Friday the 13th (1980)


“A group of camp counselors is stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which, years before, was the site of a child’s drowning.” — IMDb

It feels almost redundant to post a review of a movie as iconic as this one, but here goes. I assume 99% of people reading this have seen it already, but if not, watch out for spoilers, yo.

Friday the 13th (which was almost titled Long Night at Camp Blood) may not have been anyone’s pet project — the director, Sean S. Cunningham, admitted that it was an attempt to ride off the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was released two years prior, and the writer, Victor Miller, wrote the script in two weeks — but it’s a cult classic for a reason. It didn’t do that well when it was first released — it made about $39 million at box office but received many negative reviews, including a particularly scathing commentary from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (who didn’t even bother to hide the ending from readers). And, technically speaking, it’s not that amazing of a movie — some forgettable characters, mostly weak dialogue. But it continues to gain popularity even to this day.

It’s really a classic slasher flick. A bunch of young counselors have arrived at camp early to help set up and are murdered one by one by a mysterious killer. It’s got the short shorts, the stormy night, and the obligatory sex scene (with Kevin Bacon and the stunning Jeannine Taylor, no less). But you really do feel the tension mounting as the movie progresses, partially due to the use of music by Harry Manfredini.

As soon as Annie — innocent, freckled little Annie — gets her throat slit in the woods, I was immediately reminded of how surprisingly good the murder scenes are. They aren’t over the top gory and aren’t drawn out too long — it’s just a quick, efficient kill and then on to the anticipation of the next one.

I liked that we never saw a hint of the killer beyond maybe their feet, or a hand on a shower curtain — it’s really effective in adding to the already tense mood, not to mention, of course, hiding the surprise reveal until the very end. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the twist — again, SPOILER ALERT, but y’all know this already. Having the killer be Mrs. Voorhees was just… awesome. Exacting revenge on behalf of her son, neglected by camp counselors while he drowned in the lake… brilliant. And her talking with herself — or talking “with Jason” — was creepily well done. It may not be my favorite classic horror movie — of the trio (Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street), I’m wayyyy more of a Freddy girl.

Rating: 7/10 | Director: Sean S. Cunningham | Writer: Victor Miller & Sean S. Cunningham | Music: Harry Manfredini | Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon

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