Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Days of Fright - 15: Friday the 13th (1980)

Superstition has lost such power in recent times. Once upon a time there was no way you’d get someone to walk under a ladder, or take their chances with black cats, or smash a few mirrors for a laugh. Now, thanks to poxy science, ladders are being walked under all over the place, black cats haven’t a fraction of the power they once possessed, and there isn’t a mirror in the land safe from a good smashing! That said, whenever a Friday the thirteenth comes around it still gets a mention on the radio and plebs everywhere text in their bad luck stories associated with the day. There’s even a big long name for being afraid of the day (thanks again Science, you prick!): “friggatriskaidekaphobia”. Being afraid of a date seems a bit lame, but sometimes these fears serve to protect us from something terrible.

The opening scenes of Friday the 13th (1980) are set in 1958 and depict the murder of two members of staff at a summer camp who were sneaking off for a bit of quality time together away from the pesky kids who were staying there. The action then jumps forward in time to Friday 13th June 1980, where we find that the camp has been closed for some years as a result of the murders and other tragedies that have occurred there.

Now in the process of re-opening Camp Crystal Lake once again several new young members of staff arrive in town to start their new jobs. One girl is given a lift half way to the camp by a local truck driver who warns her, quite seriously, of the troubles that have plagues the camp that has come to be known locally as “Camp Blood”. The girl hitches a lift from a passing jeep the rest of the way to the camp but never arrives at her destination as instead the driver of the jeep (who we don’t see) takes her off into the woods and murders her.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, the other new councillors have arrived and started work fixing the place up in preparation for the opening. That night a storm hits the area and during the course of the night more tragedy strikes Camp Blood.

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The date Friday the 13th is a great idea for a film with that day in particular resonating with those of a superstitious disposition. The concept that there really is something wrong with that date is something well worth exploring so it’s a little disappointing that in cinema terms Friday the13th is now associated with a hugely successful franchise of bog standard slasher flicks.

The movie that kicked off that franchise is a little surprising for a handful of reasons – it was made very cheaply but doesn’t feel like it, it stars Kevin Bacon, and for the first part of such a successful series it’s utter shit.

The setting is good as it’s remote for the right reasons and the motivations for a bunch of randy teenagers being there are believable but the explanations given for the murders are weak as is the link to the date Friday 13th.

The content of the movie is very weak; all your watching is a series of murders over the course of one night, just like Halloween which inspired Friday the 13th. The audience are given no time to get to know the characters before they’re bumped off so it’s hard to care about what happens to them. It’s probably just as well as only one or two of the actors in the film were any good so watching too much of them making a balls of what they were doing would only put you off.

Nearly all the action (i.e. the murders) happens off screen and there are only a handful of gory moments, but the things you do see are quite good. There’s a decent bit with a girl with an axe in her head and the way Kevin Bacon leaves the film is well done.

All in all Friday the 13th is a disappointing venture. This movie started a very successful franchise so it must have done something right though I’m at a loss as to what that was. One interesting point about Friday the 13th is that it does feature a nice piece of movie trivia: if Freddy Kreuger is the main villain from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Michael Myers is the baddie in Halloween, Jason Voorhees is the one you associate with Friday the 13th – but Jason isn’t really in the first film…

Two Thumbs Down for Friday 13th

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