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Book Review: On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th

09.13.2013by: Eric Walkuski

PLOT: On location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th covers the creation, planning and filming of the iconic 1980 film, Friday the 13th in a way that no other film has been documented before. Through the memories of the cast and crew, many speaking for the first (and last) time, as well as previously-undiscovered production information and materials, On location in Blairstown takes the reader "on location" and back in time to 1979 for the filming of Friday the 13th and behind the scenes for all of the adventures, conflicts and dramas that went into the making of one of the most enduring and popular horror films in history.

REVIEW: Do we really need another making-of FRIDAY THE 13th book? That was my initial thought after learning of the existence of ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN: THE MAKING OF FRIDAY THE 13th. After all, most of the behind-the-scenes action of the seminal 1980 horror film is already well known to horror aficionados, mostly thanks to the splendid CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES book by Peter M. Bracke released in 2006, which exhaustively covered the entire franchise from every angle. Nevertheless, my fondness for all things Voorhees overruled my skepticism and I asked for an advanced copy; after all, how can you know too much about the massacres at Camp Crystal Lake?

The good news is, ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN is certainly an enjoyable, informative read for FRIDAY fans. Wisely, it focuses solely on the first film - everything from the development, to the casting, to the production and eventual release is combed through thoroughly. Author David Grove sees fit to give us plenty of backstory leading up to film's creation, making Sean S. Cunningham the protagonist and documenting his "rise" from the theater world to sexploitation filmmaker (working for a potentially mobbed-up theater chain, no less) to the forger of one of horror cinema's most recognizable titles. (Of course, it just started with a title.) Grove also includes a somewhat melancholy post-FRIDAY THE 13th examination of how Cunningham's career, inextricably linked to the slasher, never quite took off; naturally, the same could be said regarding most of the cast, plenty of whom Grove has interviewed for the book.

Grove goes through every phase of the film chronologically, with chapters devoted to "Week One" of filming, "Week Two", "Week Three," etc. Practically every sequence in the film is examined: that funny scene where Officer Dorf comes by to tell the counselors to keep things quiet? Gets two full pages. Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie's (Jeannine Taylor) sex scene before Jack's death? It's well covered. (Taylor talks about "inwardly cringing" during it.) Jason's rise from the lake? Covered to death... Even shooting Steve Christy's brief scene in the Blairstown diner is dissected, if only because lighting the place was a tricky proposition for the crew. You get the idea: this book will not leave you wanting for any morsel of information regarding the movie's construction.

As many know, Blairstown is the quiet, rural town in New Jersey where the majority of FRIDAY was shot, and the book does its due diligence by examining every aspect of the location shoot itself (even going so far as to interview the town's former fire chief). Tales of raucous cast-and-crew parties at the rundown truck stop hotel where they were lodged are amusing (they were apparently enjoying beer-and-egg breakfasts regularly), as well as interesting tidbits about the many characters on the location as well(make-up maestro Tom Savini's crazy on-set shenanigans weren't always met with enthusiasm, for example). If you've always wanted to know the backstory of FRIDAY THE 13th's director of photography or key grip, this is the book for you. Similarly every actor in the film is given a large portion of the spotlight so that we know exactly who they were before making that fateful journey to the camp.

The book contains some juicy gossip as well. Did you know that Cunningham - married at the time - and leading lady Adrienne King had an affair on set? Furthermore, King would actually help Cunningham stage scenes, which led to plenty of resentment from the cast and crew alike. The set was more like an summer camp than you could imagine.

It's hard to complain about much here; some of the photos are small and repetitive, but that's not a drawback, considering the book is not being put out by a major publishing house. (I suppose it's hard to stack up against the beautiful color pages of CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES.) Not unlike the movie, ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN feels like a labor of love done by someone without a ton of money but a lot of ingenuity and persistence. It's the definitive behind-the-scenes look at the ultimate summertime slasher movie, and fans of the series, and of the genre in general, will not at all be disappointed.




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