If you stop and think about it, there will probably not be another horror movie franchise as prolific or as brutally panned as the “Friday the 13th” set of movies again. Rivaled only by horror meister Wes Craven’s 7-part “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series, “Friday the 13th” follows in the same gory footsteps as the granddaddy of slasher horror flicks, John Carpenter’s 1978 classic screamer, “Halloween”, which, by no coincidence, also has its own series of sequels. Together, all three sets of franchises have amassed their own loyal cult followings and they form the original unholy trinity of the horror movie slasher sub-genre. Previously only released individually on DVD, Paramount has now decided to group all the eight “Friday the 13th” movies in its library into a convenient DVD box set. Featuring two movies per double-layered, single-sided disc, this collection consists of four DVDs that are used to store the eight films and an extra fifth disc chock full of bonus features. The big question now is, is this new DVD set worth an upgrade for those who already own the individual releases on DVD? Let’s find out, shall we?

For a decade–from 1980 to 1989–the legend of Jason Vorhees was fully exploited and perpetuated by Paramount Studios to the incredible tune of eight motion picture films and a short-lived television series. After that, over the years, New Line Cinema released three subsequent films that featured the Jason Vorhees character: “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” (1993), “Jason X” (2001) and the recent clash of the sickos, “Freddy Vs. Jason” (2003). “Friday the 13th”, the ultra low-budget first movie that started it all, was made for approximately $700,000 in 1980 and became a major success at the box office, scaring up tens of millions of dollars in profits. As you can imagine, Paramount instantly recognized the film’s potential to make even more money and the sequel, “Friday the 13th Part 2” was rushed out the door the following year. Comparatively, this sequel also performed reasonably well at the box office and the maniacal rush to get more sequels made–for better or worse–officially began in earnest!

Who would have thought that an unknown slasher flick made with very little money and with a group of unknown actors, would become the king of movie sequels? Who would have thought that the immortal Jason Vorhees character will die and be resurrected countless times, well into the new millennium, more than twenty years after he first appeared? Although not as extensive, there is a kind of precedence for this, with another horror cult favorite, George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie classic “Night of the Living Dead” and its two subsequent zombie-tastic sequels “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead”. What makes this long string of “Friday the 13th” sequels such a unbelievable streak is the plain fact that it started as just a straightforward slasher flick but later on, had to morph into something with a more supernatural slant in order to explain away Vorhees’ continued resurrection. The simple story of a disfigured psychotic madman going on a killing spree, spilling the bloody guts of close to a hundred horny teenagers with various sharp implements doesn’t lend itself to be the high point of any moviemaking venture. Like it or not, the campy qualities of the “Friday the 13th” movies are also its biggest selling points. Anyone going into a “Friday the 13th” movie knows what to expect–no clever plot twists but plenty of gore, blood and boobs (in that order). With each new addition to the series, the various directors are able to find new, innovative and bloodier ways to kill some poor schmuck off. Apparently, in this unique case, familiarity does not breed contempt. Instead, for fans of this franchise, familiarity is like comfort food, just bloodier. One might call these movies fun, silly, vulgar or even banal but it’s hard to argue with millions of dollars in box office profits. As always, money talks and quality takes a long walk into the woods around Camp Crystal Lake, never to be seen again.

While Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, with the creepy blade-fingered Freddy Kreuger as the ultimate bad dream, is potentially the better horror movie (depending on whom you speak to), both artistically and plot-wise, “Friday the 13th” is essentially the peak of horror movie exploitation. Making use of unknown but attractive young actors and actresses who have no qualms about removing their clothes on camera, one can conclude that, to some degree, the T&A factor had an impact in propelling the series forward, one sequel after another. Using visually excruciating ways of killing unfortunate victims as a way of shocking and wowing its audience, “Friday the 13th” proves that exploitation does indeed pay.

What surprises me the most was how serious the “Friday the 13th” films took themselves. The first one was a genuine classic slasher flick in the tradition of Carpenter’s “Halloween”. However, as the sequels piled on, the various directors who took the helm blew the chance to take the genre in a new direction. It was not until Part 6 “Jason Lives” that a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor was inserted into the story. That made “Jason Lives” unique among the eight films and the most fun to watch without all the trappings of a typical “Friday the 13th” formula.

