Friday the 13th (1980) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 8

by Jovial Jay

Counselor wanted for summer camp. Skills with archery and knife work a plus.

Friday the 13th seems like another in a long line of slasher and killer films. You’d be okay thinking that because on the surface it is. But it also subverted the genre, infusing a new breath into the slasher fiction and created a new franchise that lasted decades.

Before Viewing

This classic trailer introduces the audience to Camp Crystal Lake where a number of teens get attacked and killed. After each shocking moment the narrator slowly counts from one to twelve, culminating at Friday the 13th! The narrator then tells you that seeing it once may be enough! Bwahahahaha!

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th title card.

After Viewing

In 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake, two counselors, Barry and Claudette (Willie Adams & Debra S. Hayes), sneak away to make out. They are discovered by an unseen person (portrayed in the first person by the camera itself), who stabs them both to death. Twenty-two years later on Friday, June 13, 1980, Annie (Robbi Morgan) wanders into a town looking for a ride to Camp Crystal Lake, which is reopening this summer. Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) startles her, warning her she’s doomed, before Enos (Rex Everhart), a truck driver, takes Annie part-way and also warns her to be careful. She is picked up by another driver in a Jeep who frightens Annie, chases her into the woods, and then slits her throat.

Ned (Mark Nelson), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), and Jack (Kevin Bacon) arrive at the camp where new owner Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) is already underway working on repairs with Alice (Adrienne King), a woman he’s been sleeping with. Other counselors Bill (Harry Crosby) and Brenda (Laurie Bartram) are performing other chores. Steve hops in his Jeep and heads into town for supplies as the remaining kids goof around and continue to set up for camp. Officer Dorf (Ron Millkie) stops by to let the kids know that Crazy Ralph has been seen in the area.

As it gets dark, a thunderstorm begins to roll in. Jack starts the generator as Ned sees an unfamiliar form enter a cabin, and follows it in. Marcie and Jack start making out and head into the same cabin when it begins raining. As the two make love the camera pans up to reveal a dead Ned in the bed overhead. Marcie gets up to use the bathroom and Jack is stabbed through the throat by an arrow. In the bathroom Marcie thinks she hears someone, but sees no one. Until she turns around that is, when she gets an axe in the face and falls to the ground dead.

Friday the 13th

The young and sexually active cast of Friday the 13th helped promote similar groups for future films, rather than previous small groups of three or four students.

Back in one of the main cabins, Brenda suggests that she, Bill and Alice play strip Monopoly. Just when it starts “getting good,” Alice remembers she left her cabin window open and heads out in the rain to close it. Brenda uses the bathroom, casting several cautious glances around but nothing strange happens. She returns to her room and hears someone outside calling for help. She heads out in the rain in her nightgown looking for the unseen person. Brenda finds herself on the archery range when the lights suddenly come on and she screams.

On the way back from town with the supplies Steve’s Jeep breaks down and Police Sgt. Tierney (Ronn Carroll) gives him a lift back to the entrance to the camp. Steve starts walking back to the cabins but encounters someone he recognizes just before getting stabbed. Suddenly the generator stops from sabotage, so Bill investigates. When he doesn’t return Alice goes to check on him and finds him hanging on a door hook with arrows in him, a slit throat and multiple stab wounds. Alice secures herself in the kitchen, grabbing a baseball bat to protect herself. Dead Brenda is tossed through the window, so Alice takes off. A Jeep pulls in, which she thinks is Steve, but it’s a friend of his, an older woman named Mrs. Vorhees (Betsy Palmer).

Soon it becomes apparent that she is the mystery killer. Her son Jason died as a result of negligent Camp counselors in 1957, so she is here to make sure the Camp never reopens. After a few rounds of hide and seek between Mrs. Vorhees and Alice, they encounter each other on the beach where Alice gets a momentary upper hand and decapitates the woman with her own machete. After a final jump scare of a drowned Jason attacking Alice on a canoe the next morning (which turns out to be a dream) Alice awakens in a hospital ranting about the dead boy, and wondering if he’s still out there.

We ain’t gonna stand for any weirdness out here!” – Officer Dorf

Friday the 13th

Jack is the 5th of 10 characters to meet their demise in one of the more memorable deaths.

Friday the 13th may have spawned almost a dozen sequels, but this first film is still the best film in the franchise even if it doesn’t have several of the elements that ultimately go on to define the franchise in the mind of the public. It receives the final H-Origins tag for this week as a film that has redefined an existing style and created a new origin of horror elements leading to a wellspring of copycats in the early 80s. While it hit towards the end of a dearth of slasher and crazed killer movies from the 70s, led by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th took some of the best elements from these other films, altered the formula, and created a new wave of serial killer films as well as the start of a new franchise.

