Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th (1980)

Genre: Slasher Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: May 9th, 1980 MPAA Rating: X

Director: Sean S. Cunningham Actors: Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer, Betsy Palmer

 


 

“F

riday the 13th” is one of the most famous slasher films of all time, spawning sequels to the point of ridiculousness – with subsequent entries into the franchise practically parodying themselves. Following a pattern even more impressive than the recent “Saw” films phenomenon, there was one new Jason film every year for an entire decade, skipping only a single year between “Friday the 13th Part VI” (1986) and Part VII (1988). And yet none of the ideas in the picture are all that unique, the music is a laughable cross between “Psycho” and “Jaws,” and the acting and dialogue are positively pathetic. Of course, the reason for watching such a horror movie is for the suspense, violence, nudity, gore, and ultimate body count (here, just a total of 10), which are served up generously in this ‘80s B-movie cult classic, with outstanding blood and makeup effects by the legendary Tom Savini (“Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead”). An “uncut” version also exists that features just 10 seconds of additional footage not shown in the original X-rated release (eventually re-rated R).

In 1958, Camp Crystal Lake became known as “Camp Blood” to the locals when a young boy drowned and several vicious murders occurred shortly thereafter. Present day finds a group of counselors working hard (which translates to goofing off and rolling in the hay) to re-open the rundown campgrounds for a new batch of kids. But just as soon as they start piecing the place back together, one by one the counselors are slaughtered by a machete-wielding maniac.

“Friday the 13th” struggles with seriousness, mostly resorting to tinny dialogue and poor acting to connect the string of gruesome deaths. Humor runs through the majority of the slayings, even though spurting blood isn’t shied away from. And once the killings start, the tiny bits of plot are completely pointless – each scene segues tastelessly from one attack to the next. It’s evident by the conclusion that viewers weren’t even meant to guess the true identity of the killer. The expiries all seem to have a bloodthirsty infatuation with throats, whether it’s slashing, slitting, or spearing with an arrow (look for a young Kevin Bacon as one of the early victims). First-person perspective camerawork is used frequently to put the audience in the butcher’s shoes, making the reactions of the victims more startling and the actual murderer invisible.

Notorious movie villain Jason Voorhees is most recognizable for his ghastly hockey mask, but this first film didn’t even introduce that indispensable accessory. In fact, it isn’t until the third part of the series that he finally dons the signature disguise. Although nothing about “Friday the 13th” stands out as incredibly imaginative, and the vexatious music is either a bad homage or a rip-off of familiar scores, the resulting production isn’t without a certain level of amusement; it either unmasks the deeply rooted savageness in everyone, or it’s just too much schlock to be anything but fleeting thrills. Through a whopping 11 more sequels, the formula never changes.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10