Friday, May 13, 2016
Friday the 13th
In recent years, I've mellowed out my stance. Jason Voorhees, the varying quality of his movies aside, is a horror icon, and when one of his flicks are on, I catch myself watching at least some of it and enjoying it. Maybe it's because so much of today's horror fare has become rather tame, watered down, and corporate, the Friday the 13th movies hearken back to something a little more raw, a little more sleazy, and more unapologetically drive-in fair. You can't hate them for being what they are.
Yeah, plot not especially a strong point for this one or any slasher really. Tom Savini provides a a few of his iconic gore moments (notably when Kevin Bacon gets an arrow in the throat), and the film has a strong, creepy atmosphere. Camp Crystal Lake is suitably isolated and wooded. It looks they really filmed this in the middle of nowhere, far away from civilization, and Cunningham uses a lot of POV shots to suggest these counselors are being watched and stalked. The music by Harry Manfredini is perfect for the film and goes a long way toward making things scary. No one can forget the ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma. or the frantic string pieces. And more so than in the sequels, the counselors are somewhat likable for a bunch of dopey teenagers.
Is Friday the 13th a classic? I don't know. It's certainly a must-see for horror fans. I think this material was done better by the likes of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Tobe Hooper, but its impact on the genre can't be denied, and it still has some effective power and scares. I can't help but feel nostalgic about it. A simple setup - teens in the woods with a killer - that was made in the right place at the right time, free of the post-modern cynicism or jokey tone we've seen since the likes of Scream. The special effects are practical, the locations aren't on a blue screen, and the actors don't all like photoshopped Hollywood models. It's a relic of a bygone era.