FRIDAY THE 13TH PARTS I-VI SOUNDTRACK BOX SET
Reviewed by Royce Freeman
Produced by Harry Manfredini, Neil S. Bulk and M.V. Gerhard. Executive Producer for La-La Land Records - Matt Verboys. Edited and Mastered by James Nelson. Album Art Direction by David C. Fine. Slipcase Cover Artwork by Erik Nash.
To be sitting here, thirteen years after I initially created my Friday The 13th fan site “The Voorhees House," and now writing this review is eerie. Harry Manfredini was the first person from the Friday series that I interviewed for my site, and that has led to a long and meaningful friendship with Harry that has spanned through the last decade. Many friendships have been forged over the years as a result of my work on "The Voorhees House" and other interviews, friendships that in retrospect mean more to me than the series itself. In fact, it was Harry himself who encouraged me to hone my skills as a filmmaker and focus on my own projects. Since that initial interview with Harry years ago, I have since written many produced works and even directed my first feature recently. Though family and friends have been a source of encouragement over the years, it was Harry who first lit that spark in me, and I dedicate my career thus far to the maestro himself. That being said, I sit here honoring the man, the legend and his music.
Harry’s music for the original classic entry in the series, draws its inspiration from the great Bernard Hermann with its use of strings and horns, which at times makes me think of Psycho. This is ironic, since John Carpenter’s classic Halloween, which was the inspiration for Friday The 13th being made, was made as tribute to Psycho, so it all comes full circle. The film’s use of music only when the killer is present, to my knowledge, had never been done before and only contributes to the film’s strength and longevity. The classic Friday The 13th signature “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” vocal sound, introduced in this film as a way to suggest the killer though not seen until the end, is a work of pure genius, and belongs up there with the deep "bum-bum-bum-bum" bass from Jaws or Carpenter’s classic 5/4 time signature theme from Halloween. It is rare to create a memorable theme with few notes that is instantly recognizable. Throughout the entire original classic Friday The 13th, the haunting minimalistic score draws you in and never lets up once it has you. Harry has said that whatever new electronic gizmos he had when making each score were used to add to the musical color pallet. Starting with this film, the use of flanging the music at times, took already haunting stinger cues, and held those notes in a reverb. This made them even more unsettling and unstable, like the mind of the killer, whose actions are guided by the voices in her head. The only use of score in the entire film which does not accompany the killer’s presence is at the end when Alice is on the lake, and is used here to mislead the audience to have a false sense that all is well. Again, flanging is used to give a dream-like feel, like that of a lullaby, and at a moment where the lush ballad is at its most beautiful – screeching strings invade as Jason makes his on-screen debut, in a Carrie-esque chair jumper ending. And with that, history was made and a killer was revealed to the world. As an added bonus for the fans, three cues from the original film are presented on its corresponding disc. First, the banjo music playing when Jack and the gang are heading to camp. Second, the country song “Sail Away Tiny Sparrow”. And finally, an easter egg on the same track as the country song, the guitar music that Bill plays in the cabin while its raining outside. Nice additions to this already definitive soundtrack.
Harry’s sophomore entry in the series takes the themes created for the original to a new level. The maestro has said that on the first film he was playing it by ear, but on the sequel he knew what worked and what he had to do. The opening pre-title sequence recaps the ending of part one but is scored with new music, while it is fresh and new, it does not stray too far from its predecessor, keeping those familiar themes and textures and of course that classic vocal effect. Although Jason is the one actually doing the killing this time, it makes sense for Jason to hear “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” as the roles have been reversed, and it is now the son that hears the mother’s voice haunting him to avenge her death. Musically, the score evolves from the original, as it is no longer a who-dunnit, but rather Jason stalking his prey like the shark in Jaws. And since the cat is out of the bag, and we know who the killer is, the music’s function is different than the original film. In keeping with the Jason-shark concept, a thumping bum-bum-bum-bum on horns, much like the shark theme from Jaws, is heard, but faster paced and frenetic. The use of new synthesizers adds a ghostly presence which can be heard is scenes at Jason’s shack where his mother’s shine is held. A lot of the same themes are carried over from part one, though expanded upon. A prime example is the chase scenes, which contain the Jason-shark driving beat introduced in the main title sequence music. During the first movie, there really wasn’t much chase music since the killer stalked her prey and moved in for the kill. There is much stalk and kill in this entry, though a chase does occur when the deputy pursues Jason and when Ginny flees from him. In both cases, a pounding of the horn and spiraling of the strings are used to create a sense of chaos and movement. And like the previous disc in the set, after the final track has a bonus easter egg after title music ends. This time it is the harmonica music played by Jeff when he serenades Sandra before they make love. While the guitar cue on previous disc and this harmonica cue are not played by Harry, it is still is Harry’s music played by those actors, so it is a nice inclusion in the set.