“Friday the 13th” is also famous as one of renowned horror effects make-up artist, Tom Savini’s works. Although he only worked on the first and fourth chapter of the franchise, Savini’s name alone on the first film’s credits is enough to bring in the fans. Highly praised by George A. Romero, Savini also worked on Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead” films. Notable actors who have had a relatively successful career in acting after appearing in any of the eight “Friday the 13th” movies include Kevin Bacon, Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover. The rest, unfortunately, went into obscurity.

Before I start to briefly review each of the eight movies on this DVD set, I must first warn our readers that some spoilers will be revealed. Seeing that these movies are not new and most of you would already have seen many of them anyway, I sincerely hope that this won’t become an issue. Besides, we are talking about “Friday the 13th” here. Most of you already know what to expect.

Friday the 13th
“Friday the 13th”, the original movie that started it all. One tends to forget that in this first movie of the franchise, the now-legendary Jason Vorhees is not–surprise, surprise–the killer but actually the reason for the killings. Director Sean Cunningham did a great job of hiding the identity of the killer until the very end. This movie proves that there is nothing scarier than a delusional and murderous mother seeking the ultimate revenge for her dead son. Part 1 is actually quite a well-done, low-budget thriller. Back then, a female killer, even in the movies, is rare and unexpected, which might help explain the movie’s box office success.

In 1957, a boy named Jason Vorhees was killed in a drowning accident at the now-infamous Camp Crystal Lake. Apparently, the camp counselors who were supposed to be watching the kids were busy making out somewhere else and were unable to prevent the accident. The movie opens with the killing of two counselors (again, making out) in 1958, a year after the death of Jason. Flash to the present and after many years of the camp being abandoned, it is now set to open for business again under the helm of Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer). As a new group of camp counselors gather for training sessions and to help spruce up the place, they are stalked by a mysterious figure in the woods. Like the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film, which featured a young Johnny Depp, “Friday the 13th” had its own soon-to-be-a-star actor in the form of Kevin Bacon. Although she only appears toward the end of the movie, Betsy Palmer plays a very convincingly maniacal Mrs. Pamela Vorhees, mother to the future serial killer of America’s teenage generation! Only a single counselor, Alice (Adrienne King) survives Mrs. Vorhees’ killing spree.

Friday the 13th Part 2
Bucking conventional wisdom, this first sequel actually improved upon the original. It is also the first film to feature the now grown up Jason Vorhees (played here by Warrington Gillette) in his full murderous glory. Like a mad backwoodsman stalking his prey, Jason is portrayed in his most primal state, with just a cloth bag over his head! The famous hockey mask only makes its appearance in the next sequel. To remind the audience of what previously happened in the original movie, this one opens with Alice having flashbacks dreams of her traumatic experience at the hands of Mrs. Vorhees.

It has been five years since the death of Mrs. Vorhees and another group of camp counselors have made camp on a site adjacent to Camp Crystal Lake (also known as Camp Blood because of the previous murders). Like the last movie, this group of teens is also preparing the site for the arrival of the summer camp crowd. While Alice did not seem to exude the proper toughness in her role as the final survivor of Mrs. Vorhees’ rampage, the new heroine Ginny (Amy Steel) is not only more attractive but also tougher and smarter when she comes face to face with the hideously disfigured Jason. A great example of Ginny’s street smarts is how she is able to quickly recognize Jason’s reverence for his dead mother and is able to exploit it in order to escape certain death. One of the biggest disconnect that gets perpetuated throughout the rest of the sequels is the origins of Jason, who was thought to have drowned as a child.

Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D
This third installment is probably the campiest and exhibited in its full 3-dimensional glory. In exploiting the 3-D gimmick, you will find silly camera angles like being at the bottom of a yo-yo swing or the top of juggling act or in the direct path of a spear exploding from a spear gun. Also look out for a small tribute to horror make-up effects artist Tom Savini when a girl picks up a copy of Fangoria magazine with an article about Savini.

