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Ah, the 80s!: Friday the 13th (1980)

Updated on February 3, 2016

Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Cast: Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Betsy Palmer, Robbi Morgan, Harry Crosby

Dull is but a mild word to describe a movie like Friday the 13th. The movie is about a Mad Killer roaming around a camp site, stalking a handful of counselors who have no personality, no interesting dialogue, and no common sense. By the end of the movie, I didn't care if any of the characters survived the night. The sooner the killer got to them, and the sooner the movie could end, the better.

Of course, the problem with the characters isn't that they're poorly written or difficult to care about (which they are). The problem is that they're so annoying that you want to see them die. The movie starts out by introducing us to a girl named Annie (Robbi Morgan), who stops at a small town diner to ask for directions to Camp Crystal Lake. The patrons all gasp. "Camp Blood?" one woman asks. "They're opening that place back up?"

It seems one night in 1958 (22 years ago in the movie's time), two camp counselors were brutally murdered after they snuck out to a barn to have sex (this incident, which rips off Halloween’s opening POV stalking camera, is what opens the movie). Now, the townsfolk think the camp is jinxed. There's even an elderly nut job named Ralph, who's known for saying things to people going to Camp Crystal Lake like: "I am the messenger from God. You're all doomed!"

But back to Annie. She gets a ride from a friendly truck driver, who agrees to take her most of the way, but then tries to urge her to stay away from the camp once they're halfway there. We learn a few things about Annie, such as she really loves working with children. "I hate it when they're called kids," she says. "Sounds like little goats." Just as I'm about to pull out what little hair I have left listening to this girl talk, she hitches another ride from another stranger in a jeep, who turns out to be a psycho killer. So much for Annie (thank God!).

Heeeeeeeeeeere's MOMMY!!!!
Heeeeeeeeeeere's MOMMY!!!!

Meanwhile at the camp, six counselors are soaking up the sun while the camp's owner does all the work in getting the place fixed up. Among the counselors is Kevin Bacon, perhaps the only actor in the movie to have a long and prosperous career post-Friday the 13th. I can see why he went on to be so successful after this. His performance is the only watchable one in the entire film. The performances from the rest of the cast are really quite painful.

Just take the scene where virginal good girl Alice (Adrienne King) finds a snake in her cabin. She screams, the other counselors rush in, and everyone acts so crazy that they nearly destroy the place in an attempt to get at it. It’s really over-the-top. Then, the snake slithers under the bed, and what follows is a priceless dialogue exchange:

Alice: "Kill it."

Male Counselor (I don't remember which one): "I can't get it until it comes out!"

Alice: "Well, call him!"

Eventually, a male counselor slices the snake to little pieces, after which Alice asks: "Is it dead?"

The rest of the movie involves the counselors having sex, smoking pot, acting stupid, and dying horrible deaths. There's no suspense at all, because it’s impossible to give a rat's patootie about anyone on screen. Eventually, the killer and good girl Alice are the last ones left, and what follows is a ridiculous climax where Alice keeps dropping her weapon, and she and the killer engage in a fight to the death, which plays out more like a rehearsal for the scene than the real thing.

Fans of the franchise know good and well that Jason isn't the killer here; it's his mother. Jason doesn't show up until part 2. It seem Mrs. Voorhees is killing off horny camp counselors because it was horny camp counselors who let her poor Jason drown back in 1957. It's peculiar that the killer is the only character in the movie who gets a backstory of any kind. She's the only character here who comes across as even remotely human. Everyone else is just lambs to the slaughter.

As for the technical credits, they're pretty subpar. The cinematography by Barry Abrams is nondescript, and the musical score Harry Mandfredini is actually quite hokey. The film's main theme may be iconic in some circles; personally, I didn’t find it scary at all.

Friday the 13th scored a number of sequels, and some of them were better than this movie (some, believe it or not, were a million times worse). Siskel and Ebert ripped the movie to shreds, calling it an offensive piece of trash. That was something they said about many slasher movies released during that time.

Personally, I think it may be going too far to call this movie offensive. It’s gory, sure, but the gore is so fake at times that it’s kind of comical. In fact, much of the movie is quite comical, although not in the way the filmmakers probably intended (and not enough for the movie to qualify as a “so-bad-it’s-entertaining” guilty pleasure). Friday the 13th is trash, but it’s boring trash more than anything.

Rated R for bloody violence, profanity, sexual content, drug use, brief nudity

Final Grade: * (out of ****)

What did you think of this movie? :D

Cast your vote for Friday the 13th (1980)

This trailer lied! D:


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