Friday The 13th (1980)
Camp Crystal Lake summer camp was closed down many years ago, after the death of a boy and two of the counselors. Now the new owner and his young employees are preparing for it to re-open this summer. But someone is killing them off one-by-one, in increasingly gruesome ways. "It's not bad enough to have Friday the 13th, we gotta have a full moon too."
Along with Halloween, Friday The 13th is considered one of the defining slasher movies of the 1980s. It sets up many of the familiar tropes and "rules" that recur within its 9 sequels, along with many other horror movies since. A simple plot. A high bodycount with creative killing methods. Stomach-turning gore effects. Horny teens. The annoying joker in the group. The prophetic local crazy person ("You're doomed! You're all doomed!"). Killer-point-of-view camera shots. An almost impossible-to-kill psychopath. The 'Final Girl' who goes head to head with the murderer at the end. And of course, the Carrie-inspired jump-shock ending.
But Friday The 13th is more than just a simple template. This was the first time I'd seen the movie in quite a few years, and I was surprised how well it stands up. Tom Savini's special effects are incredibly impressive, even 35 years later. And Harry Manfredini's iconic score builds and maintains the tension perfectly. The camera work is pretty good too, with interesting use of hand-held, slow pans and unusual angles. And I really liked the use of lighting in some of the scenes. Ok the pace sags a bit in the middle, but it's not a major criticism. The acting on the whole is decent rather than Oscar worthy. And I've always thought it was slightly cheeky to only introduce the mystery killer's character in the last 15 minutes of the movie. But I still really enjoyed watching this, just as much as I did years ago in my late teens.
So why don't I give it a nice shiny 5/5 score? Well my biggest problem is with one scene. The snake scene. A character finds a snake in her room, the others run in, and it's chopped in half with a machete. But it's an actual snake that's killed on camera. Real animal killing for the sake of a movie is one thing, but this sequence is pointless and adds nothing to the story. The actors are different and giggly here, and the whole sequence is shot for comic relief. It just feels very out of place with the rest of the film. And that's what stops Friday The 13th from being in my all-time top 5 horror films.
Otherwise, the movie is full-on entertainment and a lot of scary fun. Suspense, jump shocks, gore, action, tension... And how many other films can boast Kevin Bacon getting hand relief in the front of a moving truck?
Trailer (contains numerous spoilers)