Part 3 opens with a rather long rethread of the last 10 minutes or so of the previous movie. It has nothing to do with this movie but only serves as a reminder that you are watching (drum roll, please!)…..yet another sequel to “Friday the 13th”. The premise this time is a little different. No more camp counselors but a group of friends out having a good time at a cabin in the woods. No mention about the timeline but from a TV news broadcast, it seems to be the day after the attack in Part 2. The heroine this time is Chris (Dana Kimmell), who had encountered Jason (this time played by a burlier Richard Brooker) in the woods before. The how or why the encounter happened is briefly explained but essentially the plot for Part 3 is inconsequential. It is just a thinly veiled excuse to get the kids to where they can be stalked and killed by Jason. There is even a tribute to the original film where we see Chris, waking up on a canoe the morning after killing Jason and is pulled into the water by a decomposed version of Mrs. Vorhees, wearing her familiar gray sweater.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Part IV)
This fourth chapter in the Jason saga is probably one of the better ones among the eight movies here. Instead of sticking to the usual formula, director Joseph Zito and screenwriter Barney Cohen opt to shift the focus from having a heroine/damsel-in-distress match-up with Jason to an unlikely hero that, as the title suggests, will finally kill off the indestructible fiend. Tom Savini makes a triumphant return to the “Friday the 13th” franchise, conjuring up his own brand of gory make-up magic. “The Final Chapter” is also notable for featuring two icons from the 80s–a very young (pre-“Stand By Me”) Corey Feldman and the weirdly wonderful Crispin Glover (George McFly from “Back to the Future”).

Picking up immediately from the end of Part 3, we see Jason’s body lying dead in the barn after his final encounter with Chris. As Jason’s body gets transported to the hospital morgue, we get a strong sense that our stone cold friend is not really dead. At the same time, we are introduced to the Jarvises, Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman), daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and the young Tommy (Corey Feldman), who are vacationing at a cabin in the woods in the same area. When a group of teenagers (what else) move into the house next to them, little Tommy is treated to an accidental peep show while looking through the window of the house next door and the sight of the kids skinny-dipping at the lake. This chapter (and also the next one) has perhaps the most gratuitous T&A of all the eight films.

As one might already expect, Jason wakes up at the morgue and goes on his usual murdering jaunt. Only this time, he gets his just deserts at the hands of none other than Tommy, who flies into his own rage, whacking away at Jason like a maniac. Of course, even though this film is titled “The Final Chapter”, the potential for another sequel is always present and the final shot of Tommy flashing an innocent smile (remember “Omen”?) puts that option squarely on the table.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (Part V)
Another sequel was never in doubt, was there? What’s a brand new year without another new “Friday the 13th” sequel? Even though Jason was killed in the previous film, the specter of his presence is always near and still as menacing as ever. But how do you bring back a dead guy? There are ways and this film shows you one of them. Also, among the first five movies, this one seems to be one of the better produced ones. Maybe it is a bigger budget (I can’t confirm that) or better film stock but “A New Beginning” doesn’t have the feel of a low-budget B-movie. Immediately, you could see the difference in the video images between this film and the previous ones. Acting is still horrendous but who really cares, right?

Aptly titled “A New Beginning”, it continues the saga with a now-older Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd). Tommy continues to be haunted by nightmares of his past encounter with Jason. Institutionalized for years because of his uncontrollable rage, Tommy is now sent to a halfway house (conveniently located near Camp Blood) for wayward teens, awaiting his integration back into society. As soon as he arrives, grisly murders start happening and the body count begins to rise. Someone is going on a killing rampage. Has the real Jason Vorhees risen from the grave or is Tommy the guilty one?

Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (Part VI)
I must say that Part VI is my favorite among the eight movies here. Not only is the story, written by writer/director Tom McLoughlin, interesting, “Jason Lives” employs a little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor that have been sorely absent from the series so far. Like the previous chapter, the production value on this movie is further increased, resulting in a big step away from its B-movie roots. Surprisingly, “Jason Lives” does not contain any nudity, which is, I think, a first for this franchise.

