FRIDAY THE 13TH
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
APRIL 22, 2012
Most people think they remember the story of Jason Vorhees and Camp Crystal Lake, but if you travel back to the original “Friday the 13th” film, you realize most of what you thought you knew was false. Seeing the 1980 version of “Friday the 13th” in 2012 is enjoyable on many levels. Not only are you seeing the start of what would become the matriarch for current formula slasher films, but your expectations are being toyed with what you know will eventually be produced out of the series.
There are ten murders in the original “Friday the 13th” (including one of a young Kevin Bacon), and [spoiler alert] none of them are committed by Jason Vorhees, though we often “forget” that he isn’t the killer in the first film. It plays with our expectations. Suppose you haven’t seen the first film in quite some time or ever, but feel like you know the story from all the years of hearing about the franchise and the serial killer, as the deaths are occurring. In that case, you assume that Jason is killing everyone as the original audiences did. We hear his story and even see his drowning at the beginning of the film, but we are never quite sure until the reveal occurs towards the end of the film. That sets this film apart from the rest. The “Friday the 13th” franchise has become notorious for recycling its formula, but if you look at the original, it is so different from the rest (as is “Part 2”) that you cannot help but respect the origins of the franchise.
This series is about sexually charged teenagers and brutal murders, and “Friday the 13th” delivers on that front. Cinema was not quite at the current gore level in 1980, though there are some graphic scenes like throat-slitting that even surprised me for their era. The infamous “ka-ka-ka-ha-ha-ha” score sends effective chills, but the voyeuristic camera angles are in much need of perfecting, and the entire film lacks the scares to keep the viewers on their toes.
“Friday the 13th” is a staple in the horror movie genre. With assumptions played with and stark differences between the original and the series to follow, the film offers a fascinating origin to such a prolific body of work. Though “Friday the 13th” will never win an award for the best horror film of all time, it should at least gain “classic” status in the horror genre.
May 9, 1980
Sean S. Cunningham
Sean S. Cunningham