Quantcast Peter Bracke interview - CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: FRIDAY THE 13TH

Peter Bracke - author
Crystal Lake Memories!
If you're a fan of the Friday The 13th movies, then you should already know the name Peter Bracke. He's the author behind the much talked about book detailing everything Friday The 13th related titled 'Crystal Lake Memories'. What started out as a small proposed book turned out to be something much bigger and epic. 'Crystal Lake Memories' is finally coming out in October of 2005, in a hard cover edition, complete with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and featuring over 200 interviews from Friday alumni of past & present. Peter's book promises to be every Friday fans dream come true. Read on to learn more about it. - by Robg. 1/05

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre?

Yikes, that seems so long ago but also like it was yesterday. I was lucky enough to grow up in the 70s, so I remember seeing commercials for 'JAWS' and 'The Exorcist' and being absolutely terrified. My mom wouldn't let me see anything too scary until I was around 8 or 9, but I did sneak in with my brother to see John Carpenter's 'The Fog' in 1980.That was the first horror film that really had a vivid impact on me.

Then I remember seeing everything I could, and some favorites were 'When a Stranger Calls', 'An American Werewolf in London' and of course 'Friday the 13th'. I liked 'Halloween' but to be honest I thought it was a little overrated. It certainly was responsible for ushering in a whole new era of horror films and in any case I've seen it a million times, but it never scared me that much. And of course when 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' showed up I loved that, too. I also cherished what you could arguably call great crap, like 'Prom Night', 'One Dark Night', 'Humanoids from the Deep', 'The Funhouse' and a real guilty pleasure, 'The Boogens'. I even remember sitting through 'Watcher in the Woods' twice. Now, that's dedication.

What's the first thing you remember about the 'Friday The 13th' series? Do you remember which of the films you saw first?

I remember this completely. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, it was still common for films to be released regionally, meaning they wouldn't open on 3,000 megascreens, but often city by city, or in just one theater in your town and then they'd hop from theater to theater. Drive-ins were still big, too. So while I couldn't get into the first Friday when it was released, when Part 2 came out, they put them both on a double bill. I remember just being riveted by the newspaper ads - "A Deadly Combination!" I was eleven years old, and me and a friend snuck in one night, and the theater's heat had broken down. Now, in the Fall in Illinois, that can be real cold. So we were shivering half from fear and half from fright. But I loved it.

I ran home thinking Jason was going to pop out of the bushes. And I will admit to a few nightmares about Mrs. Voorhees. My grandmother was living with us at the time, and she jumped out of the closet once after to scare me, and I swear for an instant I saw Betsy Palmer. Scared the shit out of me, but it remains one of my fondest memories. There is something weird about being a horror fan.

Tell us a little bit about your writing background, and how you came to the decision to document the 'Friday The 13th' series?

Writing wasn't necessarily my lifelong goal. I just knew, growing up, I wanted to be involved somehow with movies and the industry. I didn't really make films growing up, but did enjoy writing and music. But I ended up getting into the film school at USC, which was a great experience and I met many people who remain friends today. It was a great avenue to make connections and gain the confidence that you can go from loving movies to actually being involved with them.

While at USC I started a little website for fun called DVDFILE. That led to my introduction into writing about movies. I also did some freelancing for magazines. After a few years of this I decided it was time to be a little more strategic about things. So I was able to find an agent, and we sold my first book, Ultimate DVD, to Penguin. Then I pitched the second, which is Crystal Lake Memories. Sounds easy, but it is a lot of work, trying to land an agent and then write proposals and pitch. After this, I don't know what I'll do next.

At first, how difficult was it to track down people involved with the Friday films and who were among some of the first people you contacted?

