So tomorrow is the Fall Equinox, which means it is officially autumn, and that means that Halloween is right around the corner. Since last week was Friday the 13th, I decided that I should start doing a marathon session of movies featuring everybody’s favorite hockey mask wearing slasher, Jason Voorhees. Now I will be completely honest, I watched these movies completely out of order my first go around; with my first one having been the 3rd movie in the series first. In fact, I’m pretty sure I watched almost every sequel made at the time (2-6) before I finally got a chance to see this movie. Anyways, this may not have been the first slasher movie, but it is definitely the one whose series defined the genre so let’s have some fun going back to camp as I watch today’s movie, Friday The 13th (1980).
The plot: One night in 1958, two camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake leave the other counselors and head to the storage barn to have sex. As they are fooling around, they are surprised by an unseen person, who kills the two teenagers. In the present day, on June 13th, teenager Annie Phillips is backpacking through a small town and heads into a diner to ask how far it is to Camp Crystal Lake. The diners are surprised to hear that Camp Crystal Lake, which the townsfolk refer to as Camp Blood, is reopening and a truck driver, Enos, offers to take her to a crossroads that is halfway there. As Annie and Enos head to Enos’ truck, they are confronted by Crazy Ralph, who tells Annie that Camp Blood has a death curse and she will never go back, then rides away on his bicycle as Enos and Annie get in the truck. As they are driving down the road, Enos tells Annie about the history of the camp; the two murders in ’58, a kid drowning in ’57, and some fires in ’62. Enos tells Annie she should quit but she refuses so he drops her off at the crossroads, wishing her luck. Meanwhile, Ned Rubenstein, Marcie Cunningham, and Jack Burrell arrive at Camp Crystal Lake and are greeted by Steve Christy and Alice Hardy. After putting the kids to work getting the camp ready, Steve talks with Alice alone, as they have had a relationship in the past, and convinces her to stay a week before she heads back to California. Steve then heads into town to get some more supplies, leaving Alice, Jack, Marcie, and Ned, along with Bill Brown and Brenda Jones, to continue getting the camp ready to open. Back on the road, Annie manages to get a ride from an unseen person but when the driver passes the road to Crystal Lake and speeds up, Annie jumps out of the car. The driver stops and Annie attempts to escape into the woods but the driver catches up to her and kills her. Back at the camp, the 6 kids continue getting the camp ready when a police officer shows up and warns them about Ralph, who was seen heading their way, then leaves when he is called in to return to the sheriff’s station. After he leaves, Alice is shocked to find Ralph hiding in the pantry and he warns them all that they are doomed if they stay before he rides away on his bike. As the day wears on, Ned sees someone enter a cabin and goes to investigate, but never comes back out. As it starts to get dark and a storm approaches, Jack and Marcie end up taking shelter in the same cabin Ned had gone in, then begin having sex in one of the bunk beds, unaware that Ned’s dead body is in the bunk above them. When they finish, Marcie leaves the cabin to go use the restroom, Jack is killed when someone underneath the bed shoves an arrow through both the mattress and his throat. The killer then heads to the bathroom, using an axe to kill Marcie. Meanwhile, Alice, Bill, and Brenda were playing games in the main cabin when the storm starts to get worse, and Brenda heads out, as she left the windows in her cabin open. After reaching her cabin, Brenda hears someone calling out for help and goes to investigate only to end up being shot with an arrow. Alice heard Brenda’s scream and she and Bill go to investigate, discovering a bloody axe in Brenda’s bed. After looking around and not finding anyone, they decide to head to the office to try and call for help but the phone line has been cut. When they try to leave but discover that the car won’t start, Alice wants to just hike out of the camp but Bill convinces her to wait for Steve to get back. Meanwhile, Steve’s jeep ends up getting stuck on the side of the road and he gets a ride from one of the local deputies, who drops him off at the edge of camp when a call comes in about a traffic accident. Steve hikes up the road towards the camp but is confronted by someone, and as Steve recognizes the person and asks what they are doing there, the person stabs Steve. Back at the camp, the killer shuts down the generator so Bill goes to check it out, leaving Alice sleeping on the couch in the main lodge. Alice wakes up and finding the lights back on, decides to make some coffee but changes her mind and goes looking for Bill since he hasn’t come back to the lodge. She finds Bill pinned to a cabin door by several arrows and runs screaming back to the lodge, barricading herself inside. When Brenda’s body is thrown through one of the windows, Alice begins crying in terror until she sees a jeep pull up. Thinking it is Steve, Alice quickly rushes outside but pulls up in shock when a woman approaches her. The woman says that her name is Mrs. Voorhees, an old friend of the Christys, and Alice rushes into her arms, sobbing out what has happened. Mrs. Voorhees thinks Alice has just been frightened by the storm and heads inside to see for herself. After seeing the carnage, Mrs. Voorhees tells Alice that Steve should have never tried to open the place. She then tells Alice about the boy who drowned in ’57, saying his name was Jason and that he drowned because the counselors that were supposed to be watching him were busy having sex. She then says that she was Jason’s mother and that today was his birthday, revealing herself to be the killer. Mrs. Voorhees attempts to kill Alice but Alice grabs a fire poker and knocks her down, then tries to leave, discovering Annie’s and Steve’s bodies in the process. Alice tries to arm herself but Mrs. Voorhees catches up to her, all while saying “Kill her, Mommy” in a child like voice. Alice manages to get away and ends up by the lake, where Mrs. Voorhees attacks her with a machete but Alice manages to knock it from her hand. As the two continue to struggle, Alice manages to grab the machete and cut off Mrs. Voorhees’ head, then stumbles in shock towards the nearby canoes and pushes one into the water before climbing in. The next morning, Alice wakes up in the canoe and sees the police on the shore, waving her towards them but before she can paddle to shore, the decomposing body of Jason emerges from the lake and grabs her, dragging her into the water. Alice wakes up screaming to find herself in the hospital and the sheriff tells her that her parents are on their way to get her. When Alice asks about the boy in the lake that pulled her into the water, the sheriff tells her that his men didn’t find any boy there, to which Alice replies, “He’s still there.”
Friday The 13th (1980) met with mixed results from the critics, currently holding a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Rather quaint by today’s standards, Friday the 13th still has its share of bloody surprises and a ’70s-holdover aesthetic to slightly compel.” Tom Savini was one of the first crew members brought on board, as the producers loved his special make-up effects in Dawn Of The Dead (1978). The scene with the snake was not in the script, and was an idea from Tom Savini after an experience in his own cabin during filming. The snake in the scene was real, including its on-screen death. The movie was a box office success, earning $59.8 million off of a $550,000 budget, which led to 9 sequels, a crossover with Nightmare On Elm Street, and a reboot in 2009.
While I wouldn’t necessarily call it groundbreaking, this is still a pretty decent horror movie to watch. The acting was ok, with Betsy Palmer doing a great job as Mrs. Voorhees, the grief-crazed mother of everyone’s favorite hockey-masked killer. Adrienne King was also good in her role as Alice, while it was fun seeing another early performance of Kevin Bacon (Jack), even though he didn’t last very long. The story was decent, as the tale of a parent driven mad by grief over a lost child can make for a good movie. Keeping the identity of the killer hidden for so long, and only letting it be revealed in the last 15-20 minutes of the movie was a good idea, especially with the killer being a woman, which was an almost unheard of concept at that point in time. The special effects work regarding the various deaths was top notch, which is to be expected of Savini’s work. The kills themselves were fairly subdued as compared to what will happen in future movies, but they were still effective. A good movie worth the watch if for no other reason than it’s setup for the movies to come.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5