Friday the 13th (USA, 1980) - Color, Director(s): Sean S. Cunningham
MPAA Rating: X
Approx. 95 min.
Z-rating: 3 stars out of 5
Cheese Factor: 3 stars out of 5
Nowadays, Jason Voorhees is considered a horror icon. With tons of merchandise ranging from action figures to memorabilia, books that have immortalized his influence on American pop culture, and having inspired countless Halloween costumes and props, Jason is one of the most famous of all horror movie villains. TV shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, and even South Park have all paid homage to him. Video games like Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Splatterhouse, and many more have featured characters inspired by the hockey mask-wearing, machete-wielding killer. In fact, whenever a generic maniac is depicted, they're often shown wearing hockey masks. Jason Voorhees and his iconic hockey mask have become synonymous with slasher movies.
Although, anyone who's seen Scream will tell you that Jason Voorhees isn't even the killer in the first movie. In fact, Jason doesn't start wearing his iconic hockey mask until the 3rd film. So how did this franchise come to feature one of the most infamous slashers in horror movie history?
The foundation for the slasher sub-genre had been laid down in the 60's by movies like Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Although it wasn't until John Carpenter's Halloween, which is often considered to be grandfather of all American slasher films, that a formula arose that countless films would try to emulate. The idea of an unstoppable killer stalking and killing teenagers leaving the only survivor in a Final Girl, often the pure and innocent virgin who is able to escape the killer, was popularized by Carpenter's film. What Halloween shares with movies that came before it is the fact that it contains very little gore. That's where Friday the 13th came in.
They brought in Tom Savini, who had previously worked on George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead, to do the special effects. Knowing they weren't breaking new ground with this film, they instead went for excess and showed the graphic violence that many of these movies had not shown before. The kills were bloodier and more violent, there was more nudity to appeal to teenagers, and the movie managed to shock audiences despite following a similar formula that had been set by movies that came before it.
The movie is about a summer camp that was closed in 1958 after two counselors were brutally murdered. The year before that, a young boy drowned in the lake when the counselors that were supposed to be watching him were busy porking instead. A new group of counselors, including a young Kevin Bacon, are attempting to reopen Camp Crystal Lake despite multiple warnings from the townsfolk that there's a "death curse" on the camp. As they prepare for the reopening, the counselors are picked off one after another by a mysterious killer that we don't get to see. The boy that drowned in the lake turns out to be Jason, who comes back in the sequels. The killer is revealed at the end and, if you haven't seen it yet, has a very good motive for hating these camp counselors.
Nudity: A bit. By today's standards, it might be considered tame but we do get a bit of nudity.
Gore: As I mentioned before, this movie has more gore than Halloween and some other American slashers at the time. The special effects by Tom Savini still look amazing but might not have the same effect on a seasoned veteran of the genre. The most famous death scene is Kevin Bacon's arrow through the neck.
Awesome: While this movie might not have been the first of its kind, it pushed the envelope and laid the groundwork for one of the most infamous slashers in horror movie history. The camp setting has also became a popular setting for these kinds of movies. This film by itself doesn't really standout from others if you're watching it nowadays. There have been plenty of imitators and every other holiday has been turned into a slasher film. The franchise as a whole is worth watching and this is a must see in a Friday the 13th marathon, but casual viewers might not be impressed this one.