Friday The 13th

Friday the 13th: walking through the films history and how it impacted the horror genre.

Camp Crystal Lake

 

There are certain films that will always hold power over the fans of the genre. Movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Dir: Tobe Hooper), Night of the Living Dead (1968, Dir: George A. Romero), Halloween (1978, Dir: John Carpenter) and The Exorcist (1973, Dir: William Friedkin) are all at or near the top of any fans list, but only one film seems to hold an undying passion that endears it in eternity. That film is Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th (1980)…

What is it about this film that makes it an undying institution? Made for a budget of around $550,000 and grossing $39.7 million, it was a huge box office hit for Paramount Studios (regardless of what the critics had to say). It is the story of a bunch of camp counselors that are reopening Camp Crystal Lake after it had been shut down after years of bad luck and incredible circumstances. One by one, they are all offed in gruesome ways by an unseen killer, with each each murder being more horrific than the previous. In many ways, the film is a gorier version of Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (1971, AKA Twitch of the Death Nerve) and in fact, two of the murders in Friday the 13th Part 2 copy murders from it. But while Bay of Blood may have set the the trend for slashers, Friday the 13th kicked the doors open…

Friday The 13th

 

At its heart, the film is a revenge flick, with Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) avenging the death of her son Jason (Ari Lehman), whom had drowned years ago in the lake when two counselors left him alone to go have sex. Many critics over the years have even pointed out that all of the gruesome murders, many of which contain the penetration of the body, is a direct metaphor for sex and the death of innocence. That leads to another interesting aspect of this film, and that is the fact that fans almost seem to be cheering the killer on, wanting to see the young cast butchered after a night of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Is that because the acting is bad? The film boast an impressive cast that include Kevin Bacon, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, Mark Nelson and Robbi Morgan, all which brings their character to life perfectly, so I do not think that is it. Maybe it is wanting to see the establishment fall, or possibly because films like this are based on urban legends. We are always told as kids not to do these things because bad things will happen to you. Maybe it is just wanting to see the extreme consequences of ones actions…

The two most iconic elements of the film are the incredible score by Harry Manfredini and the stunning FX work of Tom Savini. Manfredini’s score is easily as famous as Carpenter’s score from Halloween and is recognized the world over. In fact, much like the film, the score is recycled and rehashed in many genre films all through the 80’s and 90’s, even being popular today as a ringtone for cell phones. It manages to induce shivers that run up and down your spine and sets the tone whenever somebody is about to die. Savini’s FX work is probably some of the best in his career and certainly set the benchmark for all horror films that followed.

Predated by his work on Deranged: Confession of a Necrophile (1974), Dead of Night (1974),  Martin (1977) and Maniac (1980), Friday the 13th is often the film that is thought to be the one to put him on the map. The realistic look of the FX is still so powerful even until this day and many FX artists will refer to this film and his work as the reason they got into the industry…

Oddly enough, as the film went on to spawn several sequels and a remake, the most enduring character only makes a brief appearance at the end of the film, and even then you are left to speculate on your own whether Jason is dead or alive and if the ending was a dream or not. Whether is just wanting to see young bodies dismembered or the twisted love and affection a mother can have over a lost child, this and the entire series has managed to ingrain itself into the very fabric of pop culture. Books have been written outside of the series canon carrying on Jason’s bloody legacy, as well as fan films and fiction. Movie marathons are common whenever there is a Friday the 13th in any given year, and let us not forget about the massive amount of collectibles available to fans.Whether or not the films hold any artistic merit or not, people feel a certain connection to Jason and the films, and at the end of the day, that makes him and series a true American legend…

 

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