I guess it’s just my imagination…
While I have avoided the classic horror movies for the most part, there are a handful of films that I simply can’t ignore. Whether it is for their legacy, or for genuinely being great – it’s hard to tell at first glance.
Certainly for me, many of the classic slasher films have merged into one long nightmare, mostly due to the fact I watched most of the classic horrors in a very short space of time (thanks again, Channel 4).
So, after a quick scan of the calendar, I spotted a date I just couldn’t ignore. It was time to watch Thursday the- uh, Friday The 13th (1980).
Close enough, anyway. It’s still Jason’s birthday, just a couple of months late.
Written by Victor Miller and directed by Sam S. Cunningham, Friday The 13th was prompted into production by the unprecedented success of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). The opening scene almost feels like a shot for shot remake as a pair of counsellors at Camp Crystal Lake are caught with their trousers down in the late 50s and swiftly receive some extra penetration by way of knife.
Fast forward a few years to, presumably, 1980 (the film only suggests it takes place in the present) and an obnoxiously upbeat young woman by the name of Annie Phillips (Robbi Morgan) heads into a small town diner to get a lift to Camp Crystal Lake. To the shock of the diners, a local businessman by the name of Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) is attempting to reopen the supposedly cursed summer camp.
Helping him repair the old buildings are fresh-faced counsellors Ned Rubenstein (Mark Nelson), Bill Brown (Harry Crosby), Marcie Cunningham (Jeannine Taylor), Brenda Jones (Laurie Bartram), Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) and Kevin Bacon – I mean Jack Burrell (Kevin Bacon).
These upbeat, horny teens are little more than slasher movie cannon fodder and it’s very hard to ignore it. Their cheery attitudes just cry out for a good axe blow to the head, the general vibe feeling considerably more like Scooby Doo than genuine good nature.
As storm clouds gather, Steve takes the jeep out to town to pick up supplies, leaving the youngsters to their own devices in the woods. Disappointed that Annie never showed up, the group settle down to eat, smoke and party.
As the teens spread out across the camp, someone – or something – watches from the shadows. Soon, the storm begins to rage and an intruder begins to butcher the young counsellors one by one…
The truth of Camp Crystal Lake unveils itself towards the end, opening the door to a whole host of sequels and remakes that still goes on to this day.
To be quite honest, I felt quite underwhelmed watching Friday The 13th again. As I mentioned earlier, it was moved into production on the back of John Carpenter’s Halloween and boy does it show. Unlike Halloween, however, the story crawls into action. I suspect it wasn’t deliberate, but if the characters were written to be unsympathetic it would be a welcome surprise.
The killer benefits from an excellent actor and a motive that kind of makes sense, but their reveal felt kind of disappointing. A powerful performance it may have been, but it lacked the charm and chilling presence that other, better horrors of the time delivered.
That said, the kills are gloriously violent – a future trademark of the series – and the use of blood and gore is impressive to say the least.
I’m left with not much more to say. The film isn’t at all bad, it just lacks any real substance. I would say this is mostly due to the lack of any sympathetic characters, but I think it’s just a shame to come into the film knowing what could have been.
There’s always the sequels.
But wait, there’s more!
Once again we turn to Robot Chicken for some joy after a fairly lacklustre horror movie. I mentioned that the gang of human cattle that star in this film reminded me of Scooby Doo earlier in this review.
Yours, A P Tyler