Halloween has always been my favorite season, and next week is Friday the 13th. IN OCTOBER!!! I’m so excited I don’t know how to contain it. With this rare occurrence of dual holidays, I couldn’t help myself gravediggers and undertakers. After reviewing the Nightmare on Elm St series last year, this month I will be reviewing a different installment of the Friday the 13th franchise every week. If I’m going to eventually review Freddy vs Jason, it was inevitable I’d have to delve into Jason’s origins, and as such, this week we’re going to take a close look at the very first Friday the 13th movie.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, and Kevin Bacon
Before I get into to it, I’d like to point out the parallels of this movie starring Kevin Bacon, and the first Elm St. movie having Johnny Depp. I don’t know why I find that so relevant, but I do. Okay, I’m done. Back to the review.
The movie opens at Camp Crystal Lake in my home state of New Jersey, in the summer of 1958. After singing about Jesus with a group of other Jesus singers, two camp counselors sneak off to get busy in a barn, but they are cock-blocked by someone. We, as the audience, can’t see who is doing the cock blocking because the camera is in this person’s POV, but we watch as they are brutally murdered, and the movie cuts to the title screen. I really like how the movie starts with the death right off the bat. We know this is going to be a brutal movie for everyone involved, and is a nice way to set the tone.
It is now 1979, and we follow a girl traveling to that very same camp, which is reopening for the first time since those murders. She learns from some locals that the year before the two counselors were killed, a boy drowned, and sometime during the 60’s when the owners tried to reopen, it was discovered the water was poisoned, and another time several of the lodges were set on fire, each time preventing the camp from reopening. This girl, Annie, gets a ride halfway to the camp, from there she hitches another ride, but…
…the unseen driver chases her into the woods and kills her.
Although I’ve seen this movie countless times, it’s been a while since I re-watched it, and I was foggy on a lot of the little details. For instance, Annie was portrayed by a horrible actress, and I became worried she was going to have a bigger role. Fortunately, she died early on, sparing us the torture of having to put up with her for too long.
Meanwhile back at the camp, the other counselors have arrived and are put to work while the owner goes into town for supplies, leaving them alone. Kevin Bacon’s lovelorn friend wanders off in search of some fun, and is killed off screen. Typically off screen deaths bother me, but with how many kill scenes the movie does have, it actually goes to show how incidental the character was (he was a Miami Dolphins fan after all).
Kevin Bacon has a sex scene with his girlfriend on the bottom of a bunk bed, and they should be glad this isn’t a review of raunchiness because that was a disappointing, bland scene. Regardless, his girlfriend needs to take a post-coital leak and goes to the bathroom lodge. In her absence, she learns that her Kevin Bacon was tragically killed off, having had an arrow shoved through the mattress and in the back of his neck, sticking out through his Adam’s apple. It is now revealed that Ned, Kevin Bacon’s friend, was…
…dead on the upper bunk the entire time.
Thus far we haven’t seen the killer, so it’s abundantly clear that it is meant to be a surprise, and I’d have to think at the time it was. Even afterwards, people with a passing knowledge of the movie would think it was obvious, based on the legacy this franchise built. Only if you’ve seen the original Scream do I think anyone would know who the killer was before the reveal later in the movie.
Anyway, back to the killing. Kevin Bacon’s girlfriend eats an ax to the face in the bathroom and it is beautifully brutal. Soon after, Brenda, another counselor, hears a little girl crying for help outside her lodge. Following the voice, she’s led to the archery range, when suddenly the spot lights turn on blinding her to her attacker. She is also killed off screen. Steve, the owner, finally makes his way back to the camp, and is (you guessed it) promptly killed.
All that remains are Alice and Bill, who grow worried that everyone else is missing, and start looking for people. They find a bloody ax in Brenda’s bed, when the power goes out, and all the phone lines are cut. Bill goes to check on the generator, leaving Alice alone. Unfortunately, Bill is also killed off screen, but Alice finds his body in the generator room riddled with arrows. She heads back to the main cabin to hide, when she’s attacked with Brenda’s dead body being thrown through a window. Unfortunately, the actress sucked at playing dead, and moved a good amount while ‘dead’ on the floor.
Luckily a car pulls up, and she assumes it’s Steve’s but she’s greeted by a family friend, Pamela Voorhees. While searching for the bodies, Mrs. Voorhees explains how her little son drowned because camp counselors were having sex and not watching him.
From the get go, Alice doesn’t trust this lady, and she’s quickly justified when Pamela admits to the camp killings, fires, poisoning, and all the tragedies that have befallen the camp since her son’s death. A fight to the death ensues that leads from the lodge to the lake, where Alice finally gets the upper hand and decapitates Voorhees with a machete.
She drifts in a canoe on the lake for a while where she eventually spends the night. Upon waking up to police on shore calling out to her, Alice is dragged underwater by a burned/disfigured boy.
Alice later wakes up in a hospital, and is told by an officer that there was no boy there. “He’s still there.” Fade to black
On to the rating…
This is a classic for a reason, and deserves the icon status that it’s received over the years, even if there are several glaring logic flaws. For instance, if Mrs. Voorhees was acting alone, how did she throw Brenda’s body through the window only moments before she drove up in the car? Or, why would she reveal herself to Alice and speak to her when she killed everyone else right off the bat (save for Annie in the beginning). But the one that annoys me the most, how did Pamela so handily kill everyone in the camp, but was then stopped by Alice who was so clever she hid in a pantry?
I know it was a staple for horror movies of this era to have bad acting, but if the entire movie was on par with Annie’s abilities, I don’t think there would have been any sequels. Which, in 2017, knowing how iconic Jason Voorhees has become, it’s amazing to think that he wasn’t even in this movie, and couldn’t have been so much as a thought in the marketing process. Today we look at the movie and say ‘wow it’s really cool that they went with Jason’s mother for the movie’ but in reality, Jason was probably never even discussed.
With 11 sequels (no, I’m not reviewing them all) it’s incredible to see how much they did with so little, and for that I will always give credit. And that’s not even mentioning the amazing, instantly recognizable music; tchee tchee tchee ahh ahh ahh. I still make that noise when I want to scare my girl.
See you next week for Friday the 13th Part 2!
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