Friday the 13th (1980)
FRIDAY THE 13TH
WRITER: Victor Miller
DIRECTOR: Sean S. Cunningham
STARRING: Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees
Adrienne King as Alice
Jeannine Taylor as Marcie
Robbi Morgan as Annie
Kevin Bacon as Jack
Harry Crosby as Bill
Laurie Bartram as Brenda
Mark Nelson as Ned
QUICK CUT: Decades after Camp Crystal Lake was shut down after a series of brutal murders, it is at last reopening for business. While a group of young camp counselors struggle to get it back in good repair before then, dark secrets from the past begin to resurface.
Alice - Our lead heroine, and probably has the most personality. She's a nice girl, but a pretty typical teen, with her own vices and rebellious streak.
Ned - The clown of the counselors. He tells bad jokes, he puts people's lives in danger, he runs around naked save for his shirt tied around his crotch like a diaper. This also makes him the only other one with a personality worth noting.
The Rest - They don't even register as the general tropes we associate with horror movies in the woods, for the most part. They're vague enough that you can see something likable in them, and have just enough personality that you like them, but no real defining traits.
Pamela Voorhees - A kindly woman who rushes to the aid of the kids when bodies start piling up...snerk, no, we all know how this goes by now. Jason's mom, she's crazy, and she just wants to do what's right by her kid. Even if its twenty years too late.
THE GUTS: It's 2014?? No! I refuse to give up on 2013 yet! That's supposed to be my year! I DENY YOU, 2014!! So in honour of this being the 13th month of 2013, BECAUSE I SAY SO, you know what I'm going to do?? I am going to review Friday the 13th!! Now THAT is a way to kick off the new year! I mean, uh...damnit, this whole thing doesn't hold up under too much scrutiny, so let's just dive into the review.
Yes, it is long past time to review the original Friday the 13th. Much like The Exorcist, this another classic movie I have never seen. Considering my name is Jason, and this site has sprung up in part because of my love of the number 13, well, it only makes sense to get this out of the way. And it will also kick off the beginning of doing three regular reviews each month. In addition to the normal ones on the 13th and 26th, you can also start looking for reviews on the 1st of each month that will be either a classic horror flick or a franchise movie. Or, in this case, both!
We start things off quietly enough in the late 1950s at Camp Crystal Lake, with a group of camp counselors sitting around a fireplace and singing songs, while the little ones are all tucked away in their beds. And something stalks through the cabins ominously. So much for quiet and innocent.
Two of the counselors slip away from the festivities for their own alone time, and whatever was creeping over the kids follows them, and brought its creepy music with them. And it doesn't take long before the pair end up dead.
It's my lucky day!
We jump ahead from there to 'the present' but in this case, that's 1980 or thereabouts, and not really THE present. The awkward passage of time even affects movie subtitling.
The movie introduces us to Annie, hiking through a rural town in search of Camp Crystal Lake, which has been closed since the prologue, and has gained the nickname Camp Blood. She finds out that she still has 20 miles to go, and I idly wonder where she started walking from. Did she just walk out her door down the street and decide to go looking for the camp? She's clearly not from the area...
One of the locals, Enos, offers to give her a ride halfway, since it's on his way. Before they can get into his truck though, they run into Ralph, warning of death and blood. He's cheery!
Enos tries to find out what Annie knows about the camp, and we learn she's to be the cook, which just makes me wonder again, where did she come from, and why was she wandering through town? Anyways, our friendly truck driver gets into the troubled history of the camp, including the two deaths we saw, another of a young boy before that even happened, fires, etc. Annie receives probably the sagest advice ever in a horror movie; quit now.
The smartest man in the movie.
The driver drops Annie off at the crossroads, which is also right next to a cemetery. Boy, do I love the crapton of symbolism all in that one sentence and image on screen. We've got the literal crossroads, right after Annie's been warned off and has a choice to make, all next to a gigantic omen of death. It's brilliant and simple.
