17 September 2014

(1980)

Kill her, Mommy! Kill her.
- Mrs. Voorhees
Sean S. Cunningham had produced Wes Craven's Last House on the Left in 1972. Eight years later, he struck out on his own and directed and produced Friday the 13th, a modern variation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

Released two years after Halloween, the film followed a similar pattern but it upped the ante by showing the gore that the first film only hinted at. A true splatter film. Although the former is more renowned, this was the one that truly started the slasher craze of the early 80s.

In the year of The Empire Strikes Back, Friday the 13th, which was made on a budget of less than one million dollars, managed to pull in over seventeen million in receipts and was the 20th highest grossing film of 1980.

The movie opens in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake. A group of young counselors are sitting around a fireplace singing camp songs, while someone is lurking around the cabin. Two of the teens sneak off to the attic to make out.

A few moments later, they hear a sound and the girl says "somebody's there." They stop what they're doing and button up their shirts as the stranger approaches them. The guy starts to say they were just messing around and he's stabbed in the stomach. The girl is killed immediately after.

Twenty two years later, the camp is about to reopen. Annie (Robbi Morgan) arrives at the town not far from the camp. Needing directions, she stops by a diner and asks how far it is.

The patrons stop talking and one of them says "they're opening that place again?" Another refers to it as "Camp Blood." There are no buses going to that area -which is only about twenty miles away.

Trudy (Dorothy Kobs), the owner, asks Enos (Rex Everhart) to drive the girl halfway since he's going in the same direction. On the way to his truck, they bump into "Crazy" Ralph, the local prophet of doom. "You'll never come back again. It's got a death curse," he warns her.

During the short drive, Enos calls Ralph a nuisance and tells Annie he's causing problems for her boss with all his talk. Enos wonders if the camp's head, Steve Christy, has told her anything about the place. Annie says she'll be cooking for 50 kids and 10 staff. That's all she knows.

Of course, that's not what the truckdriver is talking about. He tells her to quit because Camp Crystal Lake is jinxed and goes on to mention the two kids that were murdered over two decades ago.

There was also the drowning of a boy the year before that, not to mention a bunch of mysterious fires. The last time the place was going to reopen was in 1962. Alas, the water was bad. Enos says Steve has been trying to fix up the place for the past year and has probably spent $25,000, a sum he considers a waste.

Annie need the job and is not convinced. Enos calls her a "dumb kid" and drops her off so she can hitchhike the rest of the way. A stranger in a jeep picks her up and Annie tells the person how much she enjoys kids. She soon realizes that the driver is not taking her to her destination when they go past the exit for the camp.

Annie jumps out of the moving vehicle and runs through the woods with the driver in pursuit on foot. Her leg is hurt and she stumbles at the feet of the stranger. Annie gets up, only to have her neck slit.

Meanwhile, the counselors begin arriving at the camp. Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), her boyfriend Jack (Kevin Bacon) and their friend Ned (Mark Nelson) first see Steve (Peter Brouwer), who's chopping wood and prepping the place.

Next, they meet Alice (Adrienne King). Steve is seriously focused on the work that has to be done and the three friends are surprised since there are two weeks until the children are set to be there.

While Alice is working on one of the cabins, Steve looks at a drawing she made of him the night before. He's smitten with her but Alice doesn't seem like she particularly wants to be there. Steve convinces her to stay for at least another week.

Alice checks up on Bill (Harry Crosby) - who's painting near the lake. He asks her if everybody has shown up. She says they have...except for the girl who is supposed to handle the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Steve tells Brenda (Laurie Bartram) to work on the archery range and leaves everyone with instructions while he goes into town to run a few errands.

Brenda gets busy and Ned nearly frightens her to death by shooting an arrow and narrowly missing her. The group spends time at the lake, unaware that someone is watching them. Brenda thinks she sees something at the other end of the water but dismisses it.

Ned, ever the practical joker, plays a prank by pretending to nearly drown so Brenda can give him mouth to mouth. Back at her cabin, Alice finds a snake and calls out for Bill. The others show up and are freaked out. Bill quickly dispatches the creature with a machete.

