In 1958, a couple of camp counselors that couldn’t resist their urge to make love instead of doing their job inadvertently caused tragedy to strike. While the counselors were in the throes of passion, a young boy named Jason was drowning in the lake adjacent to the camp. Following the tragedy, the camp closed its doors for a very long time. But the owners recently made the ill-fated decision to reopen the camp for business. Someone disagrees with that decision and begins downsizing the camp staff…by way of murder. Anyone that attempts to get their f**k on, smoke drugs, or neglect their duties is getting the axe.
Friday the 13th (1980) came out after successful slasher films like Black Christmas and Halloween had proven that the slasher film was a viable thing. Friday the 13th (1980) represents the height of the slasher boom and has served as inspiration for countless summer camp slashers to come in its wake. It also prompted a string of sequels, each of varying quality.
Unfortunately, a lot of film critics tore Friday the 13th apart when it came out. Gene Siskel reportedly even published Betsey Palmer’s home address to encourage moviegoers to send her hate mail criticizing her decision to make such a ‘tasteless’ film. The critics got it wrong on this one. Friday the 13th is a timeless classic and has become one of the main benchmarks by which all slasher films to come after it are compared to.
Sean S. Cunningham co-writes and directs Friday the 13th. The screenplay is simplistic but effective. Cunningham has co-created a genius killer. She is is perfectly wicked, completely out of her mind, and has some very quote worthy dialogue. The killer’s concealed identity and the point of view camera shots are straight out of a ‘70s giallo film and all of these elements work together brilliantly. My only real criticism being that the killer is introduced just a little too late into the game. As such, that takes a certain level of suspense out of the film.
Like a lot of horror films from this era, some of the acting in Friday the 13th is a tad overly dramatic. However, most horror fans find that to be part of the film’s charm. Friday the 13th was made on a shoestring budget with primarily inexperienced actors but they pulled it off and did so quite impressively. In addition to the occasional instance of overacting, the film also suffers from some silly dialogue. But as the picture has aged, its collective quirks have served to make it even more endearing and even more fun to watch than it was upon its initial release.
Adrienne King (Psychic Experiment) is great as the original final girl in the Friday the 13th franchise. She is brave, resourceful, and cunning. She is an ordinary woman put up against extraordinary circumstances. When the time comes, she rises to the occasion and dominates Mrs. Voorhees.
The makeup effects in Friday the 13th are exceptional for 1980 and still remain exceptional today. While there are minor flaws, they are not nearly egregious enough to derail one’s enjoyment of this spectacular film. The scene where Mrs. Voorhees is decapitated is truly inspired. Though the viewer can see Tom Savini’s assistant’s hairy knuckles in the shot and there are toothpicks visible in Mrs. Voorhees’ headless neck, the effect is still groundbreaking for the time and those aren’t things you notice until you’ve watched it ten times.
As for the body count, it is very respectable and the deaths are truly inventive. Mrs. Voorhees uses a variety of tools to exact her revenge on a new set of camp counselors that have done nothing to wrong her and she does it with a fiery vengeance.
As for nudity, there is a bit of that, too. What slasher film would be complete without a bit of gratuitous nudity? This slasher effort really has it all: sex drugs, ultra violence, and a quite possibly schizophrenic killer. Friday the 13th is like a rite of passage for horror fans, so you’ve undoubtedly seen it but perhaps it’s time to pay it another visit since tomorrow is the second Friday the 13th of the year!
Director(s): Sean S. Cunningham
Writer(s): Victor Miller, Sean S. Cunningham
Stars: Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby
Studio/ Production Co: Paramount
Length: 95 Minutes