Treadmill Theater Presents: FRIDAY THE 13TH Review
Title: Friday the 13th
Release Date : 05/09/80
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine King, Robbi Morgan, and Kevin Bacon
Actual Gross: $39,754,601
Adjusted Gross (2013): $118,968,200
1980 Box Office Rank: 18
In the summer of 1958, a pair of counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are in the mood to make out, but no sooner are they alone, they find themselves victims of an unknown killer. The year before, a young boy drowned in the lake. With two years of tragedy, the camp closed, and subsequent occasional efforts to reopen the camp are met with more tragedy and bad luck.
In 1980, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) is determined to reopen the camp. His team of counselors arrive … on Friday the 13th … to help him clean and repair the dilapidated place – dubbed by the nearby townsfolk as “Camp Blood” – in time for the campers to arrive two weeks later. But as the first day becomes the first night, the body count climbs at the hands of that that unknown killer who is still lurking in those woods.
If ever there was a poster child for movies that “don’t hold up” years later, Friday the 13th is it. Part of that reason is that it’s simply a bad movie. The pace is glacial, the frights aren’t very frightful and they are far too far apart, and the plot is nothing more than “a night in the life-and-death” of a group of camp counselors. This last point wouldn’t be bad if the counselors were remotely interesting or, as was the case with a lot of films in the ’80s, hyper-sexualized. Neither is the case here. With regards to the former, while the counselors aren’t stereotyped, they come with level of blandness that leaves you not caring about them. Even young Kevin Bacon, in an early film role, is mostly uninteresting.
With regards to the latter, I had forgotten how remarkably tame the film is, from a sexual perspective. Even a game of Strip Monopoly, which offers promises of ribald behavior, fizzles out in a very non-’80s way. Again, that’s merely a component, not a scapegoat for the rest of the film’s failings. And as modern fare such as 2013’s excellent The Conjuring has proven, a horror film with great scares, a good story, and interesting characters can be sexually nonexistent and still work. About the only thing it has going for it is the gore, which is pitch-perfect (a statement that feels funny typing). This is no horror porn, there are no endlessly flowing squibs, and while an ax meets a head, you don’t see the impact, nor do you see brains.
All of that aside, Friday the 13th does have the distinction of being part of holy trinity of Founding ’80s Slasher franchises, along with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. (The latter, of course, started it all in 1978, but revved up the sequels in the 1980s.) These three franchises changed the face of horror films forever, and have been endlessly copied and remade.
If you are looking for a good scare (without or without sexuality), look elsewhere. But if you are looking to visit an important entry in the horror genre, or if you are up for a trip back in time to the days when VHS parties were a thing, Friday the 13th is the way to go.
Film Treadmill Distance: 4.45 miles
Film Treadmill Time: 1:05:07
2014 Treadmill Distance: 14.03 miles
2014 Treadmill Time: 5:23:03
2014 Films Watched, Walked, and Written: 3
For more information about Treadmill Theater, see the summary at the bottom of my Little Darlings review. All financial data courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.com.