Officer Dorf (Ron Millkie) stops by the camp looking for Ralph, who he believes might be in the area trying to spread his gospel. The counselors haven't seen him and they tell the cop they're setting up the place. Jack and Ned are in wise guy mode.

Before Dorf leaves, he tells them "we ain't gonna stand for no weirdness out here." The camp workers get a good laugh out of that - since the officer seems a little "out there" himself.

Alice finds Ralph in one of the cabins. He tells her, Marcie and Ned that God sent him and they're "doomed." Ned asks him to leave and the old man takes off on his bicycle.

In the kitchen, they all prepare some burgers and Alice notices the power is out. Jack says that Steve taught him how to use the emergency generator. It's an old machine but he gets the motor going and the lights come back on.

In the late afternoon, Ned sees someone in one of the cabins and calls out to that person. When he gets no response, he goes in to check out who it is. He isn't seen again. Marcie tells Jack she's been worried about Ned because he's been acting so immature lately.

A storm is moving in and Marcie also says she's frightened of them. She tells her boyfriend she has had a dream several times where she's in a heavy thunderstorm and the rain turns to blood.

Night falls and they seek shelter inside, where they take their clothes off and make love. They're oblivious to the fact that Ned's body is in the bunk bed above them...with his neck cut. When Marcie gets up to go to the bathroom, Jack feels a drop of blood fall on his forehead.

He's laying on his back when a hand suddenly comes up from under the bed and grabs his head. A spear is jabbed through his neck.

Marcie has to go out through the rain to get to the outhouse and the killer follows her. After washing her hands in the sink, she does a pretty good imitation of Katherine Hepburn in the mirror. She then hears someone behind a curtain but there's nothing there. When Marcie turns around, the killer is standing over her with an ax and promptly strikes her in the head.

Brenda, Bill and Alice decide to play a game of strip Monopoly. They grab a few beers and smoke a joint that Marcie left behind. The storm is still going strong and a gust of wind blows the door open. Their game ends when Brenda realizes she didn't close the windows to her cabin.

After washing up and brushing her teeth, she hears an odd tapping sound but ignores it. Later, when she's in bed about to read a book before she goes to sleep...she hears a child's voice crying for help outside.

Brenda goes out into the rain with only a flashlight and follows the voice to the archery range. Someone turns a floodlight on her and then shoots her with a bow and arrow.

Before Steve heads back to the camp, he stops by a diner for a bite to eat. When he's done, he finds that his jeep won't start. Luckily, Sergeant Tierney (Ronn Carroll) sees him and offers a lift. Steve says a counselor will bring him back in the morning to retreive the vehicle.

In the car, the officer tells him there's a full moon in addition to being Friday the 13th. He says it brings out the worst in people and there are more accidents, rapes, robberies and homicides when during a full moon.

A call comes in on the radio requesting Tierney's immediate presence at the sight of an accident and he drops Steve off outside Camp Crystal Lake.

Steve walks back the rest of the way and sees someone holding a flashlight in his direction. It's obvious he knows the person as he asks "what are you doing in this mess?" As he approaches the unseen figure, he gets stabbed in the chest.

Alice is in the main cabin playing with her guitar and sitting by the fireplace when she hears a scream. She tells Bill it sounded like Brenda's voice and also says she saw the lights turned on at the range. They head out to look for their friend but there's no sign of her. Alice thinks she might be with Marcie and Jack.

In one of the cabin beds, they find a bloody ax. "What is going on?" Alice asks. Realizing something isn't right, they start to look for Marcie, Jack and Ned - as well as Brenda. They try to use the phone but it's dead. In addition, Bill's car won't start.

Alice thinks they should just hike out of the camp. Bill says they should wait for Steve and use his jeep. Moments later, the killer turns off the generator and all the power goes out. Bill goes to the generator room with a kerosene lamp to check on the gas and finds it full.

Alice has stayed behind and falls asleep on the couch. She wakes and makes some coffee but becomes restless. When she goes to the generator room, she finds Bill's body impaled on the door.

Aware that there is a killer on the loose, she screams and runs back to the cabin and bolts the door. She then grabs a bat for protection. While standing next to a window, Brenda's corpse is flung through it.

Alice sees a car pull up near the cabin and finds a kindly older woman named Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) who says she's an old friend of the Christy family. The girl is crying and shaking as she tells the woman that all her friends are dead.

