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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.26%
Average: 19.54%
Pretty Bad: 12.64%
Total Crap: 16.67%

7 reviews, 132 user ratings

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Friday the 13th (1980)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Where it all began."
3 stars

Thirty years on, Sean S. Cunningham's original "Friday the 13th" looks ... almost innocent. It doesn't have the merciless style of "Halloween," or the gnashing sadism of "Last House on the Left," or the sweaty lunacy of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." It's a cash grab, with no particular vision, and if not for Tom Savini's gore effects which scandalized so many critics but play relatively tame today we'd be looking at a made-for-TV movie, a piece of anonymous hackwork.

Still, there's something there. Partly it's the energy of the young cast, who all seem thrilled to be in a movie. (This wasn't Kevin Bacon's first movie, but it was his first substantial role.) Partly it's the moronic, sub-And Then There Were None purity of the script. And partly it's because it seems to tap into something elemental the campfire tale, the cautionary tale about teens who got drunk and high and laid and dead. Friday the 13th was far from the first film to use the fuck-and-die formula, but it sure solidified it.

John Carpenter has argued persuasively that the reason sex equals death in Halloween is that if you're making out, you're distracted from impending danger. In Friday the 13th, on the other hand, the equation is very much moralistic. The whole saga, after all, begins when camp counselors back in 1958 are too busy having sex to save young Jason Voorhees from drowning. Sex, for teenagers, is all-consuming and wrapped up in countless fears. It's terrifying and annihilating enough without a vengeful stalker looming over you with a machete. And then there's the actual identity of the killer, who spoiler here, though I'm guessing if you've read this far you've seen the movie is like someone's mom or grandma. Stated plain, Friday the 13th is about your mom catching you jerking off and doing terrible things to you. The subsequent films in the series, I don't know. The sexual dynamic is different and perhaps even weirder.

Everyone loves Savini's blood gags. But DVD's clarity shows you the seams, spoils the trick. I think Kevin Bacon's death by arrow through the neck runs a little longer in the uncut version, and the added lingering does the makeup no favors: suddenly Bacon's throat is a vividly different color from his face. Is that realistic? Savini, a combat photographer in Vietnam, might counter that a part of the body rapidly losing blood would become pale. It still looks fake. Savini had to jerry-rig a lot of this stuff, and the budget was not enormous. Somehow the effects add to the handmade, amiably average flavor of the piece. Maybe it's just that Sean Cunningham didn't know how to shoot effects sequences. Or much else. The shots are competently framed (by Barry Abrams) but will make no one forget the work of Dean Cundey on Halloween or Daniel Pearl on Chainsaw.

The film is boringly heteronormative; nobody has any kinks or quirks, they just want to fuck (one guy even says he doesn't always think about sex, sometimes he also thinks about kissing a woman). The kids are more or less defined by the ways they kill time strip Monopoly, smoking weed, getting laid. They're pretty much interchangeable except Alice (Adrienne King), who seems a little older and more mature, and had something going with the camp manager. Alice doesn't particularly want to be there, working alongside her ex, but she has more experience than the kids coming in, and she's kind of like a den mother, or den older sister. She can let her hair down and smoke a spliff, but she wouldn't have let Jason drown. Which makes her final showdown with Mrs. Voorhees all the more appropriate. Alice stands for balance between horny teenagers and the grown-up world.

Other than this sort of English 201 reading, there's not a lot going on in Friday the 13th. The closest thing to a subplot is the dorky camp manager trying to get back to Camp Crystal Lake in a thunderstorm. Everything else is set 'em up, knock 'em down. Again, moronic purity. The only thrill is the variations in murder, and if you haven't seen the film in a while, or if your memories of it have merged with your memories of the later films, you may be remembering more inventive gore than there actually is. What was notable at the time, in an R-rated movie, was the camera's unflinching gaze at a throat-slashing or at Bacon's death; the other murders are either rote stabbings beneath the camera frame or take place offscreen. The ax-to-the-face effect is achieved with editing; you may think you saw the ax hit the girl in the eye, but you didn't what you do see is the ax in her face a second later. (Again, you see more of it in the uncut version.) One character wanders into a cabin, and the next time we see him he's stuck to a wall by several arrows. We're not used to people dying offscreen in what's supposed to be a go-for-broke slasher flick.

