Friday the 13th (1980)

by Evan ODell 2/10/09

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller and Ron Kurz.

This is it. The original. The movie that spawned 10 sequels, one a cross-over with Freddy Kreuger of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and now a re-imagining that incorporates bits of the first four films. Twelve movies! Can you dig it?

This is a film that came together under Sean S. Cunningham to capitalize on the success of Halloween. Cunningham had made note of the title and was hoping to find a story he could make work with it. In order to test the availability of the title, he took out an ad in Variety advertising the film coming at the end of the year. The ad helped accomplish two things, that the name was available and investors were interested..

Writer Victor Miller had worked with Cunningham before on Manny's Orphans, their attempt to capitalize on The Bad News Bears. He remembers he was too scared to go off to summer camp after his older brother's tales and so the story came together. A summer camp, before it opens, to save money on a very low budget production. The location was New Jersey Boy Scouts Camp Nobebosco in January. Some of the crew even stayed there and make-up effects artist, Tom Savini cooked up appliances in the kitchen there.

The fake-out ending scene was thought up by makeup effects artist Tom Savini. During the first few weekends of the film's release, he got a kick out of entering the theater for the final five minutes so he could see the audience reaction to Jason.

I liked it immensely as a kid. It was an eighties home video indulgence. Usually while consuming soda and pizza and staring at the glow of the cathode ray tube in the dark. Followed by another similar horror movie like Driller Killer or Slumber Party Massacre rented from the video store. And when I watched it at a friend's house and had to trek home through the dark without streetlights, the idea of what might be in the dark was more frightening than the film itself.

Now that I've grown up, the film seems to have lost much of it's original hold over me. The nostalgia is still strong, but I think I prefer a couple of the sequels now. This is still one of the strongest entries in the series.

Perhaps the best thing it has going for it, is the string of inventive, bloody deaths. Each one as good or better than the last.

I dislike how the series reinforced a conventional moral bias. Use drugs, drink alcohol, have sex, etc... and you die! One that Scream would later rightly parody. I can see how this can play on a parent's fears or a child's curiosity. I just think as an adult it is absurd.

Aside from other reasons I've mentioned for the diminished hold it has for me, this is mommy's movie. Friday the 13th is part of the pantheon of horror movies. Jason would go on to become the stuff of camp fire legend. But not until part 2 and beyond.

----

In 1958, two camp counselors were killed when they sneak off to be alone together. Now, 20 years later Camp Crystal Lake is reopening and a number of camp counselors have arrived to get the place in shape. One by one, the counselors are picked off in a series of brutal yet imaginative slayings to pay for the death of a young boy who drowned in 1957.

 

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