Well, it seems you can polish a turd ... because this transfer of Friday The 13th is extremely good. Whilst one or two slight imperfections mar it, this is a gleaming, detailed and highly atmospheric transfer. Having seen the film at the flicks and paid close attention to the image presented in the knowledge that I would reviewing the BD at some point, I thought that my notes and memories would serve me well. Hmmm ...
I would say that this looks considerably better than the print that I saw, which was overly dark and exhibited a few surprisingly soft, almost distorted scenes. Whilst it is true to say that those softer looking shots are actually still present - leading me to conclude that they will always be there and are inherent to the film, itself, and not a fault of the encode - the black levels appear far richer and deeper and much less suffocating than they did at the cinema. On the big screen, whole shots seemed to be swallowed up -Whitney in the tunnel, Clay and Jenna hiding by the cabins when they first encounter Jason being particular victims of the all-devouring darkness - these are not so choked now and exhibit a sharper delineation and spot-on contrast with the stylish lighting aesthetic.
Detail is a much tougher commodity to assess, I'm afraid. With a great deal of the film taking place within the wooded shadows of the night and the dark tunnels beneath the ground, many things are obviously obscured. But, and this is the important thing to bear in mind, there doesn't appear to be any information lost in this transfer. Daylight scenes are bright and colourful and facial details, clothing, props, settings and vehicles all appear with high levels of finite substance and clear definition. Wounds are something that you would hope would look terrific and they do, of course, but they are conveniently obscured by Nispel's framing, editing and overall filming style. Thus, this is no autopsy special, I'm afraid. However, even with the prevailing shadows, hair, weaponry, hockey-masks, the guts of a mangled GPS system and wood-grain - in trees, cabin walls and furnishings - leaves, earth and mud have a keener edge to them and look fine considering the general gloom. Background detail is often terrific, but there are times when it seems to lose a little substance, such as the far side of the lake during the boat sequence, but this is more than made up for with the wonderful shot of Jason standing on the bank idly contemplating his next victim as she floats helplessly in the water.
A real bonus with this transfer, folks, is the wonderful sense of depth that it is given. The entire image is laden with a distinct three-dimensionality - though not quite the same style as its brother-in-arms, My Bloody Valentine, of course - that is a genuinely sublime visual treat. There are so many great shots involving characters and the camera prowling through the woods - an oft-used favourite would have to be that slow zoom onto the overgrown Camp Crystal Lake signpost swinging in the breeze - that the film feels continually and rewardingly immersive. It is such a shame that the movie isn't much better because, visually, this would be something that would keep drawing you back. Even DNR has been kept to a minimum, with faces textured and skin-tones warm but still natural, a thin layer of fine grain still evident and the image doing its best to resist that overly-processed look despite Bay's predilection for high contrast sheen.
If I had to pick a fault with this, it would be that there are at least two occasions when a noticeable lattice-work effect can be seen just behind a character. Now, this happens most overtly when an idiotic stoner is just outside the tool-shed. Having watched the scene a couple of times, it could be that what I am seeing is merely the effect of the blue UV light that is hanging up outside there - the vertical light has a metal mesh surrounding it. But, somehow, it still doesn't look right to me. I may be being picky and just trying to find something to complain about, but it did bug me. Lens flares and reflections are commonplace, but this seems a little odd.
A very good transfer, otherwise, and a strong 8 out of 10.
The Killer Cut of Friday The 13th is supported by a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that differs very slightly from the mix heard on the theatrical cut, which has been preserved here on the shorter version. Whilst both are essentially the same, the extended version has been tinkered with by the movie's sound engineers to specifically cater for the home viewing experience. Purists can't argue about this, however, as it seems to have been the film-makers' intentions all along.
To be honest, there really isn't much that is either new to the track, or much that has been taken away. A couple of effects may seem amplified and panning may be slightly smoother, but the overall impression of both mixes is of subtle, but effective surround use, strong dynamics across a wide frontal stage, crisp dialogue, a warm and enveloping score and good, though not overly aggressive .LFE. Personally, I paid more attention to the mix on the Killer Cut, so this is one that I will discuss from this point on.
As mentioned the front soundstage is where most of the work comes from, which is quite surprising considering the nature of the film. Voices have a clarity, a positioning and a depth that sounds real and natural. Effects such as machete thunks!, crunching impacts, gunshots, breaking glass and rainfall are certainly well distributed and prioritised. The clattering of tools and paraphernalia in the work-shed is realistic, as is the smash 'em-up between Clay and our Jason during the climactic duel. The sound of vehicles is natural without being overbearing, like Clay's motorbike and the pick-up truck speeding away with its new, rear-mounted trophy, and the motorboat has an authentic whine and churn. There is also some fine positioning of the the topless bimbo bouncing across the waves as she skis behind it.
