Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon
On Friday the 13th, they began to die horribly, one… by one
It’s friday the 13th in June, 1980 and Camp Crystal Lake is being re-opened after being closed for twenty-two years after the murder of two camp counselors. The camp had even been nicknamed into Camp Blood by the locals and they are against the re-opening of the place.
Several young counselors are gathering before the kids arrive to refurbish and get the place in order. The teenagers use their spare time hanging out. When the majority of them go into the little town close by to have a few beers, the rest of the group starts to get killed off one by one.
As a far horror fan who grew up in the 80’s, trying to review the first Friday the 13th movie on its own merits doesn’t come easy. I have probably seen the entire series fifty times since my childhood started and it’s not easy to critique something you have had a love for almost your entire life. Another thing that happens is that you will also find yourself mixing the movies together into one big slasherfest and have a hard time trying to separate them into individual movies. That’s especially true with the this film series since the first four are pretty identical in style and tone, even though this first one did not have Jason as the killer.
The first one lacks Jason as the killer and it also does not feature the same amount of nudity and gore as the following films will eventually do either. That’s not to say that this is a film with none of that stuff, there are some gory scenes that are done quite well by the effect expert Tom Savini and there are some beautiful female skin to be seen aswell.
While the success of Halloween was an obvious influence on this film, which can be seem in the effective voyeuristic stalking shots, Friday the 13th also had its own influence on what would become the most common genre of the horror movies in the 1980’s. It’s more apparent here that if you indulge in sex and drugs you will be killed off, a theme that continued all the way to Scream which acknowledged and made fun of the concept.
This was made independently by Sean Cunningham, who did work with Wes Craven on another notorious horror film called The Last House on the Left. Cunningham is not the greatest director in the world, but he is able to deliver a simple concept and make it easy and entertaining. You don’t need to pay a lot of attention to the film and can even have it in the background while doing something else and yet have it work and be entertaining. I don’t mind that when it works cause do you really need ever movie you watch to be intelligent or have some social commentary?
Whenever some new director want to do a slasher homage these days, they usually go with very annoying characters cause that’s what they think the viewer will expect. No! That’s not what we want and that’s not what we got in the classic slashers. The characters of this film might not get a lot of development, but they are average and simple teenagers. There is no need to know their backstory at all since they are supposed to represent the average american teenagers. That being said, the heroine of the film is played by Adrienne King and she comes up very likeable and charming and is a great choice for a “final girl”.
What really works great in this film is the music by Harry Manfredini. And I’m not just talking about the well known “cha cha cha” sound that everybody will recognize today, but also the other sounds and music which enhance the suspense of the film and is the most frightening part of it.
Friday the 13th is the start of the iconic slasher series that would eventually launch Jason Vorhees into Hollywood stardom. It is actually a good and charming slasher film where you will have trouble guessing the killer (if you are one of the few people who did not know before going in) and it still holds up over thirty years later.