October Horror Gauntlet Film #2
Friday the 13th (1980)
Directed by Sean Cunningham
I’ve seen Friday the 13th at least twenty times over the years, but watching it over the weekend it took on a whole new life for me. I was finally able to get my hands on the uncut Blu Ray edition of the film, and I thought it looked pretty fantastic. It wasn’t quite like seeing a whole different movie, but it was close.
Now, this advance in technology works both against and in favor of a movie like Friday the 13th. Some of the shots of the lake look just gorgeous on Blu Ray, but things like the prosthetic neck used during Kevin Bacon’s death are exposed as being very fake looking. The other big revelation that the disc brings for me is finally being able to see the uncut deaths in all of their glory. Annie’s gets particularly more brutal (she’s the one that bites it at the beginning of the film).
The big question that I always have with movies of this ilk is do they hold up? I think that the answer to that is a little fuzzy. I enjoy the film as much now as I ever have, but what I appreciate is the simplicity of it rather than the sheer terror Cunningham is attempting to bring to the screen. Full disclosure here, I am an unabashed fan of summer camp movies. That includes fare from Sleepaway Camp, to Wet Hot American Summer, to Meatballs. I love the genre, and particularly when the films are from the eighties. Those movies captured a sense of innocence, both in the filmmaking and in the subject-matter presented, that is difficult to replicate.
Cunningham’s idea of taking that idyllic, yet hormone-fueled atmosphere of the summer camp movie and marrying it with a stalk-and-slash thriller is a pretty fantastic one. And, for the most part, I do love Cunningham’s film. I think that it does get that feeling down – that youthful exuberance amongst the serenity of a beautiful camp background – and he slowly begins to dilute that atmosphere with impending doom. That all still works for me.
The main problems with the film lie at the very heart of it, and they are the script and the plot. For the most part, the characters are completely underdeveloped and are on screen as nothing more than fodder for the killer. This is incredibly common to the slasher film, but it is also something that needs to be remedied. The main plot idea works, but there’s no real “oomph” to it. The big reveal doesn’t work particularly well, because the viewer just doesn’t have any reason to care. I’m starting to run a little long here, so I will cut myself off. Let’s just say that while Friday the 13th is a film that I will always love, it is pretty flawed.