th – DVD Collection

 

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Friday The 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan

The Ultimate Edition DVD Collection

Paramount Home Video – 2004

 

FRIDAY THE 13TH and its sequels have been long overdue to receive full special edition treatment and Paramount Home Video has taken the first couple steps in making that happen. This is the first time FRIDAY THE 13TH and the following seven films have received any type of DVD with extras here in the US. I have to say that I yearned for more; only half of the films have audio commentary and the films are doubled up on one disc, but I have to admit I still really enjoyed this box set.

FRIDAY THE 13TH is actually kind of a strange series. It seems like nobody likes to admit they like any of these films, yet everyone wants to watch them. I find it a strange contradiction and feel the FRIDAY THE 13th series actually deserves better.

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Friday The 13th – 1980

Directed by Sean Cunningham
Written by Victor Miller

 

 

Starring
Betsy Palmer
Adrienne King
Harry Crosby
Laurie Bartham
Jeannine Taylor
Kevin Bacon
Mark Nelson
Robbi Morgan
Peter Brouwer

No matter how you slice it, FRIDAY THE 13TH is a Classic. It borrows elements from other horror films that were successful before it, but it’s done with enough conviction and talent that it works. FRIDAY THE 13TH certainly uses exploitation like gore and nudity but it’s honestly not the focus of the film. Much more time is spent developing the characters (watch the film to prove this), setting up the situations and utilizing a film location that will never be forgotten. Summer camp settings have probably never been the same since FRIDAY THE 13TH was released.

The film takes place at the now infamous Camp Crystal Lake. Beginning in 1958, someone walks in on the kids sleeping, searching for the counselors who are upstairs satisfying their carnal needs. Director Sean Cunningham uses a shot inspired by the opening of HALLOWEEN, minus Panaglide fluidness, to capture the killer’s point of view. Before the lovers can respond, someone who they clearly recognize attacks violently and turns their world deep red. The slow motion technique combined with physical action is powerful and intense.

Flash forward twenty years. Camp counselors arrive early to fix up and prepare to re-open the camp the first time in decades but someone doesn’t want the camp to ever be used again. Writer Victor Miller does something great as he has various characters say things to inform the audience trouble is coming. For example; “That place is cursed”, “You are doomed” even Kevin Bacon’s character says, “A storm is coming.” This kind of dialogue sets the audience up for something bad to happen. It uses the theory Alfred Hitchcock believed in, inform the audience something is going to happen, then make them wait for it.

As they counselors go about their handy duties, someone is watching them with POV shots made famous in BLACK CHRISTMAS. The person watching eventually starts doing things to erase the counselors for good.

I do think that the cinematography by Barry Abrams is quite good as he captures the film’s picturesque location and makes the most the limited lighting the low budget allowed. Maybe the most important aspect is the cast. Lead by Adrienne King and including Kevin Bacon and Harry Crosby, these young actors do a fine job of bringing believability and onscreen chemistry to their roles.

Music by composer Harry Manfredini is now legendary. His tense orchestral score along with the famous “Ki, ki, ki …ma, ma, ma” gives FRIDAY THE 13TH identity. But something that makes FRIDAY even more suspenseful is when Cunningham and ManFredini let silence take over. One scene in particular is after Bill (Harry Crosby) is gone trying to start the generator (I’d guess around 75 minutes into the film) Alice wakes up from a nightmare calling out his name. When she realizes he isn’t there, she goes into the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. It’s here that silence and Alice being alone really amplify the tension.

The ending startled me out of my seat the first time I saw it on Showtime back in the early 80s. After going through the carnage of seeing Mrs. Voorhees beheaded in the dark of night next to the lake, the next morning is quite a comparison and sets the audience up for the final shock. Sunshine lights the orange-yellow fall foliage of Camp NoBeBoSco, New Jersey, Alice looks serene in the canoe in the middle of the lake. Harry Manfredini creates a relaxing music cue that tells us that the movie has wound down and the worst is already over…suddenly deformed Jason Voorhees jumps up behind Alice and yanks her into the lake! Suddenly Alice wakes up in the hospital screaming! What’s great about this is the way Cunningham sets us up with deceiving visual and audio and then pulls the rug out from under us. This type of ending was obviously inspired by CARRIE but it doesn’t matter. It works.

