Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th by Peter M. Bracke and Sean S. Cunningham Book Review

Write on: Sun, 20 May 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 3442


FRIDAY THE 13TH is one of the most successful horror franchises of all time. It dominated the 80s horror movie phase and was one of the first series to become a staple of video stores (which for younger viewers were magical places to get movies before Amazon or streaming delivered them straight to your house). It began as a shameless cash-in on the success of John Carpenter's Halloween but gradually evolved into a more successful spin-off that pretty much all slasher films imitate to this day.

The premise of the movies for laymen was simple: in the town of Crystal Lake, there was a campground where Jason Voorhees was a mentally challenged and disfigured child staying with his mother. Jason drowned in the town's titular lake while the counselors who were supposed to be watching him hooked up in one of the nearby cabins. Pamela, his mother, attempted to exact bloody revenge on them for this stupidity. Jason, however, had not died but lived in the woods for twenty years before emerging as a nearly-indestructible survivalist who later gained supernatural powers that raised him as an undying zombie. His target? Mostly nubile young women and their dumb as a post boyfriends.

In short, Friday the 13th has never been the most intelligently written series of all time. It follows campfire story logic at best and very often just handwaves away inconsistencies. However, there's no reason why goofy fun can't exist and some of the movies are quite entertaining. My favorites are 1, 2, and 4. However, everyone has their favorites of the series if they're old enough to have enjoyed the heyday of VHS scary movie night. I actually wasn't but discovered the series in the middle of the nineties.

CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES comes in two formats with the hardcovers version (320 pages) and the 600+ page Kindle version. The big difference between the two is the hardcover version has pictures as well as official interviews while the Kindle version is composed almost entirely of anecdotes by the actors as well as production staff. Generally, the treatment of the book is fun with the various production staff being fond of their time working on the franchise but having no illusions they were making high art. They also are quite contradictory in their stories, which makes a few of the chapters quite fun. "The whole idea we were punishing sex and rewarding virgins was stupid and made up by the media" followed by, "Oh yeah, if you had sex you died in the movies. That was one of the things I learned from Halloween and tried to put in the films."

Quite a few stars got their start in the movies with Kevin Bacon, Crispin Glover, and a few others sharing their stories about their time in the movies. Wes Craven, much to my surprise, actually had a behind the scenes role in Friday the 13th before he moved on to his equally-success horror franchise with Freddy Krueger. Some of their stories are a bit lurid as we find out it was common practice for the 20 something actors to hook up behind the cameras.

As expected from the franchise, a lot of the movies were made with spit and bailing wire. Their whole appeal was they were made with non-union actors, on a low budget, and with everything assembled quickly. Many times, the creators assumed they were making the "final" Friday, only to return when they didn't have any success. There's a sense of resentment and missed opportunity with a few of the staff, especially toward Paramount, but mostly the parties involved are positive.

Really, you can tell when the series went off the rails and gradually got more and more convoluted as the series' popularity grew but its artistic roots (such as they were) shifted from being bloody indie films to being assembly line productions. We learn why The New Blood, Jason Takes Manhattan, and Jason Goes to Hell were such trainwrecks. Also, how much love still went into crafting them. The book covers New Line's complicated relationship with ownership and how they really just wanted to make Freddy vs. Jason but this was an incredibly difficult task. We get a surprising sense of how devoted some of the actors and actresses were to their roles. I especially loved reading which cast members absolutely hated each other and weren't afraid to express it (Part 5's Dick Wieand a.k.a Fake Jason gets a lot of shade from his fellow cast members).

Honestly, the book is a little too long and simultaneously a little too short in places. It's definitely for the hardcore fans of the franchise and doesn't bother to share recaps of the movies, even when they would be extremely helpful for readers who haven't necessarily just come off a Starz on-demand binge or own the DVD boxed set. Likewise, the book doesn't cover the 2009 reboot as it would have been interesting to get Jared Padelecki (Supernatual), Danielle Panabaker (The Flash), and Amanda Rhigetti's (The Mentalist) opinion on the movie that sadly didn't resurrect the franchise. There's also, sadly, no handling of the recent 2017 video game or the retro NES version. So, it's the MOSTLY complete version. On the plus side, it does include Jason vs. Freddy as well as Jason X, which are of questionable canonicity but entertaining as hell.

As much as it's blasphemy to suggest this, I actually think it's probably better to go with another medium to enjoy the information gathered in this book. The book was so successful as a coffee table book that Corey Feldman (Tommy Jarvis in Part 4 and Part 5) hosted a television documentary version. This really reads very much like a dozen Comic Book Con Panels and you might as well get the whole effect by watching it on TV. It's available for purchase from on DVD or streaming appropriately enough. Watching the documentary and reading the book is really only the kind of action you'd take if you were a die-hard completitionist like myself.

Last modified on Sunday, 01 December 2019 07:40
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.