Movie Number 65
TitleFriday the 13th (1980)
Running Time– 95 minutes (“R”)
Director– Sean S. Cunningham
Writer– Victor Miller
Starring– Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, and Peter Brouwer

If anyone cared to look hard enough, I’m sure one could find a quote on The Movie Files dogging the original Friday the 13th, calling it the weakest of the Big Three™ (which also includes Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street).  Though that may still be the case, and Friday the 13th might be the weakest of the three classics, my latest viewing, commemorating the date, has shown me why Friday the 13th stands out against all the other Halloween clones; the biggest reason of which has to be Tom Savini’s wonderful special effects work.

In case any of my readers have not seen this legendary horror film, I’ve kept my review spoiler-free.

Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) is looking to reopen Camp Crystal Lake.  He hires a group of counselors to help him ready the camp for the summer.  Unfortunately for Steven, Camp Crystal Lake has had a history of bad luck (leading the locals to deem it “Camp Blood”):  years ago, a little boy – Jason Voorhees – drowned in the lake because a couple of counselors were busy having sex, ignoring the poor swimmer.  A year later, an unknown assailant murdered two other camp counselors in the throes of passion.  Now, Steve Christy is hoping to put that history behind him and welcome in the youngsters for a nice, safe summer break.  Someone has other ideas, though, and that “unknown assailant” has returned to pick off anyone that intrudes on Camp Crystal Lake one by one.

As one can tell from the synopsis, the story is about as basic as one can find.  Fortunately it works well for the slasher genre, and has proven to be the example by which hundreds, if not thousands, of slasher films have borrowed from since.  It brings a small group of people together in a secluded area where no one can help them.  It’s a cinematic serial killer’s wet dream.  Why Friday the 13th stands out is merely because it was one of the originators of this sort of archetypal story.

Friday the 13th was not Savini’s first effects job, but it was one of his largest films at that time, and along with his work on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), helped catapult Savini to the top of the makeup and effects scene, making him THE man to get for horror movies.  His work on Friday the 13th is exceptional, and he manages to deliver an axe through the head that rivals what we see even today.

I previously found Friday the 13th to be slowly paced and a tad boring.  Though there are times where the film could benefit from some tightening up, most of these slower moments help build the character’s relationships, which is something I preach about in the majority of my reviews.  Kevin Bacon does a great job in one of his earlier roles, as does Mark Nelson playing Ned, and Walt Gorney with his bit part of Crazy Ralph.  The acting – especially for an 80s slasher film – is unexpectedly strong from the majority of the supporting cast.  It’s also clear where Wes Craven got the idea of introducing a false female lead (which he uses in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream to positive results).

This early “splatter film” deserves the recognition it receives thanks to excellent special effects makeup work by Tom Savini, a great score by Harry Manfredini, solid acting, including a young Kevin Bacon, and some nice scares.  In the land of 80s slasher films, it’s clear why Friday the 13th is one of the films on the top of the mountain.

Branden Chowen
Editor-in-Chief at Cinefessions
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn't until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor's and master's degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.