Wednesday, January 25, 2012

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

(May 1980, U.S.)

Sometimes in life, we choose to perceive things (and movies) from our own personal perspective as opposed how they actually happened. That being the case, I choose to own and remember the original FRIDAY THE 13TH as a stand-alone horror film released at a time when horror films were being released in droves and at a time when, just like HALLOWEEN (1978), using the name of an actual day of the year that summons up dread would likely mean box office gold. So people, as far as I'm concerned, Jason Voorhees was never the primary antagonist of the movie, there never was a hockey mask, Jason never was in 3D, Jason never ended up in outer space (???) and there never was a crossover with Freddy Kruger. So while you're reading this post, try to open your mind a bit and pretend that this original horror film never eroded into an out-of-control franchise that, in my opinion, defines the horrors of overkill.

As storyline goes, FRIDAY THE 13TH is not the most original thing ever written. The film concerns a group of teenagers who are murdered one-by-one by a mysterious killer while attempting to re-open the abandoned summer Camp Crystal Lake. The key to the creepiness of this film lies in the shadows of the deep, dark woods, the stories and history of the Camp Crystal Lake curse and (as much as I hate to admit it), that kooky "Ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha!" musical soundtrack. There's also a particular creepiness in the scene where one of the would-be counselors hears a child-like voice calling "Help me!" from the woods and then she inevitably meets her doom at the archery range during a harsh rain storm. Poor Brenda!

There's something in film script writing known as "set up" and "pay off". In the case of this film, there's a scene in the beginning where a common truck driver warns a young girl about Camp Crystal Lake and very casually mentions a boy drowing in 1957. It's mention very quickly and the first time viewer is very likely to dismiss it immediately. It's only later in the film when that very mild "set up" actually "pays off" when we learn that the boy who drowned in 1957 is the entire reason the murders are taking place by his psychotic, grieving mother. Yes, I have to admit that even I was surprised to learn that the killer was a woman the first time I ever saw FRIDAY THE 13TH. I've also enjoyed the ambiguity of little, demented and disfigured Jason rising out of the lake to take down the only survivor of the night's masacre. Did it really happen? Does Jason really live? Like I said before, this is how I choose to perceive things and not necessarily how they actually happened.

By the way, did you know that Camp Crystal Lake is supposed to be somewhere in New Jersey? As if that poor state didn't need ANOTHER reason to be mocked!

So there you have it people...if you can just choose to ignore all the hockey mask franchise bullshit for just a little while, you're likely to discover (or RE-discover) that the original 1980 version of FRIDAY THE 13TH is actually a worthwhile horror experience. Give it a try.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Alice: "The he dead, too?"
Officer Tierney: "Who?"
Alice: "The boy...Jason."
Tierney: "Jason?"
Alice: "In the lake, the one...the one who attacked me...the one who pulled me underneath the water."
Tierney: "Ma'am, we didn't find any boy."
Alice: "But...then he's still there."

Yes, and that's where Jason should've stayed!

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