15 July 2024

Friday the 13th (1980)
Contributed by Adam Rockoff

Adam Rockoff is the author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978 to 1986. He's also an accomplished screenwriter, most recently having written the remake of I Spit on Your Grave. He is one of the principals in FlashRock Films, a Chicago-based television production company.

Ever since I can remember, Iíve loved horror movies.

And in the summer of 1980, there was nothing I wanted to see more than Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, the fact that I was all of six-years-old rendered this impossible. So, I was forced to sit through a myriad of mind-numbing primetime sitcoms in hopes of catching a glimpse of the trailer, saved the Sunday paper to gawk at the filmís one-sheet advertisement, and dreamed of a day when Friday and all the illicit thrills it promised was at my fingertips.

That day came two years later.

The summer before, I had somehow convinced my absurdly permissive mother to allow me to watch any horror film in which monsters, not humans, killed people. Now, a year later, while standing in the video store, I proceeded to explain that in these films, the ones I just had to see, you never actually saw any onscreen death.

True, the victims could very well be fashioned in some sort of gruesome post-death tableau, but I think the fact that I swore all bloodletting was done off-camera reassured her that I could distinguish between reality and moviedom.

That Friday starred Betsy Palmer was further proof this movie couldnít be that bad. Right?

I spent the car ride home clutching the VHS case, my hands sweaty with anticipation. Finally, after a ten-minute eternity, I was in front of my TV with the Paramount Pictures logo filling the screen. You know how it is. The real thing is never as good as you imagine.

But in this rare instance, you bet your ass it was!

Since then, Iíve seen Friday the 13th so many times, itís nearly impossible to recall every single detail about that first viewing. But I remember enough.

I remember how after the filmís first murders the screen fades to whiteówhite!ófrom a freeze frame of one terrified victimís face.

I remember marveling at how clean Tom Saviniís effects wereóAnnieís throat puckers open as a river of red spills out.

I remember wondering what that funny cigarette was that Kevin Bacon was smoking. And then remember not remembering one second later...in what is arguably the greatest kill in the history of slasher films.

I remember cursing the thunderstorm that sent Brenda back to check her cabinís windows...just as the game of strip monopoly was getting good.

I remember a scenery chewing Betsy Palmer and remember wondering why she wasnít coming to the aid of Alice.

I remember a brief shot of a poor Mongoloid boy flailing in the water and then the coup de gr‚ce, a real live decapitation in full view of the camera!

But most of all, I remember how I felt when the movie ended. After Jason drags Alice back into his watery graveóand my heart returned itself to its rightful placeóI knew I had to feel like that again.

Thousands of horror movies later, Iím still trying to recapture the feeling. And although I seldom do, Iím having a helluva time trying.

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