Camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp that was the site of a child's drowning.
Tagline: They were warned...They are doomed...And on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them.
- Sean S. Cunningham
- Victor Miller
- Sean S. Cunningham
- Country: US
- Language: English
- Runtime: 95
- Budget: $550,000
- Revenue: $59,754,601
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All right, let's get this one spoiler out of the way: Jason's not the killer in this one. I know, that's probably going to mess you up inside the head, but this is one Jason-free movie. Does that, however, make this a bad movie? Not in the slightest. Yes, I know more than a few of the purists in the Friday the 13 th fan base will trash this movie because it doesn't have our favorite hockey mask-clad killer, or because it seems like just another Halloween clone, but, let's face it people. Friday the 13 th is not one of the best movies ever made, but it is one of the defining films of modern horror. The fact that it's actually one of the scariest in the series makes that even better.Published Full Review
June 13, 1958. We open on the soon to be infamous Camp Crystal Lake, an idyllic locale where children play and sing, and a pair of horny camp counselors look for a quiet place to make love. Looking from the perspective of some unseen observer, we watch as they hide out in a nearby barn and start getting into it pretty heavily. As the viewer follows the two lovebirds, they recognize the stranger and start getting about cleaning up. With lightning speed, the offscreen assailant stabs the boy in the belly as he bleeds to death on the floor, and with a scream from the girl and a fade to white. we get credits.
Flash forward to 1980, Friday, June 13. Annie (Robbi Morgan) backpacks through town looking for a ride to the recently reopened Camp Crystal Lake. After meeting the local doomsayer Crazy Ralph (the late, great, Walt Gorney), she hitches a ride from a trucker who likewise tells her to stay away from "Camp Blood." Aside from the murders, the camp has a rather sordid history of poisonings, fires, and that little boy who drowned all those years ago. Not believing in superstition, she blows the old man's views off and continues her hike again as he drops her off along the road. Soon enough, a stranger in a Jeep picks the girl up. Annie tries to make the best of the situation, but as the stranger drives faster and faster and remains totally silent, the girl can't help but be unnerved. Her better judgment taking over, Annie jumps from the car and runs into the forest, only to be chased down by the unseen assailant who promptly slits the young girl's throat.
Back over at Camp Crystal Lake, things are going par for course. Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) is doing his best at setting up a program to get the camp back open and bring city kids out to nature, despite the camp's history and local superstition. Joining him are the usual band of teenage misfits, the horny Jack ( the Kevin Bacon) and Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), practical joker Ned (Mark Nelson), virginal Alice (Adrienne King), responsible Brenda (Laurie Bartram) and all around good guy Bill (Harry Crosby, yes, son of Bing), who go about the usual path of setting up the camp for the many kids to come. Unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by the same person who killed the two counselors all those years ago and who just moments ago murdered Annie, and soon enough they are to be added to this killer's list.
The plot is one of the basest for 80's slasher movies, but considering the fact that it is the original slasher film, a lot of credit has to be given its way for being the benchmark that all other films would follow. Yes, in many ways it is a Halloween clone, but it does enough to be it's own movie that this can be forgiven.
You go into a teen stalk and slash movie set at a summer camp and you shouldn't really expect the greatest of acting. That being said, everyone more than fits their parts adequately and competently, with a few stepping up beyond what this movie should be. Adrienne King's Alice is the prototypical sole surviving female. She's not the type who should be the last one standing, she should be the one sitting off to the side with a lollipop while everyone else does all the big bad things, which is why it's an awesome sight when she puts up a last stand against one of the most determined killers you'll find in slasher history. However, if you want any tried and true standout actor, you gotta go with the late Walt Gorney's portrayal of Crazy Ralph. Many a film since has featured an elderly doomsayer warning those darned kids before they all get themselves offed in a series of unbelievably brutal ways, but none has done it with quite the charm of Crazy Ralph.
Friday the 13 th came quickly on the heels of Halloween, and although not a clone outright, it does definitely take more than its fair share of style from the former, but given the fact that it revolves around a group of teenagers offed one at a time by an unseen assailant in near total darkness it'd be hard not to draw comparisons. However, Friday the 13 th draws its own special flavor from the unique summer camp atmosphere. Veteran producer/director Sean S. Cunningham puts a particular flavor to the film that differentiates it from all that preceded. What Halloween did with suburbia, Friday the 13 th effectively pulled off with the forests and cabins of any and all summer camps. Going to this place that so many people's childhoods revolved around taps into that primal fear of our youth being perverted, and this atmosphere is used to great effect. This is no summer camp, it's a den of sex, drugs and death, and it's used to delightfully exploitational ends.
Tom Savini is the man, but given the fact that this film's special makeup effects are mostly relegated to the kills, I'll cover this more in the Gore section.
Well, like I said before and likely will any and every chance I get, Tom Savini is the man. Back in the day if you wanted splatter and you wanted it done right, you went to good old Savini. Fresh off his Dawn of the Dead opus, the master of splatter tackled perhaps his most well known and successful film ever with particular gusto. While Friday the 13 th may seem to be just another Halloween clone in the stalk and slash nature, it's violent, creative and yet still quite classy homicides put it a step above the rest in terms of quality. Everything is of the highest quality and looks as real as can be expected. Throats are slit left and right, an ax is brutally sunk into a young girls skull, a man is impaled to a door with arrows, and in perhaps one of the greatest death scenes to strike the silver screen, Kevin Bacon is impaled through the throat from underneath his bed while blood gushes every which way. For a gore classic, you could do worse than Friday the 13 th.
Wildcard Category: The Kevin Bacon Factor
Let's face it, if you have Kevin Bacon in a movie it's either going to suck and suck hard, or it's going to be a pretty decent flick. His part in Friday the 13 th falls in the latter category. Before getting his cocky edge that he put in, well, every other movie, and before he was connected to every actor in Hollywood, he was just another teen model/actor type. He's clearly the hunk here, getting sex left and right and smoking pot every chance he can get, but he's not the annoying Kevin, nor is he the funny Kevin. He's just Bacon here folks.
It's not the best that the series had to offer, and although Jason is not this film's killer, it should not be put down because of it. Friday the 13 th is one of the all time horror classics, it's legacy is one for the ages, and although it may not be as great as some that followed, it's far from the worst of the series, so please don't treat it as such.