Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010 nears its conclusion with the final review of the proceedings, and I’ll tell you what, Kevin Bacon makes everything better, everything!
Written By: Ron Kurz & Victor Miller
Directed By: Sean S. Cunningham
Before we get going, I need to give mad props to flieger over at the Filmspotting Message Boards for his wonderful review of Friday The 13th that he posted. What I’m about to write springboards off of what flieger had to say in his short and wonderfully to the point review. I had many of the same ideas he had, but in a bit of honesty, I don’t know if I came to these conclusions myself or if I came to them through the guidance of flieger’s words.
With that out of the way let’s delve into Friday The 13th, shall we? In what is a common occurrence in the horror genre, Friday The 13th is a misunderstood film. It’s not the conservative “sexual beings die while the virgin stays alive” picture that it has often been painted as. Nor, is is the slasher and gore fest that most people believe it is. Friday The 13th is a certain type of film, but it isn’t either of those types and that is an important distinction to make. Of course, those who go into Friday The 13th determined that it is one of those types will walk away satisfied that they were correct. But, self-fulfilling prophecies do a disservice to Friday The 13th and how it manages to differentiate itself from its slasher brethren of the late 70’s to early 80’s new horror wave.
I’ve been very vague up until this point about what kind of movie Friday The 13th is and what I thought of it. I can be a fan of beating around the bush (if you know what I mean…) and lord knows I never miss the opportunity to draw out a point for as long as possible. But, enough is enough, on with the show. Friday The 13th is about the carefree attitude of youth, and the inability of older generations to understand and grasp this fact. Looking specifically at the time period that Friday The 13th takes place in, (once again, big thank you to flieger for this connection), the early 1980’s are at the end of the age of sexual freedom, the end of a more benign, in theory at least, drug culture and right before the onset of the severe crackdown on drugs and the realization of AIDS ended accepted sexual freedom. The kids we see in Friday The 13th are just that, kids. They don’t have many cares, they just want to live life however they see fit, and share the experience with one another. Whether this is through sex, drugs or a game of strip Monopoly, it’s all about the carefree community with these kids.
They are countered by, and big SPOILERS to come in this paragraph, the older characters who just don’t understand them. Mrs. Voorhees’ son dying doesn’t matter much at all actually. If not her it would have been someone else, because these kids need to be punished for their carefree attitude, they need to pay the price for their actions. Simply by being who they are and being so darn carefree they push the buttons of the older people they come into contact with. And in a grand scale that is surprising each death is a dagger being thrust into the heart of the carefree nature of these kids. They will not come out of this experience the same, the way they look at the world will change, and the 80’s will have this same effect on the kids who existed in our everyday lives, or yours as I was a bit too young for all of this.
But, Mrs. Voorhees’ son did die, and the fact that he went on to be the star of the franchise adds something important to the mix in Friday The 13th. We all know who Jason Voorhees is, we know the hockey mask, we know the machete, we know that he is the killer. I have seen every film in the Friday The 13th franchise numerous times, yet every time I come back to the original Friday The 13th I forget that Jason is limited to one cameo and that his mother is the villain. It’s certainly not something that could have been intended when Friday The 13th first came out, but because of the path the franchise would take Friday The 13th manages to successfully play against my expectations of the monster each and every time.
There are other aspects of Friday The 13th that make it a much better film that most ever give it credit for being. The score borrows heavily from Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score, but Harry Manfredini adds enough of a personal touch that the score of Friday The 13th stands on its own. The cinematography is also far better than ever advertised, the black of night surrounds everything and the moments of light are punctuated by the slow shots of the idyllic forest/lake. That’s not to say Friday The 13th is without moments of outright silliness and contrivance as well as the occasional bit of bad acting. It has those things as well, but they are overshadowed by the carefree philosophizing of Sean S. Cunningham, and some good old fashioned horror, don’t forget that.