Friday the 13th is tough to compare because the movies are not actually the same, in that they do not tell the same story. Instead of retelling the tale of psychotic Mrs. Voorhees avenging the death of her son, the reboot features Jason as the killer and revolves around a new batch of teens. It’s more of a loose sequel than anything else. Still, it earns the title of Friday the 13th and is a love letter to the early days of the franchise. But how do these two movies, both titled Friday the 13th, compare when measured up against each other? Let’s take a look.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)-
The major thing that Friday the 13th has going for it over other slasher films of the era is its location, which had never been fully utilized in a horror film, and quickly became an iconic horror staple. Other films like The Burning and Sleepaway Camp would utilize the summer camp, but never with as much success. The movie had a great atmosphere. It was not created for the sake of art, necessarily, in fact the filmmakers have no qualms about the fact that Friday the 13th was made because they wanted to try and imitate the success of Halloween. But that doesn’t mean that the final project didn’t turn out to be special enough on its own.
There’s nothing overly spectacular in the characterization of the young cast. The only character we get much of a handle on or really know much of anything about is our heroine, Alice. She’s a sensitive and strong survivor, and the other characters we really don’t get too much of a read on, except for resident prankster, Ned.
The other standout characters are the local “doomsayer” Crazy Ralph, and of course Mrs. Voorhees herself, played by Betsy Palmer. Walt Gorney’s Crazy Ralph is a character who shows up at random to warn the counselors about the dangers of the camp—and of course they ignore him completely. He helps establish so much of the dread and his character became a character type that would appear in virtually every horror film to follow.
Betsy Palmer is also downright chilling as Mrs. Voorhees. She comes in very late into the movie and the audience thinks that she is the salvation. She’s such a sweet, motherly figure that we immediately put our trust in her. But of course, she’s not as sweet as she first appears to be, and can’t hold it together for long before she breaks into recounting the horrors that have happened in Crystal Lake’s history and revealing herself as the killer. The movie suffers slightly for the killer appearing so late in the movie without giving the audience any room to guess as to who the killer might even be, but Palmer makes the most of her time onscreen.
Overall, it’s an essential slasher movie. The number one thing that makes it stand out, however, is Tom Savini. His effects, the death sequences he created, they changed the whole genre. They were perfectly timed scares and magic tricks at the same time. Over thirty years later and they remain some of the most iconic death scenes in movie history.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)-
The 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th went back to basics in tone rather than story. It is not a remake in the traditional sense. Instead, it offers up a new batch of teenage sacrifices to Jason Voorhees. There is a flashback to the events of the original movie that quickly recaps what happened there before moving on to a new group of teenagers on a camping trip. These teens are picked off in a prologue scene that lasts twenty minutes.
After that, a new group of kids is brought in, which is jarring as we’d just gotten to know the first crew. Our hero, though, is outside of this party. His name is Clay and he’s looking for his sister, Whitney, of the first group of teens Jason took care of. But Jason did not kill Whitney, as we soon discover. Instead, he is keeping her prisoner in the mining tunnels beneath the camp. He keeps her alive because Whitney had picked up a locket that had belonged to Mrs. Voorhees when exploring Jason’s old house, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Jason’s mother when she was younger. This actually is an inventive twist that keeps things fresh and only adds to Jason’s deep, deep connection to his mother even after her death. Like Part II, Jason keeps her head in a shrine in his house. So keeping a victim alive solely because he can connect her with his own mother is certainly not out of the realm of believability.
Most of the characters are not great or terribly interesting save for a few, but many of them actually have stronger and more distinct personalities than the cast of the original film. It’s just tough to try and connect with these kids after spending the first quarter of the movie with an entirely different group.
The kills are not as impressive as the original, which were revolutionary for the time, but they do stand out more than the last few films preceding this one. These kills returned to the imaginative days of the first few Friday the 13th movies, when virtually anything under the sun could be turned into a weapon.
Again, it’s tough to measure these movies up against one another. If anything, this shows that one should never assume something is a remake just because a franchise has gotten lazy. Friday the 13th isn’t a straightforward remake in any way shape or form. Movies like Rob Zombie’s Halloween and the Carrie remake, which tells the same story. This falls more into the category of the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which also happened to titled The Thing, and the fourth Final Destination film that was simply called The Final Destination. It’s a case of lazy titling more than it’s any kind of remake.
But when comparing the two movies regardless, the original comes out on top, although both are certainly watchable and at the end of the day offer the same form of escapist entertainment for different generations.