Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stubs – Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th (1980) Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Mark Nelson, Robbi Morgan, Ari Lehman. Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Screenplay by Victor Miller. Produced by Sean S. Cunningham Run Time: 95 minutes. U.S.  Color, Horror.

No critical tour of horror films which begot franchises would be complete without a look at Friday the 13th. (That and the fact that there are five weeks in October.) Friday the 13th was made in reaction to the success of another of our films, though still to come, John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Studios are always looking to jump on the trend bandwagon and Halloween proved that the kids like slasher films, so someone took the Halloween blue print, adapted it to a lake shore camp and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Our story opens, just like Halloween, with a flashback. In this case, it’s 1958. Barry (Willie Adams) and Claudette (Debra S. Hayes), are two camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. Being horny teenagers, they sneak away from a camp gathering to have sex. Big mistake, as an unseen assailant stalks the two and then kills them, one with a hunting knife and the other with a machete.

Don't be fooled. Camp Crystal Lake is very unwelcoming.

Flash forward twenty-one years later and on Friday, June 13th, 1979, a young girl named Annie (Robbi Morgan) is making her way to Crystal Lake. She is one of the new camp counselors hired by the original camp owners' son Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), who intends to reopen the camp, despite its history of murders, water poisonings and fires. Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), a local man, warns Annie that the counselors are doomed. Naturally, Annie shrugs off the warnings and hitches a ride to the camp with a truck driver Enos (Rex Everhart), but he has similar warnings for her.

Annie (Robbi Morgan) is the counselor who never makes it to camp.

Meanwhile, the other counselors arrive at the camp and begin to fix the place up. There is the jokester Ned Rubinstein (Mark Nelson), his best friend Jack Burrell (Kevin Bacon), Jack's girlfriend Marcie Cunningham (Jeannine Taylor), handyman Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), and Steve's ex-girlfriend Alice Hardy (Adrienne King). In between chores, the group enjoys some free time.

The counselors at Camp Crystal Lake may be doomed, but don't they sing pretty?

Annie is still on her way to the camp and has hitched a ride with an unseen driver in a Jeep CJ-5. But when the driver refuses to stop at Crystal Lake, Annie flees the Jeep. She runs into the woods, where she is chased, before her throat is slashed with a hunting knife.
After Steve returns to town for supplies, Crazy Ralph arrives at the camp and tells Marcie, Ned and Alice that they're all doomed. (He will be proven to be not so crazy after all.)  Ned encounters a stranger at the camp and goes into a nearby cabin in search of the others. Meanwhile Marcie tells Jack about a dream she had that terrifies her during storms. Surprise, surprise, a storm comes up, and the two seek shelter in their cabin and, what else, have sex. They are blissfully unaware that Ned is lying dead on the top bunk, having had his throat slashed.
Soon after they’re done, Marcie leaves the cabin. Jack, still lying in his bunk, is killed by an assailant who impales his throat with an arrow from under his bed. The same assailant then follows Marcie to the outhouse and kills her with an axe to the face. (Once again proving that pre-marital sex is a killer.)

Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) is dressed for her hot date with an axe.

Steve, whose Jeep has naturally broken down on the way back from town, hoofs it into camp. He recognizes the killer before being stabbed by the still unseen assailant.
Meanwhile, Alice, Brenda and Bill have just finished their game of strip Monopoly (I guess strip poker would have been over too quickly) when Brenda suddenly realizes the cabin windows are open. When she turns in for the night, she is lured out into the storm with what sounds like a child calling for help. She is killed out on the archery range.
Suspicious of what is happening, Bill and Alice find many strange things wrong with the camp but are unable to find the other counselors. Thinking it is all a joke, Bill convinces Alice to return to the cabin. The killer turns off the generator and Bill heads out alone to fix it as Alice falls asleep. (Note: Never do this.) Soon after, Alice awakens, goes out to find Bill and discovers him pinned to the generator room door with arrows.
Horrified, Alice runs off just as a vehicle pulls up to the cabin. The driver is Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), who at first tries to comfort the very hysterical Alice. But very quickly, Mrs. Voorhees begins to grow violent as she talks about her son Jason, who had drowned as a boy at the camp in 1957.