Michael Myers had a kind of sputtering career in the '80s; he in fact sat out most of the decade, between Halloween II (1981) and his return in Halloween 4 (1988). Leatherface only had one film that decade. So the slasher genre in the '80s, other than the innumerable rip-offs and one-offs, came down to Jason and Freddy (who of course had to share a film eventually, though not until 2003, oddly). Freddy was a cackling gargoyle whose quips became lovable; soon enough he was hosting shows on MTV. Jason, masked and silent, was Freddy's opposite number, and since Michael Myers wasn't around, Jason took over by default as the faceless, voiceless Boogeyman who'll kill you because you happen to be there and it's Tuesday. He became something of a camp (no pun intended) icon, too laughably unkillable and unstoppable, a slasher version of the Terminator. (Jason X would finally just go all the way with this.) But in this first film, Jason isn't around except as a memory, a ghost, a nightmare, a trauma animating the slaughter. In effect, it's as though he directly killed these victims his batshit mother thinks he's talking to her, spurring her on to kill. But it's not a Jason film; it's an origin story, like the ones you find in comics or, of late, comic-book movies.

I can't call myself a fan of the Friday the 13th series, yet I own the box set of the first eight films in the series, as well Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X and Freddy Vs. Jason (though not the 2009 remake; I have standards). Why? I suppose I like owning big chunks of horror-film history; also, the idea of the Friday the 13th films is more fun than the actual films tend to be individually. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, yeah: this first Friday the 13th, not so great. The whole shebang is a kind of shabby epic of retributive pain, an After School Special on the perils of drugs and sex done up in a way that teens would actually respond to.

Is it a nostalgia trip? Partially. It hasn't aged well; its nonstyle renders it pretty sedate these days, although I still prefer being able to see what's going on to today's smash-and-grab editing. Of the early slashers (I don't really consider "Halloween" a slasher), I prefer "The Burning," which has layers of perversity and genuine rage, and much better Tom Savini effects to boot. Ultimately, "Friday the 13th" isn't good enough to stand with its betters, and not bad enough to be a beer-and-pizza hoot like the many Canadian-tax-shelter slashers that followed in its wake. It's average, bland, more memorable for what it started than for what it is.

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originally posted: 08/13/10 14:02:01
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User Comments

