Jason Voorhees has long been an iconic figure in the world of horror. You could pretty much make a Halloween movie marathon with all of his films. The man has had many incarnations and has influenced many a horror movie based in the woods in some kind of camping ground and some knock-offs have come close in cementing their own place in the genre, most notably the Sleepaway Camp films. But, if you want to talk about a killer wearing a hockey mask hacking up teenage camp counselors in the woods...it all starts at Camp Crystal Lake.
Friday the 13th is a film with very little substance in the way of character development and cinematography. However, what it lacks in sophistication and script-writing it more than makes up for in a machete-to-your-face kind of horror brutality. The gore is supplied here by the legendary Tom Savini. Mr. Savini has worked in the genre for many many years...but, it is here where he really made a name for himself. The film is a showcase of what he is capable of with a shoestring budget and a sick imagination.
Friday the 13th stands as a landmark in horror cinema, not just for the introduction to the legend of Voorhees, but also for using a few elements that were hardly used at the time. For instance, the camp counselors that were subsequently dispatched in unique ways during the course of the film weren't necessarily bad people. It wasn't a revenge flick or anything like that. They were just out having a good time and picked the wrong fucking camp to have a good time at. This is what made things a little more disturbing...the fact that you could be just a normal person minding your business before a psycho killer lops your head off with an ax.
Also, Friday the 13th made use of the idea of the female serial killer....an idea that wasn't used too much in film back in those days and actually can be used effectively given the opportunity and right script. Watch High Tension for a good example of this.
The film has gone on to kind of sputter out of control due to the many craptastic sequels that it has spawned. Kind of interesting considering the film makers never really planned on making any sequels to the original. I kind of like them all for different reasons but, would never call them anything better than average in terms of the quality of film.
There was even the inevitable remake/reboot/rewhatever that came out in 2009 that pretty much encapsulated everything that was good about the Friday the 13th films in one neat little Platinum Dunes package. But, this film will always be a classic to me and to anyone else who calls themselves a fan of the horror genre.
Jason doesn't ever lay a finger on anyone in this particular film...well, until maybe the end...but, even then it's only really a hug. His trademark hockey mask isn't even introduced until the third chapter in the series. So, why is this film even on this list??? Perhaps it is because I am writing this list and the films chosen are an extensive list of what I feel captures the soul of the Halloween season. Perhaps the years have been gentle on this first entry to a long line of waste-your-precious-time films. If you love the genre of horror then, you may already know the answer. It's a classic in every sense of the word because it's a film released in a time when things were much simpler and the rules of horror were ever changing. It was the beginning of Jason Voorhees and it was born for one intention...to scare you. And it did. For a little while, anyway. Until he went to Manhattan.
4 out of 5
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