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 | rex everhart
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 didn’t see this one until later and it was on one of the movie channels. I’m pretty sure Scream spoiled the ending for me before I saw it. It didn’t ruin it the movie. I still enjoyed it and the series that started here.
Synopsis: 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.
We start back in 1958. A couple of counselors make eyes at each other. They are Barry (Willie Adams) and Claudette (Debra S. Hayes). They go off to have sex. We get a POV shot as they’re both killed.
It then shifts into what was the present at the time the film was made. There’s a young woman, Annie (Robbi Morgan), who walks into a town. She heads for a diner. It is there she asks about Camp Crystal Lake. She learns about the curse on it and its nickname, Camp Blood. Ennis (Rex Everhart) agrees to give her a ride and tells her more about the history. He drops her off at a crossroads.
The film then shifts to a group of teens that are also heading there. 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 goes into town and leaves them to keep working.
Annie is still trying to get there. She never makes it though. Annie is picked up by someone who kills her. They don’t stop there. The other counselors are picked off one by one. 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 though 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 it is, but I will get back to that shortly.
With that out of the way, I will say that this film has a simple, yet 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 enjoy the idea they’ve lost their grip with reality over the grief they are dealing with. Placing this 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.
Then to go back to the killer. 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 my only drawback on the story. I will give leeway though since the writer didn’t know who the killer would be at first. From my understanding, filming had already started before it was figured out. Going even farther than that, it makes it a bit implausible with things that are done when we see who the killer is. I’m not sure they could do the things that they do.
As for the pacing of the film, I think they did a good job. It gets into it and then keeps you hooked with kills throughout. That picks up to a climax once the storm starts. I will get into my issues with the deaths, but I do think that builds tension. I like the ending, even though I could have done without the final sequence. It is important to the overall franchise though.
The acting in this film is surprisingly good for most of the relatively unknown cast. What makes this 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 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 number 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. I do know there are deaths to help build mystery as we don’t know what happens to them. There is that.
That brings me to the soundtrack of the film. I liked that Harry Manfredini’s score builds tension as it 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 eerie sounds as well and the iconic breathing that everyone who knows the series does as well.
In conclusion, I would recommend this classic. This helped to get the slasher craze going even though this plays more like a giallo. This film created one of the best horror franchises. The story is simple, yet effective. The acting is solid, despite the cast being unknowns. The effects were great, but I do wish more of the deaths were on screen. The score is as well. The editing builds tension until a satisfying payoff. I have a slight issue with who the killer is and it being a cheat. This could have been a one-off. I’m glad it wasn’t with the franchise that spawned. I would recommend this to fans of horror and non-horror fans alike. This one is a classic and worth at least a viewing.
My Rating: 9 out of 10