While Harry was busy working on other projects at the time the third entry was produced, he still had time to make music for the opening sequence and the final scenes, while the middle section of the film was filled in by music from previous two entries. In keeping with the tradition of the prior entries, this film bring something new to the table: 3-D. Harry’s disco-esque theme during the opening titles added to the fun of it all. Aspects of the score for the film were weaved throughout the disco theme, as a traditional main title cue would do, while at same time, making something you can dance to. And much like in part one where the country song was heard in diner and then an instrumental version was heard over titles, this disco theme for Part III was heard as source music in the general store. Each film up to this point has its own haunting cues that stick in my mind – part one with the introduction of “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” and the dream-like sailing on the lake cue; part two with the ghostly aspects heard in Jason’s shack; and in this entry, the shocking stingers heard in the barn as Jason’s mask comes off, the new "jumping out of the lake" sequence--though this time by Mrs. Voorhees--as well as the almost whistling of the haunting cue heard as we show ambulance driving off and Jason laying there dead in the barn. While this entry only has new music in the first few scenes and last few, this disc has all the music in the middle of the film which had been re-edited into new cues for the film. While it is not new material, it may as well be new, as it was re-edited and assembled for the film in such a way that it seems new. And including all this music on this disc will surely please the purist fan.
The following entry was titled The Final Chapter, promising something finite and definite and Harry certainly pulled out all the stops in helping with that promise. From the moment the Paramount logo appears and the sequence that follows, the film and Harry delivers a haunting recap of the legend of Jason Voorhees, keeping in the traditional of the “recap” format the previous installments had done, but this one is more than just that. After the main titles, we open with a long and drawn out journey through the crime scene, leading up to discovering Jason laying in barn supposedly dead. This delayed reveal of Jason seems to mirror the end of the first movie where the "Alice safe on the lake" sequence was drawn out until the chair-grabber introduction of Jason. The music during this crime scene sequence has an eerie funereal feel to it, as I am sure it is meant to be, since Harry crafts these score meticulously. During the recap and all the subsequent music, you can hear a sophistication, one that has evolved from film to film, with this being the big finale the title promises. There are aspects to the score not heard before, due to fact that the budget allowed for more, and the plot had elements not seen before, most prominently, a child lead. And in a serendipitous way, Tommy who is a child loses his innocence vanquishing the killer, who himself died as a boy and subsequently lost his innocence. They say in storytelling, you must know your ending before you create your beginning. Harry certainly knew where he was heading as his score progressed. Throughout the score, there are snippets of music from the previous three entries. Harry has said that it is done to smooth over edits forced upon by the MPAA but I find those snippets befitting, since this is the supposed finale. The end of this anthology draws upon elements which have come before. Traces of the funeral requiem heard in the earlier crime scene can be heard throughout the film in places. It is as if this requiem is the running theme throughout the film, the foreboding, leading to the actual death of Jason Voorhees. And even though the title suggests it is the "final chapter,” the filmmakers leave room for another story with Tommy possibly becoming the killer. During this final scene with Tommy in the hospital, the same funeral requiem is heard, suggesting something is not quite right, that perhaps we are slowly leading down a dark road with Tommy too, and we are mourning of the loss of his innocence.
