Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Victor Miller
Starring: Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Jeannine Taylor and Kevin Bacon
Reviewed by: Josh G.
ďDid you know that a young boy drowned - the year before those two others were killed? The counselors werenít paying any attention. They were making love while that young boy drowned. His name was Jason.Ē
There is no need to introduce this classic horror film, one of the most influential of its kind. I remember the creepiness surrounding the Friday the 13th legend, the series where iconic hockey mask killer Jason Voorhees was born. The stories that my mother would tell of a television show spawned from such a monster, and of how she had experienced it firsthand in 3-D! I never looked at camp the same way again after thoughts of a hidden psychopath targeting young naive counselors crossed my mind. But I had to see them. Horror had always struck a nerve with me, and these sounded like savoury forbidden fruits to an underage boy like myself. Fittingly, it was on my thirteenth birthday that some friends and I partook in the adventure. During the first half hour, I realised that my outlook on horror films would change drastically from that point on, for the very best!
A figure stalks the grounds of Camp Crystal Lake, 1958, where their intent is not quite certain. Two teenagers run off from their pack to make out with each other in the barn. They already know that thisíll be a night theyíll never forget, but they really have no clue. The stalker moves up the stairs of the barn, spying on the couple before being spotted. ďSomebodyís there.Ē says the girl, Claudette. The boy knows it too. ďWe werenít doing anything, we were just messing arou-Ē A SCREAM! The boy Barry has been stabbed in the stomach, followed by the frightened girl, with no means of escape. Itís Friday the 13th! Skip to over twenty years later, and we see Annie (Robbi Morgan) walking through the town of Crystal Lake. Carefree and giddy, sheís off to her cooking duties at the Ďpresentí Camp Crystal Lake, or as the folks call it, Camp Blood. The village idiot, Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) tries to warn poor Annie that sheíll never come back again, but she heads up with a trucker regardless. How could she disappoint the kids after all?
Meanwhile, at the camp, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) is fixing up the place in time for when itís all fully functional. New counselors Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Ned (Mark Nelson), Alice (Adrienne King), Bill (Harry Crosby) and Brenda (Laurie Bartram) are having a little young fun, joking with each other and sharing a few laughs. But the blood runs thick when Annie is chased down in the woods, leading to a killerís blade slicing open her throat. Stalking once again, but in a later decade, someone has an agenda for death, and theyíre heading right towards the recently opened Camp Crystal Lake! Watch out everybody, or youíll be killed off one by one, in this rainy timeless unforgettable original slasher flick, set on the unluckiest of dates: Friday the 13th.
Gialli and proto-slashers paved the road for Friday the 13th to work on, which at first was meant to cash in on the power of John Carpenterís Halloween. It was a surprise to director Sean S. Cunningham that nearly forty million was generated at the box office, as well as countless films of a subgenre that Friday the 13th actually defined. The slasher. Earlier moves like Black Christmas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Alice, Sweet Alice, just to name a few, sure did have a lot of ingredients within, but Friday the 13th was arguably the one the made the art authorized. It did it first, in some perspectives of looking at things, and on top of that, itís a damn near perfect horror film. Some may enjoy the antics of the sequels better than the original, but the first Friday the 13th is the best in the series, no contest. Who could argue with a cast that includes a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon with a boner in a speedo?
I canít say that the acting is fair game here. Itís pretty average, but the shocking conclusion is that every single person here has an authentic take on a character. The townspeople are all typical of what youíd find, the cops are lame self-elevated public figures with nothing to do but tower over the younger generation, the creepy old man - who is taken up a level to eccentric - with Crazy Ralph, and the true beauty of a few teens who just need some cash over the summer. Cheesy acting didnít stop Halloween, and itís definitely not going to degrade Friday the 13th any. Friday the 13th Part II has the same strength too. Weed-smoking, promiscuous funny characters add dimension not only to themselves, but to the film in general. The little things that the cast does with one another, whether itís playing strip Monopoly, swimming out on the lake, or catching a loose snake in the cabins, are subtle punches to a well-liked distinguishable cast, that you feel terrible for when time for meeting fate arrives. Something that the sequels really lost was the characterization, which in Friday the 13th, is more important than many may at first believe it to be. These are real people my friends. Just like you and me.
A slasher must take place at a proper setting, or else youíre better off packing up the film gear and leaving right away. Thereís usually something to pick out of a movie that gives off its atmosphere, (which by the way, Friday the 13th is leaping with) but I can only speak so far on this matter. The Harry Manfredini score, the Ďch-ch-ch-ha-ha-haí icon (really though, itís Ďki ki ki, ma ma maí) is unique and part of the reason that this series has held its ground so long. The luscious green trees, wood cabins and sandy shores are the accessories of the isolated lands, but thatís still not the entire answer. What is it about Friday the 13th that truly gives off a vibe stronger than most films ever before it? Sadly, this reviewer cannot say for certain, but it has been captured, and thatís good enough for me. Perhaps, there is no single device. A collaboration of everything in the feature may just have been dumb luck when producing this illuminating aura.
