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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Friday the 13th (1980)

I managed to avoid the big franchises in my first go around with the Slasher movie marathon. But eventually I had to cover some of the better-known entries. If I’m going to do that then I’ll be damned if I don’t start off with the best known of them. The time has come to visit Camp Blood… it has a death curse you know!

I suppose that I should start off with a plot synopsis as I always do. Though if you haven’t seen Friday the 13th stop reading right now and go watch it. The movie establishes the history of Camp Crystal Lake when a couple of campers sneak off for some hanky panky and get murdered by an unseen killer. Years later the son of the original owners is trying to reopen the camp. To that end he has hired a bunch of kids to act as counselors and help clean up the place. We meet a group of them as they arrive and get settled. Here we also see that someone is still lurking about when another is killed when she gets picked up by the killer, who again we don’t see.

Some hijinks happen as is apt to when you have attractive young people frolicking around the woods unsupervised. Pranks are played, a couple pairs off for some alone time in one of the cabins, and of course strip Monopoly! Oh, and Crazy Ralph shows up to warn them that they are DOOMED! All while they are having a good time there is a killer starting to pick them off. One by one they meet their bloody ends until there is just one girl, Alice, left alive. It is only then that the identity of the killer is revealed, and our questions are answered. Does Alice live? If she didn’t we wouldn’t have the killer jump scare ending!

In many ways this movie became the template for the Slasher craze that was to follow. While not the first it did create the formula, at least for the good ones. Young folks go into the woods. They are warned but don’t listen. Bad things happen until there is a final girl that fights to survive against the killer. The death scenes are spaced evenly throughout the movie with some jump scares tossed in to keep things interesting. This never allows the audience to relax as they are always wondering what is coming.

People always "axe" me what my favorite kill is... Ha!
The next thing that I say is probably going to be a bit controversial and get me some hate mail. I might even lose one of my two loyal readers! The original Friday the 13th suffers by being lumped in with all the sequels. Don’t get me wrong I love those movies as much as any other fan does. Well at least most of them… I’ve already mentioned how this movie creates the formula that most of the others follow but it does one thing much differently than most Slashers that follow. You don’t know who the killer is until the very end. Even one-off entries into the genre have a nasty way of telegraphing who the killer is. Here you get a great mystery playing out with some gore tossed in. I’ve always said that it plays more like a Giallo than a standard Slasher flick. Even earlier movies like Halloween and Black Christmas you know who the killer is or at least that they are in the attic.

Time to talk about the gore. This is a Savini project, so you know it is going to look good and be creative. The highlights are an axe to the face, Kevin Bacon getting skewered with an arrow, throat slashing, and a head getting lopped off. All of the effects are executed beautifully and is what everything that followed tried to live up to or out do. One thing that I did notice are how many of the kills are off screen or implied and not seen. I must not have been paying attention before, but it happens quite a bit. That isn’t a critique because they are so well done that my mind was filling in the blanks which itself is a classic trick used by old school horror flicks.

I had one other point to make before I’m done. This is one of the prettiest Slasher movies that you will ever watch. The cinematography is amazing as they capture the natural beauty surrounding the camp. I love how the peaceful lake and woods contrasts with the action that we are seeing on the screen. This is especially so of the shocking ending to the movie where they double down with the music to give the audience one last scare.

Friday the 13th is a legendary entry into the subgenre of the Slasher movie. It is a must see for all fans and is highly recommended.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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