Crystal Lake Memories Blu-ray Review

An essential behind-the-scenes documentary for fans of Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th as a franchise

The name Jason Voorhees has struck terror in the hearts of horror fans going back to the Eighties. Friday The 13th as a film franchise has generated nearly $600 million in domestic box office receipts and turned an unstoppable, machete-wielding madman into a true movie icon.

Inspired by the critically-acclaimed book from author Peter Bracke, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th takes viewers behind the mask on an extended journey into the making of the landmark horror franchise. This is absolutely essential viewing for fans as it provides sweeping coverage for every film in the franchise with key insiders, up until the ill-fated 2009 reboot.

Peter Bracke’s excellent 2006 book serves as the basis for this documentary from director Daniel Farrands. The book included over 200 alumni of the series as they recalled a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes stories – the struggles, feuds, foibles, and controversies surrounding each film. Fully illustrated with nearly 600 never-before-seen photos, rare archival documents and production materials, the huge hardback volume was widely hailed as the ultimate memoir of the franchise. Using that source as inspiration, Crystal Lake Memories serves as the equally essential video companion with more than 150 cast and crew members appearing in interviews over seven strong hours. No stone is left unturned as each film is covered from multiple angles.

Director Farrands’ work will be familiar to anyone that has seen a companion documentary of sorts, his Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. That comprehensive look at Freddy Krueger has now been surpassed in quality by this definitive accounting of Friday the 13th. While Never Sleep Again shared the same basic documentary structure and was entertaining in its own right, it lacked the polish and professionalism seen more often in Crystal Lake Memories. This is a much stronger, more entertaining documentary. Iconic Friday the 13th composer Harry Manfredini scores Crystal Lake Memories. His score works beautifully as a callback to the franchise’s notable music and is a real treat for hardcore fans.

Narrator Corey Feldman handles his duties well outside of a short, cheesy opening prologue. The structure of this documentary is straightforward and linear. Starting with the original Friday the 13th, it covers each sequel in succession. Even some token coverage of the television series is included. Apparently Paramount was making a lot of money with Star Trek: The Next Generation in syndication during the late Eighties and thought exploiting the franchise’s name for a television show was a good idea. Exploring all phases of production with each film’s cast and crew, we get an intensive behind-the-scenes look at the making of each movie.

The cast and crew for each film are surprisingly open and engaging about their work.

Outside of Kevin Bacon, virtually every significant actor in the franchise’s long history still living that ever played a substantial role in front of the camera appears. The cast and crew for each film are surprisingly open and engaging about their work. This is some of the more casual and carefree behind-the-scenes interviews I’ve ever seen on home video. It makes for an excellent, fun vibe that helps digesting the nearly seven hours much easier. I would probably recommend watching a chapter or two at a time since each chapter corresponds to a specific film.

Spanning twelve films, a number of key insiders provide critical insight about what went on behind the scenes. Creator Sean S. Cunningham, his son Crystal Lake Entertainment producer Noel Cunningham, series producer Frank Mancuso, Jr., make-up artist Tom Savini, New Line executive Jeff Katz are but some of the names that add a wealth of production information.

If it is lacking anything, Crystal Lake Memories is light on archival press clips. There is a great clip included of film critic Gene Siskel trashing Friday the 13th as a movie and how it was a overreaction to the women’s lib movement. Do not expect a lot of hard-hitting critiques of the horror franchise.

This exhaustive, engaging documentary is like a dream come true for someone like me that grew up on Friday the 13th films. A tight focus on each movie’s main cast, gory killing sequences and prosthetic make-up works surprisingly well. Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th is one awesome documentary made by big fans of the franchise, clearly intended for the iconic killer’s fans. It is for anyone who was scared of being slaughtered by Jason.

Movie ★★★★★

Crystal Lake Memories Blu-ray screen shot 3

Crystal Lake Memories is a documentary comprised of film clips, still shots, and talking-head interviews, many of which have been shot in front of a green-screen so a background shot can be added. It’s not reference-quality imagery but showcases a nice mix of Blu-ray-quality film clips interspersed with modern interviews in sharp fidelity. The 1080P video has satisfying definition and a relatively consistent presentation.

Image Entertainment is actually re-releasing Crystal Lake Memories since it originally came out in 2013 from the filmmakers themselves. Nearly seven hours are spread over two BD-50s in a decent AVC video encode. The AVC video encode averages around 20 Mbps according to BDInfo scan. It is a clean presentation without artifacts.

The interviews range from crystal-clear to fairly soft. Black levels show a hint of crushing in them that doesn’t seem to affect the film clips. Overall this is a decent Hi-Def presentation worthy of a Blu-ray release.

Video ★★★☆☆

Most interesting about this reissue from Image Entertainment is the bump from lossy Dolby Digital to a full 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. There is some light surround immersion from the atmospheric score but this is a dialogue-driven documentary. Film clips tend to run softer in volume than the louder narration bits and new interviews. This isn’t the most even listening experience but the challenge of combining this many disparate interviews into one level was likely a herculean task.

English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided in a white font if necessary.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Audio Commentary – Director Daniel Farrands, author Peter Bracke, and editor Luke Rafalowski have an easygoing conversation for nearly the entire documentary. That in itself is incredible and impressive on some level. I liked this commentary because the men are upfront about being fans of the franchise and freely give their opinions on each film. It is apparent these men know their stuff when it comes to the films. This is a loose discussion that goes off-topic with some regularity, but one that is worth listening for the tidbits that didn’t make the documentary proper.

Extras ★★★☆☆

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.