Guys, We Have to Talk About 'Friday the 13th'
Why 'Friday the 13th' is Important to the Genre
We need to talk about Friday the 13th, the original, not the remake. Friday the 13th is one of the most iconic horror movies ever made. It’s a classic. For those who don't know, Friday the 13th is a 1980s slasher flick. It was produced and directed by Sean S. Cunningham and co-written by Victor Miller. It stars Betsy Palmer, who plays…someone. I’m not good at this, but she’s great; trust me.
Friday the 13th is one of the ever-popular "horny teens go to the woods and die" films that we all know and love. It has sex, monopoly, I'm pretty sure Brenda was a bit of a lesbian (score). It’s great; Cunningham and Miller made all the stops. They did not pull their punches with this one; some other idiom I can’t think of. They nailed all the horror movie tropes in one way or another. We’ve got vengeance, sex, jump scares, abandoned place with a violent past, the whole nine yards.
The movie starts out at Camp Crystal Lake circa 1958. We have a group of camp counselors singing campfire songs around the fireplace. It’s nice, wholesome fun. Ken and Barbie start making eyes at each other and the two decide to sneak away for a little one-on-one time if you will. They’re making out on the floor, as young people do when someone comes up the stairs first-person shooter style. The kids jump up in a "we've been caught" fashion and immediately start defending themselves. They weren’t doing anything after all, /wink. However, our fps is having none of their excuses. Whoever is behind the camera starts carving them up some teenage boy. Naturally, the girl stands there and screams for about 20 minutes before she decides to try running. She doesn’t run very far, just into various corners until she is killed as well.
Fast forward about 22 years. It’s present day. We have some camp counselor noobies making their way to Camp Crystal Lake. They show up early to fix up the joint which is basically falling apart due to years of neglect and guilt—a metaphor perhaps? At the start of the movie, post-opening credits, we have a girl, Annie, hitchhiking her way to Camp Murder. She gets warned that the place has a “death curse” by Crazy Ralph but laughs it off. Old man Enos sends him off and gives her a ride. He tells her the same thing, “Don't go there. It’s jinxed”. She's like, "Silly old man I'm going to camp anyway", and ignores his warning.
He drops her off part of the way there. Annie continues walking until she gets picked up again by a new driver. Now, we don't know who she's in the car with but, apparently, they look friendly enough. Annie starts yapping away and stops in time notice our mystery driver speeding past her stop. She starts to get scared but, the driver ignores her; they don't have time for crying. Annie jumps out of the car and makes a run for it, albeit not a very good run. She stops at a tree and gets her throat sliced. Sorry, I wanted her to live too.
Back at camp, the kids are having a jolly good time swimming about, completely unaware of the murdering and the stalking. Douchey McDouche-Douche, i.e. Ned, pretends to drown. That is probably what got them all killed, to be honest. Our killer didn't appreciate the joke. There's a little racism, on Ned’s part of course, and then a cop shows up but, we won't touch on that right now. The cop was on the prowl for Crazy Ralph; however, the counselors haven’t met him yet. They go inside and Alice finds Ralph hiding in the pantry. He keeps trying to warn people but, he's kind of creepy so no one listens. They're already doomed, Ralph; they're already doomed.
Fast forward again. It's night time! Obviously, more sex, right? Also, strip monopoly. They’re hitting all the stops. So, there's that. Insert overly long, boring, sex scene here. Or, maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Jack gets post-coital murdered before he even finishes his cigarette. Our killer moves on to the bathroom, where Marcie is doing her thing. She hears a noise and checks it out, thinking it’s her friends being dicks. It’s not, Marcie. Maybe you should run while you can? No? Okay. Marcie gets an ax to the face, the poor kid.
Our killer moves on. She pretends to be a child crying for help to lure out Brenda, so wrong. Although, there were no kids at camp so why did you go outside Brenda?! (Fun fact: in all my years of watching this movie, it took writing this nonsense for me to notice that the killer was crying “help me” and that's why Brenda went roaming about outside. I was always like, “Oh my god. She's so dumb; why is she roaming around in the rain yelling?”).
Bill and Alice go to check on Brenda. They find a bloody ax instead. They check the other cabin and the bathroom but, nothing. Everyone seems to have vanished. The phone doesn’t work. The car doesn’t start. They're trapped with no way to communicate with anyone. Uh oh.
Steve Christy of the Crystal Lake Christy’s finally makes his way back to camp. Our fps is walking towards him and he's like, "Hi, what are you doing out here?". Sir Christy knows the killer! The killer is a recognizable, decent-looking, fully functional, person in society. They don't look deranged or deformed. They're just your average Joe, average Joe-ing away. People trust this person. They see this person and they're like, “Oh, hey bud. How goes it?”.