Again, this chapter continues on the Tommy Jarvis story, the only person to have killed Jason Vorhees. Now much older, Tommy (this time played by another actor, Thom Mathews) is still haunted by nightmares of Jason (C.J. Graham). Planning his own brand of therapy, Tommy figures that the only way to finally get rid of his fear is to personally destroy Jason’s body once and for all. So, Tommy returns to the Crystal Lake area (now renamed Forest Green) and digs up Jason’s grave and proceeds to jab a steel stake into his maggot-infested rotting heart. As luck would have it, a lightning bolt strikes the stake and jumpstarts old Jason’s heart. Dare I say it? Heeeeee’s Baaaaaack!!

Horrified at what he has done, Tommy tries to warn the local law enforcement officer, Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) but to no avail. Obviously no one believes his tale of Jason coming back to life, except for the sheriff’s attractive and rebellious teenage daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke). As luck would have it, Camp Forest Green (yup, it was renamed too) is in full swing, with dozens of young children in attendance. As the body count rises, Tommy not only has to find a way to kill Jason and send him back to his grave, he has to also convince the sheriff that he is not the real killer.

As I said, this is the best chapter in the entire series. “Jason Lives” does not exclusively rely on the use of T&A but is able to capture the real essence of the slasher genre with the use of genuinely scary and tension-filled scenes. Also, humor is used at appropriate times without threatening to cheapen the original horror story and turning it into a slapstick mess.

Friday the 13th: The New Blood (Part VII)
Unfortunately, the best chapter in the “Friday the 13th” franchise was followed by the biggest disappointment so far. Part VII, also titled “The New Blood”, falls entirely flat in every department. From the story to the acting, everything about it never worked. With this latest disastrous chapter, you can just feel that the franchise is on its final legs.

When Tommy trapped Jason under Crystal Lake at the end of the previous movie, it is only a matter of time before someone comes along to set the maniacal killer free. And that someone turns out to be a girl with telekinetic and psychic abilities. Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) used to live by the lake with her parents until one night, in a fit of rage, she accidentally used her telekinetic powers to bring down a jetty that her father was standing on, resulting in his death. Now years later, on the advice of her sleazy psychiatrist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), Tina and her mother (Susan Blu) returns to the cabin by the lake to confront Tina’s guilt about killing her father. However, soon we find out that the good doctor has his own agenda. Instead of trying to help Tina, he purposely puts her under more intense stress in order to bring out her telekinetic powers. By accident (again), Tina uses her powers to release Jason (Kane Hodder) from his watery grave. Immediately, Jason continues from where he last left off, killing off a group of horny teenagers staying at a cabin by the lake and anyone else that happens to get in his way.

If the “girl with telekinetic powers” plot sounds familiar, you will be right because it blatantly copies Stephen King’s much scarier “Carrie”. Only this time, it is “Carrie Vs. Jason”, a match-up without much of a punch.

Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (Part VIII)

Rennie: There’s a maniac after us!
Waitress: Welcome to New York.

Phew! Here we are, the final movie in the Jason Vorhees saga (for Paramount, anyway). For the series’ last hurrah, director/write Rob Hedden decides to throw in the biggest gimmick of all, have Jason start killing again but this time, not at his favorite haunt, Crystal Lake but in the Big Apple! How’s that for ending with a bang? Sadly, instead of a bang, the franchise bowed out with hardly a whimper. “Jason Takes Manhattan” is perhaps the weakest of the eight, right down there with Part 3 and Part 7. Even though Manhattan is in the title, the city is only featured during the last third of the film. The setup took too long and the scenes on the streets of Manhattan are purely cosmetic. In fact, most of the scenes were shot primarily in Vancouver.

Jason Vorhees (Kane Hodder reprises his role from the previous film) gets to wreak havoc once again, thanks to the healing powers of electricity. Once again, electricity is used to resurrect Jason from his watery grave, this time with the help of an underwater power cable. After his batteries are charged, Jason stows on board a ship headed for New York City. On board are a group of high school seniors celebrating their graduation. The heroine in this film is Rennie (Jensen Daggett), who has a slightly befuddled history (don’t they all?) with the young Jason on Crystal Lake. Ten slashes and twenty stabs later, Jason ends up in New York City and he takes out his wrath on the muggers and other miscreants of the city.

