Director – Sean S. Cunningham
Adrienne King - Alice
Betsy Palmer - Mrs Voorhees
Laurie Bartram - Brenda
Peter Brouwer - Steve Christy
Kevin Bacon - Jack
Jeannie Taylor - Marcie
Walt Gorney - Crazy Ralph
Year - 1980
Rating - 3 Howls Outta 4
Paraskavedekatriaphobia - the fear of Friday the 13th. It's a day where we all suffer bad luck due to our superstitious nature or lack of parenting [pick your poison]. Yes, I definitely have paraskavedekatriaphobia. I refuse to walk under ladders, step on cracks, or let black cats cross my path each 13th of Friday. What I don't refuse to do is favorably watch a film series called Friday the 13th. Who doesn't love to watch sexually rabid and drug addicted teens get slaughtered by a force wearing a freakin' goalie mask? It's fun and campy [no pun intended]. My next reviews will be for this entire 10-part series [not counting Freddy vs Jason in this, though I will get around to review that once I review the entire Nightmare On Elm St. series]. So let's get started:
Back in 1957, a little boy named Jason Voorhees supposedly drowned in Camp Crystal Lake at the age of 11. His mother was the camp's chef at the time of Jason's death, where the camp counselors ignored his cries for help because they were too busy having sex. A year later in 1958, two counselors are murdered by an unknown killer while having sex. This caused the camp to close down for 21 years, until June 13, 1979, where Steve Christy (the new boss of Camp Crystal Lake played Peter Brouwer) finally re-opens the camp to the town's fear. Christy hires seven counselors: Jack (played by a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), Annie (Robbi Morgan), Ned (Mark Nelson), Bill (Harry Crosby), and Alice (Adrienne King). Unfortunately for Annie, she gets killed by the killer after hitchhiking on her way to Crystal Lake. The usual horror cliches [before they became cliches, of course] take place. Jack and Marcie have sex. Brenda, Bill, and Alice smoke pot during a game of strip Monopoly. Ned gets killed. Just an ordinary Friday the 13th campfest. The group of six soon become a solo of one, as Alice is all alone against the killer. Lucky for her, Mrs. Pamela Voorhees [Jason's mom] shows up to help...or does she?
Paramount pictures and director and creator Sean Cunningham created Friday The 13th mainly to ride on the coattails of the so-called father of all slasher movies, John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). It was a good move on their part because Friday The 13th was just as successful and a box office sensation at the time. Friday The 13th led to imitators and a ton of sequels with various levels of success, though no one can deny the impact this film has had on the genre of horror. Just as Halloween played on the fears of babysitting in quiet surburbia, Friday The 13th plays on the audience's youthful fears of going to camp in the middle of nowhere, wondering if something evil was out there in the woods. And I have to admit, the movie does it pretty well [though Halloween does it way better].
Whoever gets off on gore in their movies will be pleased in this one. Tom Savini [SFX genius who's famous for the make-up used on the Night of the Living Dead franchise] created his well-known reputation with the effects of gore he placed on this film. While Final Destination is now the king of gore in horror movies, Friday The 13th started the tradition with its over the top, and gruesome, deaths. We get a throat sliced with gushes of blood coming out of the gash. We get an arrow through the throat. An axe to the face. A decapitation. For a 1980 film, it kinda holds up, though you can tell some of it looks fake today. Doesn't take away from the experience though.
The acting was kinda amateurish, but it didn't bother me like in other films. Most of these actors were inexperienced without question. Adrienne King as Alice was on-and-off for me. In the beginning, she was kinda weak. But towards the end, she was okay. The woman can scream though. Kevin Bacon was cool as Jack. He didn't have much to say or do [except screw that chick and then get killed], but you can tell there was something about the guy that said "STAR". But the best actor was definitely Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees.
If you don't know this by now, I can't help you...but Mrs. Voorhees, not Jason, is the killer in this film [I didn't spoil it...the movie Scream did!]. Yep, Jason's mom is one mean bitch and I really dug her alot. She was only on-screen for like the last 20 minutes of the film, but her character was more developed in those 20 minutes than Alice's character was in the entire 90. Her son's death drove her to the edge, making her schizophrenic and hearing Jason talk through her. She never got over Jason's death and wants anyone remotely near Camp Crystal Lake to die for it, no matter if they had nothing to do with it or not. I'm sure if my child died prematurely, I'd have feelings of revenge too. She killed out of love and I thought that was actually sweet...in a twisted and weird sort of way. It adds some emotion to this fright-fest and I actually wanted Mrs. Voorhees to get her revenge on these one-dimensional characters.
There are some things that really bug me with this film however. Aside from the lack of character development [if I can't relate or root for the heroine, we have a problem], I thought the final battle between Mrs. Voorhees and Alice was just hilarious. Their fighting was just so...weak. I've seen fake fights on Jerry Springer more realistic than what I saw between them. Stick to weapons, okay? Plus the way Marcie dies pisses me off to this day. She just stands there and screams as an axe rams into her face. Why? No one acts like that. She had a lot of space to freakin' run and attempt an escape. But no, she just stands and lets it happen. For that, Marcie deserved to get tortured before death.
The directing was decent, though no where near John Carpenter's level. But it shot well, where that cheesy slow-motion technique was used for the right moments and we got a sense of claustrophobia everytime shots of Alice would get closer and closer. I liked it. And the music was cool too. You had the classic "Ki Ki Ki Ha Ha Ha" sound in every one of the F13 movies, plus that Psycho-esque sound everytime someone would get killed. Not as scary as Halloween's score, but I dug it.
And I have to comment on the ending. Though I won't say what it is if you haven't seen it, it blatantly rips off the ending of Carrie (1976) for that last scare. And when I first saw this film when I was like 7 years old, the ending did scare me alot. But that was pretty much the only thing that did, which says alot about this film. It's not that scary to me, even alone or in the dark. Yeah, there are chilling moments, but nothing that will give you nightmares and make you afraid of camping ever again. But this is the scariest of the F13 films as the others become more hilarious [not sure purposely though] and action-packed after each sequel, so it gets points for that.
THE FINAL HOWL
Friday The 13th is very much a classic piece of horror, though it's not the best or scariest film out there. It's pretty suspenseful but tame compared to horror movies now. This film started the whole "Sex and Drugs will get you killed in horror movies" cliche and the birth of probably the most successful horror franchise in horror history. It's a fun movie to watch, especially this Friday or on Halloween, and I never get bored with it. It's not the best F13 movie in the series, but it's definitely a good start.