Despite all my talk about love of the horror genre, until October of 2012, I had never seen the original Friday the 13th. For a while I avoided it because I was scared of horror films, slashers in particular. Then, when I got in to horror films, I avoided it because it was too obvious. Too mainstream, too readily available, too well known. Better to watch Night of the Creeps, or Slaughter High.
I have to say, about ten minutes in to the film, I was already taken with something astounding; Kevin Bacon was in this bitch! I mean, it’s well known that Jamie Lee Curtis was in Halloween, and Johnny Depp was in Nightmare on Elm Street, so how can it be I had no idea Kevin Bacon was in Friday the 13th? Certainly Bacon is as important to the pop culture lexicon as Depp, right? I think Tremors trumps any work by Depp, and what moviephile hasn’t played a rousing round or two of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?”
The second thing I was struck by? The outfits. Oh, dear, the outfits. Here’s screen shot number 1:
Holy crap, what is that guy wearing? Bright red socks and a red kerchief with MATCHING RED SHOESTRINGS! Quite the little accesorizer. No shirt and cut-off jean shirts. What do you do in an outfit like that? Cut down trees. In this thrilling scene they are getting ready to remove that pesky stump. Slasher films always start out so innocuous.
Hey look at this snazzy dresser. Plain white pants, plain white shoes, bright red suspenders with no shirt. The modern man in the early 80s. Before they invented belts, I guess. Damn, looks like I left the play time on this one. It actually bothers my sense of aesthetics, but I’m too lazy to go back and fix it. But it reminds me, these two dapper fellows appear about three minutes apart in the film. Talk about sensory overload! Not to mention just a scant few minutes later, on the dock you can see right there in the background, Kevin Bacon will be seen cavorting in a pair of blue and yellow Speedos. I like to refer to that particular scene as “superfluous batch.”
Speaking of snappy dressers, I swear when our killer first shows up she (oops, spoiler alert!) is wearing a tweed jacket and a pair of slacks. That doesn’t seem very threatening, and I’m sure those little burrs get all caught up on the tweed. Still, I guess slashing throats in the woods with a huge butcher’s knife probably adds a bit of menace regardless of one’s poor choice in wardrobe. I wanted to make a Mr. Bean joke here, but I already messed it up by revealing the gender of the killer with my spoiler alert joke. The choice of jests available for the early 80s slasher-film blogger is abundant, but only one path is true. I hope I have chosen the correct one.
God I hate Rowan Atkinson.
Let’s get this whole “spoiler alert” thing out of the way. Chances are you have seen the original Friday the 13th at some point in your life. And if you haven’t, there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t reading this review, in 2012, for advice on whether or not to watch it. Either way, seen it or no, you’re probably just curious what I think of it so, yeah, I’m going to spoil the hell out of it. I’m going to tell you Kevin Bacon’s character dies and I’m going to post a picture of it. I’m going to tell you they play strip Monopoly at the camp but, even with such a ripe opportunity to explore burgeoning teenage sexuality, nobody gets naked. Most importantly, I’m going tell you the killer is Jason’s mom and Jason, for all intents and purposes, isn’t even in it.
Now that there have been nine Friday the 13th sequels, a remake, and a crossover, all of which (ugh, most of which, I know he isn’t in the 5th one either) revolve around the character of Jason Vorhees, he has become the embodiment of the films. It seems weird, in retrospect, that he did not appear in the first film and I have it on good authority (thanks to Mr. Kris Riley) didn’t even don his iconic hockey mask until the third film.
That being said, I actually rather enjoyed Friday the 13th. My expectations for the film, considering it has now reached its 30th anniversary, were very low. I assumed it would be much of the same slasher dreck I have seen before and even though Friday the 13th would in all actuality have been a precursor to those films, it wouldn’t matter since I hadn’t seen it until after.
To a degree, that turns out to be absolutely true. It is very similar to any slasher you’ve ever sat through. It was, however, unexpectedly gory with a few over-the-top murder scenes, there’s death by knife, arrows, and axes, the direction is competent enough and almost suspenseful at times (almost), the soundtrack is quite memorable, and it has the decency to be laughable instead of boring during downtime.
The climax of the film is a bit of a letdown, as our sole survivor Alice (Adrienne King) grapples with Pamela Vorhees (Betsy Palmer). I know in this sort of film it might seem silly to complain about how foolhardy the heroine is, but I can’t help myself. See, first Alice hits her with a fireplace poker, than runs to a shed. Then Vorhees finds her, so she hits her with the butt of a rifle, and runs away. Then, oh god, can it be true? She hits her with a FRYING PAN. And runs away. Come on, give me a break. She’s unconscious every time. You better tie her up or bludgeon her with that frying pan, one or the other. At least the final, killing blow is so ridiculous it will probably leave you in stitches.
After seeing a ton of cheaply made slasher films, I was surprised this film left any sort of impression on me. I'm not going to tout it as a "must see," but as a pop culture phenomenon it is definitely worth a watch. KEVIN BACON, LOOK OUT!