Well, thank God Paramount finally called it quits after this eighth film. I don’t think anyone could have taken much more of Jason Vorhees after this disastrous outing.

All the eight films are presented in anamorphic video (enhanced for 16×9 television sets) and in their original aspect ratios. Except for Part 3, which measures in at 2.35:1, the rest have an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. From a purely visual standpoint, all of them look almost identical to their single disc predecessors. There may have been slight visual improvements made here and there but none that will make you jump up from your seat. While all the eight films suffer from their primarily dark settings, exhibiting grain and inconsistent blacks, parts 5 and 6 look the best, with clarity that is unmatched by the rest. Of course, specks of dirt still plague the prints on all of the films but not to the point of distracting the audience from the films. To sum it up, all the eight films in this box set look almost identical to their previous DVD releases, which were already quite good to begin with. Subtitle options include English and Spanish.

If many of you are disturbed by the fact that two films are crammed onto one disc in this box set release, don’t be. In the previous single disc release, the films are transferred onto a single layered disc. Now, they are simply put into a single-sided, double-layered disc, which essentially means the same amount of space for both films.

One interesting thing about Part 3, which was shot in 3-D, is that when I used my son’s 3-D glasses to view the obvious 3-D shots, I was quite amazed to see the objects actually pop out at me. However, one should not use the glasses to watch the entire film because you lose the natural colors that are filtered out by the blue and red lenses. It is a fun gimmick to experience but not an absolute must-have.

For all the fans out there waiting for Paramount to release their favorite “Friday the 13th” films in their “unrated” or X-rated glory, unfortunately your prayers have still not been answered. All the eight films featured here are presented in their R-rated theatrical versions. The only unrated versions available on DVD are the first film’s Regions 2 and 4 releases. The only noticeable difference and one that has been discussed among fans recently can be found on the first film. It concerns the death scene of the very first victim, Annie. Paramount’s previous single-disc release was not actually the R-rated theatrical version. In that previous version, Annie’s death was shown uncut. On this new disc, the last few moments of Annie’s death scene faded into white, which is essentially the original theatrical version. It does, however, as a consolation, restore the final death scene of Mrs. Vorhees, which is now uncut, unlike in the previous release.

The audio options for the films on this box set here are identical to the previous single disc presentations. Unfortunately, no extra effort has been made to upgrade them. Parts 1 through 5 are presented in Dolby Digital Mono, Parts 6 and 8 get surround capabilities with Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks (described as Dolby Ultra-Surround on the disc cover) and Part 7 features both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks. The Mono tracks concentrate the entire sound field at the center channel. At times, it sounds one-dimensional but overall, it does a competent job of conveying a scary atmosphere throughout. One thing that I took notice was the fact that the Mono audio track actually makes the films more convincing, like a Saturday night horror flick at the drive-in, watching classic Universal black and white horror movies.

Parts 6 and 8 expand the sound field further and both films sound much better than the Mono tracks on the first five movies. As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on Part 7, the aural experience is improved but I don’t feel that the film takes full advantage of the technology. The surround channels are used mainly for environmental sounds and the sudden musical cues that accompany some of the scarier scenes. Also available are French Dolby Digital Mono tracks on all the films.

The special features included in this box set will make or break the success of this release. Anyone looking to upgrade their single disc bare-bones versions will ultimately base their purchasing decision on whether the bonus features are worth the extra money. As the versions of the movies included here are the exact same ones as before without any noticeable changes to the video and audio quality, the only thing left to consider are the bonus features.

First, there are a total of four audio commentaries, one each for Parts 3, 6, 7 and 8. It is too bad that there is no commentary track on the first film. Part 3’s commentary features Peter Bracke, Dana Kimmel (Chris), Richard Brooker (Jason), Larry Zerner (Shelly) and Paul Kratka (Rick). As some of you may know, Peter Bracke is the editor of the website. Here, he acts as a kind of moderator or interviewer, posing questions to the four cast members in attendance. Bracke does a very good job at asking the right questions and you can at once sense that he came to the recording session fully prepared. They first talk about how they were cast for the film and also volunteer plenty of interesting information about many behind-the-scenes incidents. I am not a very big fan of audio commentaries but this one turned out to be quite a fun one to listen to.

