Friday the 13th (1980)
We begin the 'Slasher Zone' reviews with what is arguably the most well-known series within the slasher genre. Though it's debatable, it's relatively unanimous among horror fans that 'Psycho' started it, 'Halloween' perfected it, but when we think of American slasher stereotypes, 'Friday the 13th' is where our minds tend to head. Teenagers, a remote location, sex, drugs and a body count are all the right ingredients to make a standard American slasher flick, and this series has it by the truckloads.
Taking its cues from 'Halloween's success (or one might say, straight up ripping it off - they even admit to this), 'Friday the 13th' rolled onto the scene in 1980, hoping to cash in on the concept of slasher films. What started as a little indie film would eventually become a legacy, and Jason would become one of the most famous slasher characters from the 80's - perhaps, even above Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. With a grand total of 12 films under his belt, and a body count that far exceeds any other horror villain, Jason IS the poster boy for 80s slasher horror. And he's not even really in this one.
As the legend goes, one day while at camp, Jason drowns in Crystal Lake, as the counselors are busy doing the stuff that become big no-no's of horror's bronze age; having sex, doing drugs, etc. This leads Jason's mother to vengeance, and she begins her killing spree with at least two victims in 1958. As far as we know, she goes into hiding for decades afterward. Of course, we're not supposed to know about any of this history (save that two kids got murdered) until the climax of the film, but at this point, it's so out in the open that even without spoiler warnings it hardly matters. Jason's Mother is the killer in the first 'Friday the 13th' just like Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father - you've been under a rock if you don't know by now.
Fast-forward to June 13th, 1979 (the ONLY fictional date in the timeline, stuck between this film's intro and Pamela Voorhees' tombstone in 'The Final Chapter), where a group are attempting to reopen the camp where the aforementioned events happened, now known around town as "Camp Blood". Not listening to any rumors of some sort of death curse, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), our lead, Alice (Adrienne King) and a group counselors go ahead with their plans. Among them, Jack (Kevin Bacon) and his girlfriend, Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), the quiet but fun Brenda (Laurie Bartram), the eccentric Ned (Mark Nelson), the outdoorsy Bill (Harry Crosby) and Annie (Robbi Morgan) who may or may not even make it to camp.
As one would predict, the killing starts, and one by one a body count is built up. Bearing in mind that we're supposed to have no idea who's committing these murders, this puts a bit of a 'Jaws' twist on things by never showing the killer. The twists continue with the big reveal, just preceding the climactic chase that really makes this movie worth checking out. Again, we all know that it's Jason's mother by now, but at the time, it was quite a surprise. Expecting the masked killer that Jason would become, we instead got a kindly, middle-aged woman, and the idea that no one can be trusted gets played out really well here. Even upon her introduction, you'd be fairly sure she was there to help.
'Friday the 13th' still holds up pretty well for what it is, but I will admit that it took some time and multiple viewings for it to really resonate with me. My problem at the time, much like anyone else, is just the lack of Jason. I knew he wasn't really in it, but if you start this movie wondering what Jason will do, you're out of luck - at least until the final jump scare, which does involve Jason as a child, and is still one of the most iconic final jolts of a movie. Calm music, a feeling of safety and closure, and suddenly Jason comes out of nowhere to pull our unsuspecting survivor girl into the water. Even knowing it was coming, the first time I watched this, I had to rewind it because I thought it was so perfectly done.
So, being from 1980, it might be a bit dated for some if they wanna see it for a first time. Also bear in mind that it does take a while for anything to happen. Sure, there are some decent kills, but it's when we meet Mrs. Voorhees that the film really takes off, giving us a very creepy, well-shot chase through the night. So sift through that first hour or so 'cause it's totally worth it to see just why this movie has its place in the horror hall of fame. Just keep in mind that slasher films had not taken off yet, and this was someone's answer to the original 'Halloween'. It's completely worth the watch if you wanna get a nice slice of horror history, or even just have fun with it.
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