That was the biggest question I faced when I began. Originally, Crystal Lake Memories was just going to be a small book, maybe fifty interviews at most. At the time I started, 'Freddy Vs. Jason' was not even in production yet and there was little guarantee it would happen, and certainly no one knew it would be the big hit it was. So I felt I needed to start by contacting the people I felt I couldn't do the book without, like Sean Cunningham. Just to gauge interest. It also took some effort when I initially contacted people that I was doing a serious book about a subject that often causes guffaws. Still, the reaction was overall pretty good, but it wasn't until over the course of 2003, as 'Freddy Vs. Jason' heated up, that momentum built and publishers became more interested in an Friday the 13th book.

The success of the film really ignited things. The studios became far more receptive, as did Sean, who has since become one of the book's biggest supporters. But along with that came more workload, and suddenly fifty interviews became two hundred. The process is like being a detective. Folks still active in the industry are pretty easy to find through the usual channels, like SAG and the technical guilds. But with Friday the 13th many left the profession, so you have to rely on the Internet but more often other contacts. The more people you interview, the more your connections grow. So in most cases someone eventually knew someone else, and so on. About 85 percent of my wish list I was at least able to contact. Right now, it is down to the wire and there are still a few people I just can't find. But it has been a solid 18 months of work, so hopefully the sheer number of participants will speak for itself.

Did your initial interviews lead to the Friday reunion at the Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors?

Actually, yes, I remember talking with Tony Timpone at Fango back in 2003. I wrote a piece called "Jason's Journeys" for the 'Freddy Vs. Jason' movie mag, and I mentioned to Tony that the time was right to start getting Friday the 13th reunions at their conventions. So we helped with names for the January 2004 FangoCon. Now, with the 25th anniversary this year, there has been a lot of activity about doing more, so I hope that in the coming few weeks there will be some announcements of more convention appearances by 'Friday the 13th' cast and crew.

Tell us, what was it like to host the 'Friday The 13th' panels at the Fango con?

I thought I was awful. Just awful. I had never spoke in public before, except years ago in school in front of like twelve people. I really wanted to run out of the auditorium. Right before the first panel, we were all backstage and everyone was so nice. Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King were trying to boost my confidence, but that first Jason panel was a blur. All I remember was mumbling and feeling like I wanted to vomit. So if it came off well, I would like to thank anyone who actually thought I did a good job. Thankfully, I did another panel at ComiCon last year, which was much more fun. I was more relaxed, so if there are any future panels I would probably enjoy them this time. But I can't say that Fango panel was a happy memory, although I am so grateful to have been asked and it really was an honor.

As a fan, what's it been like to have unlimited access to the archives of photos and Friday related material?  Was there anything you came across that surprised you?

Definitely one of the highlights so far. Getting access was not immediate, but once we reached an agreement I got to come in and sit with a bunch of mouldy old boxes filled with tons of slides. Stuff that had simply never been seen. Aside from genre magazines, the PR department of Paramount would send out a few images, and the rest just collected dust. So everything surprised - at least two thousand images of stuff I didn't think was ever photographed.

I spent a few days going through it all, making notes and picking the best stuff. It was just great, great fun. The only disappointment was that some of the materials have been damaged or destroyed. Parts 3, 4 and 6 specifically, a good portion of the slides are lost, which is sad. But there still was plenty of great stuff, so I am looking forward to seeing the reaction of the fans when they see the book.

Paramount has always shied away from the success of the 'Friday The 13th' series. Were they co-operative when it came to putting together material for your book?

This has come up in interviews and was certainly something I wondered about. I think perhaps it is just not an issue anymore. The height of the slasher backlash was over twenty years ago, so the majority of those who worked at the studio at the time are now gone. I remember when I was going through the archives, everyone in the department was in their 20s or 30s and just thought it was cool. I don't think there is a stigma anymore. For Paramount, the Friday franchise is just another old catalog title, slotted alongside the thousands of other titles they have in their library.

It was really a simple deal - we just agreed on a licensing rate for use of photos, given that the book was hardly a million dollar project. Paramount was very gracious, and provided excellent services to scan in all the materials needed. They were very helpful, so if there was ever any negative feelings toward 'Friday the 13th' at the studio, I think those days are in the past. Now, it is just product. As for New Line, 'Freddy Vs. Jason' was one of their biggest hits of 2003, so they were nothing short of enthusiastic about the book.

