Friday, October 13, 2006

31 Days of Horror - Friday the 13th

Kevin Bacon claims his first movie was Diner, but there he is (two years eariler) in the white shirt, just waiting for an arrowhead through the neck.

Blood, bad acting, and boobies. That's this movie in a nutshell. I said yesterday that Psycho was the invention of the "slasher" flick, but Friday the 13th is the movie that made the slasher stereotype that so many of us know and love. There's something specific that comes to mind when I first think of slasher flicks, and this is the icon of that sub-genre.

Do I even need to bother with a plot recap? It's the mold on which every 1980s teen horror movie was cut. Okay, just briefly... A kid named Jason Voorhees, attending Camp Crystal Lake, drowns in the lake (body never found, of course) because the counselors aren't watching him. The next summer, two counselors are murdered and the camp is subsequently closed. Locals start calling CCL "Camp Blood." Despite efforts to thwart reopening, Camp Crystal Lake reopens and several counselors arrive to ready the place for campers. Only they never get around to it, because they all die one by one, hacked and slashed by a skulking creep in a hockey mask. Amid all the formula, though, is a pretty cool twist in the last act (which I don't have the heart to spoil for you, even if you never plan to see this one).

Jason Voorhees was one of the unholy trinity of splatter movie boogeymen - the other two being Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Jason was the first of these that I ever heard of as a kid, and I remember wondering what the heck people were talking about when we were at Girl Scout camp and people would tell me Jason was going to get me.

This film established several "obligatory"s for the next few years of horror. Obligatory gore - its predecessors, most notably Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, are essentially bloodless - courtesy of the great Tom Savini. Obligatory T & A. And, most significantly, the peanut butter and jelly of 1980s horror - the Obligatory Murder-as-Punishment-for-Teen-Sex. EVERYONE who has sex in this movie dies a horrible, bloody death. Someone once speculated that this was a response to the growing threat of AIDS (it was made a little too early for that, though, I think). It's become kind of a joke with horror movies - Scream, for instance, where "Don't have sex" is one of the cardinal rules of surviving a horror movie. Jason X (speaking of "obligatory"s, that's another one - Obligatory Sequels) even has a running gag where Jason has a kind of Spidey sense that tingles whenever someone somewhere is "doing it."

The Friday the 13th sequels are vastly inferior to the original, but the whole franchise is noteworthy for its impact on the horror genre. The original, however, is a genuinely scary film, even if it is a bit cheesy.

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