You guys, you guys! We reviewed the original Friday the 13th! Not the one with time travel, not the one with that weird bag-mask, but the original. You don't need us to tell you what this is, or you shouldn't anyway, so we won't. Ha. Anyway, check out the (still awesome) trailer below and then continue on down to our review, unless you don't want this 36-year-old movie spoiled, because we do that.
Mark: Friday the 13th. The one from 1980. Not the one from 2009 that rocked pretty hard. Also not the one due out in 2017 that I do not have an opinion on yet. What does it mean that in a year there will be three movies with the exact same name all within the same film-o-verse?
Jack: Nothing Mark. That means literally nothing. And let’s please not get into the timeline of the Friday the 13th universe, we’ll be here all night. This thing will quickly become long and unreadable. You know . . . more so than usual.
Mark: I goddamn love the first Friday the 13th. Really I love the whole series because they’re so damn fun, but it’s hard to argue much with the opening movie in the franchise. Within a few moments of starting to watch you get a first person stabbing scene of two camp counselors and one of the most iconic title cards in film.
Jack: I guess I can’t really argue with iconic, but I really didn’t enjoy the title card. It’s so outrageously over the top. I’ll grant that the stabbings are fine, but it didn’t feel as fun to me as it apparently did to you.
Mark: Now we jump ahead to “present day”, which is of course 36 years ago. Maybe they were trying to keep it from aging too quickly, but I think their outfits took care of that for them. Anyway, you get to meet Annie as she hitchhikes her way toward camp Crystal Lake. I get that it was a simpler time and all, but could you possibly come up with a better way to get killed in a horror movie?
Jack: Wait, I’m confused, did you think she knew she was in a horror movie? The dialog in some of this early part is knowing and winking, but this was the 80’s man, meta hadn’t been invented yet. I’m pretty sure meta didn’t exist until Saved by the Bell.
Mark: The guy who thinks that a TGIF show invented the concept of meta is picking apart my thought. Right. We soon jumpcut to a 22 year old shirtless Kevin Bacon and his two pals doing the smart thing and driving their damn selves to the camp instead of hitchhiking like morons. By this point in the movie, and we’re basically only five minutes in, we come to the understanding that the bar for acting and dialogue is pretty low. Like real low. Like lower than shorty got.
Jack: Yeah, I mentioned before that there was some knowing dialog, but there was also some very un-knowing dialog. An example of the good was the town drunk/crazy who tells them all there’s a blood curse on the camp and that they’re all DOOOOOOOOOOOOMED! Or when the townsfolk summarily write him off. An example of the bad is when Annie is in the car with an unknown driver and says she doesn’t like the term “kids” because it sounds like baby goats. The fuck? The acting sure didn’t help, but the next time you’re out on a date, relay this thought to the other person sincerely and see how they react. The unadulterated terror in their eyes should indicate how natural this dialogue is.
Mark: I actually like it that way though. Maybe it’s just that we’ve been watching a lot of more recent horror films, but all these movies take themselves so seriously now. Granted if a movie with this bad of acting got made now it would either be universally panned or be considered “meta.” To me that’s what makes it special, not only did it hit a sweet spot with how awful yet fun the acting is, but also that sweet spot promptly disappeared making the tone pretty unique in the horror catalog. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of imitators (including the series’s own sequels) but nothing really hits the same tone quite right.
Jack: I think you’re just looking back with nostalgia-goggles on man. And beer goggles, though to be fair I’m pretty sure we all watch all movies with those. If it had been consistently knowing or consistently bad, I’d be more inclined to agree with you. As it is, it just made me enjoy it less than I remembered from the first few times I saw this as a kid.
Mark: Before we get too far we kinda need to talk about something important. Fashion. When the Bacon-mobile rolls up to camp the head counselor, Steve, is unironically trying to pull a dead tree stump out of the ground wearing nothing but cut-off jean shorts and a bandana. Not a cool biker bandana, mind you, more like a “my ascot was dirty” kinda bandana. No one bats an eye. This is exactly what I mean. Could anyone pull that off today without it just dripping with stupid hipster irony?
Jack: No. And I don’t think that he really pulled it off then. Just because none of the other characters called him out on it doesn’t mean it wasn’t dumb.