11/13/20 bored mom Not a real classic as much as it is a curiosity. Jason's mom is a bad Psycho knock-off lol 3 stars
10/03/20 DavidV Can't believe this dreck launched the franchise 1 stars
9/30/20 B. Hines Why didn't she just kill Christie before he hired the help 4 stars
11/22/19 Frank Reda Jr, I grew up in the time where the music and the movie matched to scare the heck out of ya. 5 stars
10/02/16 morris campbell all the friday the 13th movies are crap 1 stars
12/29/11 David Hollingsworth One of the best gore films of the 80s. 5 stars
6/28/11 art let's not forget APRIL Fool's Day,and my Bloody Valentine!, 1 stars
10/08/10 Jeff Moore Great Review! Made me chortle, completely agree with the points you made. 2 stars
10/03/10 art for the RECORD,the ORIGINAL FRIDAY THE 13TH is the best SLASHER FLICK! 5 stars
9/06/10 art I WAS JOKING when i said i was a fan of friday the 13th! 1 stars
8/24/10 Joseph A bad movie, but for some reason watchable 2 stars
12/27/09 art THIS IS MY ALL TIME FAVORITE FILM!,and so is PART"S TWO AND THREE 5 stars
10/05/08 blarginbadigalnohif meh 4 stars
4/16/08 art I TAKE IT BACK IT"S FOR THE BIRD"S 1 stars
11/01/07 Total Crap Not the greastest slasher in the genre, but defined many aspects of it. 4 stars
10/25/07 art this is the best slasher movie of all time 5 stars
10/22/07 Jacob Marzzarella that was an ausome movie 5 stars
9/17/07 art this is the best slasher movie of all time 5 stars
8/18/07 Ian scary film, tense foreshadowing +music. Well done. 3 stars
2/06/07 action movie fan just okay horror-way overappreciated though 3 stars
12/03/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, frightening 5 stars
11/22/06 Charles Brailey A very good movie, but not as good as the sequels. This movie sets the stage very well 4 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley Still carries an impact and unexpectedly creative at times. 4 stars
10/20/06 William Goss It is what it is. 3 stars
10/03/06 Jeremy Davies Not bad, but not great 3 stars
8/09/06 Doreen My fav is Halloween but this comes in 2nd! 4 stars
8/01/06 Jake Seeing an old woman killing teenangers is scarier then Halloween?! Think of the mask alone. 2 stars
7/25/06 David Cohen The least bad of the "Friday the 13th" series 3 stars
4/18/06 Dave So So film which started a brash of sequels that for the most part were worse. 3 stars
1/17/06 Anthony Feor This is terrible 2 stars
11/24/05 cr one my favorite horror movies great kills and gore, a knockout ending 4 stars
10/14/05 Darren O Well directed, scored, and the effects are top notch. Grandaddy of all slaughter flicks 5 stars
9/13/05 Total Crap This movie survives as being scarier than Halloween, plus more blood. Has to be seen. 4 stars
8/23/05 Sugarfoot One of those "Why on earth was this popular" movies. Still it has it's moments. 2 stars
8/23/05 Eden Don't know how it made so many sequels. Watch Halloween instead 1 stars
7/14/05 Brandy Harrington Scary, but for all the wrong reasons. 1 stars
7/01/05 Eddie The original slasher 80's movie 5 stars
6/28/05 R "indrid" and "what?," couldn't have said it better. (although that's 3 words, 'what.') 1 stars
5/27/05 tony A keeper in horror movie wall of fame 5 stars
5/17/05 what? 2 words: Halloween rip-off. 1 stars
4/18/05 Indrid Cold Its influence far outweighs its quality. 2 stars
4/12/05 Phoenix One of the classic horror movies. Often immitated but never duplicated. 5 stars
2/01/05 Jeff Anderson Stood the test of time back then, now EXTREMELY DATED & MOLDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 stars
10/29/04 Vince The landmark of slasher movies 5 stars
10/12/04 kevin watts VERY GOOD,SCARY 4 stars
8/15/04 Anthony G this movie sucks black salty balls all night long! 1 stars
7/23/04 American Slasher Goddess The next review I find changed, that's mine, I'm reporting them to the Site Admin. 5 stars
7/19/04 Benjamin Petrofsky The best Slasher Film anyone can see! Better that "Halloween" or "Nightmare on Elm St." 5 stars
7/04/04 Samuel i thought mrs. voorhees was a great killer, she did an especially good with kevin bacon 5 stars
6/07/04 Ryan Clark Not as effective as it used to be, and a little slow... but it's very atmospheric and fun. 4 stars
5/16/04 John fairly effective slaher film 3 stars
4/15/04 J Common Jason's mommie sucks at KILLING! 1 stars
4/11/04 valerie hart the first one is not as good as the others coz it lacks interest 3 stars
4/08/04 phoenix The best of all the friday films. Terrific! 5 stars
3/30/04 American Slasher Goddess One of the great slasher movies of the 80's. 5 stars
3/17/04 PAYNE_KillerZ WHAT A SHAME... THIS SHOULD BE REMADE WITH THE NEW JASON (from Freddy VS. Jason)!!!!!!!!!!! 2 stars
2/17/04 Ramey Corny- terrible deaths. Jason was better than his Mommy! 3 stars
2/06/04 c.r Is one of scariest movies in the 1980's and it's gory fun! 4 stars
2/04/04 Chad Foster Awesome 5 stars
1/26/04 Eric Original.A great start to a series that should have stopped 4 movies ago. 4 stars
12/12/03 Captain Spaulding One of my favorite horror movies of all time!! 5 stars
12/12/03 Charlie and the Chocalte FActory Jason's mom was a much better killer!!! 5 stars
11/25/03 homer J. Simpson this was a gruesome good time, but a little slow at times 3 stars
11/09/03 Phoenix Not bad, but very overrated. Why so many sequels????? 3 stars
11/02/03 J This movie really sucks!!!!!! 1 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess Set the standard for slasher movies. 5 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee Boring at times, but thank God it was made because I am a huge Jason Voorhees fan! 3 stars
10/16/03 Erik Van Sant Groundbreaking teen-slash flick. Loved it and some of the many sequels that followed. 5 stars
10/08/03 Double G good movie since this started it all its worth ***** 5 stars