Since Harry had pulled out all the stops to honor the promise that Jason was indeed dead, it was now a challenge to lead you to believe Jason was still alive in Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning. As the score begins in the opening prologue with young Tommy, there are familiar elements from previous entries with the frantic strings heard as Tommy journeys through the graveyard, with traces of what will be known as “Tommy’s theme” throughout the film. To set up the madness of Tommy and point the finger at him throughout the film as a killer, the seeds of such are planted in this opening sequence. Like the film itself which tried to convince you that Jason was indeed alive, this opening scene does not tip the hat that it is a dream, although musically it does have an eerie dream-like quality in places. The addition of woodwinds and saxophone in this score add to the color palette which plays to the madness of Tommy and the evil of Jason Voorhees that is alive and well in someone. Harry has said that it was the toughest of all the scores for him to create since he was ahead of the audience in knowing it wasn’t Jason, and thus he had to force himself to score it as if he would any other Friday film. There are certainly traces of what we have all come to love from previous four installments, though the Tommy theme is heard throughout, as well the dark tone of the bass saxophone which Harry said gave it “a nasty bottom end." The film itself has a seedy element to it with the dead-pan dark humor, and the sexual perversion, and Harry scored to those elements as well. There is a seedy element musically to underscore those elements. As an added bonus, there are two bonus tracks which are source music from the film. These are further proof that this is the definitive collection.
The sixth and final score in this collection is truly a gem. The subtitle Jason Lives promises a resurrection of Jason and Harry utilizes a much larger orchestra to celebrate this, adding harp strings and orchestral bells to his musical canvas. From the opening montage, which is accompanied by a rendition of an old Gregorian chant to foreshadow the doom that awaits, there is an elements heard in this score, not present in previous entries, that of the supernatural. In the film, Jason dispenses of his victims in ways not humanly possibly and the score plays to that. The film at times did not take itself too seriously, and the music followed suit. One of the prime examples is the paintball sequence. Obviously as an audience, these characters are introduced as mere victims for our shark, but these moments prior to their doom are not met with foreboding, but rather underscoring their naivety and celebrating the enjoyment of the game at hand, until Jason decides to play. Throughout the film there are visual punchlines to death scenes which are tongue-in-cheek, like the smiley face left in the tree or the floating American express card from victim’s hand in water. While a first instinct would be to musically play to the levity, Harry underscored those moments subtly to let those moments speak for themselves. Harry has said that the job of music is to say what cannot be said. I believe Harry said quite a bit on this film. Once again, as with The Final Chapter beginning with the funeral requiem and ending with death of Jason, this film was building to an end. It seems each filmmaker felt they were going to finish the series and musically Harry played to those elements laid out by the filmmaker. Here, the film ends with Jason drowning, like he did as a boy, finally laying him to rest, bringing the series full circle from the original Friday film. And in the final moments of Jason laying at the bottom of the lake, much like the final shot of Jason laying in the barn in Part III, there is a musical send-off. Here, bells are heard chiming, much like at the end of a prize fight, signifying that it is over. One may note that this is the only score in this set that was taken from original master tapes and not the ones from Paramount, so there are pieces of music not heard in the film included on this disc. And since it was made from original master tapes, it is the best sounding of all the discs.
Along with all the scores for the first six Friday The 13th films, there is a comprehensive booklet which chronicles details of how Harry created these scores, containing quotes from Harry and liner notes from film music afficionado Brian Satterwhite. As I read through this informative booklet, a smile came across my face as there were a few quotes from Petch Lucas, who commented on Harry's technique. And as I closed the booklet and read the credits on the back, my smile grew bigger as I saw that both Petch and my names were among the people he thanked. Now, my box set had been signed by the maestro himself, but to be named in the actual booklet along with fellow fan Petch was a real honor, an honor topped only by the friendship Harry gave me all those years ago, which is the best gift anyone could ever give.
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Review by Royce Freeman, for Pitofhorror.com