By: Bryant Daniels
Okay…okay, I have seen every Nightmare on Elm Street and every Halloween film, even part 3 (the one produced sans Michael Myers), but, to be honest, I had (until recently…which is why I’m writing this) had only seen Friday the 13th part 8 (Manhattan if you’re keeping a tally) and Jason X. I had never even attempted to watch the original…until it was $7.99 at Best Buy. Here I was, standing in line at Best Buy, staring at the cover art of a movie that is given credit as kicking off a whole generation of slasher films. Although, I don’t know if I should thank Sean “F13” Cunnigham for Sleepaway Camp…I wish I could erase that last shot out of my mental eye…uhhhhhhh.
Anyway, back to the review…as I said, I was standing in line, staring at the immaculate cover art,and to be honest, getting slightly excited to experience the original classic. This is what set in motion a whole chain of cinema that I fell in love with. All those years of creative kills, creative sex scenes, stale dialogue, and amateur actors trying their best not to laugh at the writer and go, “Really, you want me to say that?”. These movies are excellent because of one golden rule that they abide by, they know what they are and they aren’t afraid to exploit the shit out of that. You will not be walking in your local video shop and find a Criterion Edition of “Black Christmas”…although, they do carry “Armageddon” and “The Rock”, so there is something to be said about taste…
So, let’s get into the meat of this flick. Let’s really dive into the core of what makes “Friday the 13th” a classic among the fans of the horror genre. Is it the acting? No. Is it the fancy camera work? No. Is it the kills, the sex, and the shocking ending? Absolutely, 1000 times yes to that…that is what makes this a classic, it is the last 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated entertainment. Because that is what this is…entertainment folks. The script is sub-par, the acting is wooden, the camera work is shoddy, but it’s all in fun.
The movie starts out with a young couple leaving a camp fire to go do…well, what else do young adult counselors do when all the children have been put to bed…they have wild hot beast sex that would make a porn star blush, and, following the natural order of slasher fare, the young couple is destroyed…with a knife. This first kill was a slight disappointment, but hey, I give props to this style, because I have seen it executed a thousand times after this…some good, some bad, some absolutely horrendous.
This sets up the film from this point out, as we jump ahead in time the audience knows that there is a killer in the area, we know that the camp has been shut down since the murders, and we know that there is no way in hell this camp is opening up again…no matter how many Cumbayas’ are sung.
After this, and this is the one complaint I have about the movie, there is approximately 30 minutes of setup, this easily could have been cut down to 15 minutes and nothing would have been lost. I don’t care about the relationships, and I don’t care who likes who or why people took the job at the camp…let’s get to the murder. I don’t watch Slasher movies to think, I watch them to be entertained, if I want to sit down for a cerebral experience, I will watch Bergman or Godard (Love hate relationships), but with Slasher cinema I just want to see creative kills, get some cheap laughs, and maybe be generally disgusted a time or two (I’m looking at you Sleepaway Camp!)
The last 45 minutes are wonderful though and are everything I expected. My favorite personal kill of the bunch…seeing Kevin Bacon meeting his end via an arrow through the throat. Now, if you haven’t seen this, I will spoil it, because if you’re familiar with the series at all, you know Jason is not the killer in this one, hell, he’s a child. It is his mother dispatching of camp counselors, because they were busy doing the wild thing while her young, deformed son, was drowning…seriously though, did you see this kid, I wouldn’t wanna touch him, much less save him from drowning.
So, overall thoughts: the script is sloppy, the acting is wooden, the camera work would have been better if you hired the guy from the late night infomercial circuit…but, I just can’t deny the appeal and the entertainment of this classic. So yes, “Friday the 13th” is a classic in spite of its self. I tip my hat to you Mr. Cunningham, you make-a my nightmares come true.
Friday the 13th – 1980
Starring – Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, and Mark Nelson.
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Run Time: 95 MinutesShare: