Crystal Lake Memories


‘…Crystal Lake Memories is somehow more than its parts; it becomes an Altman-esque epic of low-rent enterprise with a huge cast caught up in pursuit of the teenage dollar…’

Yikes! A little glimpse behind the curtain here; when a publicist asked if I’d be interested in a documentary about the Friday the 13th franchise, I thought it sounded worth a whirl. What I didn’t immediately get was that this was something more than a keen fan’s document, but clocks in at a whopping 620 minutes. Ignoring all warnings from grizzled gas-station attendants, I plunged ahead, but with a vague anxiety that the film-makers may have over estimated my interest in the subject. Oddly, that proved not to be true; Crystal Lake Memories is a marathon, not a sprint, but the story of the development of the Friday the 13th movies actually sheds a great deal of light on the development of movies, past and present.

If you’ve not been paying attention, there have been twelve Friday the 13th movies, a 50+ episode tv show, comics, books, video games and all kinds of merchandise; until the Halloween reboot, it was the most lucrative horror franchise to date. While the first film had an undeniable impact back in 1980, critics never got what audiences liked about the bare-bones slasher format, and as the sequels repeated and rehashed the Jason/serial killer formula, the fans stayed loyal. Paramount’s Frank Mancuso Jr was something of an eminence grise of the Friday films, steering it through changing times and to a new home at New Line, and eventually towards a 2009 reboot, so there’s a good thirty years to cover over 13 chapters.

Crystal Lake Memories is an advert for the franchise, but it’s also a record of a sequence of films that came off the rails repeatedly; the central characters change, supernatural elements come and go, other franchises get mixed in, battles with the censor are more often lost than one, and it’s remarkable that fans stayed the pace. This doc feels ‘by fans for fans’, but it’s also a remarkable record of the process of keeping the franchise alive; over 150 of the cast and crew contribute first hand accounts of the making of these films. There’s no Kevin Bacon to connect everything up to six degrees, but plenty of weird connections and familiar faces, from Erin Grey to Alice Cooper. And there’s not much in the way of highbrow critical analysis, but there’s plenty of revealing stories about how the films were made (cheaply!) and how the grisly effects were achieved.

As with the book its based on, Crystal Lake Memories is somehow more than its parts; it becomes an Altman-esque epic of low-rent enterprise with a huge cast caught up in pursuit of the teenage dollar. By sticking to the granular detail, Crystal Lake Memories offers a detailed picture of the life, death and never-ending return of the Jason franchise. To my surprise, it’s 620 minutes well spent.

101 Films present this UK release on digital 14th March and 2-disc Blu-ray 11th April 2022  



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  1. That would be a binge watch in television parlance. Sometimes these docus become so interesting you don’t want to switch off but ten hours takes some commitment.

    • Exactly! I picked up the boxes for Dexter. The next thing I know: It’s ten hours later and I haven’t bathed or moved! Ricky Gervais’s Brit-coms Extras and The Office had the same effect. They kept taking the piss out of me and I couldn’t stop with just one episode. I burned off each in one marathon day. You do get hooked.

  2. Seconding the wow…I’ve 1/2 watched 1/2 of the 12 (body count 200+) movies. The series has its own 780+ page wiki, but few redeeming qualities RE this mama’s boy, Frankenstein monster, cannibal, tail-less merman, body jumper, hypnotist, machette wielder, psychotic killer, necromancer, unwilling Gov’t research vic…
    My biggest issue with the franchise besides the gratuitous bloodletting, was succinctly stated by writer M Ventura in his ‘Toy From Hell’ article. A kid searches frantically for a Jason costume (mask, machette, bloody shirt)…He said the boy’s willingness to want to PLAY psychotic killer was an indictment of 20th-21st c society. There’s a lack of safeness–so why not be a mad killer? Why not promote the vibe, absorb a bit of Jason energy…
    The purpose of a costume is to scare or excite, however, I fear Ventura’s right. Now you tell me there’s a 620 minute documentary–that must stretch from 1944 to 2500? Incredible. Perhaps version 13 will get the magic right, another of my peeves, for if a kid can orchestrate a powerful spell/curse all by him/herself, then anyone with sufficient reason can–preposterous??? PS, if you liked Rambo 4 body count, watch Jason 1984 version… Wait, it’s only a movie, the magic of Hollyweird… Excellent review and amazing endurance!

