There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Seeing that we just spent the past eight weeks covering the Dream Killer himself, it only makes sense to transition to the great outdoors where nothing can ever go wrong. To a place called Camp Crystal Lake and series known as Friday the 13th. Let’s start with the 1980 classic itself.
Today’s Key Movie:
After a ‘cursed’ camp is reopened, It’s Hunting Season on the camp counselors as they are stalked and killed in an apparent revenge for the death of a child some years prior. From Sean S Cunningham, This is the one that started it all introducing a mythos like never before.
Why this movie?
I was too young to remember this film hitting theaters but in no time at all the idea of Jason Vorhees and his hockey mask became a staple of my youth. This mythos had become synonymous with Friday the 13th and, when I finally saw this first film, I have to say, I wasn’t all that impressed. You see, for some reason this franchise never made it into our home viewings. While we gleefully watched films like Halloween and (my mother’s favorite) The Hills Have Eyes, Friday the 13th was just never one that we embraced. My dad refereed to it as murder porn and my mom, although she did love watching the backwater creeps in Hills, saw this one as nothing more than a high budget snuff film.
Finally, the day came when a friend asked my thoughts on the Jason films. Telling him that I was more of a Freddy fan, and had never seen Friday the 13th, he quickly remedied this with a movie marathon sleepover so that we could plow through the first few films in one sitting. That evening, with soda and popcorn at the ready, I fully expected the Hockey Masked horror to begin his attack on the kids of Camp Crystal Lake….however I found myself quite dissapointed. You see, my friend failed to inform me that this first film was NOT a Jason film. In fact, Jason is only a plot point as it is Pamela Vorhees (Jason’s mother) who is killing the kids. So, it was no surprise when I saw this, it felt like just another stalker film with no supernatural elements to speak of like Nightmare, which had become my favorites at that point. I powered through, however, and soon discovered that the this franchise did indeed have it’s merits.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Friday the 13th is the quintessential camp slasher horror film. Taking nods from films such as the aforementioned Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more, this movie has become a template for the classic slasher film. In fact it helped spark the 80’s love affair with the genre inspiring films such as My Bloody Valentine, A Nightmare on Elmstreet, Child’s Play and more.
While my initial introduction to the film was lackluster at best, I have come to appreciate the subtle nature of this movie and it’s ability to elicit scares. Borrowing from the best of Hitchcock himself, Friday the 13th keeps it’s killer a mystery by only showing the murders in the third person throughout the film. Staged from the point of view of the voyeur accompanied by the classic ‘ch ch ch ch ah ah ah ah‘ (or rather ki ki ki ki ma ma ma ma to be more accurate), director Sean S Cunningham somehow manages to ratchet up the tension by putting the viewers behind the eyes of the killer themselves. This mystery is reinforced as characters are placed in suspicious positions making everyone question who this crazed counselor killer truly is. When it is finally revealed who the killer is, it is both a shock and a disappointment as it is a character that we do not meet until much later in the film making Friday the 13th not a true mystery film as there is no way for the audience to determine who the killer is from the onset. That being said, no one ever really accused this franchise of being part of the mystery genre as it is all about the kills themselves.
When the killings get started they range from simple stabbings to brutal deaths by bow and arrow. The thing is, most of the actual murders are kept off screen allowing viewers to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations causing this film to appear much more gruesome than it actually is. Sure, we see a few first hand but much is filled in by our own sick and twisted minds.
Cast wise, everyone in this seem more than excited to dive in to their roles. In fact, it almost feels like Cunningham cut a bunch of young 20 somethings loose in an abandoned campground and just filmed them as he stalked them through the camp as a fictional killer. Their actions and reactions are very natural, from the blatant alcohol and drug use, the casual sex and playfulness to even their banter with one another. While most of the cast are fairly unknown actors, the cast includes a young Kevin Bacon in one of his earliest roles. Sure, he doesn’t live past the mid point of the film but it’s not for a lack of trying.
Overall, Friday the 13th is a classic that is deserving of it’s place in the grand scheme of horror. It is a murder movie, not a murder mystery and one that is all about the killer and their evil deeds. While it had little to do with the primary character of the franchise, Jason Vorhees, himself, it did manage to set up a mythos that would become the backbone of the franchise for sometime to come. The sad thing had they introduced the killer earlier in the film, Friday the 13th could have been remembered on par with Psycho, it’s really that well made. Not everything was meant to be a masterpiece, but, then again, not everything is as widely loved as the story of Jason Vorhees either.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one that will never go out of print and you can get it for a song here. However, I would recommend the 8 film set (which doesn’t include the last films, Jason goes to hell and Jason X) appearance of Jason himself in Friday the 13th Part 2…
Late To The Game 1/14/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
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