Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday The 13th (1980)

    Camp Crystal Lake seems to have a lot of bad luck. In 1957, a young boy drowned in the lake. In 1958, two camp counselors were murdered while making out on the verge of having sex.  The townspeople claim that the camp has a death curse and call it "Camp Blood".  Now, on Friday June 13th, 1979, the camp's new owner Steve Christy is re-opening Camp Crystal Lake along with his seven camp counselors (Alice, Bill, Jack, Marcie, Annie, Ned, and Brenda).  While hitchhiking to the camp, Annie is murdered after accepting a ride with a total stranger.  After Steve leaves, the six counselors begin to get killed off one by one at the hands of an unknown killer, leaving Alice alone to come face to face with the killer. Could this killer be the same person who murdered that couple back in 1958?  Camp Crystal Lake is about to discover that thirteen really is an unlucky number.

       The horror genre changed forever after Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 shocker Psycho. Horror went from being all about the supernatural and monsters to the terror of reality.   This new wave of horror didn't really take off until 1974 with Tobe Hooper's horror masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which shocked audiences nation-wide with its raw and disturbing view of a backwoods clan of cannibals who dismembered and served their victims as Bar B Que.  In 1978,  horror legend John Carpenter directed the classic Halloween, which brought this new form of terror to the attention of other studios.  Sean S. Cunningham who produced the very controversial 1972 rape/revenge movie The Last House On The Left really wanted to make a horror movie with the title Friday The 13th, which he placed an ad in Variety for.  The problem was that he didn't have a story, budget, or a script.   Cunningham got together with a friend named Victor Miller who had done a film with him prior to this.  They shot ideas around  for this horror film titled Friday The 13th.  Miller and Cunningham decided to ride on the coattails of John Carpenter's Halloween, but show the vicious murders happen on the screen and set the film at a secluded summer camp.   In 1980, Friday The 13th was released and became a huge box office hit.  Since Paramount Pictures released the film, this independent slasher film was treated like a big Hollywood movie by getting a wide release.  Seeing the success and format to follow, many other filmmakers decided to cash in by making similar films that became known as the SLASHER genre.

      While Friday The 13th is a pretty fun and sometimes creepy film, it's not the best of the franchise or the genre.   The story to Friday The 13th is pretty basic and easy to follow. A group of teens are setting up a summer camp to re-open. That night, they are killed one by one by a killer in really shocking ways. The final girl is left to fight and defeat the killer and then there is usually some kinda cliff hanging ending or a boo scare.  All of this occurs in this film. Yes, this film has plenty of horror movie cliche's, BUT this is actually the film that MADE them cliche's in the first place.   Friday The 13th was the first in the horror genre to make the rule that if you drink, smoke pot, or have sex then you are guaranteed to be punished by getting murdered by the killer.    The screenplay written by Victor Miller is pretty decent for the most part.   I love the camp setting because it makes it where these teenagers are basically trapped with nowhere to go.  Although, I still find the situation in Halloween a lot scarier since that was set in your own neighborhood basically where you're supposed to feel safe.

      All of the characters aren't really developed though. Being that this is the first Friday The 13th film that set the standard for the sequels, that is pretty understandable. The purpose for these teen characters is to have sex, drink beer, smoke a little pot, and get killed. Simple and to the point.   My problem isn't really that the teens are basically one dimensional cannon fodder, but that the heroine of the movie is one dimensional too.  Alice doesn't really have much depth and she is the one who we are supposed to be rooting for. We're supposed to want to see her take down the killer to not only empower herself, but to get revenge for the killer murdering her friends and trying to kill her too.  I'm sorry, but I just couldn't root for this girl like I did Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, Sally Hardesty, or even Ginny Fields from the sequel. I just didn't know barely anything about her to really get invested with her as the heroine of the movie.  All of the other characters being one dimensional is fine with me, but not the heroine of the film.  Jack and Marcie's purpose is to have sex, smoke weed, and die.  Bill is a potential "love" interest for Alice I believe.  Brenda likes to play strip Monopoly, drink beer, and smoke weed. Ned is the joker of the group.  Annie was supposed to be the cook, well before the killer's knife made contact with her throat that is.  Crazy Ralph is the old guy who basically warns everybody that the camp is cursed and nobody believes it until, well, they die.  Steve Christy is the owner of the camp, but is barely in the film except for his car to break down and to be stabbed.  The ONLY character that truly had depth and that we (the audience) got to know is Mrs. Pamela Voorhees ( Jason's MOTHER! Nice twist huh? Didn't see that coming. Did ya?).

       I'm not going to worry about spoilers since most horror fans have seen this movie before or have at least seen the many sequels to know that Jason's mother turns out to be the killer in this film and not Jason himself.   We see how upset and psychologically fucked up this poor woman is. I mean, wouldn't you be fucked up too if your only child drowned, while those who were supposed to be watching him/her were too busy having unprotected sex?   The creepiest part is when she starts speaking for him in a low little kid voice saying things such as...