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Friday The 13th – Part 2 – 1981

Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Ron Kurz

 

Starring
Amy Steel
John Furey
Adrienne King
Kirsten Baker
Stuart Charno
Warrington Gillette
Walt Gorney

The thing that really stood out to me about FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART 2 is the directorial approach of not showing Jason. Like Sean Cunningham did with Mrs. Voorhees in the first film, Steve Miner chooses not to show you Jason until the second half of the film. Miner builds up the character of Jason by having people talk about his legend and choosing to only show Jason’s boots, hands, shadow, point of view and a creepy shack like house he lives in the woods. We hear Ginny Field (Amy Steel) mention that she believes Jason may still be alive, how he would be a little boy in a man’s body, hungry for revenge for seeing his mother killed five years before. This develops a real sense of menace and makes Jason even more frightening. I also think the white sack over his head is much creepier than the hockey mask introduced in Part 3 and used ever since.

Director Steve Miner also brings a little more visual gloss to PART 2 as he uses Panaglide quite often. The Panaglide operation by Eric Van Haren Noman in the last twenty minutes is outstanding. The long chase scenes are very tense and are helped by Manfredini’s score, which in my opinion is the best music in the entire series. If the production used the same music from the first film it just worked more with the onscreen action.

I must not forget to mention the special make-up effects of Carl Fullerton are also very effective. Fullerton took Savini’s original child Jason make-up and turned him into full-grown adult monstrosity.

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Friday The 13th – Part 3 – 1982

Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Martin Kitrosser

 

 

Starring
Dana Kimmell
Paul Kratka
Richard Brooker
Nick Savage
Rachel Howard
David Katims
Larry Zerner
Tracie Savage
Jeffrey Rogers
Catherine Parks

I first saw FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART 3: 3D on Friday August 13th, 1982. It was pretty memorable because it was my first date and because there were so many people in the theater, I had to set separate from my date. The 3D was a lot of fun and I distinctly recall the audience screaming out every time something poked out from the screen. Believe it or not, I still have those glasses.

Seeing FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART 3 on DVD is really great, though it would be even better in 3D. A good idea would be to include a pair of 3D glasses in a box set. The 3D image has been leveled to work strictly has a regular film presentation and I have to say that it’s a fun film. There are obviously many scenes specifically designed to utilize the 3D effect like; a mouse crawling towards us, yo-yo dropping up and down into the camera, a detached eyeball held out towards us and an eye ball shooting out from Rick (Paul Kratka) after Jason squeezes his head.

Dana Kimmell is a fine looking lead actress and for the most part Miner uses her well. Kimmell is especially good in the intense scenes as she looks convincingly terrified and does battle Jason realistically for a regular woman in jeopardy. Kimmell is soft and feminine yet is able to defend herself when under attack.

I also think that Richard Brooker did an excellent job as Jason. Watch his body language. He brings a threatening physicality to the role and I don’t mean necessarily muscle. He carries himself with a certain confidence that is intimidating.

Harry Manfredini’s disco version of the FRIDAY theme for the opening titles is good fun.

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Friday The 13th – The Final Chapter
– 1984

Directed by Joseph Zito

Screenplay by Barney Cohen

 

Starring
Kimberly Beck
Erich Anderson
Corey Feldman
Barbara Howard
Peter Barton
Lawrence Monoson
Joan Freeman
Crispin Glover
Alan Hayes
Judie Aronson
Camilla More
Carey More
Ted White

I fondly remember attending the original theatrical showing of FRIDAY THE 13TH – THE FINAL CHAPTER. But after watching the DVD, I have to say I see a lot of flaws in the film and that THE FINAL CHAPTER is actually quite a step down from the first three films. The thing that made the first two so compatible besides the storylines was that they were shot on the east coast. Transplanting Camp Crystal Lake across the country to a completely different terrain hurt every sequel after PART 2. Today, I find the storyline of THE FINAL CHAPTER to be pretty non-existent and the action of the characters to be even less realistic than the previous films. I also think the direction focuses less on suspense and the cinematography is somewhat flat. The picture is darker and murkier, which could be the DVD transfer but THE FINAL CHAPTER lacks any kind of dynamic vision. In this regard, I have to give Steve Miner credit for PART 2 & 3.

I also think the actors in THE FINAL CHAPTER are not as good as the first three films. Besides Corey Feldman who is actually quite good as Tommy Jarvis, and maybe Erich Anderson (as Rob Dire) who is grounded, the remaining folks come off somewhat amateurish. My biggest problem with the film is any kind of logical realism. It’s not believable that Jason pulls himself out of the mortuary drawer without the character sitting right in front of the drawer hearing it. How does Jason find his way back to Camp Crystal Lake from the hospital when he’s never been out of the Camp Crystal Lake woods? Characters do stupid things, all of this stems from the screenwriter (s) not working hard enough.

I do have to say the opening of the movie, where the paramedics & police retrieve Jason’s body, brought a large-scale production scope that was impressive. The helicopter-flying overhead with large spotlight illuminating the dark location, while cops and EMS workers retrieved all the bodies from PART 3, gave the film a great start.

