Movie Review: Friday the 13th (1980)
“Lucky 13? I think not.”
Friday the 13th (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor
Synopsis: A group of camp counsellors at a summer camp are picked off one-by-one by a crazed killer.
It seems incredible that Friday the 13th was such a box office hit back in 1980. It follows the usual stalk-and-slash template – or, in fact, sets the ground rules seeing as how, together with John Carpenter’s Halloween, it’s probably one of the first of its kind. A group of kids gather at Crystal Lake, the scene of a bloody killing two decades earlier, to help its new owner renovate it in preparation for its resurrection as a summer camp. The first kid we see, hitching on her own, is Annie (Robbi Morgan), who is impossibly perky and might as well have ‘victim’ tattooed on her forehead. Annie’s issued the standard warning of doom by the town crazy, but brazenly disregards the well-meaning weirdo’s warnings. Things quieten down for a while as the film introduces us to the rest of the soon-to-be victims by making a misguided attempt at humour; we see one happy camper fake his own death by drowning, the group execution of a snake, the ribbing of a slightly strange cop. The funniest moment comes when someone opens a larder door to find the town weirdo lurking in there issuing more warnings of doom – although I think this was supposed to be scary. The film grinds to a halt during these sequences because the writers fail to realise that a few well-chosen words from a character’s mouth can provide inestimably more insight into them than 10 minutes of mindless banter. For this reason the victims become little more than pieces of meat being lined up for slaughter – even when they come in the recognisable form of Kevin Bacon (She’s Having a Baby, The Darkness).
The movie’s pace picks up once the killings begin, but then, after all but one of the kids are killed and the director should be piling on the tension, things inexplicably grind to a halt once more, and we have to watch the last teen fix herself a cup of tea, unaware that all her mates are dead, then watch again for what seems forever as she barricades herself into her lodge after stumbling across a body. The famous final twist is fairly neat – even though it’s a variation on the shock-ending from Carrie – but overall, the entire thing comes across as a kind of X-rated live-action episode of Scooby Doo without the dog.
(Reviewed 17th November 2011)