A group of camp counselors trying to reopen a summer camp called Crystal Lake, which has a grim past, are stalked by a mysterious killer.A group of camp counselors trying to reopen a summer camp called Crystal Lake, which has a grim past, are stalked by a mysterious killer.A group of camp counselors trying to reopen a summer camp called Crystal Lake, which has a grim past, are stalked by a mysterious killer.
At the time this review is being posted, the franchise has been running strong for well over 35 years. Boasting 10 films in its original continuity, the fabulously entertaining (and dopey as heck) cross- over spin-off "Freddy VS Jason", a somewhat underrated reboot in 2009 and a planned new film due out sometime within the next year or two.
But even a franchise so huge has to start with a small, humble beginning. Before the fame. Before the recognition. Before the birth of the pop-culture idol that the series spawned.
Yes, it all started with a teeny-tiny production back in 1980- the original "Friday the 13th."
It's almost impossible to really discuss this film critically without delving into spoiler territory (which I try to avoid in my reviews), though I will try my hardest to do so.
The film revolves around a group of young Camp Counselors who are prepping the infamous Camp Crystal Lake for a reopening about 20 years after a mysterious double-murder and a tragic drowning involving a young child. However, it appears someone isn't exactly a happy camper and doesn't want Crystal Lake back in business, and this mysterious figure begins to pick off our protagonists one-by- one until a tense climax reveals the dreaded truth...
It's no surprise at all that the film is essentially a glorified rip-off of the iconic slasher-horror that is John Carpenter's "Halloween." Director/Producer Sean S. Cunningham has been pretty candid about essentially wanting to create his own "roller-coaster" version of the Carpenter Classic with this film. Heck, they had ads and posters in the paper before the script was even written.
But the problem I really have with the film is that it all feels so routine. Even often boring and sometimes toothless. While it may not be fair to judge it by modern standards, even for its time, it just doesn't have that much going for it. (Especially as the very same year of release, such classics as "The Shining" and the underrated "The Changeling" were chilling audiences to the bone.) It's a very aimless, meandering film, with sloppy plotting and far too much focus placed on seemingly-pointless sequences for it to attain the "roller-coast" feeling the director was going for. The first half of the film is just too much a chore to slog through. And once the horror finally kicks in, it's just the same rinse-and-repeat formula scene-after-scene, with really only a few gruesome deaths here and there to pique audience interest. All those old clichés and tropes that even at the time had become slightly predictable.
Now, I know what you're saying- those are the things people love about these flicks. The clichés and the gore-galore. But it's so slowly paced and messy in this movie, it's hard to really get into it. It really isn't until the plethora of sequels that the formula is established and the pacing is tightened enough for those clichés and tropes to finally become fun and entertaining.
As it stands, "Friday the 13th" does have its place in horror royalty. But I firmly believe it's more for spawning the long- running franchise that followed and less for the quality of the film itself.
Oh, and I guess it's also kinda famous for introducing some guy named Kevin Bacon as a supporting character... but I'm not sure if he actually went anywhere after this.
(Please appreciate the obvious sarcasm there. I loves the Bacon!)
"Friday the 13th" gets a middle-of-the-road 5 out of 10 from me. It's worth seeing because of its important part in the history of the overall franchise. But it's one of the weaker entries and lacks the style and entertainment seen in later films.
- Aug 11, 2016