Friday, 13 April 2018
Friday the 13th (1980)
A boy drowns at a summer camp. A year later, two counselors there are murdered. The camp, unsurprisingly, shuts down. The events are so well-remembered that even more than a decade later, when plans are afoot to re-open the place, locals still refer to it as "Camp Blood" and warn its newly-hired teenage staff members away from it. The teens, of course, ignore these warnings ... a mistake most of them will not live to regret.
Friday the 13th is one of the iconic "slasher" franchises, and along with Halloween it more or less founded the genre as a cultural and commercial phenomenon. It also caused a storm of controversy on its release, mostly for its violence. Gene Siskel was so antagonistic to the film that his review reveals the identity of the murderer, in the hope that this would discourage people from seeing it (spoiler: it's not the guy pictured above).
This hand-wringing about the graphic content honestly looks a bit over-the-top nearly forty years later, where far worse happens on cable shows every week, but it's probably at least in part due to the success of films like this one that the shift to more graphic content began.
So setting aside its position as a seminal work of the genre, which is probably enough for most horror aficionados to at least check it out, is this first (of many) Fridays worthy of a watch? Surprisingly, I think it probably is, unless you're simply not into this kind of film. The acting's middling but not terrible (there's even a very young Kevin Bacon in the cast), the script hustles along sufficiently well that its rather thin substance isn't much of an issue, and on the technical side, everything is solid. The practical effects (by maestro Tom Savini) are excellent, given when the film was made and its budget, and the sound design is also very effective.
(Yes, I really did review this film for an actual Friday the 13th. If you check a calendar, you can probably work out when I'll be reviewing Part 2 :) ).