Friday the 13th

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"The boy... is he dead, too?"

Oct 12th, 2011

It's generally considered that the original movie in a franchise is always the best. Even when sequels are well made they very rarely top the first. In my opinion Friday the 13th is the exception to the rule. The Friday franchise was nothing more than an evolution of ideas (taking 3 sequels to find an identity) while the base of the series can be found here it feels like an unfinished template.

Friday the 13th started life a couple of years before I was born so when I became aware of the franchises existance there had already been 6 movies. As of this I never saw the films in the correct order (though that doesn't mean that much) but I still became a fan of Jason and his exploits.

As I've mentioned in other reviews when it came to watching horror flicks I was dependant on what was shown on TV (no R ratings for us in the UK). The original Friday the 13th was rarely shown on British networks (a couple of the sequels played here and there) unlike the first Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. By the time it actually aired I had already made my way through all the other sequels (2-8) and thought I knew all I needed to know due to the recaps from the other movies. I was quite wrong.

A group of teen councillors are preparing for the reopening of camp Crystal lake (commonly referred to as Camp Blood by the local residents). A couple of years prior two councillors were murdered by an unknown assailant who has now returned (picking off our new troupe one by one). If you think you know who it is chances are you'll be wrong. I got quite the shock (unlike a lot of people who had it spoiled by Scream).

When it comes to my reviews of this series lets not pretend to analyse the complexities of the plot, this isn't the type of movie you watch for Hitchcock style twist and turns. Friday the 13th was conceived as pure exploitation, a fun rollercoaster ride where you can turn your brain off at the door and have fun. Taking its cue from Halloween it's about a stalker picking off the cast one by one (but in more imaginative ways) and that is all.

The story can seem clich├ęd fare but it can be hard to forget this was one of the first to do it .While in a way a rehash of the first Halloween film the presentation is far more competent than the slasher craze than took the 80's by storm. It wanted to entertain people on a base level even inits roots as a quick cash grab.

Wisely the filmmakers brought in Tom Savini (of Dawn of the Dead fame) to do the effects work and he provided the film with a unique flair that set the standard for all the fims that followed. The only drawback comes from the strange choice to film all the murders in a P.O.V style. Its only used to support the whodunit setup (well get to that soon) and severely limits the creativity of the death scenes although it gave the sequels room to improve. I don't mind the use of P.O.V when used sparingly or within the Giallio genre.

The cast are likable (and include a young Kevin Bacon) with believable interactions as friends. With most filling in as fodder they lack any real depth to make them stand out individually. While I can tell you how each character met their end I'd be hard pressed to tell you any differentiating facts between them.

The whodunit nature of the entire production was quite jarring to me the first time I watched this film (Its also an odd experiance when they return to the style in Friday Part V). I had grown accustomed to seeing Jason stalk his victims. I won't reveal who the killer turns out to be (although it's quite common knowledge by now) but I do need to use a mild spoiler to clearly explain my disappointments.

Throughout the film the teens are cut down to size until we get to the lone survivor girl (If you don't know what a survivor girl is then you're either too young to watch horror or haven't seen enough). By the time the final act arrives we go all Waynes World and switch to the Scooby Doo ending (although I'd love to see an actual Scooby Doo episode end this way).

The person revealed committing the crimes had not had any screen time up until the revelation.The revelation lacks impact by not having that moment where you can exclaim "it was you all along" (even though it wasn't what I expected). The P.O.V shots become pointless,If we don't know who you are why did you need to be hidden?

The final 10 minutes for me were a little odd as the film failed to make a believeable connection to any of the sequels (not that they had been planned at that stage). The shock ending had more in line with the final moments of Carrie than and actual plan for continuation. I mention this because it's not the only time the franchise has left me more bemused rather than shocked.

As I mentioned before the first Friday is no more than a template for those that followed. There's nothing wrong with it per say it just doesn't feel fully formed. I've meet many people over the years who praise this as the pinnacle of the series but I think the truth is most people find it a hard pill to admit the original in a series is not the best.

As each film follows the same formula with slight changes to the overall theme (on a boat, in space etc.) its scope is limited. There can only be so many variations on the formula until you become bored with it (I myself have struggled to sit through some of the later films). If you started with the first the others are simple copies and vice versa with the sequels.

I enjoyed watching the first film as It allowed me to witness the birth of the franchise but other than that I very rarely return to it. As the original was based on exploitation I take that to heart and thus prefer the more extravagant sequels. Things are larger than life; the deaths are more graphic and they have Jason on the loose. Friday the 13th is an average movie.

Other reviews in the series

Friday the 13th Part 2
Friday the 13th Part 3
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Friday The 13th Part VII The New Blood
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Jason Goes To Hell
Jason X
Freddy vs. Jason
Friday the 13th (2009)

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Screenplay: Victor Miller
Starring:Betsy Palmer
Adrienne King
Kevin Bacon