Sunday, October 6, 2013

REVIEW: Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Year 1980

Friday the 13th is the epitome of the 80's slasher. Gory, wild, and full of atmospheric dread, this granddaddy of the genre is a moody force benefiting from a fresh-faced young cast and an impressive effects department. Spearheading the trademark archetypes of the slasher genre, the film moves headlong into what would soon become a cinematic phenomenon, spawning countless imitators and a generation of horror fanatics. A classic in its own right, Friday the 13th earns its iconic status as it has just the right amount of mood and horror to unsettle you, as it does character and lasting charm.

The film follows a group of camp counselors as they prepare for the coming season at Camp Crystal Lake to begin. During their preparations they are stalked by an unknown assailant and are picked off, one by one. But who could this mysterious murderer be and could it have something to do with the tragic death of a young camper in Crystal Lake's past? With so many questions there's one thing for certain, and that is that this place has a death curse!

Friday the 13th, like all entertaining slasher films, has a great assortment of characters to help mix things up. Adrienne King rises to the task as Alice Hardy the surprisingly resilient counselor that proves too hard to kill. King is an interesting choice, as her character pretty much blends into the background during the early moments of the film and doesn't stand out until most of the cast has been killed, but I guess that lends to the fact that these were the early years of the genre, when things weren't so cliché and predictable. King does a great job as she gives a tremendously underplayed performance, playing the quiet and conservative young counselor and her genuine take on the character is rather impressionable.

The real memorable characters of the film are the supporting cast, as they show the more wild and promiscuous sides of the group. Lining up the various victims we have Kevin Bacon as Jack Burrel, Jeannine Taylor as Marcie Cunningham, Robbi Morgan as Annie, Harry Crosby as Bill, Laurie Bartram as Brenda, and Mark Nelson as Ned Rubinstein. Each of these actors feel natural and credible as a group of teenagers, and that combined genuine tone gives the film a believable foundation to support the gruesome things to come. Now truthfully there's nothing outstanding about the individual performances, it's just that they are played so authentically and naturally that it aids greatly in making the world of Friday the 13th seem tangible. As for the performance that really explodes the film into motion, that credit would go to Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees. Her character's dual personality is a thing of demented beauty and she really takes charge of the film when she bursts onto the scene. Off kilter and truly devilish, Palmer goes out on a limb to really inject a sense of dementia into the mix, giving stark realization that this film and its subject matter are quite out of their mind.

Aside from the cast, the real stars of Friday the 13th are the atmosphere, locations, and special effects. There's nothing as potent as a secluded camp in the middle of no-where, aside a still lake, and this production makes great use of this tried and true scenario. The imagery and ambiance of the movie is top notch, often becoming so overpowering and weighty that you find yourself being sucked in to the visuals. This is all balanced perfectly with a pace and approach that is somewhat laid back and observant. In almost a voyeuristic way, the film allows us to become comfortable with our main characters and the spaces that they inhabit, often allowing for great moments of silence to engulf the scene as potential victims investigate a strange noise in the back of a dark and foreboding room.

The silence and restraint of these instances are tremendous precursors to the inevitable violent and bloody deaths that are sure to come, and special effects artist Tom Savini does wonders on ending them on high memorable notes. Necks are slit, skulls are chopped, throats are punctured, and heads are decapitated, all in glorious practical presentations that will make you cringe in disgust. Extremely effective and gruesome to boot, Savini's work in Friday the 13th is a memorable footnote in what would eventually be a legendary career in the horror genre. With its spectacular atmosphere and iconic imagery, Friday the 13th is without a doubt a stunning intro to what would eventually be a most interesting series of murders, mayhem and masochistic fun!

Friday the 13th is credited for starting the slasher genre, but in essence it was pulling off of a very storied history of horror films. Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are truer to starting the trend, but it was Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood that really set those killer wheels in motion in the first place. Mirroring the tone and feel of Bava's 1971 murder opus, Friday the 13th brought the iconic set up into the 80's and from there the sub-genre set ablaze with countless imitators and handfuls of outstanding efforts. With its cast of characters and memorable deaths, Friday the 13th upped the ante on what would eventually become the norm within the genre, marking its place as the cream of the crop.

The film's immersive atmosphere and undeniably vivid effects work aided in bringing the world of Friday the 13th to life and in the process making Camp Crystal Lake seem like a real life place where horrible things can and will occur. Toppled onto that are the genuinely presented characters of the film, which also serve to keep that same sustained believability factor intact. It may be an over the top and violent affair, but the filmmakers make great efforts in easing us into the mayhem by slowly absorbing us into the world and quietly setting up the scares. The build up and payoff are enormously effective and the end result give way to a film that for me will always maintain its classic status. If for some reason this essential slasher has slipped through your fingers, then you owe it to yourself to witness the film that started the 80's slasher craze. It may not be high art, but it is extremely potent. Friday the 13th is the undisputed.....

Shouldn't one of you assholes be watching the road? Hey Assholes!

What a strange time to be saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

Is that a hotdog in your speedo Kevin Bacon, or are you just happy to see me?

Stache and handkerchief.... Badass!

Hold it right there Tonto.

Did I mention that this place has a death curse?

Here's for that ridiculous boner Bacon!

She's got a splitting headache. Wakka, wakka!

The stache gets the chicks every time.

Sweet! It's a wet night gown contest!

Get that lens flare out of my face! Who the hell do you think you are, J.J. Abrams?!?!

Not looking so good buddy.

I make the same face when I have to take a shit too.

Hi there!

Psychotic Staring Contest.... GO!

Hi everyone. Just hanging around.

Stop right there or I'll shot you in the baby baker!

Mrs. Voorhees showing her, "Oh Shit" face.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my pretty....oh, what monster could have done this?