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Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 195: Friday The 13th

Friday The 13th
It's Friday, Friday

Happy Friday the 13th everyone! This day is considered unlucky in Western culture dating back to the 1800's. Nowadays, though, Friday the 13th is more closely related to the unkillable murder machine, Jason. This day is sort of a holiday for horror fans with only Halloween topping it. Just today, I saw donuts with powdered sugar in the shape of Jason's iconic hockey mask. Friday the 13th is one of the longest running slasher series. I had a wide array of movies to choose from for this special day, but I thought the only way to truly honor it would be to watch the original.

Friday The 13th is a 1980 slasher movie starring Adrienne King (Saturday Night Fever, Friday The 13th Part 2) as Alice. In 1958, two camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake snuck away from their group to fool around. They are caught by an unseen assailant and murdered. Flash forward to the present day where the camp has been reopened by Steve Christy. Annie (Robbi Morgan), a new counselor hitches a ride halfway to the camp and is warmed by the driver about all the mysterious murders that have occurred at the lake over the years. She gets a ride from an unseen driver who speeds past the camp. Afraid, Annie leaps from the speeding car only to be captured by the driver and killed with a hunting knife. Back at the camp, several of the counselors (including a young Kevin Bacon, Footloose, Tremors) being refurbishing the camp while Steve heads to town. The counselors drink and do drugs and even play strip Monopoly, unaware that a killer is slowly picking off members of the group one by one in brutal and gruesome fashion. When Steve returns to the camp, he is also murdered by the unseen killer. Alice and another counselor, Bill, discover that the phone lines have been cut. Bill goes to check on the generator and when he doesn't return, Alice goes searching for him and discovers his corpse pinned to a door with arrows. Fearing for her life, Alice tries to flee and runs into a middle-aged woman, named Pamela Vorhees (Betsy Palmer, Penny Dreadful, Knots Landing). Alice tells her of the murders, but the woman interrupts her to tell the story of her son Jason Voorhees, a camper at Crystal Lake who drowned when the counselors weren't looking. Enraged, Mrs. Vorhees lunges at Alice with a knife. How will Alice be able to survive?

Go ask Alice

Friday The 13th came about based off the success of Halloween a few years earlier. There are some similarities such as the quiet killer, scenes shot from the first person perspective, the use of knives, and the focus on teens as victims. The movie does a great job of keeping the identity of the killer a secret. The most we ever see is just a hand and some flannel clothing and the killer is only addressed in pronouns. We are never tipped off as to who the killer is and don't even know the killer's gender. When Mrs. Vorhees is finally revealed, it is extra terrifying to think that a middle-aged mother is capable of such carnage. Betsy Palmer is just great in her role and is very convincing as a deranged mother seeking vengeance for her dead son. The movie has plenty of action and loads of bloody gore, thanks to Tom Savini (Dawn Of The Dead, Creepshow). There are a few scares, but not as much as you would expect from a “classic” slasher movie. There are various kills and some good creative uses of common items. There was one scene where a snake is killed and from what I can tell, they actually did kill a snake. This bothered me and I really wish they had not killed the creature. Animals should never be hurt for entertainment purposes. To make things worse, it's not like it added anything to the movie and could have easily been implied. I'm not going all PETA on the movie, I just feel it was cruel and unfortunate.

Where the movie succeeds in classic horror mayhem and violence, it fails in storytelling. The pace is dreadfully slow at times and is only tolerable thanks to killings sprinkled throughout the hour and a half. The movie doesn't give much motivation to the characters other than “be teenagers”. There is little in the way of character development which is painfully clear when only Alice is left. All she does is scream. And scream. The audience is not cheering for her to survive because we know very little about her. She's just one of the counselors and has no unique connection with the viewers. There is not much story to go on other than “people are killed” and not enough time is given to explaining Jason and Mrs. Vorhees' motivation. The ending is a pretty good twist, but could have and should have been far better.

I've seen that look at many Black Friday events

Friday The 13th spawned many sequels, a crossover with Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare On Elm Street and a remake (which I completely forgot existed). It also inspired countless other slasher movies and video games, some good and plenty bad. The killings throughout the movie are fun and bloody with a good amount of creativity thrown in to the mix. The movie does a good job of hiding the killer and Betsy Palmer is great as the deranged Mrs. Vorhees. The story lacks a lot of depth and there is little in the way of character development. There are some scares, but not as many as you might expect. Friday The 13th is still an important movie in the horror and slasher genres and is a fun, if not a sometimes boring, watch.


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