THE FINAL CHAPTER does have quite a few creative kills, which Tom Savini emphatically achieves. Jason uses everything at his disposal, never using the same weapon twice to gorily dispose of each victim, but for me this is not enough to qualify this as a good film. If you would have read my review of THE FINAL CHAPTER in high school, I had a totally different opinion. It’s not the gore that makes me feel differently now; it’s the lack of story, weak performances and uninspired direction. Amazing what twenty years of maturing, watching, writing reviews and making films will do to you.

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Friday The 13th – Part V: A New Beginning – 1985

Directed by Danny Steinmann

Written by Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen and Danny Steinmann

 

Starring
John Shepherd
Marco St. John
Melanie Kinnaman
Richard Young
Vernon Washington
Shavar Ross
Tiffany Helm
Juliette Cummins
Jerry Pavlon

FRIDAY THE 13TH – Part V: A NEW BEGINNING is a title that certainly sums up the fifth film in the series. Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman in THE FINAL CHAPTER & beginning of A NEW BEGINNING) grows up with posttraumatic stress disorder and has been sent to a secluded halfway house to try and deal with his issues. He keeps seeing visions of Jason Voorhees and soon after bodies start to pile up. The big question becomes could it possibly be Jason, if not, who?

Director Danny Steinmann (SAVAGE STREETS) focuses a little too much on the kills rather than suspense and the cast is only about fifty percent good. There is some T&A, overacting and not much depth to the story but the last half hour is pretty intense though cliché. I do think it was creative to try and work away from Jason as the series had pretty much run its course by the third movie. But this kind of move also upsets the diehard fans of the original characters and makes the movie seem somewhat out of place with the FRIDAY THE 13TH name.

Lead actress Melanie Kinnaman is certainly attractive and does a good job screaming. Having her fall down all the time and including one part at the end where she cannot even get up, is a little too much but that’s not her fault. The constant rainfall, an energetic performance by young Shavar Ross as Reggie and a stoic performance by John Shepard highlight this film

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Friday The 13th – Part VI: Jason Lives
– 1986

Written and Directed by Tom McLoughlin

 

 

Starring
Thom Mathews
Jennifer Cooke
David Kagen
Kerry Noonan
Renee Jones
Tom Fridley
C.J. Graham
Darcy DeMoss
Vincent Guastaferro
Tony Goldwyn
Nancy McLoughlin
Ron Palillo

From top to bottom this is the most stylish film in the entire FRIDAY series. Right from the beginning you can see Tom McLoughlin had a vision for this film, which is represented by the rich cinematography, strong-diverse cast, engineered suspense and a little humor that actually helps make the film work.

Tommy Jarvis (this time played by Thom Mathews) wants to be sure that Jason Voorhees is dead, so he takes his friend Allen (Ron Palillo who played Arnold Horshack in “Welcome Back, Cotter” TV series) to the graveyard where Jason is buried and digs up his corpse. The make-up here on the corpse looks quite effective as Jason is now a skeletal corpse home to maggots and worms. This is not enough for Tommy as he grabs a metal fence pole and drives it repeatedly into Jason just to make double sure he won’t come back. The problem is a thunderstorm is brewing and lightning suddenly shoots down into the metal pool reanimating Jason back to life. If you think about, how else would Jason’s dead body be able to come back? It’s actually somewhat logical though preposterous. A memorable shot happens shortly after Tommy checks Jason, convinced his still dead, he starts getting out of the ground and Jason rises up out of the grave to reach for his legs. This is classic horror film imagery and McLoughlin beautifully pulls off the whole thing.

I really liked when Tommy remembers back to killing Jason as a boy, McLoughlin chooses not to flashback visually. Instead you hear what happened, which makes your imagination call back up that scene.

The decision to show Jason, James Bond like for opening credits was fun and really cool.

All the choices from here on out really click. The Covington, Georgia filming location was much better than the three previous California locales. I liked how McLoughlin used Jason in this movie. He showed him walking through the woods, standing outside the cabin, and waiting in the bushes to help build suspense. I must mention two shots in particular that stand out; when the camera tilts up to show Jason at the window right behind little blonde girl Nancy (Courtney Vickery) and Paula (Kerry Noonan) would make anyone jump and right after when Paula walks away from Nancy through the cabin, we see Jason mirroring her movement in the windows behind her.

The choice to put small kids in this film also amplified the tension. The sequences with the kids in the cabin hiding under their beds are quite funny and the little girl seeing Jason leaning down to her bed is frightening to say the least. I like the way McLoughlin set this scene up and the payoff.