Part 6 “Jason Lives”, happens to be my favorite of the eight films here. The audio commentary track here features a solo session with writer/director Tom McLoughlin and I am glad it is a good one. As you will immediately sense, McLoughlin is a big horror movie fan and he starts off talking about his love for the genre, especially the Hammer films. McLoughlin talks almost non-stop, sprouting nuggets of information about his own motivations for making the film as well as some alternate shots that were changed to get the MPAA’s R-rating.

The next commentary is on Part 7 “The New Blood” which features director John Carl Buechler and the actor who plays Jason, Kane Hodder. From the onset, Buechler unabashedly volunteers his disdain about having many parts of the film cut for the theatrical release. Both men get a long very well and has some pretty interesting banter throughout the entire commentary. One can also obtain some interesting background information about the making of this film from the commentary.

Finally, on the last film, “Jason Takes Manhattan”, the audio commentary track features writer/director Rob Hedden. Hedden provides great information about the film, especially the budget constraints that could have made the film better. This is perhaps the weakest commentary track as Hedden has a tendency to “describe” the action on the screen instead of volunteering information about the making of it.

Okay, now that we are done with the four audio commentaries, let’s move on to the bonus features on the separate bonus material disc, also called “Killer Extras”.

The most extensive and engrossing feature is titled “The Friday the 13th Chronicles”, an 8-part set that devotes one part for each film in chronological order. On the first part, which is also the longest, director Sean Cunningham introduces the audience to the series and proceeds to talk about the production details of the first film and how he had the title in mind before he even had a script. Other interviewees on this segment include Betsy Palmer (Mrs. Vorhees), Adrienne King (Alice), horror make-up artist Tom Savini and Ari Lehman, who played the young Jason rising up from under the lake.

For Part 2, there are interviews with Sean Cunningham, Amy Steel (Ginny), Warrington Gillette (the first Jason) and Adrienne King (who appears briefly in Part 2 reprising her role as Alice). Gillette, who graduated from a prestigious acting studio, talks about how he ended up with the Jason role. In the Part 3 segment, there are two interviews, one with Larry Zerner (Shelly) and cinematographer Gerald Feil. This segment is mainly devoted to the 3-D process as they talk about how they did the effects. Zerner, who played the practical joker, Shelly also mentioned his small contribution to the now infamous hockey mask used by Jason. For Part 4 “The Final Chapter”, director Joseph Zito, together with Corey Feldman talked extensively about their experiences making the fourth film. Both men were generous in offering very interesting nuggets of information about some behind-the-scenes stuff, especially the final chase scene. There is also an interesting story about casting Crispin Glover. Tom Savini also appears here to talk about how he was asked to come back to do the make-up for this film.

The segment for Part 5 “A New Beginning” is the shortest one, clocking in at only a little less than six minutes. Although Feldman only appears briefly in this film, he provides interesting information about how this film was initially structured around him but since he was working on “The Goonies” at that time, they had to change the direction of the movie. For Part 6 “Jason Lives”, you will see interviews with director/writer Tom McLoughlin and the actor who plays Jason, C.J. Graham. McLoughlin, an avid horror fan opens with his vision for this film. He then goes on to detail some of the aspects about making “Jason Lives”. Graham talks about his role as Jason and the various stunt work.

In the Part 7 “The New Blood” segment, you will find interviews with director John Carl Beuchler, Kane Hodder (Jason) and Lar Park Lincoln (Tina). Hodder starts off by talking about the stunts done for the film and then Beuchler talks about his vision for this film. Lincoln, the heroine, admits her surprise that the script that she had signed on to do was actually a “Friday the 13th” movie. For the final segment, “Jason Takes Manhattan”, Hodder, who reprises his role as Jason, continues his talk about the stunt work. Director Rob Hedden then chimes in with his original vision for this film, which was to take place entirely in New York City but was scrapped due to budgetary problems. Bottom line is, “Manhattan” could have been a much better film.

