Friday the 13th (1980)
friday the 13th | sean s. cunningham | victor miller | betsy palmer | adrienne king | jeannine taylor | slasher | murder | death | mystery | thriller | united states | kevin bacon | robbi morgan | harry crosby | laurie bartram | peter brouwer | tom savini
Film: Friday the 13th
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Writer: Victor Miller
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King and Jeannine Taylor
To start this off, this film was not the first in the series that I saw. I actually didn’t see this one until much later on one of the movie channels and I’m pretty Scream ruined the ending for me before I could see it. I still have a fondness for this film and series that was sparked from this. The synopsis is a group of camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp, which years before, was the site of a child’s drowning.
As the synopsis states, we start back in 1958. We see a couple of counselors making eyes at each other. They are Barry (Willie Adams) and Claudette (Debra S. Hayes). They go off to have sex when we get a POV shot. They are then both killed.
We shift into what was the present at the time the film was made. There’s a young woman, Annie (Robbi Morgan). She enters a town and heads for a diner. She asks for a ride to Camp Crystal Lake and she learns about the crush on it and its nickname, Camp Blood. Ennis (Rex Everhart), gives her a ride, and tells her more about the story. He drops her off at a crossroads.
The film then shifts to a group of teens. Ned (Mark Nelson) is driving along with Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) and her boyfriend Jack (Kevin Bacon). They make it to the camp and meet the owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer). Already there is Alice (Adrienne King) who appears to have a thing with Steve. There is also Bill (Harry Crosby) and Brenda (Laurie Bartram). They are getting it ready before the camp opens in two weeks. Steve has to go into town and leaves them to keep working.
Annie never makes it to camp as someone starts to pick them off one by one. The person is driving the same vehicle as Steve. Things become more complicated when a heavy storm rolls in as well.
Now I will warn anyone reading this is that I won’t spoil the ending or who the killer is, even thought I’m assuming that most everyone reading this knows who it is. As I said, Scream and just pop-culture in general kind of make it hard to not know who the killer is, but I will get back to that shortly.
With that out of the way, I will say that this film has a pretty solid story. I have read that the creators of this film were ripping off Halloween. I can see the similarities between the two. This films though actually plays more like a giallo than a slasher though. The killer has a solid reason for doing the killings. I also enough the idea they’ve lost their grip with reality over the grief they are dealing with. I think placing this in at a camp out in the middle of nowhere is great. You are creating isolation and make it even worse by having a storm keeping them inside.
I don’t mind the reveal, my issue with it though is that I think the character should have been introduced into the film at some point. That is where it hurts it as being a giallo and kind of a cheat overall. This is really my only drawback on the story, but a lot of it was that the even the writer didn’t know who the killer would be at first. Going even farther than that, it makes it a bit implausible with some of the things that are done when we see who the killer is.
As for the pacing of the film, I think they did a good job. It really gets into it and then keeps you hooked with kills throughout. That really picks up to a climax once the storm starts. I will get into my issues with some of the deaths in a bit, but I do think that it really does make the film tension. I did like the ending of the film, even though I could have done without the last jump scare at the end. It is important to the overall franchise though.
The acting in this film is surprisingly good for most of the relatively unknown actors and actresses in this film. What makes this film one of the better slashers out there is that we actually get to meet these characters. It doesn’t focus too long on each one, but we still get enough to connect with them. I haven’t brought her name yet, but Betsy Palmer is in this film and I thought she did a solid job in her role. King is good as the reserved, normal teen that shows her fear as the tension ramps up. We get to see a young Bacon and I thought the women in this film weren’t bad looking, especially Taylor. I thought overall the cast was good and rounded out the film for what was needed.
Next I want to touch on the effects. They were done by Tom Savini and he did great. This film has some good on screen kills. What is impressive is how real they look. The blood was realistic as well as how they are killed. I did have an issue with the amount of kills off-screen though. I’m wondering how much of that was censorship and how much was budgets. To be a good slasher, we need to see these.
This brings me to the soundtrack of the film. I liked that Harry Manfredini’s score builds tension and really ramps it up. I also like that there is no music until the killer is around. It changes the feel of the scene. He uses some eerie sounds as well and the iconic breathing that everyone who knows the series does as well.
Now with that said, I would recommend this classic. This film really helped to get the slasher craze going even though this one plays more like a giallo. This film created one of the best horror franchises and ended up birthing one of the best on-screen killers. The story of the film is good. The acting is done well, despite most of the being unknown. The effects were great, but I do wish more of the deaths were on screen. The score is as well. The editing of the film builds tension until a satisfying payoff. I just wish we would have met the killer before the reveal, but I won’t hold that against this film too much. I do almost feel this film would have been better to be a one-off, but I do love the franchise overall. I would recommend this film to fans of horror and non-horror fans alike. This one is definitely a classic and this film worth at least a viewing.
My Rating: 9 out of 10