The Friday the 13th franchise. What can you say about it? It's one of the most beloved horror film series ever created (to fans, at least; not so much to most critics), and Jason Voorhees has become one of the most famous movie monsters ever. I knew about the hockey masked killer and the series of movies featuring him long before I actually saw them. Two cousins of mine watched plenty of those movies many times when they were young but I wasn't allowed to see them until I was well into my teens. I was fifteen when I finally saw many of the films all the way through and became a fan of the series myself and while these movies may not be considered technically good, at least not when compared to the classier Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, as purely exploitation-style, fun slasher movies, they work just fine and many of them actually are well-made in many respects.
Most people probably know the basic plot but I'll state it anyway: in 1958, two horny teenage camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are murdered by an unknown killer. Twenty-two years later, in 1980, Steve Christy is opening the place back up despite the townspeople saying the place is cursed. He and a group of teenage counselors are getting the place ready to open when the killer returns and picks them off one by one until Alice Hardy is the only one left.
My biggest problem with the film is the pace. It's extremely slow and while that usually works in building tension, the characters, while mostly likable, are so unremarkable and the technical aspects often so amateurish that it really hurts the movie. I've always said that if it weren't for Tom Savini's kill scenes, which are too far in-between each other for my taste, this movie would be unwatchable. The gore effects are what keep the viewer's interest enough to see how the next person is going to get slaughtered. Other than that, the movie doesn't have that much going for it.
setting a mood that the killer could be anywhere or we could even be seeing her point of view. I'll admit that many of the other films in the franchise didn't know how to do that. I also like the way the film actually looks. It looks very lush and has a rawness to it that the other movies, which had bigger budgets and were more polished, don't have. As I mentioned, the steadicam is often used as the killer's point of view and the scenes were Mrs. Voorhees is standing in the woods, watching the counselors, or standing outside a window and doing so, are rather eerie. One creepy image for me is when Brenda goes into the shower-house to brush her teeth and you can see Mrs. Voorhees' fingers come around a nearby shower curtain and move it ever so slightly. Also, when Brenda leaves, the shot of the dark shower with the overhead light slowly swinging back and forth always gives me a creepy feeling.
However, while I've just praised the photography, there is one big problem with it: the darkness. The night-scenes that make up half the movie are very dark and at some points, it becomes a problem because you can barely see what's going on. Whenever I watch the film, I often have to turn up the brightness on my TV so I can see what's going on. I understand that the movie was low budget and it was a fairly inexperienced director and crew but the darkness is a big problem nevertheless.
one interesting scene early in the film between her and Steve Christy, suggesting that the two of them were having some sort of relationship, although it's never made clear if they were lovers (when he comments on her drawing of him, she says he looked like that "last night") or just really close friends. They also hint that Alice isn't happy with the job of being a
camp counselor and Steve offers to put her on a bus back home if she still isn't satisfied within a week. Nothing is made of it, which is typical of slasher movies, but I was intrigued enough to want to know more about it. Peter Brouwer as Steve Christy honestly doesn't have much to do and he leaves for most of the movie, so he's two-dimensional to the extreme. Kevin Bacon is undoubtedly the best known actor here as Jack but except for that fact and his infamous death, there's not much to him.
Jeannine Taylor as his girlfriend Marcie is okay and they do seem to be the typical horny couple (though nowhere near as horny as those in future movies) but there's not much to say about her either. Harry Crosby as Bill is suggested to be another lover for Alice and the scene where he's whacking away at weeds with a machete I think is supposed to make you suspect him to be the killer. Robbi Morgan as Annie, the
poor girl who never makes it to the camp, does come off as a very sweet girl despite her limited screentime and her death is a memorable one. The late Laurie Bertram as Brenda I think is supposed to be a tomboy girl who works at the camp and is also a bit kinky since it's her idea to play Strip Monopoly. Mark Nelson as Ned is not exactly an asshole but he is a prankster and troublemaker, coming off as annoying in some spots. He, of course, doesn't last long.
thought he was going to go flying off into it). The most memorable local, of course, is Crazy Ralph, played by Walt Gorney. You just can't help but love this crazy old man who tries to warn everybody that Camp Crystal Lake is cursed (and according to the following movies, he was right). I wonder why he hid in the pantry in the main house instead of just showing up and telling everybody to leave. Did he want to half scare Alice to death?
Harry Manfredini's well-known score for this film, as well as almost all of the other movies in the series, is another key ingredient. Everybody knows the ki ki ki, ma, ma, ma sound (although it does often sound like chi, chi, chi, ah, ah, ah,) and how it's meant to be Jason's voice in his mother's head telling him to kill. It's undoubtedly a creepy sound and adds considerably to the atmosphere. Manfredini's other music, while pretty basic, is also effective and it is the sound of Friday the 13th. The creepiest bit is the music that plays when Alice and two others encounter Ralph in the pantry as well as when he gets on his bike and rides away. It's very creepy. I also like the bit that plays when Marcie is trying to find the source of strange sounds in the shower-house and the music that plays when Brenda is unknowingly being watched as she brushes her teeth and combs her in that shower-house. The music along with the gore manages to elevate this movie from being unwatchable.
There are two moments in the film that I've always felt are completely unnecessary. One is a scene where Alice finds a snake in her cabin and everybody else crowds inside searching for it. Eventually they find it and Bill hacks it to bits with his machete. Not only does this scene add nothing to the plot and could have easily been dropped, it's cruel because they apparently killed a real snake on-camera. I always hate it when a real animal is killed for the sake of a movie. This case may not be as appalling as what Ruggero Deodatto resorted to when filming Cannibal Holocaust but it's still cruel. I know the movie was low budget but would it have honestly have been that hard to get a fake snake and light it so that it looked real? The other pointless moment is when Marcie tells Jack about a weird dream she tends to have where she's in a thunderstorm and the rain turns to blood. After that, they go back to their cabin and it's never mentioned again. I've always been like, "What? Where did that come from?" I'm guessing they were trying to build up Marcie's character but I just don't get it. You could also argue that the scene with Officer Dorf is pointless along with the scene of Steve at the local diner but those two really stuck out to me as just being completely pointless and seem to be just filler.