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Friday the 13th – Review

Friday the 13th – Review

Mar 28, 2010

reviewed by Hallo
directed by Sean S. Cunningham, 1980

One of the goals of The Blackest Eyes is to review some of our favorite series in their entirety.  After all, what kind of horror review site would we be if we did not provide our thoughts on classic series such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.  The flip side of that coin is that we want to be in the business of reviewing both old and new films alike, so it may take us a little time to get through all the films of our favorite series.  Having said that, here is a review of the first film in one of the most profitable franchises in horror history, Friday the 13th.

Not surprisingly, Friday the 13th was one of the first horror movies to capture my mind and turn me toward the love for the horror genre I have today.  I can remember some of those first films so vividly, some good and some not so good.  Films like Halloween, Maniac, Pieces, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, Nosferatu, and The Exorcist all were on my “first to watch” list.  Since those early days I have watched Friday the 13th countless times and for the most part have the script memorized.  It, like Halloween, frequently visits my dvd player and I find a strange bit of comfort just to have it playing in the background.  The film starts incredibly slow.  The first 30 minutes are pretty much pointless except to allow some town folk to speak of the curse of “Camp Blood” and to allow Crazy Ralph to make an appearance (he is worth it)!  We get to meet the ill-fated camp counselors and there is some attempt, albeit very little, to establish a report amongst a few of them.  We notice a pretty strong connection with Alice and Bill, although the former is already involved in a complicated romantic relationship with Steve Christy, the mastermind behind re-opening Camp Crystal Lake.  Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie are a couple, leaving Brenda and Ned as the loners.  Officer Dorf adds a pretty good bit of humor during what is otherwise a pretty slow-moving beginning as we wait expectantly for the night to arrive.

Sure enough, counselors start dying.  However, unlike John Carpenter’s Halloween, Friday the 13th decided to actually show the deaths with a certain amount of gore.  And, when we don’t see the actual killing itself, as in the case of Ned, Brenda, and Bill, we still get to see the gruesome remains of their untimely departure at a later time in the film.  Ned is shown above Jack and Marcie on the bunk beds, Brenda is thrown through a window at the end of the film, and poor Bill is pierced to a door with multiple arrows.  The kill scenes are really not all that scary as much as they are engaging.  We can thank Friday the 13th for all the subsequent slasher films that tried to have “cooler” kill scenes.  Of course, when you keep trying to outdo the last movie, or even the last kill, ultimately you have movies that are just plain stupid.  Although Halloween certainly inspired Friday the 13th, the latter had its own bit of influence on the Halloween franchise.  Watch Halloween 2 and you will notice more Friday the 13th-esque kills.  It is interesting to note that in the original Friday the 13th there were 9 deaths.  Fast forward to Jason Takes Manhattan and there are 19 deaths.  It is indicative of what the series, and the genre to a certain degree, turned into.

There are some flat out creepy scenes in Friday the 13th.  One of the most creepy for me is when Brenda, from inside her cabin, hears the fainest of voices calling out from the woods.  As it gets louder, she notices it is a child’s voice calling for help, which is a nice foreshadowing of things to come.   So, out into the woods she goes as the voice gets louder, pleading for help.  We never hear from poor Brenda again.  But it is Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees that makes the film.  She delivers one of the most spine chilling performances in horror history, for a moment coming across as a ray of hope and safety, but quickly turning into the most horrific scare of the film.  “Jason should have been watched, every minute!”  We, like Alice, know that things are taking a turn for the worse.  We discover that this is Jason’s mom, a former camp attendee who drown in Crystal Lake while counselors were busy with other things that involve no clothing.   And the final 10 minutes of the film are worth the entire movie as Mrs. Voorhees hunts down a tired, scared, and fragile Alice.  Finally, who can ever forget the final scene of this movie?  The greatest “gotcha” of all time (rivaled only by the ending of Carrie).

Memorable moments in Friday the 13th include that whacked out song we hear more than once, both time in a cafe of sorts.  It goes something like “oh please, don’t let, your heart, belong to anyone. . .”  Of course, you have to have seen the film 3 million times to pick up on that one.  Director Sean Cunningham builds tension in a big way as we watch Alice, at the end of the film, make a cup of tea that takes what seems like 15 minutes.  She methodically pours sugar, etc, and we are the whole time aware that a crazy killer is out there, but Alice is clueless.  I love that part of the film.   No music, no nothing except Alice making tea.  Brilliant!  Henry Manfredini delivers a memorable score that stays with the series to a certain degree.

The original Friday the 13th has become a caricature of the horror genre and in many ways those concepts are unwarranted.  It is a film that is often times scoffed at for using so many “cliched horror elements.”  The problem with that way of thinking is that Friday the 13th invented those cliched elements.  You can’t fault the movie that did something so remarkable it made everyone else jump on the bandwagon.  Thus, when Friday the 13th was made, those cliched elements (such as people getting clipped off one by one in the woods) didn’t exist yet.  Also, Jason does not kill a single person in this film.  Another major fact that goes virtually unknown even by supposed horror fans.  Even my boy John Stanley who wrote “Creature Features”, the greatest horror review book, mistakenly credits Jason with the death in his review.  Thanks to the Wes Craven movie Scream, a certain generation of folks know that Jason didn’t commit the murders.  But it still goes widely unrealized.

Obviously, this movie gets a big thumbs up.  It certainly isn’t perfect and has many slow points.  But, it is a classic and a must see for anyone interested in the genre.

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