Happy Saturday the fourteenth! Yesterday was Friday the thirteenth (Shades of Rebecca Black there, for which I truly apologize.) I spent my Friday the thirteenth in the most clichéd manner possible–watching 1980’s Friday the 13th. It’s been years and years since I saw this movie but it’s always been one of my favorites. I don’t even remember when I first saw it, that’s how long ago it was when I first saw the movie. Is Jason Voorhees in our collective unconsciousness? I think that Joseph Campbell would say definitely yes. Probably.
This movie was inspired by the success of Halloween, which was inspired by what could be considered the earliest slashers like Psycho or, one of my favorites, the underrated British film Peeping Tom. But Friday the 13th is definitely the movie that ushered in the era of teen slasher pics of the eighties.
There’s so much I love about this movie. First, check out this poster.
I feel like this is a meme going around in the horror community, and I’m just adding to the echo chamber, but it makes you miss the days of horror-poster art. I’m so sick of scary movies being advertised with pallid pictures of the cast or giant closeups that look like they were dashed together in five minutes on Photoshop. This is a poster that took some skill, that makes you notice it.
I guess it’s like a Pavlovian reaction with me but I’m always really happy when I see the title card with its big block letters coming towards me.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot of Friday the 13th, I’d like to say, hi! Welcome to the internet, is this your first day? The movie starts in 1958, when two summer-camp counselors are killed by an unknown assailant while getting it on. Twenty years later, Camp Crystal Lake is being reopened and a new group of teens are helping prepare the camp. They get high, have sex, play strip Monopoly, and are picked-off one by one until Alice (Adrienne King) is left as the Final Girl.
Alice is one of my favorite Final Girls. She’s awkward and slightly tomboyish but she’s the first to notice that something may be amiss at the camp. Plus, I think she’s plucky. I especially like her tying the rope between the roof-beam and the door knob so the killer couldn’t open the door.
The killer is one of my favorite parts of the movie and is also why I like the sequels a little bit less. Remember this answer, your life may depend on it like in the movie Scream. The killer in Friday the 13th is Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer.) She was the original cook at Camp Crystal Lake. Jason was her son and he drowned while the counselors were having sex instead of watching him. Since then, she’s exacted her revenge on the camp.
I love how the movie that helped establish the slasher genre simultaneously subverts it by having a female killer. I actually felt bad for her when I found out her back story, although I really think she shouldn’t kill people who weren’t even alive when her son died. Your pity is limited when you realize that Mrs. Voorhees is crazy. I always lose it when she starts talking in the child’s voice, saying “Kill her, mommy!” I just think it’s really cool that the filmmakers just take this perversion of motherly love and run with it. And that’s why I’m not quite crazy about Jason being the killer in the sequels. I’ve seen the sequels sporadically and my memory is sketchy at best, but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why is Jason a huge man when he comes back? Does Hell have a gym? And why would a drowned little-boy be in Hell? I think I prefer Jason as the victim to Jason the killer.
I’ve seen this movie about a bajillion times. I used to always put it on whenever it was showing on TNT or TBS. Yet it still managed to scare me. I think the movie pulls this off by making the kills more and more graphic as the movie progresses. At first, you just see people being slashed. But then Jack (Kevin Bacon) gets a knife straight up through the mattress and into his throat. Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) gets a hatchet in the head and Brenda (Laurie Bartram) is pretty battered and then thrown through the window. Each kills seems to become more and more brutal. Then, there’s the fact that Alice has to run the gauntlet past the dead bodies of her friends that Mrs. Voorhees helpfully arranged around the camp for her to find. What helps is that the effects are pretty good, especially considering when the movie was made. This is because Tom Savini did the effects. Geez, is there anything that man can’t do? When I get married I don’t want a wedding dress, I want Tom Savini to do special effects for me.
The other thing that really helps the movie be scary is the music. If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that the music only plays when the killer is actually around. It’s a lot like Jaws, how you know that the shark is around when you hear the score start to play. That definitely helps to add to the atmosphere and amps up the tension. I especially love the “ki ki ki, ma ma ma.” My coworkers and I are such geeks that we tend to whisper that at each other as we walk down the aisles at my job.
I’m especially proud that Friday the 13th was filmed in my home state of New Jersey. It was mostly filmed around Hope Township and Blairstown in northern New Jersey. I’ve never actually been to those areas but I’d love to visit one day. Camp Crystal Lake is actually Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, a Boy Scout camp that is still in operation. I can’t tell you how jealous I am of the Boy Scouts that get to camp there. I went to Camp Hoover for Girl Scouts and it was definitely fun but I’m pretty sure no scary movies were filmed there. Boo-urns.
Finally, thinking of Mrs. Voorhees made me think of my mommy. She’s not crazy like Mrs. Voorhees but she is a kick-ass mom, especially for letting me watch these crazy movies. Today is her birthday so I just wanted to wish her a happy birthday. Happy birthday, mom!
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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