Stingers and other such conventional horror acoustics stem primarily from the front. Although there is some bleed-through to embellish and enhance some of these moments from the surrounds, most of these scenes actually occur from the front, so there really isn't much actual cause for rear activity. Environmental ambience is supplied but, again, there doesn't seem to be a great deal that is of particular note, other than the convincing lapping of water, the odd rustle of leaves in the wind and the immersive presentation of the rainstorm. I like the impact of the motorboat against a victim's head and the subsequent audio dislocation that she experiences - but what happens to the boat afterwards, though? And the various screams have potency. But, as I say, most of this good stuff occurs across the front. This is still a fine track, though, that doesn't make any errors that I can detect. A steady and sure 8 out of 10.
One thing you can be certain of with this roster of extras is that they will reveal how excited the cast and crew are to be involved with a new Jason Vorhees movie.
As well as BD-Live, the Blu-ray offers us a PiP track, with added pop-up trivia, that is certainly watchable and reasonably informative, but has a preponderance to back-slap and be overly jolly and self-satisfied.
Hacking Back/Slashing Forward (10 mins) has the makers and the performers recalling their memories of how the original film and the whole notion of the unstoppable Jason hooked them and got them all fired-up for their version. A lot of over-hyped adulation from people that only know how to emulate. It is also funny how, after a few minutes of listening to them go on about them, you suddenly begin to regard what are, admittedly, tacky little exploitationers as classics.
The Rebirth Of Jason Vorhees (12 mins) is just promotional gubbins that allows the cast, crew and writers to dazzle us with their considerable belief that they are both coming up with something new to the franchise and remaining true to the fans. Nothing of any real interest here, folks.
Additional Slashed Scenes (8 mins) offers us a trio of original takes, but there are really only two sequences that are worth mentioning. The first, and presumably the reason why this feature carries a mature-viewer warning at the start, is the original scene in which Jason first finds his trademark hockey-mask. As far as I am concerned, this is a much better take than what we actually see in the finished movie. It makes more sense, it is bloodier and much more emphatic. Another new titbit has us meeting the cops down at the station when Clay makes his frantic phone-call for help. While it is actually quite superfluous, it also gives us more character for ???? and allows us to see that he isn't anywhere near as dismissive of the affair as the finished film would have you believe.
Then we have 22 mins of “The 7 Best Kills”, a feature which can be viewed with a Play All option or as individual segments. What is fun about this is that it isn't simply a highlights compendium of slayings as you may, at first, think. Rather, it goes behind the scenes and shows the conceptualisation and the shooting of the scenes and let's us hear from the makers and, best of all, the poor saps who play the victims. At least here we get to see the extent of the burn make-up on the sleeping-bag barbecue victim, which we only glimpse in the final film. The topless water-skier gets to enthuse about her on-screen demise and how she can't wait to see it in the finished cut with a cinema audience. “Gee, mum, look - I'm in the movies!”, you can imagine her gushing ... and I'm sure mum would be elated to see the, ahem, titillating way in which she meets her maker.
There is also a digital copy of the theatrical cut of the film for portable-player fun!
Actually not as bad as many people make out, 2009's return to Camp Crystal Lake is, nevertheless, a regrettable let-down that fails to inspire any shudders and lacks both the necessary freshness and any semblance of pleasing nostalgia. My Bloody Valentine had its 3D gimmickry going for it, and the new version of The Last House On The Left, at least, played things straight and nasty, but Jason, however honed and toned he has become, now feels even more retarded and, inevitably, more redundant than ever before. The kills aren't nasty enough and there are no proper scares to be had, but there is still something about this revamped re-stalk that keeps you watching such annoying dullards getting offed. It is probably just the ravishing photography, which certainly helps to make Jason's stamping ground look supremely atmospheric and the movie almost epic. Or maybe it is just the die-hard longing of the inner gore-hound that lurks within us all to keep this sort of primal tosh alive and kicking.
Either way, the disc's transfer is a good one. The video only makes a couple of slight errors, and even these were probably unavoidable as they could well be part and parcel of the original print. The audio may seem a tad disappointing in its lack of surround dynamics, but it is still a good, mean and moody track that has plenty going for it. The extras don't really do much for the movie, other than slavishly promote it - and it can't help when one of the franchise's classic moments has its best airing in a Deleted Scene!
Friday The 13th Michael Bay/ Marus Nispel-style has none of the aggression or the repugnance of their Texas Chainsaw re-evaluation, but it is still something that Jason-fans will have to pick up. Hockey-masked hokum, but a bit of a wimp when it all comes down to it.
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