Spoiling a film like this for those first time viewers out there is not my mission at all, but I must point out. The killer here is not the Jason that many may be hoping for. Although the character is mentioned, thereís a mortal being whose committing these sinful acts of violence, which makes this first entry the most real and sincere film, as well as the scariest Friday. Itís all about the fear of the unknown, and Cunninghamís direction of the darker shadows at Crystal Lake, once spooked away by smiling camping faces, heightens the mood to a very evil tone. Some may say that Friday the 13th is Ďjust a mindless gore film,í or Ďtrashy horror crap.í But I call bullshit on that! This films uses just as much suspense as the hailed godfathers before it, and the modern kings after. Who is in the cabin? When will they find out that their friend is plopped up top on the bunk bed? Will Brenda be alright when she runs out into the rain? Thereís a slow pace here, but it stills hooks you, and youíre sold. With the exception of some painful coffee making scenes, every scene is a masterpiece, innocent and warm. It may be famous, but it remains underrated to this day, and many still donít see why it has the energy to astound. Friday the 13th is simple. Thatís the answer.
The legend to the deaths of Crystal Lake in the 50s, as well as the arson in the 60s, adds a mystique to the story of Friday the 13th. But another legend was born in the bulk of the originalís time setting, with the help of special effects master Tom Savini. At the start of the film, in the scene where the two teens are killed off in the barn, we see very minimal bloodshed, and expect nothing more than a few off screen kills. To our surprise, we have a talented grue conjurer, snatching the breath of the fresh 80s viewer with onscreen throat cuts, neck impalements, and even a decapitation...all seen before our very eyes. Arrows, an axe, knives and machetes, these set the bar for what household implements would work in the future for these kinds of films, and just how bloody they must get to surpass the box office jumbo. The MPAA went pretty light on Friday the 13th, making only slight clips for an R-rating pass, and even enhancing a death by taking out an awkward looking cheap effect.
When your heart has died from the likeable beingsí untimely demises, itís time for some ends to be tied. Just who is killing, and why? Here, the movie kind of cheats, introducing a new character late in the game, only relating them to an event briefly mentioned. In aspects, I, and we all, should feel betrayed. Thatís not fair! Our leading lady, Alice, has endured all of this hell for an explanation like this? But the way that itís done, how the psycho goes about informing Alice and the viewer, is eerie and aggravated, that with the crazy performance given, all is forgiven about the way out. Friday the 13th worked itself out through the thrills, chills, and ghastly pay-offs. And remember Jason Voorhees? Well, heís relevant to the killings. In fact, heís relative.
Drowning as a boy can do a lot to a parent. They may crave an intense chase scene throughout the area, with hit after hit from the feisty final girl at large. Through most of the flick, you only see parts of the killerís identity. A hand here. Only the axeís head there. But at the finale, it becomes clear that this is no supernatural force. Itís human, an in many ways, that is way creepier, because the events in Friday the 13th could all actually happen to you. Thatís where the nerve hits. Once the inevitable end comes, all is peaceful. A survivor escapes and the cool waters of Crystal Lake are calm for now. And then...it grabs you again! Less likely to freak out or scare today, the jump ending on the lake is still a mixture of terror and beauty colliding, disrupting the lives of those who want nothing more than to sleep the night off. A silly gimmick? I think not. Thereís a specialty to Friday the 13th thatís more than meets the eye. Breaking it down into pieces, you will not find a hard earned heaven. Itís a show thatís absolutely necessary because everything feeds off the life force of other details, and thatís a rare welcome trait to possess, especially from the likes of a horror movie.
Thirty years, and itís hard to believe that this has held up so well. So the make-up isnít quite up to date with today; whatever. The legend surrounding its creation and lifespan is one thing to look at, but overall, itís more than your average slasher. It excels in almost every area, which is a major accomplishment for a mere seven hundred thousand dollars. Paramountís DVDs of Friday the 13th are very Ďpick-and-chooseí dealerships. The single 1999 DVD is cut, but with one uncut kill. The 2004 DVD found in the box set From Crystal Lake to Manhattan, is also cut, but has a different kill uncut. The 2009 DVD is cleaned up and sharper, as well as completely uncut, but has been cropped too small, cutting out a bulk of the picture. Itís your choice. Iím sure that any way you see it, youíll be satisfied. This review is based on the box set release. It sounds good for 1980, and itís a fantastic picture because of its realism, not just for its high significance for film. Like every movie staple, itís clichť, but irreplaceable. Raw, real, fun, moody, bloody, suspenseful, fleshed out and all about location, location, location. The realization that itís a near perfect slasher, as youíve put together by now, is not given purpose to be told to someone about. Itís meant to be seen and lived through. I like to actually give a horror film its true dessert, instead of following the normís view of non-explainable praise, but here I have to agree with the horror fans of the world. This is a landmark in so many ways, and one of the best horror movies of all time. The ďworst run of bad luck since Richard NixonĒ would be for you not to have this in your collection. No questions about it. Essential!
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