Friday the 13th has a special place in my heart for being one of the first horror movies I ever watched. It was on TV over and over again during one of the October horror movie marathons, but, at nine years old, I only watched it once. Later in life, I caught bits and pieces of the Jason series, which rekindled my childhood fears, but I never felt prompted to actually sit down and watch them all. Recently, with the start of this blog and inspiration from others out there, my interest has been piqued. So, here are my thoughts on the movie that took me over a decade to get back to.
Going back and watching it now, after having seen more recent renditions like Freddy vs. Jason, I was shocked to find that it didn't contain Jason at all, save for the faux-ending-shock-scene at the end. Even then, he is no more than a swamp thing. The killer was, in fact, Jason's mom! How could I not remember that? In my mind, all this time, I have thought that the series kicked off with the machete-wielding, hockey-mask-wearing Jason slashing through everyone at Camp Crystal Lake. But it seems I'll be waiting until later to see that version of Jason.
The movie is a low budget 80's slasher, but it had a lot going for it, namely suspense and character development. I was surprised at how much time was spent keeping the killer a secret from us with the use of POV shots and...actual red herrings. Here and there, the movie would lead us to believe so-and-so was the killer, then it would quickly give us a reason to dispel our claims. Not until the end do we find that it's this woman avenging her drowned son's death. Had I not already known so much about the Jason saga, I would'nt have known it was Jason's mom right off the bat. I would've been in suspense--just like I assume everyone who watched it in 1980 was--until she mentions that the drowned boy was hers and then gets angry about the hormone-driven teenagers who should've been watching poor little Jason.
Aside from suspense, the movie gave us a handful of characters we actually care about. Sure, the acting was cheesy and things got a little campy, but the effort worked for the film in a way that caused me to look past it. I think I mentioned the same thing about Re-Animator. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the group of wily, lascivious teens who have just met as they run around acting crazy and carefree. Meanwhile, in between smiling and laughing at the teens, the film keeps us at unease as the killer (again, I thought it was Jason the entire time) lurks nearby.
Of the killings we actually get to see on-screen, each were equally impressive and slightly comical. Comical because I could swear that some of the dead bodies are still moving on-screen (e.g. toward the end, a body is thrown through the window of the cabin, lands on the floor, and continues to move long after). Also, comical because of the shrieking and panic exerted by the actors/actresses as the killer nears them in POV. In one instance, a girl actually closes her eyes and willingly prepares for her throat to be sliced open! The killings are impressive because it isn't just a knife punching into someone's gut over and over. We get an ax to the head, a firepoker(?) through a mattress and into the throat, decapitation, and other various creative fatalities.
The ending was perfect for spawning a franchise. Just when we think it's over (inspirational music is playing behind picturesque lake scenery), Jason makes his appearance, and then the sole survivor points out that he's still there. With the mother dead and Jason still alive, we have the perfect setup for a sequel in which Jason can now avenge his mother's death. Furthermore, a question has been raised: Is Jason supernatural? I mean, he drowned all those years ago, and apparently he lives underwater. So...yeah. The whole movie is rooted in reality until that ending, where a supernatural element is hinted.
After it was over, I took the liberty of watching the original theatrical trailer. Man, I thought trailers showed too much these days. back in 1980, they apparently just showed an abridged version of the whole movie. They essentially show every single victim's death, including how it is done, making a big deal out of the body count in correlation to the number 13, which there are not. Nevertheless, the movie is unquestionably the pinnacle of slasher franchises.
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