“They were warned… They are doomed… And on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them.”
Director: Sean S. Cunningham / Writer: Victor Miller / Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Robbi Morgan, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer.
Body Count: 9
Dire-logue: “You’re doomed if you stay here! Go… Go!”
Marvel at the unrivalled fab-ness of this film, in both pictorial (an adequate 13 screenshots) and rant form for the Final Girl film club!
Many have laughed heartily at my declaration that Friday the 13th is my Citizen Kane. Har-de-har-har they go, you’re kidding, you’re stupid, don’t you know anything about film etc… As it happens, I have a degree in film. We watched all sorts of arty French stuff. And still after three years of credibility, mise-en-scene, cinema verite, depth, focus, the disolve, Tarkovsky, Bergman and a whole host of -isms, a half million dollar slasher flick from New Jersey, 1980, still means more to me than nearly all that other stuff combined.
Everyone should know the story of Friday the 13th: Camp Crystal Lake, shut since a double murder back in ’58, finally re-opens with a gaggle of teen counsellors and, on June 13th, a Friday, they find themselves picked off one by one by a mysterious killer, who uses a variety of cutting implements to slash, slit and skewer said counsellors until only one nice girl remains to face off with the shady maniac.
So there it is, simple and straightforward. A direct cash-in on Halloween, gored-up and downgraded into an organic product of on-location filmmaking and yet it was immeasurably successful at the box office, enough to generate ten fuckin’ sequels, a TV series and enough hype to spark its 2009 remake, the quality of which remains to be seen this February 13th.
Here in the UK, we’ve been lucky to have the unedited version on DVD for a while now as well as all manner of bootleg VHS copies floating around since the 80s. I first saw the original cut at a late night showing circa 1997. That seldom seen X-rated certificate appeared on screen and then 92 minutes of textbook teen terror. What was cut out is comparatively minimal, four scenes to be exact: the first present-day kill – a drippy throat slashing – is shown for longer, as is a pre-fame Kevin Bacon’s infamous spike-through-the-neck, the axe-to-the-face and the decapitation finale.
Hoards of horror aficionados have overlooked Friday the 13th. The accusations of its innate cheapness cannot be denied, but compared to any made-for-video or DVD film of the post-Scream era, it’s a production masterpiece, with competent photography that nicely telegraphs foreclosing doom, a cabin-thrashing rainstorm and characters just a little too simple-minded to figure out that they perhaps shouldn’t go and find out what that weird noise is…
Of course, in this day and age, everything going on at Camp Crystal Lake looks dated and riddled with cliches – but Friday the 13th fuckin’ wrote those cliches! So Halloween came first, but you’ll find more of the subsequent slasher films copied Friday‘s homework and changed it to suit their own story.
Everything about this film is perfect to me, trumped only by the increased professionalism of Part 2 (which also benefitted from a kick-ass final girl in Amy Steel), from the minute unease of seeing the creaky door to the bathrooms open and a booted foot stepping in, to the creeping shot of Marcie at the row of sinks, and Alice’s neverending attempts to escape from the clutches of one of cinema’s most surprising villains.
Thank you, Friday the 13th, you truly have been life altering. I’d marry you if I could and father lots of baby 13ths!
Blurbs-of-interest: Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer returned for brief cameos in the sequel and Palmer also appeared in The Fear: Resurrection; Kevin Bacon turned from victim to killer in sci-fi slasher Hollow Man twenty years later; producer Steve Miner directed Parts 2 & 3 and Halloween H20.