Thru-out the years, there have been numerous 'Friday The 13th' related merchandise out there such as books, comics, model kits, etc. Will your book feature a look at some of these collectibles or does it strickly chronicle the films?
That is still being decided. We are at the stage now where we have to decide what will stay and what will go. We are about to begin editing the book down for final proof, and I've been warned that this is the most painful part. You have to just rip out big chunks to make it all fit, so how much focus there will ultimately be on the marketing remains to be seen. Certainly, we'll get in there as much as we can, not only about the models and toys, but also the novelizations, soundtracks and Friday the 13th-inspired fiction that New Line is releasing this year. This type of stuff is a lot of fun, so it will definitely be touched upon in some capacity in the book, including photos.

The book has been a long time in the making and finally has a street date of October of 2005. What were among some of the biggest challenges in the completion and printing of this book?

Really, it was just that the vision of what the book should be changed so much over the course of two years. It started out as this little project about a series that many thought was dead. 'Jason X' was not a box office success, and before 'Freddy Vs. Jason' went into production, it was fair to ask if the franchise was over.

So I had to reshape and expand the book three times over the course of production, from a primarily text-based book with a few pages of B&W photos to something much larger. This also required switching publishers and a host of other issues I never expected. My original schedule was simply for a different kind of monster, so to speak. Ultimately I am very happy that it has even become possible to release a high-quality, full color hardcover book about Jason. I just never thought that could happen, which is good news. But I do regret it took about twice as long as expected and promised. In the long run, the final product is what counts.

Unlike other franchises in the horror genre, the Friday films seem to consistently be good movies. How do you feel about the series as a whole and what stands out as among some of your personal favorite moments in Jason's history?

Hmmmm, tough one. I certainly felt differently before I started the book. Now, having heard the stories and the intentions behind the making of each, you tend to appreciate aspects that before were problematic. Some say that the 'Friday the 13th' sequels are simply remakes of the original, a point which has validity. But each director tried to bring something new to the formula, and I would say that that is the series' greatest strength. The critics might not understand, but I think why the fans keep coming back is because you know you are going to get something that delivers. Something that is the same every time but also new.

You could argue that the least successful 'Friday the 13th' films are the ones that deviate too much from the formula. It can be a tricky balance, especially as once you introduce a fresh element, such as comedy or action, you can't really go back. So each filmmaker who came in had to acknowledge what came before, adhere to the formula and add something original. No small feat, and overall I agree that for a horror series, the quality of the 'Friday the 13th' films is certainly a cut above most of its competitors.

What are the plans for promotion as far as when the book is released?

We are planning many fun things, all still being developed. There will definitely be some events to coincide with the release. Not to be cagey, but I just can't say yet until everything is ironed out. But think personal appearances and screenings and the like. Cast and crew will also be autographing copies of the book that will be available on the website early for members.

What part does the website play overall in 'Crystal Lake Memories'?

We plan for it to be quite important. The great thing about the internet is that you can post material quickly and easily and cheaply. Quite simply, it is impossible to fit everything in one book. And some materials just don't lend themselves to a book anyway, such as printing full scripts or entire production schedules. There are also many photos that either don't fit the focus of the book, or were not in a shape suitable for high-quality printing, even after attempts at restoration. There are also plenty of fun little stories that fall outside the arc of the book but make for great reading. So the website is going to be the catch-all for as much extra stuff as we can fit, and get clearance for. There are licensing issues with photos, but otherwise most of the material should appear on the site in the coming months.

Have you decided what your next book might be about?  Have you thought of documenting another horror franchise? Or is there any other series you would like to research and write about?

