Thursday, October 12, 2006

Happy Friday the 13th

To celebrate the fact that today is indeed Friday the 13th here’s my review of the horror classic from Keep checking the site for my cult film and DVD reviews.

In 1957 at Camp Crystal Lake a young boy had been drowned as uninterested counsellors ignore his cries. In 1958 two teenagers are brutally slain, in 1962 fire causes the camp to be closed. In 1979 the camp is re-opened but soon the counsellors are being killed one by one by a mysterious killer. As they fight for their lives and try to save the children in their care, it becomes a battle of the strong to see who will walk out of “Camp Blood” alive.

Director Sean. S. Cunnningham had already made a name for himself working with Wes Craven on Last House on the Left. Following the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween he saw that the horror genre was the next big thing and looked for a name for his project that would strike terror into the audiences. Friday the 13th was the unlikely moniker but on its release the film became a box office sensation. Carpenter may have done it first in the US but Friday the 13th was the film that put the body count movie on the map. The film spawned a multitude of sequels; some great, such as Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter, and some frankly awful, Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan being one such. All had one thing in common, the psychotic Jason Vorhees wielding an axe and killing as many sex-crazed teenagers as possible. All that is, except one, the original.

Looking past the blood, gore and sex and the original Friday the 13th is a good little movie. Yes, watching it now the plot seems hackneyed but back in 1980 this was inspired stuff. One tends to forget that the villain of the piece the first time around was Jason’s mum, distraught at the general malaise that the modern day teenager had fallen into. The summer camp tutors were more interested in sex than saving her son from drowning so she revenged her child by murdering any young couple intent on getting frisky.

Cunningham and the writer Victor Miller may well be trying to make a statement there but you can’t help but think all they were really trying to do is scare the living daylights out of the viewer.Cunningham directs with style, cranking up the tension at every opportunity. He is ably assisted by make-up legend Tom Savini, fresh from his work on George. A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and Henry Manfredini, whose score became the blueprint for every slasher movie made in the 80s. So many of the films shock moments became synonymous with the genre that many ignore what an important part Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve played in the conception of Friday the 13th and its sequels, especially, Part 2. Plagiarism aside, however, these films are everything that was great about the 80s horror film and you even get to see a young Kevin Bacon with an arrow through his neck! How could you refuse?

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