The way the film ends is pretty solid because how else are you going to get rid of someone the studio isn’t going to let you entirely destroy because he will be needed for future films?

Tom McLoughlin’s audio commentary is real solid and engaging. He gives enough technical info to satisfy the filmmakers out there but is personal enough to relate to everyone else. He gives a lot of details about the cast and what they did before and after the movie. McLoughlin comes across as knowledgeable but not pretentious, passionate and is an underrated filmmaker in my book.

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Friday The 13th – Part VII: The New Blood
– 1988

Directed by John Carl Buechler

Written by Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney

 

Starring
Lar Park Lincoln
Kevin Spirtas
Terry Kiser
Susan Blu
Kane Hodder
Susan Jennifer Sullivan
Heidi Kozak
William Butler
Staci Greason

A CARRIE like character named Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln), who has telekinetic powers, accidentally kills her father when she’s a young girl at Camp Crystal Lake. Years later, Tina returns to the scene of the accident at the insistence of her doctor (Terry Kiser) and mother (Susan Blu) to help get over the traumatic experience.

While at the lake, Tina uses her power to attempt to bring her father back from his watery grave but accidentally releases Jason Voorhees instead. It just so happens that there is a bunch of teenagers vacationing next door to the Shepard’s who become Jason Voorhees next targets.

The two leads Lar Park Lincoln and Kevin Spirtas are believable and keep things real. I didn’t particular care for John Carl Buechler’s directorial approach to the material. Buechler chooses to use standardized clichéd hand held POV shots and doesn’t develop much suspense. Maybe the thing that bothered me the most was in many instances characters were running (when they were falling down) and Jason was clearly walking slowly behind and still somehow managed to keep the same pace. That just physically didn’t work. Also instead of trying to create true suspense he focuses on the make-up effects and how many different weapons Jason can kill people with which is always the wrong way to go.

The Alabama location was effective and the use of directional placement of sound effects in the audio mix was a first in the FRIDAY series. The look of Jason was very impressive as you could see his skeleton frame sticking out of his clothing. But I will also say that I don’t agree that Kane Hodder was the best Jason. As I watched these films I felt strongly that C.J. Graham and Richard Brooker conveyed the most threatening body language.

John Carl Buechler and Kane Hodder provide audio commentary. Hodder thanks Buechler for casting him in the movie because if it wasn’t for him, he probably would have never played Jason. They had met when the both worked on PRISON with Renny Harlin. I was pretty astounded to hear that they started shooting the film in January 1988 and then released the movie five months later in May. That’s incredibly fast. Buechler said that he wanted Lar Park Lincoln to play Tina so bad that he submitted her four separate times (changing hair style each time) before Frank Mancuso finally said “she’s the one.”

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Friday The 13th – Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
– 1989

Written and Directed by Rob Hedden

 

 

Starring
Jensen Daggett
Scott Reeves
Peter Mark Richman
Kane Hodder
Barbara Bingham
Tim Mirkovich
Alex Diakun
Todd Shaffer
Tiffany Paulsen

The idea of Jason Voorhees taking his slaughtering ways to New York City could only come from a marketing idea, because it just doesn’t make any sense. Camp Crystal Lake had pretty much dried up by this point in the series but why would Jason leave his home. I don’t like the idea because it’s silly. To make matters worse, the film could not afford to shoot more than a few days in Manhattan, so it forced the cast and crew to shoot most of the movie on a boat cruise.

JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is unfortunately pretty much a vehicle to let Jason kill as many characters as possible. The two leads Jensen Daggett (as Rennie Wickham) and Scott Reeves (as Jim Miller) are fairly good and I did like the supernatural touch of Jason as a little boy (Tim Mirkovich) haunting Rennie. I also can’t think of many other characters that have my last name used in a movie.

Director Rob Hedden provides audio commentary which pretty much goes along with what’s happening on the screen. Hedden isn’t afraid to admit that the exterior of the ship used for the cruise was actually too small so they had to shoot it from careful angles never to show the whole thing in one shot because it would have been too small. He does bring to light something I thought was cool; that the street thugs at the end of the movie also appear in the beginning robbing a business man. In his own way, Hedden tried his best to use characters to bring resonance to the overall story, like the Deck Hand character (Alex Diakun) was a nod to “Crazy Ralph” from the first film.

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Friday The 13th – Killer Extras

The fifth disc in the set is the extras disc and has some real cool features. There are about two hours of new interview footage and the four audio commentaries.

Friday The 13th Chronicles is a collection of little mini documentaries, which vary in length, focusing on each F13 film. These are great to watch and provide all sorts of information about each production. I do wish that they were a little longer and had more cast and crew involvement but this is much better than nothing.

