Friday the 13th

Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Kevin Bacon, Mark Nelson and Jeannine Taylor
Warner Home Video
RRP 12.99
Certificate: 18
Available now

In 1957 a little boy drowns in Crystal Lake. In 1958 two camp councillors are murdered. The camp is closed down by the authorities, and gains the local name of Camp Blood. A little over 20 years later the camp is reopened for a group of young councillors to fix up the place during the summer. Warnings come thick and fast from locals in a diner, a truck driver, and most significantly from the resident crazy, Ralph, about the place being cursed. One by one the teenagers are dispatched by an unseen assailant. In a desperate bid for escape, one survivor discovers the bodies in various places, coldly killed using various tools and weapons. But there is a final twist...

Some individuals cite Friday the 13th as being a much more original and intelligent film than its many sequels. Whether or not you agree with this statement, it's certainly different. Although the first time viewer doesn't realise it until the end, this is a revenge plot; one character's retribution of those indirectly responsible for the death (or supposed) of her child. In this manner it's a closer cousin to Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians or I Spit on Your Grave than it is to Halloween, the John Carpenter classic that is said to have spawned it and a hundred other copycats. It's also a whodunit, breaking all the rules of mystery writing by having an unseen outsider as the perpetrator.

If Psycho and Halloween influenced Friday the 13th, then this film certainly influenced a multitude of others in the decade of so-called video nasties. This was the time when horrific death scenes could be played out more realistically for the first time, due to modern make-up and prosthetic effects. The difference here is that Tom Savini was intelligently minimalist in his approach, and this was aided by producer Sean S. Cunningham who ensured the killings were shown but never lingered upon. There was no blood for the sake of blood; the slayings were plot-linked.

It's interesting to note from the short Making Of documentary that the famous 'ch ch ch, ha ha ha' sound effect which is heard in every Friday film, was originally extracted from the phrase, "Kill her, mommy", being the 'ki' and the 'ma' parts resequenced by the soundtrack composer. There, you learn something new every day, even if you don't want to.

I prefer some of the sequels to the original (Sean S. Cunningham, what did you think you were doing with the travesty that was Jason Goes To Hell?) but, like Superman II, they wouldn't have even happened at all without the first one setting the scene. This is certainly true of Friday, because Jason's appearance was very much an afterthought, unscripted until the last moment. Cunningham wanted a 'seat-jumper' and so the Mongoloid boy (only mentioned in the early drafts) was introduced in the dream or reality sequence at the end of the flick. Without it there would have been no face that launched a thousand sequels. Many people might have thought that a wise move, but personally I love the hockey mask-wearing, machette-wielding unstoppable killing machine. Long may he reign.

Ty Power

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