Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980, USA)

Of the big horror franchises of the 1970s and 1980s, it is most surprising to see that Friday the 13th spawned a franchise of over 10 films. Director Sean Cunningham conceived of the project as a "filler" between jobs, no doubt believing that the film would not amount to much. The film's style is very indebted to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). The film ended up grossing almost $60 million on a budget of $550,000. It was the first horror film of its kind to be picked up by a major studio for distribution - in this case, Paramount. 

Why was Friday the 13th so successful? The films, while not known for their technical expertise, seem to distill the slasher formula down to its barest essence. The template of a group of teens getting together for a summer camp and being killed one after another has been so often imitated, that is hard to believe Cunningham's film started the trend. The characterization in this film is not particularly deep - if anything, the characters have one trait that you can recognize them for. Notable in the first film is the presence of Kevin Bacon.

The real highlight of the film is the special makeup effects by the legendary Tom Savini, who was fresh off working on George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). The film also stands out for the gender reveal of the protagonist as Jason Voorhees's mother Pamela, played to camp excess by Betsy Palmer. We can also not forget the film's final jump scare, which may have set the standard for which all jump scares would have to aspire to in the future Friday the 13th is not a brilliant film by any measure but has the experience more of a theme park ride than anything else. We look forward to reviewing the other films in the franchise. 


7/10

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