Mark: That’s that hipster irony for you. Look with un-tainted eyes Jack. You’ll see. The world was a simpler, better place. Anyway, it’s a slasher, so before long people start getting dead. What’s interesting is that the movie takes a pretty varied approach with how much it shows. You get a pretty solid slit throat and the absolutely iconic Kevin Bacon’s Neck + Arrow scene, but then you also get the chick who just get’s lured onto the archery range and then the lights turn off. For a movie that was a pretty unabashedly gory I just found it strange that they were sorta all over the place with what they showed happening.
Jack: See, now I didn’t question that aspect of it at all. I think that was a very astute move on the part of the filmmakers. Too much of the close-up kills and the thing would have felt formulaic. The way they did it killed two birds: got to hide effects that may not have worked, and got to break up the rhythm.
Mark: One thing to point out is that despite the overwhelming amount of figurative camp, the characters are not wholly unbelievable. I mean their libidos are a little high, but they are supposed to be high school or college aged kids left unsupervised, so it’s not too crazy. The other aspect that struck me a bit is that no one knew that people were getting killed. It’s surprising how much more believable behavior is when you aren’t motivated by the fact that you’ve seen your friends get killed. And actually, that’s exactly when this one starts to break down.
Jack: Yeah, that’s a really good point. The killer, still unknown at this point, does a good job of isolating members of the group to kill them one by one. Eventually, Alice, the archetypal final girl, starts to find the bodies and freak out. And that does signal what was for me the weakest part of this movie.
Mark: This is really the only part of the movie where I think it starts to drag. It just takes so damn long for things to happen. Mrs. Voorhess inexplicably stops using weapons and starts trying to slap people to death. It’s exactly as ineffective as it sounds. I mean for crying out loud she uses a loaded rifle as a club. What the fuck? That’s not what loaded guns are used for. I’m pretty sure this “chase” lasted maybe 5 minutes, but it felt like 20. On the bright side, seeing people get beaned by cast iron skillets is pretty entertaining regardless of pacing.
Jack: Whoa, whoa, whoa. I say-I-say-I-say now hold on a second there boy. You’re just going to toss that out there without comment? Mrs. Voorhees is the killer. End of thought? No, that was a huge reveal! Plus it brings up an important point. If you exclude die-hard horror fans and people who have actually seen this movie, what percentage of the population do you think would have said that Jason is the killer in the original Friday the 13th? Most, right? And even fewer than that would be able to tell you that Jason doesn’t don the iconic mask until the third film. And that’s crazy, because Mrs. Voorhees is a great villain! Well, aside from her wildly varying level of physical strength. Sometimes she can nail a man to a door with arrows or throw a woman through a wall, but others she gets knocked out with a pan after very little struggle. And then she ends up getting decapitated. I did not like that scene. It’s by far the weakest of the gore and the effects, not to mention the absurdity of anyone, let alone a young woman, being able to get through a whole neck in one swell foop.
Mark: What possible reason could you have had for using that particular term? I thought you'd at least have some dumb clip accompanying it . . . from TGIF I assume. But Alice does what is actually a pretty great tactic that I’m not sure I’ve seen in any other slasher - she rows out into the middle of the lake. I mean yeah if the person who’s after you has a gun or crossbow or something, maybe not a great move, but if they’re just coming after you with a knife and they aren’t a Navy Seal you’re probably gonna win that one. If you haven’t actually seen the movie I highly recommend you stop reading now. We drop spoilers all the time, but this one is special to me, so do yourself a favor and just go watch the movie before finishing.
Jack: Mark’s right about the spoilers, but oh so wrong about the boat thing. For one, she already saw one person killed by ARROWS. You know, the kind that can reach a boat from shore. I mean shit, you don’t even have to be Geena Davis to make that shot. Also the boat would probably meander back to shore as the night goes on and literally serve her sleeping body on a goddamned platter to any remaining killers. I mean if you . . .
Mark: Jack, I’ma let you finish, but Friday the 13th has the best jumpscare of all time. All time.
Mark: It’s all quiet and peaceful, you get a lovely shot of the canoe floating on the still lake with the policemen arriving on shore. Then, BAM ROTTING CORPSE JUMPS OUT OF THE WATER AND GRABS HER. There’s no way to do it justice in text. It’s perfect, and it’s goddamn terrifying. My wife, who had somehow never seen this movie, actually had a pretty great freakout at this scene. It’s one of the few jump scares I can think of where you jump because something unexpected happens, but then you actually stay scared when you realize what is actually happening.
