Camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp that was the site of a child's drowning.
Clearly, the team behind “Friday the 13th” expected at least to make a reasonable profit out of it, but I seriously doubt that anyone involved in the making of this film even considered the possibility of it becoming the cult classic that it is today. Victor Miller, who wrote the story, openly admitted that he was riding off the success of Halloween (1978). The late actress Betsy Palmer even claimed that, after reading the script, she thought the story was trash (well… she actually used another word), but she took the job because she needed a new car. Little did she know when she took the role that her character would immortalize her as one of the biggest horror icons of all times. Yes, it is evident that Victor Miller and Don Mancini capitalized on the success of Halloween (1978), but the truth is that “Friday the 13th” manages to stand out on its own, and in the end, other than being two slasher films about a killer who prowls around murdering teenagers; these two films don’t really have that much in common. To this day, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is considered a more “serious” horror film (for the lack of a better word), while “Friday the 13th” remains a classic, but is still seen as a less underappreciated respectable flick. Why? Probably because, even though I absolutely love it, I will admit that “Friday the 13th” certainly has a campy nature (no pun intended). In my case, I don’t mind the campiness, I actually enjoy it. In “Friday the 13th”, the story begins in 1958, in a summer camp named Camp Crystal Lake. We see two young camp counselors who are about to have sex, when someone appears out of nowhere and murders them both. We don’t get to see who the killer is, since the murders are shown in a point-of-view shot, and the reason behind the murders is not yet explained either. The story then jumps to 1980 and it focuses on Alice, a young and sensible girl who, along with other kids of her age, is hired as a counselor by a man who attempts to reopen Camp Crystal Lake. Unfortunately, someone doesn’t seem too thrilled about the reopening of the place, which will lead to a series of gruesome murders. Could it be the same person who killed those two counselors back in 1958? In the end, it is Alice who will have to come face to face with the killer and fight for her own life. *Spoilers ahead* Plot-wise, “Friday the 13th” may not be too remarkable, but it doesn’t really need to be either. I could be wrong, but I believe this film first introduced the formula that consists on: a summer camp as a scenario, a pinch of mystery, plentiful gore, creative deaths and a gratifying reveal towards the last minutes. Just like this film attempted to ride off the success of a previous slasher, ironically, “Friday the 13th” itself ended up generating a bunch of (arguably) inferior clones as well. Of course, commercial success doesn’t necessarily imply quality, but I do think “Friday the 13th” has a certain something that makes it appealing to a lot of people. For the most part, the characters in this film seem somewhat generic and one dimensional, which is a common attribute in slasher films. There really isn’t much of a character development, and we don’t get to know them very well. Most of the victims are young boys and girls who seem to be in the camp to have a good time themselves, rather than working hard to make the children happy. Surely, these characters don’t really deserve to die for being immature and silly, but at the same time, it is hard to feel too bad for them either. However, the first character that gets killed after the time-jump seems genuinely sweet and caring, so one obviously feels bad for her when she is brutally murdered, just for being naïve enough to trust a stranger. I think this death after the time-jump was a perfect move, because it sets the tone perfectly for what is going to happen later: a bunch of innocent young people will be brutally murdered without having done anything to deserve it. The acting in “Friday the 13th” is mostly plain or, in some cases, over the top, which, along with the silly dialogs and lines, provides the film with an enjoyable campy nature. The late Betsy Palmer, who played the role of Mrs. Pamela Voorhees, was nominated for a Razzie Award, and while I love the character of Mrs. Voorhees and I felt bad to hear about Palmer’s passing, I can understand why she was nominated. It’s true, Betsy’s portrayal of Jason’s mother is over the top and it can appear as unintentionally funny during her delivery of some of her lines, but at the same time, I’m not sure if I can imagine the character being played differently at this point. Then we have Crazy Ralph, literally jumping out of a closet, telling the kids to leave, because they’re doomed and that Camp Crystal Lake has a death curse. This character, aside from being called “Crazy” Ralph, (in case anyone didn’t notice that he was crazy in the first place), is perhaps one of the campiest characters in the slasher subgenre, which earned him an iconic place in the franchise and even a small part in the first sequel. “Friday the 13th” offers a nice variety of gory murders, with Tom Savini in charge of the makeup effects, which is an undeniable seal of quality. The legendary “axe in the face” death scene is perhaps one of the most memorable parts of the film for many fans. In this scene, Sean Cunningham and Tom Savini not only offer a morbidly satisfying and shocking on-screen death, we also get a lot of tension and suspense preceding the murder, which creates a feeling of panic and desperation. The final confrontation between Alice, our final girl, and Mrs. Voorhees, Jason’s vengeful mother is really extensive for a good cause, as it helps to build a lot of tension that culminates with a gruesome murder. To some extent, when Mrs. Voorhees suddenly appears out of nowhere and begins to tell the story of what happened to that “poor boy”, it is easy to assume that she is responsible for the carnage, or at least, that she is involved to a certain degree. Up until this point, we had never seen her before throughout the entire film, so why is she popping out now? There are no other supporting characters left to blame for the murders and Mrs. Voorhees shows up the exact moment when things got really ugly? What could she be doing at Camp Crystal Lake in the middle of the night, other than murdering boys and girls? Of course, our final girl, even though she is not unintelligent, seems to be somewhat oblivious of what is really happening and this is what makes up want to scream “Get out of there!”. Mrs. Voorhees is basically explaining the whole story to the audience, but at the same time, she is subtly revealing herself as the killer, before going into a weird trance, in which she starts talking as if she is possessed by Jason, her own son, who drowned at the lake (I always considered this like a switched version of Norman Bates and his mother). As mentioned before, the acting in this final confrontation is not exactly brilliant and the audience ends up getting more than they probably needed to understand the story, since Mrs. Voorhees’ monologue basically goes into detail of what happened, just to make sure we get it right (just like when they make sure that we understand that Ralph is a crazy old man, by calling him “Crazy Ralph”). Regardless of the over the top acting and the spoon-feeding to the audience, the confrontation is full of tension, and it is still considered one of the most memorable “killer reveal” moments in the history of horror for a good reason.
