Of course, by today's standards Friday the 13th may feel a little tame and a lot diluted, considering the many imitators and inferior sequels. Still, the 1980 original, from the now-renowned Sean S. Cunningham, still manages to pack one hell of a punch, especially taken as a stand alone piece. Though it may seem fairly formulaic now, keeping in mind that the formula practically started here ought to count for something! Hell, the quarter century of horror infamy the series enjoys might even make the surprise ending even more surprising to a newbie popping in on the first flick's fun frights.
The story itself is simple enough, at least in its first incarnation... A Cursed Campground, that has faced bad luck every time its tried to open, is given the old college try one last time (don't you believe it). If Crystal Lake weren't cursed enough the refurbishing had to take place on one hell of a date, that being Friday the 13th (After all Halloween was already taken!). Soon a killer, or killers, is on the loose and stalking the new teenage councilors whose only real defense is to bleed on 'em! The real kicker is just who they are and why they've made crazy Crystal Lake their killing grounds.
In between the thin plot points is a montage of youthful excesses from smokin' to drinkin' to screwin', all punishable by an axe to the head, an arrow through the chest or a knife to the throat. The acting can seem a little forced (although the cast sports Kevin Bacon, Ronn Carroll, Irwin Keyes and Betsy Palmer) and occasionally the dialogue is sillier than the shelf below a window. Yep, it's safe to say that Camp Blood often features more "camp" than "blood". There are also a few very beautiful girls running around in their panties... when they're wearing even that... Yum!
In spite of all this, Friday the 13th remains a classic even today mainly because it is scary. Cunningham (with writers Victor Miller and Ron Kurz) may not have "invented" the unseen and silent killer motif, but they arguably made the best and most surprising use of that device to date. The photography brings the audience right into the action, and forces us to identify with Alice (Adrienne King) right up to the psychotic ending. A special HUZZAH must be offered up to Tom Savini, whose contributions to both stunts and special gore effects have made this movie memorable even today. Although Friday the 13th doesn't survive on blood alone (as many of its successors do) a look at each increasingly convincing death scene proves that it probably could have.
No one (without an "@fangoria.com" email address) will ever try to tell you that the first chapter of the Friday the 13th series is the greatest movie ever made, however it remains a genre-defining horror classic to this day, and is as effective and surprising today as it was back in 1980. It could be said that this one didn't need a sequel, and could have stood alone as a shocking one-shot. It's also true that the series took a drastic turn after this square peg. Well... Viva la Difference. Three Stars out of Five for Friday the 13th (Part One). It's a hell of a start, and was made into a monster with eleven films (to date) and counting. One thing's for sure... you'll think twice before going camping with your buddy Jason after watching Friday the 13th. But, then, the same could be said for watching Brokeback Mountain! Ah, well. I'll see you and yo momma in the next reel. And that's no Horse Hockey!
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