Friday the 13th (1980)

Dir: Sean S. Cunningham, 1980


One of the most important horror films in the genre, Cunningham’s Friday the 13th is the true forebearer of the slasher film.

Jason Vorhees was a young boy at summer camp who drowned because of the camp councillors ineptitude.

Years later, Camp Crystal Lake reopens and is host to a series of horrific murders.

Aside from featuring a young and pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon, Friday the 13th is notorious for being the film where everybody gets the answer wrong to the question “who is the horror icon in Friday the 13th?”.

It could be argued that John Carpenter’s Halloween was the first real slasher movie but Carpenter relies on suspense and atmosphere with using, relatively, little blood. That particular film is all about chills and fear.

Cunningham, on the other hand, went straight for the main artery and let the blood flow.

Where Michael Myers only had a knife at his disposal, the killer, here, has an accompaniment of weapons.

Two horror films but with different agendas.

Like his old friend Wes Craven, Cunningham is from the school of raw filmmaking.

Whereas Carpenter and his ilk know all the tricks to create an air, Cunningham and Craven just go for it, sans subtleties.

The two C’s collaborated on Craven’s highly controversial and (at the time) much maligned debut feature The Last House On The Left.

For this film, it’s not a bad thing. The special effects are by none other than the master, Tom Savini.

As usual, Savini invents ingenious ways to let the blood pour and notch up the body count.

But it’s not exploitative. The effects are carried out in such a stylised way that they become cartoonish and takes away the sadism that you would find today in fare such as Saw series or Hostel.

A hit in its day, the film hasn’t aged very well.

Too many directors have copied the film, that anything fresh and original has been watered down to nothing.

Sexually promiscuous teens shagging at every opportunity before being murdered. Been done a thousand times, since.

It has its moments of enjoyment but it also has a lot more ennui.

Followed by nine sequels, the rest of the entries focused more on the cartoon side of the violence and the strand of sexuality that is prevalent through the films, rendering them exploitational.

It’s okay to watch every now and again. I can certainly understand its importance but it’s really not the masterpiece that is so often lauded.


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