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Friday the 13th: Impact of a Legend.

by Joe Patterson about a month ago in movie review · updated about a month ago
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The genius of the Friday the 13th series.

On May 9th, 1980, Friday the 13th made it's theatrical debut across the country. Written by Victor Miller and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, critics labelled it the most definitive slasher film in horror. Though Friday the 13th was not the first slasher film ever made, having been preceded by Psycho (1960), The Last House on the Left (1972), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th was the first of it's horror kind to have the moniker of "slasher" tied to its identity due to its exploitative nature displayed by a slasher-killer. Friday the 13th would not only become one of the most beloved horror classics of all time, but would influence many other slashers in the genre it pioneered down the line. In addition to it's status as horror royalty, the Friday the 13th film series would also become a staple on the identity of American pop culture.

To understand why exactly the Friday the 13th series has become the icon that it is you have to explore its composition. From its very beginning, Friday the 13th was not the typical version of what it meant to be a great film, even in the category of horror. Most mainstream film critics reacted negatively to most of the films in the series for lacking story, character development, and a difference in identity when following up a predecessor, as opposed to blood and a high body count. Nevertheless, Friday the 13th would form it's own appealing niche through social and cultural symbolism. The original plot that started and carried the series is where this symbolism was first explored. The story of Friday the 13th is centered around the legend of the film's central antagonist, Jason Voorhees, a once deformed young boy who drowned at his childhood camp known as Crystal Lake aka Camp Blood, due to the negligence of his counselors. Jason's mother Pamela would become a vengeful serial killer in his name before Jason himself would take up the mantle following his mother's death.

Most of Jason's victims consisted of young men and women who were partaking in the same activities of negligence that led to Jason's drowning as a young boy including sex, drugs, and drinking. Many of the victims would die by Jason's hands actively partaking in these vices at the times of their death scenes. Realistically speaking, many viewers and critics consider the downfalls of these young adults as metaphors for the consequences that young people will face when they behave irresponsibly. These victim archetypes would also go on to be the frame of reference for how to create the ideal victim in many other horror films both surrounding and following Friday the 13th in the future.

In addition to the niche created for itself, Friday the 13th would also find success with its financial intelligence and growth in quality due to a newfound sense of theme exploration in the mid to late 80's. The first film in the series was filmed on a budget $550,000, but returned an amazing gross revenue of $59.8 million at the box office, so it was of course no surprise that Paramount Pictures who distributed the film were on board for a sequel. Though none of the sequels prior to 2003's Freddy vs. Jason ever matched the financial success of the original, they all for the most part stayed largely profitable given their low budget nature. By the second half of the 80's decade the Friday the 13th series was able to successfully reinvent itself by investing in a more solid sense of story and characters with the memorable and critically acclaimed sixth entry in the series Jason Lives in 1986. With it's iconic moments of meta-humor and introduction of fourth-wall breaking, Jason Lives not only reinvented the series, but opened the door for future slashers like Scream (1996), which as stated by Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson, Jason Lives was one of the biggest influence for the meta-nature of the 1996 slasher reviving film. The legendary impact of Friday the 13th can also be examined when looking at the success of the 2003 crossover Freddy vs Jason which pit two of the biggest icons of horror together in a faceoff measured in the legacy of sequels that preceded the two horror brands, it is a legacy that many classic slasher fans are looking to see more of in the near future.

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About the author

Joe Patterson

Hi I'm Joe Patterson. I am a writer at heart who is a big geek for film, music, and literature, which have all inspired me to be a writer. I rap, write stories both short and long, and I'm also aspiring to be an author and a filmmaker.

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Comments (2)

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  • Lance Jasper20 days ago

    Really interesting examination of Friday the 13th series. I don't think I was in the Jason camp, but I didn't realize it had opened the door to the Scream series, which I did like and enjoy quite a bit. Great read, very strong writing, keep it up! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jon Esquivelabout a month ago

    Great article. I agree how this franchise really did set a tone for so many other film franchise to come from. If you haven't seen the film The Final Girls i highly recommend it.

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