A few years ago, when I reviewed the entire Friday the 13th film franchise for this site, one of the main resources that I used in my research was the 2006 book, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.
As you can probably guess from the title, the book is a nearly complete history of the Friday the 13th franchise. (I say nearly complete because the book was published to coincide with the release of Freddy vs. Jason so there’s no information about the later reboot. That’s okay, though, because the reboot sucks and deserves to be forgotten.) What sets this book apart is that it’s an oral history so you’re learning about the history of the Friday the 13th films from the people who were actually involved.
It makes for compelling and interesting reading, providing a portrait not just of the franchise but also of what it was like to be involved in the world of low-budget, genre film making. Friday the 13th may have started out as an independent American giallo just to then become a studio slasher franchise but the one thing that remained consistent was that, no matter how much money the films made, they weren’t ever given much respect. One of the recurring themes in the book is that the actors who were cast in the films were often happy for the work but it was rare that getting killed in a Friday the 13th film ever led to stardom. (Kevin Bacon, of course, is the exception to that rule. Though Bacon isn’t interviewed in the book, everyone who worked on the first film seems to agree that he was fun to work with.) Some of the actors interviewed are just happy to have been a part of an iconic franchise. Some of them display a commendable sense of humor while other seem rather annoyed to know that they’ll be forever associated with Friday the 13th. Some, like New Beginning‘s Jerry Pavlon, worry about the franchise’s subtext while actress Barbara Howard jokes that she calls her annual Final Chapter residual check her “blood money.”
Another recurring theme in Crystal Lake Memories is that of the bitter screenwriter. For the most part, the people assigned to write the scripts for these films come across as being a uniformly bitter lot. It’s actually understandable, as the majority of them attempted to add a new twist to the franchise just to be told that the studio just wanted more scenes of Jason killing camp counselors. That gets at a larger frustration shared by almost everyone interviewed. How do you add your own personal touch to a set of films that are specifically designed to be as impersonal as possible? That’s the question that everyone involved with the franchise had to answer for themselves and it makes for an interesting and relatable read.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book deals with the lengthy development of the Freddy vs. Jason film. We’re told that one of the executives involved with the film believed that, if she added an environmental subtext to the story, Freddy vs. Jason would be the first slasher film to win an Academy Award. As for the films themselves, it sounds like Friday The 13th: A New Beginning had the most out-of-control set while Friday the 13th Part 2 was the fun set. The set I would have wanted to avoid would have been Friday the 13th 3D, where everyone was apparently too stressed out over the special effects to actually have any fun.
This book is a must not just for Friday the 13th fans but for movie lovers in general.