a critiQal film review Friday the 13th (1980)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: A new owner and several counselors gather to reopen Camp Crystal Lake, where a young boy drowned and several vicious murders occurred years earlier. One by one they find out how unlucky Friday the 13th can be as they are stalked by a violent killer.

522 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 36s)

Before Halloween, the entire Friday the 13th series was suddenly available to view instantly via NetFlix®. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover that until mere hours before they weren’t available again (NetFlix® apparently cycles through some films, making their availability limited).

Recently, however, I saw that the whole series was once again available, and decided to take a shot at watching a couple. First off, of course, was the original, Friday the 13th. 30 years after it’s release, would this gore-fest that spawned so many sequels be worth checking out again, or have the sequels (and the new remake Friday the 13th (2009)) left this original far behind?

Most of the cast of Friday the 13th is completely unrecognizable to today’s viewer. As with it’s competitor, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), however, one face amongst the crowd is easily recognizable. While A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) had Johnny Depp, Friday the 13th has Kevin Bacon.

Sadly for Kevin, that doesn’t mean his acting brings up the whole level of the film. Instead, he seems raw and unrehearsed just like the rest of the cast, dumbing down to their level rather than raising the bar for the rest to follow. Since most Friday the 13th characters main job is to scream and die, however, there isn’t a whole lot for Kevin or his fellow cast members to actually do.

Unlike later films that jump right into the violence, Friday the 13th stirs up the tension a bit before getting to the hack n’ slash. True, that tension doesn’t really amount to a whole lot – at least not by today’s standards – but the effort is noticed and appreciated nonetheless.

This film also differentiates from it’s sequels since it has to set up a background story for the hack n’ slash aspect, and deliver that story to the viewer in some way. Unfortunately, that delivery in Friday the 13th is anything but subtle, and the ridiculous “hints” placed in front of the viewer get a bit irritating, as does the later monologue to reiterate the story for anyone who somehow missed the previous clues.

Friday the 13th is also the least goriest of the series, preferring to show the victim, then maybe a quick cut to some dated special effects (or no cut at all) before moving on to the next sequence. While it seems reminiscent of other thrillers, the only reason most people watch a Friday the 13th film is for the death sequences, so viewers might come away feeling disappointed.

While the plot may be see-through, it’s still got more plot details than the average Friday the 13th film, and does manage to surprise viewers who have never seen the film before. That’s a lot more than can be said for any of the sequels. But the lack of gore (other than brief flashes of mostly bad special effects) may be the biggest disappointment of this first hack n’ slash.

If you’re going to watch this film that started the series, go in thinking “thriller” not “horror”, and you may get a little more out of it than you would expect. Still, by today’s standards, Friday the 13th is really nothing spectacular.

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