31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #13 – Friday the 13th (1980)

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Tagline: You’ll Wish It Were Only A Nightmare

Director: Sean S. Cunningham

Writer(s): Sean S. Cunningham & Victor Miller

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Budget: $550,000

Box Office: $59.8m

Release Date: 9th May, 1980

IMDb Rating: 6.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Betsy Palmer – Mrs. Voorhees

Adrienne King – Alice

Jeannine Taylor – Marcie

Robbi Morgan – Annie

Kevin Bacon – Jack

Harry Crosby – Bill

Laurie Bartram – Brenda

Mark Nelson – Ned

Trailer

Plot According to Google: Crystal Lake’s history of murder doesn’t deter counselors from setting up a summer camp in the woodsy area. Superstitious locals warn against it, but the fresh-faced young people – Jack, Alice, Bill, Marcie and Ned – pay little heed to the old-timers. Then they find themselves stalked by a brutal killer. As they’re slashed, shot and stabbed, the counselors struggle to stay alive against a merciless opponent.

Inertia’s Insight: The financial low-budget horror that truly kick-started the 80’s wave of holiday-themed kill flicks, Friday the 13th is the seminal slasher with all the ingredients required for a stalk-n-kill classic: sexually promiscuous teenagers? Check. Isolated location with hardly any adult supervision? Check. Unknown and unseen killer stalking and killing the teenagers in gruesome and inventive ways? Check. Stir well with red food colouring and add a dash of nudity, bake for 1 hour 30 minutes and you’ve got a classic slasher film for the ages.

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Writer/Producer/Director Sean S. Cunningham’s eyes rolled like slot machines with dollar signs after seeing the financial and critical success of John Carpenter’s classic, Halloween. Placing an advert in a newspaper with just the title and the suggestion of the next big slasher, he immediately found the funding he needed. It starts in the summer of 1958, as two promiscuous teenagers sneak away from their camp to partake in a bit of pre-nuptial fun. As we know from every slasher film of the 80’s, sex = death…

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Cut to 1979 and a new band of camp counsellors are descending on Camp Crystal Lake for its grand re-opening. Annie Phillips is headed to Crystal Lake, and on her way to the fabled camp she is warned by the crazy locals of the “death curse” that lurks over it: in 1957 a young boy drowned whilst unattended as a result of the careless counsellors. Soon after, some counsellors died and the place has been shut ever since. On her second hitched ride, Annie comes face-to-face with the faceless unseen killer, who kills her in the woods.

Waiting for Annie to arrive at the Camp are counsellors Alice, Bill, Brenda, Jack, Marcie, Ned and the owner Steve Christy. They are refurbishing the camp ahead of its grand opening, but someone out in the woods does not want this camp to open, and will kill to ensure it stays closed forever.

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For the most part, Friday the 13th isn’t a great horror film – it sets the scene with a Halloween-style POV kill and builds the suspense by isolating the counsellors and killing them off one-by-one in inventive and gory ways. It writes the genre rules that Randy talks about in Scream, with the counsellors breaking each and every one of them to morbid effect. However, what Friday the 13th does have is a shocking an unexpected ‘killer’ reveal and a last minute ending that leaves audiences gaping at the screen long after the credits have finished rolling, paving the way for a sequel, and another one, and another one…

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The film and its subsequent franchise have been explored and discussed for years, with two superb documentaries and a fantastic book, His Name Was Jason, discovering the world of Camp Crystal Lake and the Voorhees family. Some of the sequels are great, some are awful, one kills Jason, one brings him back again, one kills him again… But the beauty of this film is the fact that Friday the 13th features Jason as the victim, where his story is one of sadness and loss, and ultimately on the part of his Mother, revenge.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * *

Trivia

  • Victor Miller named the character Jason after a school bully.
  • The working title for the film was, Long Night at the Camp Blood.
  • Sean S. Cunningham took out an full-page ad in Variety over July 4th weekend in 1979. He was so sure the title of the film alone could sell the script and he was right: he was contacted by financers who offered to fund the entire film.

Quotes

PAMELA VOORHEES: Did you know a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed? The counselors weren’t paying any attention… They were making love while that young boy drowned. His name was Jason. I was working the day it happened. Preparing meals here. I was the cook. Jason should’ve been watched. Every minute. He was – he wasn’t a very good swimmer. We can go now, dear.

All images courtesy of Blu Shots: https://blushots.weebly.com


Tomorrow: Night #14 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

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