***(out of 4 stars)
From a script that was inspired by the success of Halloween, Friday the 13th is one of those must see slashers. It's clearly a staple to the slasher genre and any one person into horror or slasher films has seen this film. If you haven't seen it, you may have been living under a rock for quite some time now.
Friday the 13th came around the time when slasher films were at their most successful, the 1980's. In fact, it was made in 1980! The film's charm, if you want to call it that, is renowned for its excessive gore and high body count. Although some may call it a blatant ripoff to Halloween, Friday has garnished its own following and has been ripped off itself. Any slasher film you see today, is in some way inspired by this film and most slasher films follow Friday's same formula - a group of teens, in the woods, being picked off one by one by a maniacal serial killer. It should also be fair to note that although many credit Halloween as being the film that inspired Friday, Mario Bava's Bay of Blood was also a very inspirational film for Friday the 13th. Just look at Bay of Blood and you tell me if you can't see the remarkable similarities with both films.
Produced and directed from Sean S. Cunningham, Friday the 13th is the film he'll be remembered for. Initially, Cunningham put out ads in New York to see if the film had rights previously owned by another person. The film hadn't even begun production when he did this. Of course, no one had any rights to it, but many who saw the adds were intrigued. So Cunningham went ahead with the production of the film.
Here's the rundown. A boy drowns in a lake because camp counselors are too busy having sex and not paying any attention. Fast forward to 1958. Two other counselors, making love (of course), are killed by an unseen person. After this, and some years later, Steve Cristy wants to re-open the camp for business. A group of teens are helping with the camp and one by one fall victim by a serial killer, even after they're warned by the town crazy, Crazy Ralph, that the camp has "A DEATH CURSE".
The one thing that stands out with this film is the inventive kill scenes. Each teen falls victim with brutal deaths. The kills are constructed by special fx master, Tom Savini. My personal favorite is when Kevin Bacon's character gets an arrow through his throat. You may ask why? Because apparently Kevin Bacon has disregarded this film. It seems that he's a bit "too good", for this type of movie, seeing that he's suddenly Mr. Hollywood. All I have to say is, remember your roots kids, remember your roots.
The score is equally iconic as Halloween's theme. Harry Manfredini's violin score sets the right tone for this film. It's blatantly obvious that when you hear that score, teens will die. I still find it effective so many years later. The score is so important for films like this and Manfredini's score would continue to play throughout most of the franchise.
Long before Jason would emerge onto the scene, his mother Pamela Voorhees, was the real reason for all the mayhem and blood shed. Her reason for revenge is simple: her undying love for her son. A son who died because of a few irresponsible teens. Now, every camp counselor will pay because of her son's death. And pay dearly. One by one she mows through the teens until the climatic ending.
Our heroine is Alice played by Adrienne King. She's not one of my favorite survival girls in the franchise, but I liked her character. (After the film's release, King would find herself in a real life horror story because of some fan stalking her.) After all her fellow counselors are murdered, she's the only one left. After a long battle with Mrs. Voorhees, Alice ends up decapitating the vengeful mother with a machete. I might add, another great effect by Tom Savini. She wakes in a canoe floating upon the lake. Some "soothing" music is playing and all seems well and over. Until young Jason emerges from the waters; pulling her below the surface.
She wakes up in the hospital. She learns that all the other counselors died. She asks a cop about the boy that grabbed her by the lake. The cop tells her that they didn't find any boy.
The film was a financial success but critics hated it. Most notable critic, Gene Siskel, went as far as saying that director Sean S. Cunningham was a horrible human being for making it. Boy, talk about not getting it!
I'm reluctant to give this film four stars because it's not my favorite of the franchise. But a solid three stars will do. This films is definitely a staple in modern horror, especially from a slasher stand point. It should be recognized on its merits as an exploitation film. With most of the Friday films, you can watch them any time of the season, any time of day; no matter what you're doing. These films are just plain fun. Give it a watch, if you haven't already.
Although most of the kills are memorable, here are some of my favorites.
1. Arrow through Kevin Bacon's throat.
2. An axe to the face of Marcie's character.
3. Annie's throat being sliced.
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Victor Miller