    • You’ve put your finger on the site spot; I do have an issues with slashers, and the film that utterly clarifies this was the first Halloween reboot by Rob Zombie that casts Jason as the hero and everyone else as baddies. It’s imitative behaviour, and not great for kids at all. All the amazing things you describe in Jason were qualities piled on in each Friday the 13th installment, but all just in the hope of conjuring up something, anything that might click. Maybe the 13th 13th will be the charm, but if anything, this massive doc demystifies the killer and reveals that his s real purpose is making money; is the a royal society for the protection of magical serial killers? Maybe Jason just needs a little love, these films treat him like a rag doll, dressed up in whatever pop culture and market research might play that particular year…

      • Yeah, the anti-hero angle doesn’t work for me, either. They run that narrative in gangster flicks, as well. Speaking of . . .

        What film did I just watch . . . oh, it was reboot/reimage of Texas Chainsaw via Netflix (out of curiously and a boring, rainy Saturday). Again, Leatherface is a socio-message carrying anti-hero taking social-media obsessed/self-centered teens to task.

        • Totally. If you make Jason or Michael Meyers into good guys righting wrongs in society, they’re just superheroes with added gore. It’s a dead end if you ask me…

          • I fear the new Morbius movie may get the writer’s room wheels-a-turning with an “evil good guy” reboot on either . . . toss them into a war zone and let them have at it . . . blackmail Freddy into haunting the dreams of enemy soldiers. Never say never, Hollywood: make ’em “good guys” to kill the bad ones.

            • Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of dangerous ambiguity. But what made these characters work in the original films was a sense of menace, which vanishes if they’re taking down dancing TikTokers or other pariahs of our time…bad guys should be bad for life…

  3. Wow, 620 minutes about 12 movies. That’s a labor of love. I would never watch it, as I have no interest in the Halloween films, but I respect the effort! (Both yours and the filmmaker’s!)

    • It was actually much more interesting than I imagined. I’m not a fan of slasher films generally, but it was educational to see how this series developed!

      • Ain’t that the truth! They sure did milk what was a one-off film. But a crazy box office has that effect on studios.

        However, when they took Jason to outer space. . . . Looking back, it makes sense: What was Alien but a haunted house flick in space. Remove the woods, replace it with a space ship. So, there is a through line from Jason to the Xenomorph to having the masked one cavorting amid the stars.

        I always thought, well, dreaded, Micheal Myers would end up in space. More so after that bonkers third installment with alternate timeline of ancient astronauts n’ druids and making computer chips with a sliver of Stonehenge in Halloween masks. I guess we should be thankful that never happened. . . .

        • And these are the best known deviations from the script! False starts, new beginnings, ill-starred trips to Manhattan, telekinesis, they threw everything at this and very little stuck…Jason X is one of the more coherent ones ! I’d be interested to see a similar film about Halloween, the sequels for that do get very murky…

    • A&E recently aired a two-part (or was it three) KISStory limited series. Now, I love KISS just as much as the next guy, and I am always up for a little backstory on the five Ws and H of it all. But six hours of KISS, well, Gene, telling us how great he is? So, yeah, I feel you when it comes to 620 minutes of bloody mayhem. In addition: How much Rebel Alliance vs. The Imperial Empire can one take?

      When it comes to horror, give me an old Val Lewton haunted house flick with a Hammer chaser and stow the hockey mask.

      • I’m a Beatles fan, and yet the Peter Jackson doc just seemed like WAY too long for easy consumption. In terms of Kiss, I feel that their collaboration with Scooby Doo tells you all you need to know.

        And I’m with you on Lewton’s and Hammer, must have 40+ reviews posted between them. Can’t beat the classics!

        • Yeah, yeah. They did work with Scooby. Gene never met a promotional angle he didn’t like. Saturday morning cartoons? Let’s do it!

          Yeah, the Jackson doc was just too much Beatles for me. It started to drag along instead of entertain. “Is it over yet?”

  4. 620 minutes? And there’s a tv show? Now that I had no idea about.

    Well, this post has served me well by distilling down that 10hrs into approximately 5min of reading. Bravo sir, bravo.

  5. Were the docs included in the separate DVDs of these films just excerpts from this series? I had the feeling they were.

    The whole franchise was a kind of rite of passage at the time, and part of a generational identity. Re-watching them I found them at least capable of being re-watched. Which is something.

    Over estimated my interest.

    No red-carpet photos of last night’s gala?

    • No pics doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Thanks for the typo!

      I’m actually enthused enough to watch a couple of the series, a few of them sound truly mad. I think each doc is about 40 mins, and would imagine they have previously been used on separate dvds in the past…

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