FRIDAY THE 13TH director/producer Sean Cunningham speaks in detail the genesis of the film and what his and writer Victor Miller’s intentions where. Some of what Cunningham says is surprising and I had not heard before. It was nice to see Betsy Palmer, who flatly did not like the script and Adrienne King speak about their involvement. Tom Savini and and Ari Lehman discuss how young Jason came to be. This is the longest documentary and deservedly so.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is represented by interviews with Amy Steel, Adrienne King and Warrington Gillette (who played potato sack head Jason). These actors talk positively about working with director Steve Miner, who is sadly absent.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 Actor Larry Zerner recalls how he was pulled from working at a movie theater to audition for the film. Director of Photography Gerald Feild describes the difficulty of shooting the opening scene with a large crane and 3D camera apparatus.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – THE FINAL CHAPTER Joseph Zito says he only had a couple ideas that he thought were “fresh”; putting in a kid character, a dog and twins which would all be something new for the series. Corey Feldman says he was always an avid fan of HALLOWEEN, but had never seen any of the FRIDAY movies because he was too young. Feldman ended up watching PART 3 on cable, loved it and thought it would be cool to be part of the FRIDAY series. Joseph Zito also remembers that it was his impression that this was going to be the last FRIDAY movie, so he went ahead and killed Jason.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART V: A NEW BEGINNING Cory Feldman says that the opening of PART V, was shot on a Sunday because at the same time he was working with Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner on GOONIES. Feldman says it was the only time as a member of SAG that he worked 13 consecutive days without a break. He also admits, if he could have his way, he’d love it if they would have him come back as Tommy Jarvis and battle Jason one last time.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART VI: JASON LIVES Tom McLoughlin states that he has always been a fan of more gothic horror, so he wanted to bring more style and a sense of humor to the series because he felt it needed it. One of the things McLoughlin says that other people mentioned on other sequels is that the movie was shot under a different title because they didn’t want people knowing it was a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD John Carl Buechler approached Paramount about casting Kane Hodder as Jason, but their initial response was that he looked too small. So Buechler shot test footage of Hodder dressed up as Jason throwing someone through a wall, which made them change their mind. Buechler was tired of seeing Jason in just hockey mask, gloves and overalls because Jason had received so much extensive physical damage but you never saw it. So Buechler designed Jason’s special make-up to show all the injuries he had sustained over the previous five sequels. Lar Park Lincoln says that John Carl Buechler was one of her first directors and it was so important that he was very kind because not all directors are kind. By the way, Lar Park Lincoln amazingly looks better today than when she was in the movie sixteen years ago.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART VIII – JASON TAKES MANHATTAN Rob Hedden had been working on the FRIDAY THE 13TH Television series and that asked him to direct PART VIII. He actually came up with the idea to have Freddy battle Jason but was told that it wasn’t possible to get the two studios to agree to make it.

Secrets Galore Behind The Gore has three chapters focusing on Tom Savini’s effects of the first and fourth films and John Carl Buechler’s work in the seventh. Still photos and footage are intercut with Savini talking specifically about each effect. It’s pretty cool and helps you understand how they pulled off. Buechler states that he has made all kinds of monsters and special make-up effects over the years and that Jason is definitely his favorite.

Crystal Lake Victims Tell All features Corey Feldman, Larry Zerner, Adrienne King, Amy Steel, Lar Park Lincoln further elaborating on their involvement in the films. I would have loved to seen a larger roster of F13 victims (Lord knows there are a ton of people to choose from). It was neat hearing these people speak about their experience but I felt disappointed there were not more victims involved.

Friday Artifacts and Collectibles is a little segment where Rob Hedden shows that he kept the flying v-guitar and Jason’s mask from Part VIII. Tom McLoughlin shows that he has Jason’s gravestone in his backyard and tells of story of how it scared an electric meter reader man from doing his job, because he thought someone was buried under the stone.

Friday The 13th Trailers were really fun to watch. I liked Part VI and Part VIII trailers because they were shot without using footage from the movies. Part VI is actually called a teaser. It features a long crane shot that moves down and over to Jason’s grave, where a coffin bursts up from the ground to open up. Part VIII has another long crane move up to person standing before Manhattan skyline. As someone approaches this person they spin around and we see its Jason with machete in hand. Great stuff!

www.paramount.com/homeentertainment/

CampNoBeBoSco  Terry@CampNoBeBoSco

Camp NO BE BO SCO was the site where the original Friday the 13th movies were shot.

 

Terry Wickham took these photos when he traveled there to see the place where a legend was born.