FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)
I have to admit I was never a really big fan of this series…though I appreciate them a lot more now than back then…even when Jason took over the machete in Part 2. I found them very repetitive and they got increasingly silly as they went on. The original is still the best and while it’s a solid 80’s slasher movie and did set the gore and body-count template for the slashers of that era, I don’t think it’s quite as good as it’s reputation suggests, though I still have fun with it and certainly recognize it’s significance in the horror genre and status as a horror classic. It also holds nostalgic significance to me as I can proudly say that I saw this in a packed house at the Rialto theater on Friday June 13th 1980, the day it takes place and it was filmed in my home state of New Jersey.
Friday The 13th tells the story of Camp Crystal Lake, re-opening after being closed for decades because of the drowning of a young boy named Jason Vorhees and the unsolved murder of some counselors a year later. A group of new, young idealistic counselors have begun to renovate the place despite warnings from crazy local Ralph (Walt Gorney) that “camp blood” is cursed and they are all “doomed.” But there may be some truth to what crazy old Ralph has said and soon someone is stalking the camp ground and one by one the young counselors are being murdered in gruesome and horrible ways. Will any of them survive and just who is it that wants them all dead and why?
Director Sean S. Cunningham has a fairly basic directing style, but does create some suspense and scares, though Friday’s strength is more the gory kills with various sharp instruments than tension. He gives it a methodical pace, but that is intentional and how a lot of horrors at this time were paced. Harry Manfredini’s classic score helps a lot with the atmosphere and chills and Tom Savini delivers some really effective gore FX. The performances from it’s attractive cast, including Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer and a young Kevin Bacon, range from weak to adequate and there is some silly dialog for them to utter along with their screams. The characters are fairly likable, though not truly endearing, so that we really care about them. You can pretty much tell which of the young counselors is going to get it next with the suspense being more from in what bloody way they will meet their doom. But Friday The 13th is still a fun slasher and the final act gets pretty intense once our survivor meets the mysterious killer for the final confrontation, which is a bloody good time and the ending also set the standard for films having to have that shocking final scene to give audiences a last jolt before the credits role. I don’t consider it a classic on the same level as the film that inspired it, Halloween but, it is still a classic B movie horror in it’s own right and the film set the tone for 80s slashers with promiscuous teens dying gory deaths and body count becoming an equal element along with suspense and scares. It may not be quite as good as it’s given credit for, but it is an important film in the context of the era it was made and shaped the tone of what followed till Evil Dead and A Nightmare On Elm Street added their own style to the horror genre of that era. The 80s nostalgia also now helps add a lot of entertainment, too, as it is the type of horror that is rarely made anymore unless as a homage.
A great movie? … maybe not quite, but a damn fun slasher and an important horror nonetheless. In part 2 Jason took over and in part 3 he gained his iconic hockey mask and horror history was made. Always thought that Jason was a great horror icon that was never in a really great movie, though I did like Part 4 and the bloody fun Freddy v.s. Jason. The series quickly ran itself into the ground creatively and became more of a joke with increasing silly kill methods, telekinetic girls and trips to NYC and outer space in later installments. At least numerous gore FX technicians got to show their stuff. A recent reboot went back to the more serious roots, but was basically more of the same.
A solid 3 and 1/2 hockey masks… and yes I know Jason isn’t in this one and didn’t get his mask till part 3!
Have to admit I had a crush on adorable Annie (Robbi Morgan) when I first saw this, but sadly she is the first to go.
And who could forget good old Ralph (Walt Gorney), the crazy doomsayer who set a character standard for future horror flicks.