While Annie continues her hike down the road, we jump to another group on their way to the camp, and an interesting trend has cropped up. Someone asked Annie if all the girls will be as pretty as her, and now one of the trio asks Jack's girlfriend almost the exact same question. It's a subtle way of showing how the men view the women in this world, which will later be their downfall.
The movie slowly introduces us around the camp and its new canon fodder...er, counselors. One of them even utters the line that she doesn't know if she'll last all week. Run with that feeling!
Everyone sets about getting the camp up to snuff before it opens, and Annie finally gets another ride the rest of the way. And beyond, as the unseen driver keeps going past the turn-off to the camp. Annie becomes immediately worried and bails out of the car.
Annie tries to run, refusing to be the first victim in this newest cycle of killings, but her efforts are in vain. The driver closes the gap and slashes her throat before she even gets that far.
You could say the killer wanted to ketchup with Annie.
Back at the camp, everyone is blissfully unaware that a body count has begun in their woods, as the counselors relax and take in some sun and sand. And another almost runs into a snake in her cabin. The joys of the great outdoors.
After saving one of the kids from his own stupidity in the lake, everyone rushes to the commotion of the other cabin. I love everyone cramming into the tiny room with the snake slithering about. This can only end in bites.
It goes about as well as expected with people tripping over each other and making a mess, but by some miracle the snake gets taken care of with no one dying.
By Corman, it's like they're lined up for a snake buffet.
Ned, the idiotic goofball of the group, has taken to dressing like Night Vale's Apache Tracker, with a native headdress when a local cop decides to arrive. He's on the lookout for Ralph, the town crazy from earlier. Who turns up shortly in a pantry. But I'm surprised how everyone knows the camp is trying to open back up, except the cops, because he sure seems surprised to see anyone out there.
So, Ralph was just laying in wait in the cupboard until someone could come along and he could spout his doom and gloom? I mean, I know he's right and all, but still. No explaining the crazy, I guess.
He runs out, jumps on his bike making sure everyone knows they're doomed, doomed, they're doomed! and rides off into the sunset. Again, he rode all the way up here, to hide in a pantry...
So, I heard we're doomed?
Kevin Bacon and Little Miss Love Interest start making out while Ned follows some strange sounds off into a cabin. A storm kicks up pretty quick though, and sends the two lovebirds inside for some privacy.
And it just so happens they end up in the same cabin as Ned, but it's okay, he won't tell anyone about them. Or anything ever again. Not since his neck got slashed off camera and his body stashed on the top bunk before the couple arrived.
Kevin Bacon is left alone and gets some blood dribbled on his face by that ingrate Ned. Before he can complain though, the killer rams an arrow through the bed and Kevin's throat. Can we just take a moment to pause and consider the poor bastard sitting under the bed the entire time these two were having sex?
That was not the apple that William Tell was aiming for.
While Kevin bleeds out, the killer goes and finds the girl that was creaking the bed above them, and rams an axe into Marcie's face. Quite frankly, dying alone, in a grungy camp bathroom, in your underwear, is a terrible way to go.
Brenda stumbles into the same bathroom to clean up before bed, and almost bumps into the killer, but manages to escape unscathed. I guess one murdered girl in her underwear in the showers is enough for them.
Because they later draw the same girl down to the archery range by making her think there's a kid calling out for help. I'm going to guess by her scream that she ends up dead too. Why the killer waited to get her out here, in the downpour, I'll never know. The bathroom woulda been easier, surely.
Remember kids, never stand downrange from an archer.
After hearing her scream, Bill and Alice go searching for Brenda to make sure she's okay. And yay, she's fine and sleeping comfortably in her bed! Wait. Brenda WAS a bloody axe, right?
The plot is finally starting to unravel for these kids, as they hurry to try and find Jack and Marcie to help in their search, but only find an empty cabin. Starting to panic, they break into the main office and find the phone is dead, and when they try and get out, the truck won't start.
Alice suggests just hiking out of there, but Bill knows its ten miles to the nearest crossroads, and in the downpour, it's best to wait for Steve and his jeep. Too bad that while the camp's owner was coming back from a diner, his jeep broke down. Plot complications provided free of charge by Murphy.
