director Sean S. Cunningham
Funny thing about Friday the 13th, which went from slasher movie to slasher movie franchise by releasing nearly a movie per year throughout the 1980’s, is that though it also spawned an iconic image of the “slasher” (hockey mask and all), it doesn’t begin to feature a hockey mask and in this film, the eventual icon, Jason Voorhees, isn’t even the killer. It’s his mom, all along.
Oh right, spoiler alert.
Actually, I think that when I first saw Friday the 13th whenever it was, on cable no doubt, the twist at the end was quite surprising. Now it’s just a bit of a funny quirk. Though the movie’s soundtrack, by Harry Manfredini, yanks a number of screeching violins from Bernard Herrmann’s classic and influential Psycho (1960), which with the reverse of the mommy killing for the son, sort of makes sense. Manfredini added in the “ch-ch-ch-ch” element, which earned its own level of creepiness for those about to be skewered.
It’s quite a decent film, actually.
A few weeks ago, I got tipped over into going back and watching “the slasher film”, by stumbling onto My Bloody Valentine (1981) and I’ve decided to venture down into the genre in a more earnest way. Initially, I was going to try to go chronologically, which is why I queued up Bob Clarke’s Black Christmas (1974), but for some reason, I decided to jump ahead to Friday the 13th. I think as a teen, I thought that the first two were pretty good. We’ll see because I’ve queued up Part 2 for a coming showing.
Camp Crystal Lake in the film isn’t actually the Camp Crystal Lake of my childhood. The film was shot in New Jersey, not Florida. This is a well-embedded misperception perhaps engendered in an outright lack of information.
It does indeed feature a very young Kevin Bacon, who gets a very sharp arrow through his throat.
It’s a film that probably helped define the genre, not yet doomed to cliche and lack of imagination. It’s a key thing, I think, that these first, influential films were actually quite good and somewhat original. I recall a sense of cynicism in myself by 1982 when the third film was released in 3-D, thinking that it was a sign of the waning imagination of the series. Third films seemed to be coming out in 3-D, like Jaws 3-D (1983). I didn’t know the term “jumping the shark” back then but it’s sort of the kind of thought I would have considered. But indeed, it started as a quite effective thriller, efficient, surprising, and well-crafted. Not what a lot of critics said at the time.