At first, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) seems comforting, but not for long.

Mrs. Voorhees pulls a hunting knife on Alice, who naturally flees. She tries to escape in the vehicle Mrs. Voorhees arrived in, but discovers Annie's body in the driver’s seat. Alice runs off and encounters Steve's body (still with a knife in his chest) which falls from atop a porch.
Alice tries to trick Mrs. Voorhees into thinking she has a loaded gun, but the rouse fails. Mrs. Voorhees slaps Alice in the face multiple times and throws her onto a table. But Alice fights her off with a gun and escapes, locking herself in a spice closet.
Mrs. Voorhees, using a machete, breaks into the closet, but Alice hits her in the head with a frying pan. Alice then goes and sits on the side of the lake. (Seriously, why not try to escape across the lake?) Mrs. Voorhees, of course, attacks her with the machete. But Alice fights back, takes control of the machete and decapitates Mrs. Voorhees. Alice then climbs into a canoe and falls asleep offshore.

Pamela Voorhees comes looking for Annie down by the lake.

The next morning, police arrive to find a dazed Alice still in the canoe. When they call to her, she is attacked by a young decayed Jason, who pulls her out of the boat. But that turns out to be a really bad dream. In reality, Alice awakens in the hospital and discovers her friends are all dead, but remembers and asks about the boy, Jason.

Jason is about to attack Alice, but it's only a nightmare.

The sheriff tells her that no boy was found, and Alice says "Then he's still there..." as the final shot shows the peaceful lake, with some air bubbles erupting at the surface, before fading to black.
Not a critical success, (are these films ever?), Friday the 13th proved to be a moneymaker. Made on a budget of $550,000, backed by an advertising budget of $1 million and distribution by a major studio, Paramount, (Warner Bros. distributed the film internationally) Friday grossed nearly $40 million at the box office. Not a bad return on the investment.
And thank God the original film left it open for a sequel, right? Why else would there have been Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981); Friday the 13th Part III (1982); Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984); Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985);  Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986); Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988);  Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989); Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993); Jason X (2001); the crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and, the wait for it, reboot Friday the 13th (2009). Ironically, it wasn’t until the third film that someone got hip to releasing them on Friday the 13th, but that release model only lasted a couple of sequels (III, Final Chapter, Part VII, The Final Friday and the reboot).
Like A Nightmare on Elm Street, in Friday the 13th we find a future star at the beginning of his career. While Kevin Bacon is no Johnny Depp (and I guess we can all be thankful for that), he was fairly new to film acting at the time. This was only his fourth film, though he had already appeared in the seminal National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). Diner (1982), Footloose (1984) and the rest of his career though were still ahead of him.

Kevin Bacon as Jack Burrell, just another victim in Friday The 13th.

And again, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, the movie is kind of slow in places until people start being killed. I really can’t say I got all that attached to any of the kids who were doomed or really cared which one made it out alive. By the time I saw this film, I already knew what to expect (teenagers + woods + sex + night = gruesome death). That equation still has the same answer today, see The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Some things never change.
The twist for future Friday the 13th films is that Jason, not his mother, is the killer going forward (Oh yeah, oops spoiler alert; like you didn’t already know). In the original film, we’re told about how Jason was allowed to drown because the camp counselors who were supposed to be watching him were giving into their hormonal urges, but he doesn’t start to take revenge until the sequels. In the original, he’s pretty much not a player, except for Alice’s dream, rather nightmare.
Of our five Halloween flavored films, this one seems to be the most innocuous, so if you really want to see a slasher film for the season, then I would recommend this one. Since this was such a model for so many films to follow, it might be worth your while seeing it. However, if you’re planning a marathon of Friday the 13th films, I think I’m busy that year. Thanks for asking.

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