GORE GORE GORE – Friday the 13th

Let me start this review by saying it will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the original Friday the 13th at this point, there is something wrong with you. Go watch it now, and then come back and read my review. With the spoiler warning out of the way let’s get into the review.

I decided to start my still to be named (Editors Note: GORE GORE GORE won the poll) slasher movie reviews with Friday the 13th because it’s June, and June 13th is when the movie takes place. I figured Halloween should wait til October.

Friday the 13th is the first movie in one of the big three slasher franchises. It came shortly after Halloween and it follows the formula established in Halloween and which would make the basis for most of the movies in the genre. While Halloween introduced the formula it was Friday the 13th that tweaked it and became the blueprint of the Slasher Explosion of the 80s, adding gore and some of the character archetypes that would become standard in most slashers. Even the sequels to Halloween would follow the changes made to the formula in these movies.

On requirement of the slasher formula is a reasonably secluded area, often a place that seems safe. In Haloween it was the suburbs, in this movie it’s a summer camp. I never went to summer camp when I was a kid, and to be honest I never would have wanted to, because my evil cousin would show me these types of movies when I was little.

Let’s talk about the characters a bit.

Alice is the main heroine of the story. She’s the stereotypical virginal innocent shy character. Her archetype is key to the standard slasher formula. Alice is one of the better Slasher movie heroes, which in other movies would become very generic. There’s an interesting story about the woman who played Alice, Adrienne King. Her success in this movie led to her being pursued by a real life stalker. This scared her to the point that she retired from acting for many years.

Annie is the first character shown in the main movie after the open. Annie was a bit of a red herring in that it seemed she was the main character, but was in fact the first victim. I always liked that effect, it isn’t done well often in these movies but it was here.

Ned is the joker archetype of this movie. He’s the one with the corny jokes and the pranks that annoy other characters. Ned isn’t a very deep character and really only serves the purpose of giving you a character you want to die. The worst part is his death happens of screen. The movie denied me my joy in this case.

Bill is the straight man, he doesn’t get into the antics of the others. His purpose is really to be the strong character for which his death starts the final portion of the movie; where the main heroine is all alone and must confront the killer. He dies off screen as well.

Jack, played by Kevin Bacon in an early role is a generic filler character that only served the purpose of dying after having sex, a very common plot point in the formula. Jack probably has the most memorable death in the movie when an arrow get’s shoved through his throat from underneath the bed. He shouldn’t have had sex and smoked marijuana.

Marcie is the other half of the generic “have sex and then die” couple of this film. Her only real purpose was to show a boob and then get an ax to the face.

Brenda is a strong sassy female character and I use those terms lightly here. She’s not generic like Marcie so you do actually feel some sympathy when she gets killed. She gets called outside by someone making help me noises which is a big improvement on the later “hear knock, go looking for it” stupid bimbo that appears in later slasher movies. She gets killed on the archery range in a throwback to an earlier scene where you see Ned shoot an arrow and nearly miss her to frighten her.

Steve is the owner of the camp and a bit of a dirty old man. He hits on Alice at the beginning of the film. He’s missing for most of the film to remove the adult from the equation, but even he gets killed eventually.

Finally we come to the killer, Mrs. Voorhees. In a great twist on slasher villain stereotypes the killer turns out to be a woman instead of a masked man, a mother so enraged by her son’s death that she will stop at nothing to keep the camp closed. At the beginning of the movie she murders two counselors back in the 50s, and later on that she poisoned the well when they tried to open it. Most mothers say they’ll kill for their children; she goes out and does it.

The climactic battle pits psychotic woman against young girl who is scared out of her mind. It’s the ultimate catfight. The two women fight all over the camp hitting each other with just about anything that isn’t nailed down, including a boat oar. In the end Mrs. Voorhees gets disarmed and Alice grabs her machete and cleaves her head clear off. It is quite the finite death for the villain, unlike most other slashers.

The final scare of the movie is a dream sequence where Alice, floating in the boat, gets dragged under the water by Mrs. Voorhees son, who drowned in the lake. His name was Jason and today is his birthday (it’s this article’s author’s birthday too by the way). I’ll get into that little boy in my next slasher review.

Friday the 13th is by far one of the best slasher movies and one of the greatest horror movies in general. Its plot twist is one of the best if not the best in the genre. The scares are good and genuine. This is before the series and the genre in general devolved into self parody.

The effects work by the master Tom Savini is fantastic. He developed many of the practical effects in this movie that would carry the genre through the 80’s boom.

The score from Harry Manfredini is just perfect. His idea of only using the music when the killer was lurking was a brilliant decision. The music was haunting and terrifying. It was his music that made the final scare effective at the end. The defining part of the score though is the famous “ki ki ki ki ma ma ma ma” that is so synonymous with these movies that it has become part of the general pop culture.

When I introduce people to the slasher genre this is one of my go to movies. It’s not my favorite slasher movie, but it’s a strong number 2. If you ignored my warning at the beginning of this article and still read on having not seen the movie, I’ll make one final plea here for you to watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

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