Jack: I will just gloss over your rude and unprecedented interruption because I actually completely agree with you there. There are no other jump scares in this movie, and this one is so unexpected! You are lured into a false sense of security and this one hits really hard. Though I will disagree with the part about staying scared. This movie doesn’t build the world or set the tone the right way for any lasting scares. Now before you start making us call you “Meezus,” or whatever, let’s rate this thing. But wait! Before we get to ratings, dear reader, allow me to leave you with this behind the scenes image of that terrifying zombie kid:
For 1, think of how Obama would rate Kanye’s character:
For 10, think of how kids would rate hot Cheetos:
Jack: 6 - Pretty solid story. Jason’s mom being the villain is a pretty solid little reveal. It’s hard to look back at the kids dying at summer camp thing without feeling overloaded by all the times it’s been used. But this one started it all. With that said, it’s not a terribly intricate story, just solid.
Mark: 9 - I mean, it’s one of the original slashers. I realize that there were a few that came before, namely Halloween and Psycho, but it started so many tropes and executed everything so well that it’s hard to ignore its importance in the grand scheme of things. It’s got a great twist, the best jump scare ever, and no glaring plot holes. My score is creeping up the more I think about the category, I’m honestly not even sure what I can nitpick about it... For a campy, relatively dumb movie its story is actually miraculously well conceived. Really the only thing I can fault it for is not fleshing out the main characters more, but do you really want that here?
WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:
Jack: 4 - This one’s pretty low. As I mentioned in the review, the dialogue is bad at times. Really bad. And when it’s not bad it’s knowing. The two don’t jive well, and it feels jerk-y. Then there’s the fashion which Mark dove into above. Also crazy. Then everything after the reveal of Jason’s mom is just not that enjoyable for me. Except that jump scare. That jump scare had me by the short and curlies the first time I watched this. That saves this thing. You know what? 5.
Mark: 7 - So the dialogue and acting are both pretty terrible. I think that’s intentional, but it does hurt the immersion a bit in a serious sense. In a non-serious sense though I think there’s something to be said about a movie that you are immersed in because the lines are so bad. There’s a positive feedback loop in play here where the more you pay attention the more fun you have. Also, let’s not sidestep the score here. Really that’s more of an effects thing, but it certainly helps immersion out, especially in the very last scene.
Jack: 5 - So the gore in this thing is great. Anachronistically great. I’ll talk about this in the effects rating more, but I’ve seen far worse gore in movies that came out in the last few years. It holds up here, so it gets points for that. It also gets points for that last jump scare, about which we’ve now droned on ad nauseum. Nothing else builds a creepy atmosphere or scares you in any meaningful way.
Mark: 6 - It seems like most of the scare factor in a slasher comes from leaching a sense of dread from the main characters as they face their fate. The issue with this one, then, is that except for the last girl, no one sees it coming. I mean, maybe the chick in the showers was a little worried, but I doubt she really expected an axe to hit her in the face. Anyway, as a result there isn’t much of a sustained sense of “scary” in the movie aside from just watching horny youths getting picked off. All that aside: Best. Jump. Scare. Of. All. Time.
EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):
Jack: 8 - for the most part, the effects are god damned incredible. Even more so when you consider the age of this thing and how well the effects hold up even today. That said, the decapitation scene looks decidedly less awesome. The lack of any blood whatsoever, and just the whole look of that scene drag this down a little.
Mark: 8 - Again, I found my score creeping ever higher the more I thought about it. What exactly is there to fault in this movie? The practical effects are great and launched the career of Tom Savini. The ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha sound effect is wildly iconic and is probably in the top 5 most recognizable sounds in horror. The throat slitting at the beginning wasn’t spectacular and the decapitation scene is awesome, but also looks terrible. Those are my only two qualms, and they’re both pretty minor.
Jack: 6 - Look, this movie is a must-watch. Don’t even worry about any ratings, if you haven’t seen this yet (then first how dare you defy Mark, he told you to stop before you got here), then you must see it. With that said, the overall experience I had watching this movie again was just alright. Not bad by any means, but not great either.
Mark: 8 - As I said at the start, this is one of my favorite horror movies. It’s lighthearted enough that it doesn’t really wear too heavily on you over time. It’s fun to watch with friends because of how ludicrously bad the dialogue is, but also not so bad that you can’t enjoy it. The ending drags a bit, but outside of that there really isn’t much for me to complain about.