Friday the 13th (Paramount 1980)
Friday the 13th, the film many consider the first of the ‘slasher’ movies, was released on the 9th of May, 1980.
Directed by Sean Cunningham, and written by Victor Miller, Friday the 13th set the scene for a whole genre of ‘teens in the log cabin’ scenarios, this aggregation comprising Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Kevin Bacon, Jeannine Taylor, Mark Nelson and Robbi Morgan. Complete with teasing twist, the film’s action is stolen by the magnificent Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees, malevolently mad as she twice screeches her now famous line, “Look what you did to him!”
Camp cop: Looking a little like refugees from a YMCA video, the Camp Crystal Lake revellers become trepidatious following a run in with the local police in Friday the 13th (Paramount 1980)
Prompted by the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween two years earlier, Friday the 13th was made on an estimated budget of $550,000 and, when initially released, was heavily disparaged by the critics. Not in the least put off by their censure, the fans voted with their feet – and their wallets – and in the States alone it grossed over $39.7 million at the box office in its first year. The resilience of its main character, despite his youth and brevity in this first outing, spawned ten Friday the 13th sequels and a reboot, leaving creator Cunningham to scream all the way to the Crystal Lake bank, and hockey mask-wearing Jason firmly established as a modern day classic monster.
As with most franchises, the original Friday the 13th is among the best of the series and, brash though its premise is, the story of a mother’s vengeance for the neglectful death of her young Mongoloid son is both believable and well executed. That the film is as gory as it is unPC is reflective of the decade in which it was produced rather than what can now be viewed as tastelessness on the part of its makers.
Camp crazy: The unheeded sign announcing the entrance to Camp Crystal Lake in Friday the 13th (Paramount 1980)
Easy to view as clichéd today, it’s important to remember that when Friday the 13th first surfaced from the depths of Crystal Lake to shatter the nerves of an unsuspecting public, the whole teenage sex equals murder premise was still relatively new, and the effect of the new genre of hard hitting, unrelenting horror made even Hammer’s blood red gore seem like fairy dust dressing by comparison.
Save your Bacon: Or not, as the case may be; Kevin Bacon pays the price for teen sex in Friday the 13th (Paramount 1980)
Engineered from the outset to encompass sequels, the original Friday the 13th has one of the most pleasing yet shocking denouements in slash and grab cinema history, with Ari Lehman’s juvenile Jason leaping Spring-heeled Jack-like from the lake’s murky depths, to drag a naively unsuspecting Adrienne King to her watery grave. Even today, it matters not that you know what’s coming; never has such celluloid tension invoked itself since the rambunctious Carrie some four years previously.
Ki-ki-ki, Ma-ma-ma: Betsy Palmer goes berserk in Friday the 13th (Paramount 1980)
With both Halloween and Friday the 13th, the horror picture climate had changed forever. Gone were the fairytale monsters of the halcyon Universal era, or even the gothic terrors of Hammer and Amicus; these modern fiends could really come and get you, and for new audiences which had both grown up and grown tired of mythical monsters, this visceral threat struck a chord. Friday the 13th had done to summer camp what Jaws had done to the seaside five years earlier, only this time the water was never going to be quite safe again.