Next up is a 3-part half-hour featurette titled “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore”. It concentrates on the make-up work done for the first film, “The Final Chapter” and “The New Blood”. None other than the venerable Tom Savini comes on to talk about his work on the first and fourth films. For Part 1, Sean Cunningham talks about how almost everything that they were doing on the film was new and they had to come up with innovative ideas on how to get certain make-up effects accomplished. Savini then details how the effects were done. For those who are looking to get into this field of work, this segment will definitely interest you. There is also a section about Savini’s make-up school and interviews with his students. The last part contains interviews with John Carl Beuchler and Kane Hodder as they talk about the various versions of Jason and how the effects were created.

One of the most anticipated bonus features among fans is the deleted scenes section. Titled “Tales From the Cutting Room”, it contains deleted, extended and alternate material from Part 1, “The Final Chapter”, “Jason Lives” and “The New Blood”. Most of the cuts were made in order to pass the MPAA’s rating system. From Part 1, the extended scenes are shown in a split screen with the actual cut that made it to the theaters. There’s a scene with Kevin Bacon where more blood is shown squirting from his throat. For “The Final Chapter” or Part 4, there is less gore but actual deleted scenes. One scene has Tommy playing a practical joke by “cutting off” his fingers with a mini guillotine, another one is a scene between Trish and her mother and finally an extended scene before the guy gets killed in the shower scene. In “Jason Lives”, the deleted scenes are again compared to the final cut. The goriest are the paintball scenes where heads literally rolled. Also shown are the extended death scenes of the couple in the VW Beetle. From Part 7 “The New Blood”, you can hear a commentary with John Carl Beuchler and Kane Hodder as they provide some information on the cut scenes. Most of the scenes that were cut were really gory and pretty over the top. One can understand why they had to be removed. I would rather not describe them in detail here and I’ll let you fans go experience them yourself. Some of the deleted material you see here are not of the best quality and some are downright grainy and in a terrible condition.

Next is “Crystal Lake Victims Tell All!”. As the title suggests, this is a featurette where Jason’s victims come forward to talk about their experiences working on the various films. Many of them talk about the fun they had and also provide some interesting anecdotes. Overall, this is quite a fun feature to sit through.

Finally, we have “Friday Artifacts and Collectibles” where the various directors and some fans show off their collection of “Friday the 13th” memorabilia and theatrical trailers for all eight films (only Part 6 is a Teaser Trailer).

All five discs are house in THINpak cases, the same ones that Paramount is using for their box set releases of classic television series like “Happy Days”. The external box that holds the five DVD cases is quite attractive and sturdy, featuring an embossed image of Jason’s infamous hockey mask in the front.

Film Value:
As you can imagine, it took me a while to sit through all eight movies. No mean feat, considering that most of them are–I know some of you are going to hate me for saying this–just not that good. I’m as big a horror movie fan as the next guy but having sat through all eight of these movies one at a time makes me feel kind of like the guy in “Super Size Me”–bloated, nauseous and just plain sick. Come to think of it, I could probably make a “documentary” out of this experience! Just ask my wife. Better yet, don’t remind her!

No matter how well you spin it, the “Friday the 13th” franchise is really made up of movies that are just not very good. All of them would score between 4 and 6 on DVDTown’s “Entertainment Value” scale. However, if you look at them from the standpoint of the cultural impact and their unique contributions to the slasher genre, then all the eight movies here deserve the attention lavished on them by their true fans.

Even though Paramount made a ton of money on all the “Friday the 13th” films throughout the 1980s, when it comes time to release them on DVD, the company did not bestow on them the proper attention necessary for such a beloved franchise. Only released as bare-bones DVDs before, this new box set of the “Friday the 13th” movies carries almost indistinguishable video transfers, the same audio tracks but with a heck of a lot more bonus features. Those fans looking for the extended and unrated versions of their favorite “Friday the 13th” films will definitely be disappointed. On the strength of the bonus features alone, most fans of this franchise should be plenty happy. Whether a casual fan should upgrade is another story. If you don’t already own all of these eight movies, this is your chance to own all of them in a single convenient package, with some nice extras to boot. If you do, then it gets dicey. You have to decide whether the extras are worth a double dip.