Movie Review: Friday the 13th

This is for the original Friday the 13th. I’m watching the extended version on the DVD-set I’ve got, but the description on Amazon says:

Camp Crystal Lake has been shuttered for over 20 years due to several vicious and unsolved murders. The camp’s new owner and seven young counselors are readying the property for re-opening despite warnings of a “death curse” by local residents. The curse proves true on Friday the 13th as one by one each of the counselors is stalked by a violent killer.

Ah, the first one. Not the first slasher, but the first in the franchise. Also the movie that spawned everyone’s favorite bit of movie trivia: Jason isn’t the killer in this movie. But I won’t spoil that for the one person in the world who hasn’t seen this movie yet. Needless to say, there is nothing supernatural going on here. Friday has that in common with Halloween, at least so far, and in this scenario, there isn’t even any crazy superhuman feat of strength or bullet resistance. The killer is just smarter than everyone who is killed.

Which somehow isn’t as scary as a dumb, random killer in the real world, but in the movie world the suspense this movie builds is pretty good. Slowly, one by one, the camp is cleaned up — one after another they meet gruesome ends. I loved the work that went into so many of the kills. Before CGI and low budget they really did a good job pulling off some good looking murders.

Admittedly, I’ve seen most of the series before starting the rewatch for these posts, so I know a lot about where it goes. And I know how many of the things in this film become tropes of a lot of slasher type movies: while Halloween came first there is a lot that Friday does first that other movies either copy or pay homage to. For all the bad press these movies get from stodgy critics they are very entertaining. This is no exception.

The formula for a lot of slashers got made permanent here: a group of annoying people go to a place that has bad juju, and they get picked off one by one by a killer from outside the group. There may or may not be supernatural elements, there may or may not be a survivor, and there may or may not be a sequel. Also, don’t have sex. That’s a big message from a series of movies with a ridiculous amount of nudity.

I liked this movie a lot, which some might argue doesn’t say much really given the low bar I set for entertainment. But I also feel like it’s worth my time to watch it and I intend to queue it and others up in the march to Halloween. But if this is your genre, even remotely, you have to see Friday the 13th. And it’s better than a lot of the movies in this genre in a lot of ways: the acting is average or better, the effects are amazing for the time and budget, the suspense actually builds in an intentional way, and the pay off at the end spawned a franchise. It is definitely a product of its time, but there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s damned entertaining.

Also, lakes are gross stagnant water, so setting a horror there is an excellent idea.

Report Card:
Running Time: An hour and thirty-five minutes of dying, annoying teenagers.
Acting: As with a lot of these movies, it varies.
Effects: Actually quite good.
Violence: Doesn’t that go without saying in a slasher?
Gun Use: I don’t recall any.
Gore: As required, it’s a slasher.
Creepy? Kind of.
Monster Type? An old murderer human-type.
Funny? In places.
Nudity: The briefest of a topless female.
Pacing: It’s a slow build.

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