|Friday the 13th
1980 - R - 95 Mins.
|Director: Sean S. Cunningham
|Producer: Victor Miller
|Written By: Sean S. Cunningham
|Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham, Kevin Bacon
|Review by: Bill King
Sean S. Cunningham and Victor Miller are the men responsible for one of filmdom's most notorious series. When "Friday the 13th" premiered in 1980, it was really intended to ride the wave of success generated by the superior "Halloween." Basically, it transplanted the basis of that film - teenagers stalked by crazed killer - to a Summer camp setting. Surprisingly, it was a huge hit, and spawned an endless series wherein the same storyline gets played out over and over again, with a little tinkering to inject some fresh meat (pun intended) into each new entry. Critics have lambasted the films, but fans embrace them, despite their cheap shock tactics and reckless abandonment when it comes to sex.
Excuse me miss. I have a hard time getting a girlfriend. Can you give me some advice?
To their credit, Cunningham and Miller didn't really intend for these films to continue into the 21st century. From watching the movie, I can assume it was a one-shot deal to scare teenagers and make a few bucks. These men didn't get involved with the sequels, at least not until Cunningham came back to end it all with "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday," and even that wasn't the last entry.
To be perfectly honest, "Friday the 13th" is not worthy of its cult status. It is devoid of character development and plot. The film exists as a showcase for Tom Savini's special effects, although this isn't his best work by any means. He did much better with "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead." Audiences back in the 1980s apparently found this movie scary, which resulted in its box office success.
In 1957, a kid drowned at Camp Crystal Lake, while his camp counselors were busy making out in the woods. One year later, these two counselors are killed by an unknown assailant. Many years go by, and owner Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) decides to reopen the camp, thinking that all the trouble is long in the past. He gathers a group of eager counselors to help rebuild the camp. The locals call the place cursed, but the teens ignore the warnings. Once Steve leaves for awhile, the killings start all over again, and a trail of victims litter the camp. Kevin Bacon plays one such victim, way back before he became famous.
There is only one survivor - Alice (Adrienne King). The last ten minutes of the movie features a semi-interesting showdown between her and the killer. I won't reveal the killer's identity, though I'm sure you know who it is. The third act is the only reason why I give this film two stars. It's kind of engaging. Before this happens, though, all we see is one counselor after another getting killed.
If there are more points that I can give to "Friday the 13th," it would be for Cunningham's ability to create some tension. He weaves his camera through the woods and around corners, spying on unsuspecting teenagers, and we don't know if it's the killer's point of view or simply a false alarm. Henry Manfredini's score also helps. The recognizable "ch ch ch" soundtrack adds to the creepy atmosphere. The film lacks a plot, but makes up for that elsewhere, if only a little.
There's nothing noteworthy about this movie. If it had bombed, the likelihood of sequels would have been extremely low. Somehow, it made money, and started a series that is without end.