After a 22-year hiatus, Camp Crystal Lake, located in New Jersey, gets ready to re-open its doors. It was originally closed down after the unsolved murders of two camp counselors. The current owner hires a crew of young people to clean up the place. Unbeknownst to all of them there is someone determined to keep the camp closed.
Reaction & Thoughts:
The first film in a franchise is usually the best, and while this might not be the case here, this first dip into Camp “Blood” Lake has undeniable charm and offers horror fans 95 minutes of gruesome fun. Friday the 13th is not nearly as violent as you might remember — I think it is pretty tame compared to what you see on cable TV nowadays — and there is no nudity, so I’m struggling to come up with a good reason for its unparalleled success.
It’s pretty amazing that this little production has become such a big part of the American pop-culture. Friday the 13th has the production values of a porn film — it’s really nothing but a series of murder sequences stitched together by a flimsy storyline. Yet there is something about it, especially if you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, that is simply irresistible — it never fails to tickle me.
Although relatively well-directed by Sean S. Cunningham (The New Kids), there are plenty of reasons to dislike Friday the 13th. It steals shamelessly from two much better movies: Mario Bava’s ground-breaking Bay of Blood (1971) and John Carpenter’s stylish Halloween (1978). From a technical standpoint, both movies are light years ahead of Cunningham’s trashy clone. Brain De Palma’s Carrie (1976) inspired a few sequences. The acting is nothing to brag about either — oh yes, Betsy Palmer (Mister Roberts and Queen Bee) is a hoot!
In the end the film’s bravura finale redeems the whole thing. The final confrontation is still a stunning sequence. Besides the over-the-top ending, what one remembers after it’s all over is Harry Manfredini’s (Swamp Thing and Spring Break) creepy score and Tom Savini’s (Dawn of the Dead and The Burning) make-up effects. The amateurish production elements give the movie a nice “drive-in” vibe. The sequels are much more polished thus less interesting than the original.
This movie, more than any other slasher from the era, purports the theory that the killer is a defender of puritan values. The young people are usually murdered right after doing something amoral (casual sex) or illegal (drugs). Deliberately or not, Victor Miller’s (A Stranger Is Watching) script pits a maniac with a strict moral code against the “final girl,” arguably a progressive, liberal idea. It’s something to munch on while you are savoring the cheap thrills.
The cast of young actors includes Adrienne King (The Butterfly Room), Kevin Bacon (Footloose and A Few Good Men), and Harry Crosby (Bing’s son). Character actor Walt Gorney (Day of the Animals) plays “Crazy Ralph,” and Ari Lehman (Manny’s Orphans) plays young Jason Voorhees.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Friday the 13th is a classic of sorts — I’m not sure what kind of classic, though. It’s not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s my idea of a “guilty pleasure.” Grab the snacks and enjoy! The uncut version is a few seconds longer. Color, 95 minutes, Unrated.
Followed by Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)