Dir. Sean S. Cunningham
Reviewer. Dan Cook
A mainstay of the slasher genre since it’s unprecedented opening in the Summer of 1980, FRIDAY THE 13TH may not be the most well made of horror movies but is nonetheless a fun and entertaining one whose legacy far outshines its overly familiar premise and rather shoddy production. The brainchild of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT co-creator Sean S. Cunningham, the film sees a bunch of camp councillors (played by the likes of Adrienne King, Harry Crosby and, most memorably, a pre-fame Kevin Bacon) being picked off one by one by a faceless killer in increasingly gruesome fashion.
At the time of FRIDAY THE 13TH’s release, scenes of such uncensored bloody violence were rarely seen in mainstream cinema and, rather predictably, the movie generated a huge amount of controversy from campaigners and critics alike - most hilariously the always “open-minded” Chicago Tribune reviewer Gene Siskel who would go on to call director Cunningham “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business.". Nonetheless, it’s scrappy blend of shocks, gore and gratuitous nudity proved to be pure box office dynamite and after being granted a much wider release than was usual for low-budget independent fare, FRIDAY THE 13TH became one of the highest grossing films of the year, going on to spawn a multimillion dollar franchise of over a dozen movies, video games, comic books and merchandise while simultaneously kickstarting a slasher boom that would go on to dominate much of the early 80’s horror landscape.
Admittedly, when compared to many of the other slasher movies of the post-HALLOWEEN era such as George Mihalka’s brutal MY BLOODY VALENTINE, Tony Maylam’s notorious video nasty THE BURNING (both released in 1981), Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, (1984) and even some of the later Jason-centric sequels like the hugely underrated FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986), the original FRIDAY THE 13TH falls desperately short in both character and execution. The majority of the performances are weak, the plot is very derivative, and every character, many of which merely serve as uninteresting entries on the murderers extensive chopping list, are forgettable 2 dimensional archetypes. That being said, with its iconic Herrman-inspired score by Harry Manfredini, a number of impressively nasty death scenes brought to life by makeup maestro Tom Savini and a final jump scare that never fails to set pulses racing, FRIDAY THE 13TH certainly has carved its place in the history of horror with an especially sharp blade.