Mrs. Voorhees says she'll go look and Alice tells her she'll be killed too. "I'm not afraid," the woman tells her. They go into the cabin...where Brenda's body is laying on the floor.

Mrs. Voorhees take one look and says "so young...so pretty. What monster could have done this?" She also tells Alice that Steve should never have opened the camp again.

"Did you know that a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed?" she asks Alice. She says the counselors weren't paying attention because they were too busy making love.

Mrs. Voorhees was the cook at the time and the boy was her son. His name was Jason and today is his birthday. Alice asks where Steve is and is told that he couldn't be allowed to open the camp again.

Alice quickly realizes the woman is not the savior she thought she was. On the anniversary of Jason's drowning, his mother killed the people she felt were responsible. Mrs. Voorhees blames anyone who works at the camp for her son's death and pulls out a knife.

"Look what you did to him!" Mrs. Voorhees booms, lunging at the girl. Alice grabs a poker from the fireplace and knocks her down.

She tries to make it to the woman's jeep outside and finds Annie's bloodied body proped up in the front seat. She then sees Steve's body hanging upside down from a tree with a knife in his chest.

Mrs. Voorhees recovers and goes after Alice. Speaking in her little son's voice, she says "don't let her get away, Mommy. Don't let her live." She starts up the generator so she can find the girl more easily.

Alice tries to load a shotgun but can't find any ammunition. Mrs. Voorhees grabs her and smacks her around. Alice strikes back and manages to get away.

She hides in a storage closet but Mrs. Voorhees finds her. Alice wacks her in the head with a frying pan and runs to the lake where she sits in a canoe. Again, the older woman attacks her and the two women struggle. Alice manages to grab a machete and decapitate Mrs. Voorhees.

She goes back into the canoe and falls asleep. The next morning, as she's sitting peacefully in the middle of the lake...Jason's deformed body jumps out of the water and drags her in. But it's all a nightmare.

Alice wakes up in a hospital and Sergeant Tierney tell her all her friends are dead. He says she was pulled out of the lake by two of his men.

Alice asks if the boy who pulled her underneath the water is dead too. The officer says they didn't find a boy...to which Alice opines that he must still be there.

The movie that put Siskel and Ebert into a tizzy. The two devoted an entire Sneak Previews show to the slasher craze, in which they attacked Friday the 13th and everything released in its wake.

Amont many things, this was another showcase for Tom Savini. The special effects artist had made a name for himself with his groundbreaking work on George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

Paid only $17,000 for this film, Savini claims he only put the final scene of Jason rising from the lake as a last shock for the audience and because an ending hadn't been written.

Savini had no idea at the time that Jason would be brought back in a sequel. He refused to be involved with it and instead worked on The Burning, another killer in the woods film. He certainly had no inkling that the character would become one of the most enduring villians of all time and a pop culture icon.

He did, however, return to create the eye-popping special effects for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, where he hoped to kill off Jason once and for all.

Steve Miner served as Associate Producer on Friday the 13th and was hired to direct the equally good next installment.

Horror intellectuals, you might as well stay away. This is pure stalk 'n slash, reduced to its lowest common denominator. So what's the problem? Owing much to Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971), for many this bodycount smash hit is an undiluted pleasure: the woods, the silly teens, Palmer's antics, and setting the stage for the Great J to spend the next three decades wreaking cinematic havoc.

Strangely, aside from the kills there are a few moments of unintentional brilliance in Friday the 13th: Outhouse Marcie in her panties, post coitus, alone, doing her worst Hepburn imitation, bare feet on the cold floor, seconds later an axe six inches deep in her skull.

The strip poker on a rainy night. The search for extra weed. The horny couple upstairs. For decades to come, countless slashers would attempt these kinds of setups, but rarely as simply or as effectively as in Friday the 13th.

Why? It might be just because Friday the 13th was the first to take Bava's bodycount formula and place it in a uniquely American setting. Or maybe it's because it does just what it says on the tin: it provokes a reaction. Each gory murder moves the plot from point to point, while an earnest cast of players do their best at keeping up.

At any rate, it didn't take long for the film's premise to enter the public's conciousness. Camping in the woods would never be the same.

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