I watched Friday the 13th (1980) fairly recently, in the summer (similarly to Halloween, I usually watch it when it’s a Friday the 13th, and I realised this year that there won’t be another one until 2020!)
It’s another film with a flashback opening sequence, which again is not-quite-period – 1958 looks very 1980 in terms of hair and makeup, though the props are done quite well.
Friday the 13th is probably the most egregious slasher film series for the ‘sex equals death’ trope – any time characters so much as think about it, the killer comes calling.
I really like the character of Annie, whose doomed journey to Camp Crystal Lake opens the contemporary narrative of the film. She comes across as quite sweet and whimsical, and I always wish she survived long enough to interact with the others at the camp! This is another film where the characters are written quite well and I always end up imagining the alternative universe where they didn’t get killed.
The date is given as Friday June 13th, setting the film in its release year of 1980.
Crazy Ralph shows up, who is my favourite example of ‘mad old doommonger’ in slasher horror!
The backstory to why all the locals think the camp is cursed is explained quite well by the old dude who gives Annie a lift, so the audience are nicely up to speed.
I can’t stand the daft honky redneck music that plays while Jack, Marcie and Ned are driving to Camp Crystal Lake – I can only imagine it’s meant to indicate that Ned is the comic relief character.
Jack is played by a pre-fame Kevin Bacon, which adds some interest! It does mean that I keep being reminded of the latest EE advert whenever he’s on screen.
Alice is introduced quite unusually for a final girl, coming across as a slightly older and more sensible camp counselor at first. It’s not clear during this early section who the main character is supposed to be. There’s also a hint of romance between camp leader Steve and Alice that is never followed up.
There’s some backstory about Alice not really being happy working at camp, but this soon becomes unimportant.
Ned’s flirting with Brenda – constantly grabbing her from under the water during the lake swimming sequence – comes across as super creepy from a modern point of view!
Annie succumbs to the first of the classic Friday the 13th through-the-woods chases. These become more prevalent in the sequels.
Ned crying wolf about drowning should really have been followed up later with him calling for help for real and nobody believing him – it would have made for a much better death scene!
The bit with the counselors being slightly cheeky to the police officer is hilarious – it really gives them all some character.
Marcie’s fear of thunderstorms is quite touching, and again rounds her character nicely.
Ned doesn’t even get an onscreen death! He just investigates a strange noise and disappears.
The infamous strip Monopoly game is one of the highlights of the film – it’s very funny. I remember when I last watched this in the summer, Geth kept getting notifications on Facebook from his favourite boardgame discussion group, who were also all watching the film (and commenting on this scene) to celebrate it being Friday the 13th!
This is the second film I’ve watched this week (after Halloween) where characters think the strange noises they hear must just be their friends pissing about to try and scare them. I’ll be watching for this trope all month now.
In order to lure Brenda outside, the killer plays a recording of a child’s voice calling for help. I’m not quite sure how the killer is doing this with 1980 technology in the middle of a thunderstorm!
Brenda’s death is offscreen too – offscreen deaths are quite unusual for a slasher and I don’t think it happens much again in subsequent entries in the series.
There’s a good reveal where Steve turns out to know the killer – he greets them with surprise just before getting stabbed.
For a while after realising something strange is going on, Alice and Bill do the sensible thing of sticking together…but not for long. ‘I’ll be right back!’ says Bill, which is such a stupid thing to say in a horror film that Scream highlighted this particular phrase sixteen years later.
Bill’s death is offscreen too. The trend in this film seems to be for people to die offscreen and then show up as corpses for scare value later on.
The sequence of Mrs Voorhees showing up, first providing relief from the tense atmosphere by appearing to be a helpful adult figure (though it shouldn’t be too much relief if you picked up the Steve clue earlier) then turning out to be the killer, makes the ending chase sequence quite interesting.
The ‘beheading’ special effect, by effects specialist Tom Savini, was lauded at the time but looks a bit hokey now!
I’ve seen the infamous lake boat ending moment so many times it doesn’t make me jump any more, but it’s still a great scare – it’s not clear if it’s just a hallucination on Alice’s part though.
The ending, with Alice suspecting Jason Voorhees is still in the lake, sets things up nicely for Part 2!
A non-slasher to discuss tomorrow.