Ha, no! I have gotten emails asking about the most logical followups, 'Halloween' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street'. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I've said much of what I have to say on the subject of 80s horror franchises. There are many similar themes and threads common to all the major slashers of the 80s, so I fear to do a book on say Freddy would feel like repeating oneself. On the other hand, I certainly have learned a great deal on how to put a book like this together, so it seems a shame to let all that experience go to waste, especially if Crystal Lake Memories is successful. And I'd love to interview all those great people involved with the other franchises. However, we are discussing perhaps finding other writers to come in and take the reins, and we may publish such a book on other franchises under the Sparkplug banner but not written by me. Just as a fan, I would certainly love to read it.

Here's a few basic fan related questions. Friday 5 - misunderstood sequel.Your thoughts on it?

I have loved hearing the reaction from fans on what sequels they like and don't. Part 5 certainly has its fair share of critics, but also plenty of fans. It is always easy in hindsight to find fault - "Why didn't they do so-and-so instead?" But during the course of the interviews, it became clear that it was quite a challenge to find a proper way to go after The Final Chapter. The slasher boom had quickly faded around 1985, and although The Final Chapter was a considerable financial success, there were valid doubts that the formula could continue. It was decided that a Jason impostor was legitimate way to continue the franchise in a way that still gave the fans what they wanted but brought something new. I suppose time has told us that in general, fans were not that excited about the idea, whatever its merits.

Personally, I think Part 5's mixed reception is more due to the fact that, as editor Bruce Green put it, the movie is "structured like a porno film." The body count is over twenty, and at that rate there is simply no time to introduce characters you care about and feel for. It is very much kill scene, dialogue bit, kill scene. I think fans want the body count, but still need mood and at least some semblance of fully-fleshed out characters to root for. Perhaps Part 5 simply went too far in the direction of a laundry list of murders and little else.

We love part 5!!! Which is the coolest looking version of Jason in the series, by your opinion?


My vote would be Jason in Part VII. I am still very impressed with John Carl Buechler's makeup creation. I thought it was very smart to finally show all the damage Jason had endured and make that a part of his character. All the great little touches - the protruding spine, exposed teeth and "meaty" appearance - make Part VII's Jason the one to beat. And I think Kane really made it his own.

Have you ever checked out the 'Jason Vs. Leatherface' comics by Topps comics did back in the 90's?

I have never actually read them. I did flip through one once, but to be honest I'm not a huge Vs. fan. It always has seemed like a one-off concept to me in search of a story. You are forced to really stretch credibility in order to ensure that two incongruent icons meet. However, I know there are many who disagree, and these kinds of films really do deliver on a more action-horror front. So I'm glad 'Freddy Vs. Jason' reinvigorated the franchise. But I just don't know how many times you can pair Jason up with someone else before it gets really, really stale. Of course, they did make ten 'Friday the 13th' sequels.

We recently re-watched the amazing teaser trailer to Friday 8. Should someone remake Jason Takes Manhattan and call it 'Jason REALLY takes Manhattan' this time?

Ha! That would be interesting. Again, like the Vs. concept, there is something about putting Jason in New York or wherever that becomes a gimmick. It also requires, I think, a more action-oriented direction. I believe that the early films were effective because of the isolated location. Once Jason can hop into a cab, it is pretty tough to be scared. The real fun of a Jason in the city type of scenario is to watch him interact with society and demolish things. Which is still a hoot, but becomes a different kind of movie.

After 'Jason X' didn't enjoy much commercial success at the box office, I wonder how big of an audience there is for another "Jason outside of Crystal Lake" story. But again, perhaps the success of 'Freddy Vs. Jason' means that fans don't want a true return to horror but more videogame-driven thrills. I suppose we'll find out when 'Freddy Vs. Jason 2' arrives?

We shall see. Our vote is for another Friday The 13th back at Crystal Lake!


Retail Price: $39.95
ISBN 0-9765433-1-1
Format: Hardcover w/full color dust jacket
Dimensions: 9.25" w x 12.0" h
Pages: 320
Images: Over 500, in color and B&W
Foreword by series creator Sean S. Cunningham

Visit Peter at: www.Crystal Lake Memories.com


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