Some films benefit with time, maturing and holding a nostalgic charm. Others rot like a bad apple, like _Friday the 13th_. Perhaps I had to be alive in 1980 to actually appreciate this one, but it is really not as groundbreaking as some people like to think it is, rather another spin on films like _Psycho_ and _Halloween_, minus the budget. And the acting.
Certainly not the first slasher movie, but arguably the most influential. This original film stands alongside _Part V: A New Beginning_ as the only two movies in a 12 film long franchise where they play the killer as a mystery, I think that premise would wear thin had they tried it every go around, but here it is executed, if not masterfully, at least to the film's benefit. _Friday the 13th_ is a movie I'll watch at least once a year, ever since I first saw it in the early 2000s. Maybe it's not the best movie ever, or even the best slasher movie ever, Hell, maybe it's not even the best Friday the 13th movie ever, but the fact that I'm not sick of it yet has to count for something. _Final rating:★★★½ - I really liked it. Would strongly recommend you give it your time._
***The beginning of the most successful slasher franchise*** Released in May, 1980, "Friday the 13th" was produced in the wake of the success of 1978's "Halloween" and also shares elements of 1976' "Carrie." The story revolves around a cursed summer vacation spot, Camp Crystal Lake, New Jersey, and the slayings of young camp counselors. Critics slammed the film and I'm not sure why since it's in the same league as the acclaimed "Carrie" and "Halloween." Regardless, it was hugely popular at the box office, making far more than any of the sequels until "Freddy vs. Jason" in 2003. As of this writing there are 12 movies in the franchise and another in the works, making it the most successful slasher series and one of the most successful franchises of any genre. I'm not a gorehound at all and only occasionally watch slasher flicks, but I'm a huge fan of the "Friday the 13th" franchise. Why? It has nothing to do with nostalgia since I didn't become a fan until I was well into adulthood when I saw 1985's "Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning" on TV one night. I think I like these movies because they typically involve young adults in a fun camp-type environment in the woods, which naturally stirs fond youthful memories (not that I'm that old); the presence of a lunatic unstoppable killer, who becomes more and more of a hideous monster, just adds an air of danger and suspense to the dramedy and adventure. Add scores of gorgeous females and various filming locations around North America and you have a fabulously entertaining franchise that has yet to end. Speaking of the women, this first movie is highlighted by Annie (Robbi Morgan), Alice (Adrienne King) and Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) with honorable mention to Brenda and Claudette, the latter from the opening 1958 segment. As far as dudes go, a youthful Kevin Bacon is on hand as one of the counselors. As for the filming locations, this one was shot in the remote townships of Hardwick, Blairstown & Hope, New Jersey. It's interesting how none of the films were shot at the same location even though, typically, the location in the story is Camp Crystal Lake and that general vicinity. Other locations include Connecticut (II & IX), California (III, IV, V), Georgia (VI), Alabama (VII), British Columbia (VIII & XI), New York City (VIII), Toronto (X & XI) and Texas (XII). It's the camp-like settings of most of the franchise and the unstoppable monster that is Jason Voorhees (and the demonic thing that possesses him, his mother and others, as disclosed in 1993’s “Jason Goes to Hell”) that especially sets "Friday the 13th" apart from similar franchises. Concerning the tone, the first two films are serious in nature with the expected antics of youths on vacation in the woods, but the franchise introduced a campy element in Part III, which rears its head in several entries (V, VI, IX and X) until the reboot in 2009. Not that I'm complaining much, as these films are only quasi-believable anyway. Speaking of which, the only thing questionable about this first film, as far as realism goes, is how the killer is able to throw an adult corpse through a window or hang a body from a door, etc. But I suppose these things can be attributed to the powerful psycho Voorhees gene (or the hellish entity that possesses them). Many people find these films scary and shocking and the first two movies have some slightly chilling aspects, some of the others as well, I guess, but, with the exception of the 2009 reboot, I don't usually find these movies particularly scary. They're sometimes creepy, sometimes suspenseful, sometimes exciting and always entertaining, but not scary (although there are numerous jump-scares, of course). In fact, I usually bust out laughing at the inevitable death scenes. I give "Friday the 13th" a high rating because it IS an effective film in the oft-maligned slasher/horror genre, not to mention it’s iconic and kicked-off this amazingly successful franchise. No genre is beyond redemption if done right; and that's the case here. The film runs 95 minutes. GRADE: A-
Seems only fitting to watch this today and still holds up really well and Betsy Palmer was really creepy. Have to think a newer generation of teens or those in their early 20s probably would find this mild compared with other horror movies, but I kind of like the simplicity of the story and kills.