But fortunately, Steve got a ride from one of the cops...until he gets another call to help save some people in an accident, 15 minutes in the other direction. He lets Steve out, but as he arrives back at the camp, he gets greeted with a knife to the gut. Bye, Steve!
Wake me once the plot needs me.
Once the power goes out, Bill goes to investigate and leaves Alice all alone, which is sure to end well for all concerned. I mean, it always does, right?
The girl wakes up and putters around waiting for Bill, and starts making some tea. I've been pretty pleased with the pace up to this point, but you can tell right here they're just trying to draw out the tension and the final act. It's not horrible, and well earned, but after a nice bout of dropping bodies left and right, stopping everything while tea is made is a slight bit tedious. A watched killer never strikes, I guess.
Anyways, Alice heads out into the woods to try and find Bill, calling out his name endlessly, in classic horror fashion. Surprisingly, he doesn't answer! But she does soon find him, despite no answer, when she swings a door out of the way and finds him pinned to it with several arrows.
Even if he's still alive, Bill ain't having kids anytime soon.
Now that she knows that people are dying, Alice rushes back to the main cabin and barricades the door. She's a bit panicky, but she does it pretty smartly, all things considered. She even arms herself with a bat and something sharp and pointy. Not bad!
But there's a slight flaw in her plan that the killer highlights pretty quickly when they throw Brenda's body through a window. Ah well, at least Alice tried.
Alice runs out of the cabin and sees an approaching vehicle, then is greeted by Mrs. Voorhees. Sigh, I kinda wish this was gonna be a surprise here. I really wonder how well this played back in the 80s when this was new. Were people fooled into thinking this sudden, random appearance of a new character into the plot was a true saviour? Or did they suspect she was the killer?
Still, it's a nice changeup of killer tropes to have it be a woman, so that might well have taken people off guard. Just like Alice, as she lets Mrs. Voorhees check the place out.
The true face of evil.
Momma Voorhees laments how the camp never should have reopened, and we get the story behind the drowned kid that Enos mentioned waaay back at the beginning, and tells all the details how the counselors were too busy having sex to keep an eye on her son, Jason, and he ended up drowning in the lake. We usually do better with fire.
She begins to have flashbacks to her drowning son, and she goes fully off the rails, mentally going back in time and blaming today's counselors for his death, saying Alice should have been watching him. Lady, she wasn't even BORN yet. Voorhees pulls a knife and tries to attack Alice, but she beats the mother away with a fire poker.
Alice tries to escape by jumping into Pamela's jeep, but finds Annie's body, and then Steve's body hanging off the roof. It's always contrived to have bodies so perfectly placed and popping up or falling into view, but I do love using the corpses as props to freak out the survivors.
She runs into a shed and finds a rifle, that I presume must have no bullets since Alice doesn't fire at her pursuer. She then starts grabbing and throwing whatever she finds at Pamela as she backs away. Alice is no Jason Bourne, that's for sure.
Things pretty much devolve into a slapfight until Alice knocks Momma Voorhees back and escapes just so she can run some more.
Alice literally runs the plot in circles by escaping back to the cabin where Brenda's body is still waiting, all while the voice of Jason in Pamela's head urges her murderous spree onwards.
She hides in a closet, but it's not long before Mrs. Voorhees shows up with her machete. Alice attacks with a frying pan, and mom goes down in one single blow. Finally. Do you know how long I've waited to see that? Everyone seems to take hits from giant metal pans to the head like they're flyswatters.
But we all know our horror movie tropes, most especially our Friday the 13th tropes, don't we? Even though she was conked good, even though she seems unconscious, and even though there's blood on the floor from the head wound, you just can't keep a good Voorhees down.
Alice runs away down to the beach and just kinda sits there waiting for Voorhees to catch back up. I really have no other explanation besides exhaustion or a need for the plot to continue. Momma Voorhees dutifuly arrives so they can tussle a bit more, but they're done dragging this out and Alice gets the machete and gruesomely beheads Pamela.
I'll get you next time!!
So, the killer is down, and Alice has survived, so what does she do?
