A group of young men and women gather at Camp Crystal Lake in an attempt to refurbish the grounds 20 years after a double homicide and the drowning death of a child.
Starring Kevin Bacon in an early film role, Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Vorhees, and Adrienne King as Alice, Friday the 13th became one of the most profitable slasher films (and franchises) in cinema history.
Billed by director Sean S. Cunningham as “The most terrifying film ever made!” (before the script was even complete), Friday the 13th, for better or worse, inspired a generation of filmgoers and filmmakers. Despite being one of the first of the 1980’s long slew of slasher movies, Friday the 13th depicts scant actual violence, and typically after the fact rather than while it’s occurring. Perhaps tame by today’s standards, Friday the 13th terrified and captivated filmgoing teenagers – who delighted in being not only grossed out but scared.
After all, isn’t it the gore that solidifies Friday the 13th‘s place in cinematic history? It became one of the first films to use blood and gore as a predominant storytelling method.
With special effects master Tom Savini on board, Cunningham was able to capture some truly awesome horror film moments, particularly the “afterglow” killing of Jack (Bacon), in which an arrowhead is pushed through his neck.
Regardless of the effects, which, for new viewers, will probably not hold up against the years, Friday the 13th lacks the strength of classic horror storytelling. Unfortunately, the film simply becomes mundane to endure over multiple viewings.
Despite a lack of character development and any clear homicidal motivation, the film manages to finish on a relatively strong note with a revelation that is as provocative as it is campy.
Yes, Friday the 13th has shades of John Carpenter’s Halloween: a female protagonist who not only overcomes all of the challenges thrown at her, but goes on to survive the film, extensive use of point of view camerawork, dimly lit scenes, and a moralistic bent to inflict a type of justice or exact revenge for being wronged by those in position of authority.
But the comparisons, for me at least, stop there. Carpenter & Debra Hill’s vision towers above Friday the 13th in its intelligent, thoughtful execution.
Betsy Palmer, who stars as Jason Vorhees’ mother, is the real gem and delight in Friday the 13th, a role she initially turned down. It’s reported that, after her car broke down, Palmer had a change of heart and joined the cast. Thankfully so. Palmer’s performance oozes maternal love, protection, and rage. It’s only a shame she’s in so little of the film.
Making of Part I:
Making of Part II:
Making of Part III:
Franchise site: Friday the 13th
Wiki facts: Friday the 13th
Is Friday the 13th rotten or fresh?
How did Friday the 13th do at the box office?
Watch or buy Friday the 13th on Amazon