Review – Friday The 13th (1980)
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, every other movie was a slasher film. We had the likes of Halloween, He Knows Your Alone, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, Terror Train and Brian De Palma’s excellent Hitchcockian style thriller “Dressed To Kill”, to name but a few. They all, with very few exceptions, followed a tried and tested formula. Killer in a ski mask, or some other disguise, stalks and kills various people, usually women, with a large butcher knife, which seemed to be the weapon of choice for these people, before being unmasked in the final act, to reveal it’s someone we were introduced to, earlier in the movie.
Friday The !3th, made in 1980 and directed by Sean S Cunningham, is quite possible my all time favourite slasher movie, bar none. Halloween comes a close second, but for me this film stands head and shoulders above all the other movies of this type.
Starring a cast of largely unknown young actors, including a very youthful looking Kevin Bacon, its the story of a long abandoned summer camp, Crystal Lake, a place blighted by past tragedies, including “a bunch of fires”, poisoned water, and a drowning. Hardly surprising the locals refer to the place as “Camp Blood”. Into all this comes our cast of relative newcomers, playing camp councilors, who have been drafted in to “do the place up”, in readiness for a grand reopening, and it’s first influx of city kids.
Within the first few minutes, the tone is set perfectly for what’s to come. In the opening scene, set decades earlier, we see two councilors murdered by an unknown assailant. We’re then bought forward 20 years to the present day, where young Annie, one of the new councilors, is trying to thumb a lift to Camp Crystal Lake, in order to join the other ill fated teenagers, in refurbishing the delapidated camp. After being dropped off at a remote crossroads, she falls victim to the mysterious killer who seems to be stalking everyone at Crystal Lake. We then spend a fair old time getting to know the rest of the councilors, before the real carnage starts.
There were many examples of the slasher genre around in the late 70s, including the legendary John Carpenter’s Halloween, but in my humble opinion, Friday The 13th, is when this type of movie really took off. It became the movie, all other slasher films aspired to be. My memories of the first time i saw this classic shocker are so vivid.
Burton Odeon cinema, one winter night in 1980. It was a late night screening. Id heard rumours, and read a couple of newspaper articles about this low budget horror movie that was taking America by storm. The reviews id read were very favourable, and i was really looking forward to seeing the film. I arrived at the cinema about half an hour before the screening was due to start, and we were allowed to queue outside the screen. I remember trying to hear what was going on inside. All i could hear was barely audible music…..until what turned out to be the final few minutes of the movie. That’s when i heard the cinema audience inside let out a collective, very loud, terrifying scream, and it was at this point i began to wonder what i’d let myself in for. What i didn’t realise at the time, was that i’d just heard, what was easily the greatest jump scare, shock ending since Sissy Spacek grabbed Nancy Allen from beyond the grave in Brian De Palma’s “Carrie”, four years previously.
So why do i love the original Friday The 13th so much ??? First of all the setting. A summer camp in the middle of nowhere. The woods have always creeped me out. They did as a child, and they still do now, so for me the location was perfect. Then there was the “first person” style of the actual killings. I always think these types of movies work better, if you don’t find out until the end of the film, who the actual killer is. The murders were all seen from the killers perspective. I loved that. Then there was the score. Could it have been any more “Psycho” influenced ??? I don’t think so. With it’s shreiking strings and that unforgettable “ki ki ki ki….ma ma ma ma” constantly in the background, it’s possible one of the creepiest soundtracks i’ve ever heard, and composer Harry Manfredini’s music is used to excellent effect. According to the IMDb, the score is meant to sound like young Jason’s voice saying “kill, kill, kill; mom, mom, mom,” inspiring her to go on a killing spree. Manfredini created the effect by speaking the syllables “ki” and “ma” into a microphone running through a delay effect. very effective i have to say.
All this adds up to what i consider to be the ultimate slasher movie, a perfect example, and an absolute masterclass, demonstrating exactly how a low budget horror movie, featuring a cast of total unknowns, should be made. They must have been doing something right, as this amazing little movie cleaned up at the box office, and spawned countless sequels. It also got a reboot in 2009, which wasn’t at all bad.
Rumours have circulated for years about another reboot being in the works. I’ve heard on the grapevine, that the legal battles which have held up this further installment, are close to being sorted out, which may be enough to drag the project out of development hell, and finally get it moving. Personally i would love to see, what a “Friday The 13th” movie for the 2020s would look like, especially considering the amazing success of the “Halloween” franchise, since it’s reboot in 2018. Until this happens though, we can count ourselves fortunate, in having the original, and the best to fall back on, and of course a the other 11 installments, which should keep us going quite nicely, until Camp Crystal Lake resurfaces once again, in, what will hopefully be, the near future….