The 70s had several seminal films about mysterious, masked, or mentally ill killers. Black Christmas, The Hills Have Eyes, and Halloween all presented new takes on the serial killer and elements from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. They all had a killer or killers stalking a group of people picking them off one by one, in less obscure settings. The Hills Have Eyes does have a bit more in common with Chain Saw with the strange family and the remote location, but Black Christmas is set in a sorority house, and Halloween takes place in suburbia. Friday the 13th took elements from these other slasher films, but made some changes along the way. It also incorporated an aspect of a popular summer film from the previous year, Meatballs, which was a film about a summer camp.

This film takes place on a famous date (as much as Friday the 13th is like a holiday) and characters are stalked by a mysterious assailant which is set up as more of an Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians homage with the killer possibly being one of the introduced characters. It also takes place at a summer camp, which was the last place anyone might have expected a serial killer to strike, at least in 1980. Where the film diverts from previous examples is with the reveal of the killer. It’s not an unknown serial killer, or a masked killer (as the franchise would transition to), but a character that isn’t introduced until the third act, and also a woman. This was a totally new idea for a slasher film. Women were not killers. Especially not 55 year old women.

Friday the 13th

Alice finds Bill’s poncho but not Bill. The “Danger” sign on the door gives a momentary clue as to what’s about to happen.

Friday the 13th also took the killings into more of a playful space. In previous films, the killer had a specific instrument for their killing. Leatherface used a chainsaw (and a hammer). Michael Meyers had a knife. But Mrs. Vorhees utilized multiple tools, from axes, to knives, and even arrows. The idea that each character would be killed in a new and interesting, and possibly unique way changed the idea about how these films could be made. Suddenly each movie was trying to kill off characters in more complex and insane ways. Different holidays and locations were explored, each with their own serial killer who was seeking revenge on a specific group of people for some (often) crazy reason. My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, and Prom Night all took these new elements that Friday the 13th showed could work and utilized them to varying degrees of success.

Of course, the impetus to make a series of sequels to this successful film was probably in the forefront of the mind of the studio executives. But unfortunately they decapitated the killer at the end of the film. This is where the idea of bringing Jason Vorhees back to life probably came from. Since he was a character that made a brief appearance in this installment, suddenly he was to be the new poster boy for the Friday the 13th franchise. And since Leatherface wore a mask of human flesh, and Michael Meyers had a Halloween mask, Jason received a hockey mask and a machete to instill fear into the audiences. The signature musical sting by composer Henry Manfredini, which took many cues from both Bernard Hermann’s Psycho score and John Williams Jaws soundtrack was already in place. The iconic “ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma” sound and the high pitched squeaking strings alerted audiences to the oncoming killer in a very effective way. Jason lived on where his mother could not.

The popularity of Friday the 13th cannot be understated. It changed the genre into something that was not possible in the 70s, pushing bounds of decency, special effects, and misdirection while using  the building blocks of successful horror films to amplify the tension and terror. The use of negative space and the jump scare are the bread and butter of horror films like this. The film also made use of the idea that music would only play when the killer was around, and if a scene seemed tense, but there was no music, there was probably a fake-out coming. Handheld cameras establishing the killer’s POV (point of view) were also used to greatly increase the dramatic tension in this film. Decades of films from A Nightmare on Elm Street to the Saw franchise, Cabin in the Woods and You Might Be The Killer, all owe a debt of gratitude to the cast and crew of Friday the 13th for putting a creative spin on a genre that was close to being played out. After over 40 years the real proof is in the way that the film can still entertain, misdirect and scare audiences, even today.

Friday the 13th

The set up for the final jump scare which comes the next morning in broad daylight after the killer has met their end.

Assorted Musings

  • Scream uses a trivia question about the killer in Friday the 13th where Drew Barrymore swears that Jason is the killer. But many people forget that Mrs. Vorhees was the original killer due to the success and popularity of the later films.
  • An insanely successful film, Friday the 13th made almost $40 million of a $550,000 budget.
  • The year that the film was released, 1980, was a strong year for horror films, including as The Shining, Dressed to Kill, The Fog, and Prom Night.
  • The jump scare with Jason coming out of the lake in Alice’s dream, is very similar to the final jump scare in Brian DePalma’s Carrie where Sue dreams that Carrie’s hand reaches up through the grave.

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