      " Kill her mommy. Kill her. Don't let her live. Get her mommy. Get her. Kill her."

     Friday The 13th basically plays out like a campfire story especially in the sequels with a deformed guy wearing a hockey mask and gripping a machete who kills all the naughty teens trespassing around Camp Crystal Lake.   The best part of the movie though for us horror and slasher fans is of course the creative kills. Now, the kills may not seem creative to those young folks who have been brainwashed by modern horror, but in 1980 dude, this shit was fucking shocking! We get quite a few really cool slit throats.  I love the scene where two of the counselors are having sex as the camera pans up revealing one of the teens laying on the top bunk above them and the lightning strikes from outside revealing his throat to be slit open.  I'm still trying to figure out how this couple didn't realize that their best friend was laying on the top bunk with his throat slashed when they walked up to the bottom bunk to have sex. It must have been REALLY dark in that cabin. My personal favorite kill is that of Jack when he is laying on the bottom bunk smoking a joint and then all of a sudden the killer's hand comes up from under the bed holding his head down as an arrow comes up through his neck squirting blood.  I remember jumping the first time I saw that scene.  Great kill Mrs. Voorhees!   We also get the awesome hatchet between the eyes kill. Why the hell did that Marcie chick not RUN when she saw Mrs. Voorhees raise the hatchet up?  She deserved to die for being stupid! Another favorite is that of Bill where he is hanging on the back of the door with his throat slashed and an arrow through his eye.   We also get a great decapitation near the end of Mrs. Voorhees by Alice. Awesome kills all around thanks to Tom Savini who did the special FX for this film as well as the fourth installment, The Final Chapter.

    The direction by Sean S. Cunningham was decent. I loved how Cunningham handled all of the murder scenes and added a little bit of a creepy atmosphere in places.  The cabin scene with the dead guy on the top bunk and the arrow coming up through the bottom bunk, killing the teen laying on it was nicely done.  I do have some complaints about a few scenes dragging a little bit.  There's a few boring spots, but not enough to really hurt the film in my opinion.   Friday The 13th moves at a decent pace without being too slow or too fast.  I do take issue with some of the night scenes being too dark though.  But other than that, I thought Mr. Cunningham handled the direction pretty well.

         The music by Harry Manfredini was really great and added a lot to the more vicious and creepy scenes.  The whole KI KI KI MA MA MA theme has become a staple of the franchise and used in every film. I find the explanation of how Manfredini came up with that theme quite interesting.  Granted, the musical score isn't as great as Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, or Psycho, but it works and it works well.

           The ending of the movie is basically ripping off Carrie. It plays out like a nightmare sequence and leaves us wondering if Jason really is dead.

           The acting is pretty okay and decent here. Adrienne King  is alright as final girl Alice, but I thought that Ginny from the sequel is the best Friday heroine.   That fight at the end with Betsy Palmer was hilarious. Jeannine Taylor was okay as Marcie until she just stood there and let that hatchet hit her between the eyes. All I can do is laugh.  Harry Crosby played Bill pretty good. Definitely a likeable character even though he wasn't developed. Laurie Bartram was alright as Brenda I guess. Mark Nelson was wacky as Ned, the joker of the group. Peter Brouwer was decent as Steve Christy. Robbi Morgan tripped and fell as Annie before being cut throat.  Kevin Bacon was awesome as Jack and will always be remembered by horror fans for getting an arrow through his neck in Friday The 13th.  Walt Gorney was crazy as Crazy Ralph and will die in Part 2 at the hands of JASON! Speaking of Jason, I thought Ari Lehman was awesome in the flashbacks and the final scare as young Jason Voorhees.  And last but not least, we have Betsy Palmer who was the best part of the movie in my opinion as the totally psychotic mother of our favorite hockey masked slasher, Mrs. Pamela Voorhees!  This lady is all sorts of awesome.  I find it funny that Victor Miller's inspiration for the character of Mrs. Voorhees came from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho by switching the mother and son characters around. All in all, decent acting and a great performance by Betsy Palmer.

         Overall, Friday The 13th is not a perfect horror film, but a pretty damn good one. It helped bring the slasher film into existence along with Halloween.  Friday The 13th also spawned ten sequels and a remake.  Without this film, there would be no Friday The 13th franchise and no iconic hockey masked Jason Voorhees. So, maybe Friday The 13th is a lucky day after all. Unless you go to Camp Crystal Lake to smoke pot, drink alcohol, or have sex that is. Then, you might as well kiss your ass good bye because Camp Blood  is Jason's woods and nobody leaves them ALIVE!


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