Friday the 13th (1980)

No fun like camping

Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Running Time: 95 mins
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon

It can be interesting to go back and revisit the starting points to long-running franchises, but the sad fact is they can't all match up to Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Despite this, did the beginning of Jason Voorhees' story have to be so frightfully dull?

Camp Crystal Lake is set to be reopened, a place best known as the site of a child's drowning, and then for a number of murders. It's years later, but little do the counsellors know an unknown assailant stalks them, set to murder them all.

Of the characters that inhabit the screen, very few feel like real characters with proper development. It seems like this aspect was replaced for the need to enact horror clichés before their most memorable aspect; their grisly ends. It's unfortunate most of the cast can't overcome this, but Adrienne King does good work as Alice, the films final girl. However, it's Betsy Palmer who'll be most remembered, proving unsettling in her role.

At least director Sean S. Cunningham does a good job with keeping the killers identity a secret. The camera is effectively used, allowing us to see the world through the killers eyes whenever they're onscreen. It allows us a unique perspective to witness the killings, in a trick borrowed from John Carpenter's Halloween. Not borrowed from that film is the distracting use of slow motion, which does little but point out how unneeded this aspect is. Credit where it's due, the effects used for the kills are stunning to watch. Tom Savini's make-up work has proven to be some of the genre's best, and this film is the perfect showcase for why this is.

Despite giving birth to a horror icon and a long running franchise, Sean S. Cunningham's 1980s slasher hasn't aged well. What Friday the 13th leaves us with is a generic slasher that looks as cheap as it feels.