Okay. Let's move on. Everyone, except Alice, is dead. She barricades herself inside of a cabin only for her dead, newfound lesbian lover, Brenda, (it may not be totally canon but, I ship it) to be tossed through the window. She runs outside and runs into someone. Mrs. Voorhees, aka Betsy Palmer, is here to save the day! She’s like, “Calm down child. It’s just the weather scaring you. I'll check it out”. She goes inside and finds the dead bodies. "Poor young gorgeous lady. What monster could’ve done this?”, is the gist of what Mrs. Voorhees says, accompanied by my usual, stilted, paraphrasing.
Alice goes, “Yeah and Bill is out there dead too”. Now, Mrs. Voorhees is going on about what happened to a little boy, named Jason, who drowned and how this place should be closed. The counselors weren't watching him; they were too busy having the sex. Naturally, Mrs. Voorhees blames the counselors for his death. Alice is like, “‘Kay, you're weird. I want to leave”. Mrs. Voorhees is being creepy and a little aggressive. She then reveals that Jason is her son and today is his birthday. Yes, is, not was. I don’t think Jason is dead in a conventional sense. Later.
Mrs. Voorhees attacks Alice because why wasn't she there to save him? They fight a bit before Alice runs and Mrs. Voorhees starts channeling Jason. "Kill her mommy, kill her”. Jason wants everyone dead and mommy is willing to oblige; anything for her special boy. #Codependence, am I right?
Alice thinks she’s hiding well but, Mrs. Voorhees knows this place like the back of her ax (see what I did there? Har) so finding her isn't a problem. Alice tries to run. She tries to juke her with the funky chicken but, Mrs. Voorhees has skills and catches her anyway. She brings her to the ground and tries to choke her out but, Alice gets away and takes Mrs. Voorhees’ head with her. For some reason, Alice decides this is the perfect time for a romantic boat ride and sets sail. She falls asleep and little Jason drags her from the boat and pulls her under the water. Don't worry. She's fine though. Someone has to survive, right? The cops and paramedics drag her out of the water and send her on her way. They never saw little Jason.
Alice wakes up in the hospital. She’s looking for baby Jason (/sings, “I smell a sequel”, har). She stares into the camera like it's the great beyond and roll credits.
I may poke fun but, this is actually one of my favorite classic horror movies. I don’t watch it every day but, I do watch it every Friday the 13th and during Halloween time. Sometimes I even watch it on Saturday the 13th because close enough? Right? I don’t know.
It’s got all the makings of a horror movie and one, big, distinguishing fact. SPOILER ALERT: the killer is a woman! Mind blown, right? Totally didn’t see that coming nor did I say it at any point in time during this spiel. The killer is an honest to god, mother scorned. Her son drowned in the lake and she lost her mind. Jason was her life and because of some kids that were too busy banging to watch him, she lost her life. She lost a huge part of herself. Mrs. Voorhees went on a rampage because something broke in her. She started killing every counselor in the area. She killed everyone who stepped foot in Camp Crystal Lake; especially, if they’re having sex. You know, just in case they're neglectful bastards; the dirty rotten fornicators.
It’s so important that she's a woman because we don't see that often. We, especially, don’t see that done well without overly sexualizing her. She's not even just decoration. She’s a legit person. She's strong and she's brutal and she's taking out everyone at Camp Murder one by one. Her grief changed her. Her son’s accidental death didn't feel like an accident to her. While she was working the people who were supposed to be watching her kid were busy having sex and he died. And that hurt her.
Friday the 13th was ahead of its time. Its conventions as a horror movie, while similar to most, are completely different at the same time.
- We don’t see the killer. Not even their hands. We have absolutely no idea who the killer is or why they’re doing it. We just know that people are being murdered. Most of the time, we are watching the world through the killer’s eyes; experiencing things as they do.
- The killer is a frigging woman! That didn’t happen very often in the olden days (we’re not talking about Sissy Spacek right now). And, her sexuality had absolutely nothing to do with it. Maybe her age had something to do with that. I don’t know; I’m taking the win.
- Really, she’s killing because of grief. All Mrs. Voorhees had was her son and he was taken away from her. He meant everything to her and he died and that shattered something in her that you couldn’t slap some duct tape on and hope for the best. Her heart broke. When Jason died, she died. And, so did everyone else. She was an angry woman getting vengeance whether vengeance was due or not.
Moral of the story kids: when its Friday the 13th and a full moon: Stay home. Don't go outside playing camp counselor. Don’t have sex. Sex kills, people.