Well, she naturally decides to take a boat and go out on the lake, because that's the best course, right? I mean, most people might think to hit the road and hike out of there, but nope! Let's go for a boat ride. You could maybe argue that boating to the other side of the lake is faster, but this hasn't been established anywhere during the movie.
And it's not helped that Alice ends up just laying there and floating around aimlessly by the time the sun is up and cops arrive, so you gotta wonder, just why did she go out on the lake?
Oh. That's why. Hi, Jason!
So, the infamous Jason Voorhees finally arrives into the franchise that eventually bears his name more than it does the original title. It's about damned ti...wait what? Alice wakes up in a hospital? That was a dream? There was no Jason?? Boy, does THIS raise gigantic questions for the rest of the franchise in my mind.
Alice seems pretty sure the attack by Jason was real, but they found no boy... Now, it seems clear to me that this movie intended this as more of a dream/nightmare on Alice's part. It's interesting that the rest of the franchise decided to run with it though, and focus so heavily on this character that was actually dead the whole time in the originating movie.
Things to ponder for the future.
Video: A good job of presenting the video, and it still looks nicely dated and like it's from the period its from.
Audio: As expected, it sounds good, with a nice mix around the speakers. I'm also really pleased with the use of music, or its near absence, unless the killer is nearby. It almost does the opposite of what most music in films do.
Sound Bite: "You're goin' to Camp Blood, ain'tcha? It's got a death curse!" And thus was born a long LOOONG line of Harbingers.
1 - One counselor goes down just short of the five minute marked, stabbed in the gut.
2 - I'm gonna presume his sleeping companion joins him shortly thereafter, even though we don't see it on screen.
3 - Poor Annie dies with a slit throat before we get to really know her.
4 - Ned also gets it in the neck offscreen and left in a cabin.
5 - Kevin Bacon used to have a promising start to a film career until he took an arrow to the neck.
6 - And not long after, Marcie catches an axe with her face.
7 - Brenda dies on the archery range and offscreen.
8 - Steve is the next to fall when he gets back to camp and finds a knife in his belly.
9 - With arrows through the face, heart, and groin, Bill gets pinned to a door.
10 - The killer herself, Pam Vorhees, loses her head.
Best Corpse: Oooh, I'll go with Kevin Bacon, that arrow through the neck scene still mostly holds up today, even if you can see the seams on the makeup. But there's some other great choices, and Mrs. Voorhees flying head is a CLOSE second.
Blood Type - B-: Yeah, that probably sounds surprising. But y'know what? This movie isn't THAT gory. It's more shocking in what they showed, than in how much blood it involves. The beheading isn't bloody, but it's still a beheading. There's still a good amount of blood though, and amazing effects by Tom Savini boost that rating more.
Sex Appeal: Gee, for a franchise known for killing promiscuous kids, there isn't THAT much nudity here. There's some, and the guys get topless a LOT too, so there's a little something for the whole family.
Movie Review: This movie actually really holds up. It's not super great, and it's really simple, but the story works. Kids trying to fix up a camp, with a lurking evil, and the reasons behind it make sense. Pamela's motives are pretty reasonable, if taken to their insane extremes. I wish they'd built it up a little better, besides an almost off-handed line at the very start of the movie, but at least they did some setup. I really love the structure, literally into three acts of 30 minutes each, setting up the characters, then killing them off, and then the last 30 minutes of Alice vs. Mrs. Voorhees. Now, that last act has some problems because of just being two characters, but the structure works great in theory. Four out of five arrows.
Entertainment Value: Oh, those kills are easily the highlight. So good, a nice amount, and that middle act of 30 minutes of carnage is wonderful. The characters are bland, but they work, and you don't hate them, except maybe Ned and his clowning. But unlike so many horror flicks, you don't hate them, you don't root for their deaths, and that's a good thing. This is the horror movie that set sail a thousand tropes, and there is nothing like this early gem of the genre that so many imitators fail to get what made it work. I've only just now finally seen this movie for the first time, and I already feel like I could spend days raving about it. But instead I'll just say four out of five drowning Jasons.