At Camp Crystal Lake, a group of young counselors begin to get ready to lead guests in the summer. Unfortunately for the counselors...
Deep in the black woods, lost somewhere in natures beauty, is a tale that is so horrifying, it would carry on a legacy for years. Despite the countless sequels (some good) and the ridiculous innovations along with the novelty cash-ins, and underneath all the stereotypes that befell the series, the original Friday the 13th stands as a hidden gem. Hidden? You say. Yes. The uncontaminated beauty of the original is often overshadowed by what the franchise ultimately became. The fact remains, Friday the 13th has been credited with birthing the slasher film, but it is almost an unfair honor... it was truly a great film, period.
In the late 70's horror films became a hot sell in Hollywood. Seeing the success of Halloween, film companies started throwing out low budget horror films for high returns. Paramount would be no different. Lesser known filmmakers were given the chance to cut their teeth and by going that route it kept costs down even more.
Friday the 13th is based in Camp Crystal Lake. A onetime booming camp that has been bombarded by tragic and mysterious events. Events that earned it the nickname Camp Blood. The movie kicks off with the murders of two Frisky counselors, from the killerĒs point of view. A brilliant fade to white and we are in present times. The film is clever in its delivery of the back story. Having old and crusty towns people warning the young and naive of the curses and dangers that await. Filling in back stories of the camps troubled times helped the films story gain an eerie and mythic feel.
The story is based on a ten year old boy, Jason Voorhees, who, during the camps glory years, drowns. The counselors in charge of young Jason were busy making love. Their display of negligence would forever damn the camp. In the subsequent years the camp tried re-opening but mysterious events prevented it; deaths, bad water, fires to name a few. Finally, a brash and young Steve Christy, with one last kick at the can, manages to resurrect the doomed camp.
Utilizing some great special make-up effects by Tom Savini, the films eclectic murder sequences gave audiences one scream after another. The films cinematography should also be commended. From the vast lake shots to the rich woods the lighting in the film helped tell the story. In the scene when Marcie gets killed, we see her in the cabin washing up before bed. With the exception of the natural light in the room, her surroundings are pitch black. That helps build suspense brilliantly.
What the franchise has gone on to be known for is Jason Voorhees. The giant, mutilated, super strength, machete swinging, silent killer that is inhuman and seeking vengeance. That is what covers the DVDĒs, posters and books. Jason has also been created into dolls, coloring books, costumes, and so much more. Yet very little of that is in this first film. Even the legendary hockey mask that is the symbol and trademark of the film is absent from the original. The film features an ending with a real twist. While fans know it well, others would be shocked to find out that the killer in this film is NOT Jason.
The original Friday had Jason's mid 50's mother take on the role of slasher. Feeling the need to avenge her only childs death, Pamela Voorhees, one by one does away with the camp counselors as a form of punishment for what their predecessors did to her son. Played by Betsy Palmer, Mrs. Voorhees may seem like a shabby option as opposed to her son but, it was not. Clearly the
Friday the 13th would end 80 minutes of terror with a "bitch fight" on the camp beach. This was fantastic. Showing that a woman could be so menacing and terrifying was an alluring touch. After the viewers came to grips with a female killer, they knew to expect anything. A lesson most should have remembered while watching the filmĒs final sequence. Though Jason wasn't to begin his rampage until Part 2, the final scare of the film was his. An unassuming Alice, was sitting in a canoe, in broad daylight, awaiting her rescue, when the semi decomposed body of Jason rises up from the lake and pulls her down. A classic ending to a classic film.
One aspect of the film that could have been stronger is the characters. Good acting aside, the films character depth was lacking, partly due to the large death count. Having the time to explore each character was not in the cards however, shades of characters were shown. Sure there was the obvious prankster (Ned), pothead (Jack), ditz (Marcie), and pretty boy (Bill), but who were they and what were their stories? Not expecting Agatha Christy style character descriptions but, I really do feel that this is one weakness of the film. If IĒm to be objective.
If the characters were thin, then the scenery was as thick as an in-laws head. FD13's setting is perfect. The actual camp, located in New Jersey, was the ideal backdrop for this camp classic. The dense woods and still lake were a paradox. Both gorgeous and disturbing. The run down cabins and trails enveloped by trees helped conceal the counselors in seclusion. There was something about the woods in this film that canĒt be explained. Never has a forest looked so dark in broad daylight. Never have trees played such a character while just standing in their place. It was a magic that Cunningham and his crew were able to capture on film. Over the years, the film has gone on to gain more and more viewers but this is a touch that adds so much to this film, an aspect most people would overlook. The viewers who agree with this paragraph however, are almost euphoric that finally someone is writing what they felt all along.
In the end Friday has stood the test of time better than most classics of the day. Just donĒt think of a killer in New York or even better, space. Think of the film that started it all. In fact donĒt think about it... go watch it again for the first time!
The poster of Friday the 13th is my personal favorite of all time!