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Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton

Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham

Adrienne King
Betsy Palmer
Harry Crosby

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What's it about
A group of randy young counselors are fixing up Camp Crystal Lake for the soon-to-be-arriving campers. However, the evil history that has plagued the area is about to rear its head once again. And no, it ain't Jason doing the killing on this maiden voyage for the franchise. Most of you know that, I’m sure, but for the rest of y’all: I’ll be talking *SPOILERS* in this review.
Is it good movie?
Good ol’ FRIDAY THE 13TH. I first caught this baby as a much younger lad on VHS, and it scared the bejesus out of me. As it stands today, it may be the only installment of the entire franchise - which numbers eleven, if you include FREDDY VS JASON- that still manages to get under the skin. Director Sean S. Cunningham has a spare and effective approach behind the camera, and he allows the film to take its time in the right places to maximize suspense. And due in part to a modest budget, Camp Crystal Lake feels like it could be a place 20 minutes outside your own city/town. It may be kinda campy and shlocky these days, but there’s still something unsettling about FRIDAY THE 13TH. It’s still fun to watch too.

Cunningham and writer Victor Miller had a clear agenda when setting out to make the film: to rip-off the incredibly popular HALLOWEEN. It was a simple enough formula to copy - set the stage with a past evil and an unsolved mystery of sorts, and then introduce a cast of young people to be systematically offed one by one. The killings here are a lot more graphic than those in HALLOWEEN. The early murder of Jack (played by a young Mr. Kevin Bacon) is easily the standout in the movie. Jack and his lady love Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) escape to one of the presumably abandoned cabins during a rain shower for some joint-smoking and nookie. Since either one by itself is deadly in this genre, I’d say they’re pretty much fucked. Right after the passion reaches its climax, the camera rises to the top bunk of the bed and there’s a deliciously creepy reveal of a bloody corpse that we see, now, the couple has just made love under. What happens next provides a great jump and shows off some of the best of the gory prosthetics in the film, by makeup legend Tom Savini. Oh and for the record, this scene contains the only footage added for this “Uncut” version, which amounts to a few extra seconds of the bloody “money shot”. For another kind of Kevin Bacon money shot, see WILD THINGS.

The cast is pretty respectable for a low-budget horror. King does alright with the lead role of Alice, and if you hadn’t noticed yet, Harry Crosby (playing the ever-so-chivalrous Bill) is Bing’s son. Peter Brouwer gets to play the role of the “adult” - the manager of the newly revamped camp, Steve. Of course, what separates the film from all future sequels and most slasher movies in general is the identity of the killer, as well as the killer’s motives. It’s not much of a whodunit - Betsy Palmer just turns up and says she is Mrs. Voorhees, an old family friend. Just a sweet old woman who turns up inexplicably to help. That’s cool. Of course, she’s the killer, and she’s got her reasons too. The showdown between Alice and Mrs. Voorhees is a pretty weak part of the movie, because Palmer (try as she might) is not terribly fearsome as Jason’s mama. Some of the killer’s mystique gets lost when we see too much of that killer and discover they seem to be slow and clumsy. Still, the film gained notoriety at the time, because for once, mom was the murderer.

Director Cunningham does a lot of subtle things that work; I loved the shot that follows the phone line outside the cabin to reveal it has been cut. Harry Manfredini’s score is chilling in its own unique way, even though it got a little tedious for me as the series went on. The final scare doesn’t really make sense, but it might get to you anyway. This is a film that does indeed deserve its place in horror history.
Video / Audio
Video Widescreen Format. The transfer for the film is terrific, resulting in a much cleaner print of what has always been a very grainy/gritty film to watch.

Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
The Extras
Commentary with Director Sean S. Cunningham, Cast and Crew Actually just audio interview excerpts that sound like they recorded at different times. Author Peter Bracke moderates between comments by Cunningham and various crew.

Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th gathers crew members for interviews as they look back on the success of the films. It runs about 14 minutes.

The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham A 9-minute sit down with the producer-director of the original film has some interesting points; for one, he and writer Victor Miller didn't like the direction of Jason as the killer, but soon admitted they were wrong.

A Friday the 13th Reunion A great little discussion panel with makeup artist Tom Savini, actrors Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King and Ari Lehman (who played young Jason), composer Harry Manfredini, and writer Victor Miller.

Finally, there's a little addition called Lost Tales From Camp Blood, which is a short scene where a big killer (probably Jason) stalks and kills two people. Plus, the film's Theatrical Trailer.
Last Call
Though it never got much respect from critics, FRIDAY THE 13TH is still a scary film that is more effectively suspenseful than virtually all of its successors.
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