9/17/03 Samuel Justus Good movie, but should have left it at this one! 4 stars
8/31/03 I Would Absolutely saturated with cliches, which I suppose adds to its camp value. 2 stars
7/22/03 Double G It wasn't scary,good, or bad. A Camp Classic 3 stars
7/07/03 Chainsaw Slasher The pioneer of the 80's slasher trend. Long lives Jason 5 stars
6/14/03 Jalophoavbokilova This movie is happening right now. "Kill Her Mommy!" June 13th. 11:57pm. 2 stars
6/14/03 Alice 1 of the first camp horrors ever! Yall should be ashamed to call this crap! 5 stars
6/04/03 Mike Plays the way crap smells after 20 years! 1 stars
5/22/03 Andrew Carden Betsy Palmer Deserved An Oscar Nod. Fun, Original and Scary. 4 stars
4/27/03 Jack Stern It was not scary, and didn't fase me in the slightest. 5 stars
3/30/03 Sugarfoot A Camp Classic:Had me laughing at all the wrong moments!! 2 stars
1/25/03 M.C. Michael Myers taking a shit would be more entertaining than the Jason series 2 stars
1/02/03 Chowie mmmmmmm... 4 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Kevin Bacon & Jeannine Taylor's sex scene is Hot!!! 3 stars
11/28/02 Kyle Suspensful & scary. And much better than the sequals. 4 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Undistinguished slasher film that got out of hand 3 stars
9/30/02 Michael Carruthers Funniest movie I've ever seen! Aye, its not a comedy? It's meant to horror? Funnier!!! Ahaa 1 stars
8/17/02 Scott Talk about gore. Sweeet beheading. Scary as hell also. 4 stars
8/16/02 Shaun scary 3 stars
8/11/02 Michael Carruthers What a horrible film. 1 stars
8/08/02 Venthor One of the better parts. 5 stars
7/14/02 Graham McDonald Sucks big time , stay the hell away from this piece of crap! 1 stars
6/27/02 Joseph Morgan Haunting 4 stars
6/22/02 Jake You gotta love Besty Palmer in this! "Kill her mommy!" "Kill her" "Kill her....ahhhh!" 2 stars
6/18/02 Brandon A Classic!! This movie will last forever 5 stars
6/02/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi yes, nice weather we're having.... 1 stars
4/25/02 maximal01 This old bitch can shove a poke through a bed and clean through a man from UNDER IT? Nooo.. 2 stars
4/03/02 Film Guy If I was being stalked by a old lady I would beat her ass 1 stars
3/31/02 Film Dude They didn't know the old lady was a killer, she walked up to them asking for hel. 5 stars
3/23/02 masin wolliams the first one is kinda wooden, #s 2-6 kick all kinds of ass, 6 should have been the end. 4 stars
3/09/02 Chowie the start of a revolution..................... 2 stars
1/16/02 David A. The best of the slasher movies. Adrienne King is very effective in the head-chopping scene. 4 stars
12/17/01 Jake Betsy gets under Kevin Bacon. Strip Monopoly playing teens bite the dust. BILL!! BILL?? 2 stars
11/30/01 Rutt13 not neccesarily a "good" film, but a classic of the genre 4 stars
11/30/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) EricDSnider's a smart dude. The movie's a classic, but it's a classic for being so stupid. 1 stars
10/26/01 Sthenno This film was this gay then,but now it's funny as hell! Crappy directing. 2 stars
9/29/01 Phoenix It was allright the first time, but why did they make eight sequels. 3 stars
9/25/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was good, just fine but... Why did it have to be Jason's mother? 3 stars
9/07/01 darrin perrone the first,the best and the greatest scariest horror of all time 5 stars
8/31/01 The Beyond This movie is one of the greatest.See it uncut if you can! it's great! 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Classic...not great, but demands respect. Does somebody smell Bacon? 5 stars
8/03/01 Chris K. This ripped-off Mario Bava's equaly brilliant TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1971) 1 stars
4/22/01 Sar This film barely managed to hold my attention, although it did hold one or two surprises! 4 stars
4/13/01 LiL I've said it before and I'll say it again. Here's a nice piece of shit 2 stars
11/05/00 ???????????? Even though I'm giving this an awesome rating,i still think that it's otal dog shit 5 stars
9/04/00 TIGGER I liked this movie a lot, but I do disagree with Justin, it was just as good as Psycho. 4 stars
8/12/00 Justin The brilliant original. The best slasher movie of all time! Makes Psycho look like SHIT! 5 stars
7/29/00 Alan Excellent. A terrifying horror film that I will never get tired of watching. 5 stars
7/19/00 Terrie Smith First in the series which is not saying much for the ones that followed. So-so. 3 stars
5/01/00 Bender Not the best in the series, but still pretty scary. 4 stars
5/01/00 Gus Van Sant ahh,wonderful shite! 1 stars
4/29/00 Ehh... Don't watch this,OR scream,because they both bit the big one!Watch HALLOWEEN! 1 stars
4/13/00 SwatchDog Standard horror flick, at least Parts 2+3 had colorful characters and better scares 4 stars
4/05/00 Gary Durso im giving it avergae becuase it was a starting point for other horror films 3 stars
4/03/00 Tom Robinson Jason is Awesome 5 stars
3/24/00 David Rogers I heard so much about Jason in these movie that I was disappointed not to see him. 2 stars
3/02/00 Kyle Broflovski THIS is a landmark in horror history??? Ummm...Whyyyyyyyyyyy??? 2 stars
1/18/00 Jedi15 Bad acting, dialogue, & effects. Only good point is Betsy Palmer. Watch SCREAM instead. 2 stars
1/02/00 Dan Bentn Worth a look if only for historical reasons 3 stars
10/05/99 rob Pretty boring and badly acted until the ending. The second one was better. 2 stars
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  09-May-1980 (R)
  DVD: 05-Oct-2004

  02-Jul-1980 (18)

  02-Jul-1980 (R)

Directed by
  Sean S. Cunningham

Written by
  Victor Miller

  Betsy Palmer
  Jeannine Taylor
  Robbi Morgan
  Kevin Bacon
  Harry Crosby

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