Friday the 13th is a film I was able to attain for free when I was younger. For some reason or another this was one of the movies that my cousin’s friend decided to give her despite the fact she hates horror films. A few years ago, I proceeded to pop in my VHS copy of Friday the 13th, though owning a VHS tape still was probably not the hippest thing about myself to admit, and realized that the tape was practically played out. In fact, even being able to actually make through the entire film was an amazing feat in itself.
Soon thereafter, my friend and I began to talk about upgrading the pitiful VHS. Thankfully about a year later I was able to upgrade with the uncut original Friday the 13th for $7.50! Now though, thanks to my aunt I know the entire franchise through the blu-ray boxset.
Friday the 13th is part of the slasher genre that was born after the original Halloween (1978). Part of what makes Friday the 13th so unique and so original is by taking a random day that most people dread anyway for superstitious reasons and amplifying those fears times a thousand. The other is by using limited screen time for who is behind all the murders at Camp Crystal Lake.
The basic synopsis behind Friday the 13th is about a group of teenagers who have been hired by Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) in an attempt to restore Camp Crystal Lake, and reopen the camp, to its former glory. Of course none of these counselors have any clue about the history of the camp when they agree to take the job. As the counselors attempt to make everything perfect for the opening, various deaths begin to take place. The odd part is that most of the teens seem none the wiser at first.
With the added affect of the camera keeping hidden the killer’s identity this makes the original film even more intense. With the remakes, Jason is the killer. The same Jason that we have all seen in the previous sequels, and probably most famously played by Kane Hodder. Granted, some of the sequels are decent, but nothing beats the techniques that Sean S. Cunningham used to film the original version. In many ways the audience became the killer. We are the ones chasing after these poor defenseless teenagers until the very end. By putting that point of view on the killer even more tension is created.
In terms of acting, Friday the 13th there are two other actors within the film that should be focused upon. First, there is Betsy Palmer, Mrs. Voorhees. Despite the fact that she is not onscreen all that long, except for at the end of the feature, she steals the show. Maybe part of this is the fact that she is a female serial killer. This was one of the shocking aspects of the film then and even for new viewers today. No one expects the person who has been murdering all of these camp counselors would turn out to be a female. Everyone expects the killer to be a guy, this is probably in good part because of the sequels to be honest.
The other person within the film that deserves some praise is Adrienne King, Alice. In all reality she is one of the only people within the entire film that has any redeeming qualities about her. She is determined to make sure that the camp is ready to be up and running. In fact, she is the only person we really see attempting to make the camp suitable for incoming children. Alice even goes as far to make sure that everyone else around the camp is behaving as well, at least to the best of her ability. In fact, she seems to be the only person within the film that appears to be safe. In the end, we realize just how crazy Mrs. Voorhees is however and realize Alice has a fight on her hands. Alice also shows audiences that females can put up one hell of a fight too.
Friday the 13th successfully continued the slasher genre. This is also one of the low budget horror films to succeed at the box office. For example, the film was made for $550,000 and in the opening weekend alone the film grossed $5,816,321 on one screen! And overall, the original Friday the 13th grossed $39,754,601 total in the USA. There is something to be said about the power of low budget horror films. By keeping everything minimal within the realm of horror films, more scares and thrills can be made.
The script and smaller details could be focused on that has made Friday the 13th one of the greatest horror films of all time. Granted, I am sure there are those who disagree, since I’m positive there is not one film that has ever been made that everyone can agree on enjoying sadly.
The original Friday the 13th is a classic and should be dubbed as such because of the way the material was handled. There could have been tons of gore, tons of premarital sex, which granted there is a little bit of within the film, but they could have stretched the R rating for all it was worth back then. They could have made sure to utilize the blood and guts like in the 2009 remake.
Ultimately, Sean S. Cunningham took the script Victor Miller wrote and created an atmosphere that was not only creepy, but also realistic. By maintaining a realistic stage and a adding a creepy old man who tells the tale of Camp Blood in Ralph (Walt Gorney), Cunningham helped continue to make the slasher film what it is today. Instead of merely grabbing the remake grab the original and enjoy a delicious tale that the whole town knew about, but no one would believe.