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BOOK
Crystal Lake Memories
The Complete History of Friday the 13th (Hardback)

Author: Peter M. Bracke
Titan Books
RRP: 35.00, US $39.95, Cdn $44.95
ISBN-13: 978 1 8457 6343 5
ISBN-10: 1 845 76 343 2
Available 31 October 2006


Who would have thought that one little low-budget horror flick, impressive and notorious as it was upon its original theatrical release in 1980, would spawn more sequels than any other franchise within the genre. Furthermore, as the climatic scene/epilogue at the end of Friday 13th - when the Mongoloid boy rises from the lake - was added to the script very late in the proceedings, it's incredible to think that Jason Vorhees has become our most enduring fictional psychopath.

Crystal Lake Memories - The Complete History of Friday 13th is a large and colourful hardback book - written by USC School of Cinema-Television graduate and lifelong horror enthusiast, Peter M. Bracke, and published by Titan Books - which analyses the rise and rise of the hockey mask-wearing, machette-weilding maniac through the recollections of more than two-hundred of the people who have worked on the films, either in front of or behind the camera.

Like Jason Vorhees himself, the Friday 13th films refuse to die... And why should they? I loved every single one of them (except perhaps Jason Goes to Hell - What were you thinking of Mr Cunningham?). Like Columbo or Scooby-Doo, they conform to a particular pattern; to a certain extent you know what you're going to get but, as far as I'm concerned, that's part of the charm. A silent and faceless killer is much more effective than one with which you can communicate. However, whereas Halloween (and masked killer Michael Myers) is subtle, full of style, clever lighting and inferences, Friday 13th and its ten sequels are unashamedly bloodthirsty and inventive in its portrayal of violence.

But enough about my observations on the films; this is supposed to be a review of the book. Being an age-long connoisseur of horror myself, I think this tome has been a long time coming. As a keen follower of Jason's exploits, I was interested to discover if Crystal lake Memories truly does significant justice to the characters and situations. The simple answer to this is yes; the attention to detail in collecting and collating these stories and anecdotes from so many people is incredible. The first noticeable thing is how some of the interviewees come across as enthusiastic and honest, whereas others obviously saw there experiences as akin to a fun day out at the Blue Peter studios making plasticine dinosaurs. But whether they viewed their time on set as Shakespeare or a lark, there's a significant amount of pertinent information which can be garnered from the conversations. It also comes as a great relief that the recollections are anecdotal rather than expository; it makes for interesting rather than heavy reading.

The pull-out quotes are immediately attention-grabbing. For example:

"Steve Miner said, 'Don't ask me what your motivation is, just kill her!'" - Richard Brooker.

"This may be a sick and sad thing to say, but Jason is the most comfortable I've ever felt playing a character. I put the mask on, and it just felt right." - Kane Hodder.

"If you count the five offscreen deaths, my total is like twenty-four kills in this one." Kane Hodder.

"I kept asking the actor who was going to kill me to let me check his ax, because the real one and the fake one looked so alike. I was scared he might pick up the wrong one by mistake." - Dominick Brascia.

"My last day on set was to shoot my death scene. The day before, I called my mother, and she said, 'Russell, don't you think that's a little odd? Are you sure this is legitimate?' She thought it was a snuff film. I said, 'Mom, this is Paramount. They're not going to kill me!" - Russell Todd.

... and too many more to mention. Instead of listing each interview separately, there is a logical continuity. There is an individual chapter relating to each Friday 13th film, and paragraphs are lifted from each relevant person, so that the subjects under discussion do not jump all over the place. There are many colour photographs included - the majority previously unseen - which offer behind-the-scenes glimpses, as well as publicity stills and film snapshots.

If I have one niggle about this book it's in the specifications. At the back of the book is a "Coroner's Report", giving such data on each film as dates and box office takings. It rather makes you wish for more detailed statistics. Also, I remember coming across a fan website a few years back, which contained listings of every victim of Jason and their manner of death. It would have been nice to see something like that here. But that's a minor complaint. Crystal Lake Memories serves its purpose and serves it well.

This book will without doubt appeal to Jason fans and general followers of the horror genre, provided they are not turned off by the price. Peter M. Bracke is apparently the foremost authority on the Friday films, and his collaboration with Titan Books shows a mutual respect for the franchise. Now all we need is an ultimate authority on Michael Myers and Halloween... That'll be me then!

Ty Power

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