My Favourite Horror Film: Friday the 13th
(The fact I have to warn you about spoilers for a forty year old movie proves you should brush up on your horror)
When you view a piece of subjective media your opinion should be based on its quality. In this respect origins are unimportant. Origins are very important when viewing the overall evolution if a franchise however and when documenting the quality of said franchise you have to take its first iteration into account as that was the magnum opus of the series its metaphorical Big Bang.
I won’t lie I’m a gigantic fan of the slasher genre of movies in particular Friday the 13th. While previous versions of the hit horror classic have stumbled along the way (cough Jason x cough) the focal point of the serial killers works is of course the first of the long line of formulaic teenagers go camping, picked off one by one until the group notices something wrong and the virgin and her lover survive as the antagonist dies in some brutal way he couldn’t possibly survive and then is revealed to be very alive *cue lightning. The first slasher of slashers was a very interesting flick having a good deal of scares and gore while still keeping the focus on the narrative and the groups degrading mental stability. While this setup may seem pretty unoriginal these days in the golden age the format had not been done yet and having the villain as the protagonist was a real turnaround for some people. Gore fanatics (which weren’t a thing in terms of movies until this movie) ate this idea up with Jason acting like some form of twisted tour guide through a world of violence. Perhaps the most ironic thing however is the fact that the hockey masked killer that is both the embodiment and face of the show isn’t featured in the movie at all (the seven foot killer appearing in the second movie and the infamous mask being “appropriated” in the third). Part of the reason this movie is so clever is it’s misdirection leading the audience to believe that the person responsible for the grisly murders at camp crystal lake is a seven foot machete wielding water zombie and not his concerned mother who baby’s the group for a lot of the movie being a shoulder to cry on while simultaneously shoving arrows through Kevin Bacon’s jugular. Her loving motherly tender-loving-care act is so genuine that it forces you to completely strike her from the list suspects. It’s through this manipulation that the first twist ,the betrayal of Pamela Vorhees, is shocking but the following scene ,taking place after Pamela literally loses her head, we see the previously mentioned virgin is sat deep in thought in the middle of crystal lake it’s a calm morning and the light glints softly through the low hanging morning mists drifting across the clear water. Then splashing screaming undead little deformed boy and drowning. This last scene ,which is the first ever visual reveal of Jason, stands as the sole proof that horror movies can have not one but two clever well written twists that keep the audience highly engaged. The moment of the malformed child that would later become the hockey mask murderer is so unexpected not just because of the previously established mood of the scene but due to a complete lack of para normality the rules of this universe having been set to show that nothing supernatural was possible.
I may have just sung praises but it’s not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. While it is the first iteration of the formula of drink smoke weed skinny dipping slash gurgling death sounds it’s fair to say the story isn’t very imaginative in any sense being quite unoriginal despite being an original concept in the seventies with the horror movies of the 50s and 60s featuring the typical idea of a pure virtuous blond lead who spends a good chunk of the film screaming. So it’s not a dickens classic with its taboo themes of sex violence and drugs but neither is it a Uwe Boll disaster. It’s stuck in some filmic limbo with the aspirations for greatness but is addicted to the entertainment of murder and delinquency probably known as cult classics land.