Friday the 13th (1980)
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Starring Adrienne King Betsy Palmer Kevin Bacon

This "Halloween" clone gained a sleazy image when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert singled it out for condemnation on a special edition of the PBS series "Sneak Previews." The entire show was devoted to slasher films, and the two critics blasted every movie in the genre at the time, except "Halloween." (They were especially enraged at the interesting "I Spit on Your Grave.")

But "Friday" is a good horror film and it spawned the longest run of sequels in horror history. There were a total of 10 movies! The plot is well-known. A group of misbehaving camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are murdered in gruesome ways by someone. No, it isn't Jason in this picture.

Gore effects maestro Tom Savini provided the special effects, and they're impressive. A woman gets an axe in her face, a guy gets an arrow in his eye and Kevin Bacon gets an arrow through his throat. The effects helped make Savini the legend he is today.

Although the flick is much maligned by critics, it really does have that nihilistic, low-budget, horror film atmosphere that you rarely find in movies today. Like the rest of the films in the series, this one focuses on the guilt teens feel around sex. The back story has a retarded camper (Jason as a child) drowning as a result of a group of counselors partying instead of paying attention to what was going on in their camp. The very first victims are two counselors having sex.

Easily the best in the series, the film manages to be quite scary, although it doesn't have the fast pace we get from corporate fear films today. It was a major hit when it came out, with high school kids across the country raving about it and "Famous Monsters of Filmland" boldly displaying the goriest scenes from the film in its magazine. Those were the days.

Unlike "Halloween" director and producer John Carpenter, the makers of this weren't timid about making sequels and almost as immediately as this one opened Part 2 was in production. The title, not surprisingly, was "Friday the 13th Part 2".

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-- Review by Lucius Gore


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