With the recent success of Freddy vs Jason, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the Friday the 13th movies. This release from Warner Bros. of the first in the series was no doubt timed to capitalise on that and serves to complete the set. If you’re looking for a plot, you’ll have to search hard, as all it boils down to is this: Jason Voorhees was a young boy who drowned while swimming at Camp Crystal Lake, due to lack of attention by the counsellors who were too busy shagging. So for revenge, he now kills anyone and everyone that dares to go in or near the Camp.
Subsequently, in Friday the 13th, we just sit and watch a crew of counsellors arrive and die for ninety minutes. To be fair, there are a couple of twists, but they are nothing much to write home about. Doesn’t sound much does it? Well, it’s not really, and yet it is a classic because Friday the 13th was one of the key films that helped to define both the teen slasher genre and its rules (which, years later, were mocked so effectively in films such as Scream). Quite simply, modern horror would be a lot poorer without the likes of Friday the 13th.
Watching it now, it seems rather tame and I can’t fathom why it’s rated 18 by the BBFC in this day and age, but there you have it. At the time, I remember it creeping me out big time; but then I was a young schoolboy, those were the days of the ‘video nasty’, and I think we’ve all become quite desensitised to on-screen killing since then (at least I have anyway). In fact, along with other Jason fans I’m sure, this movie has become participatory for me.
As I watch Friday the 13th, I find myself muttering along with the dialogue and cheering as each counsellor bites the dust. It’s not as enthralling as the later Jason movies, simply because we don’t see much of Jason in this one (he’s almost always off camera) so it’s more difficult to egg him on. No hockey mask either.. Ah well, it’s still good stuff and the final scene with the boat on the lake still scares the shit out of me. It’s done so well, and timed so perfectly, that it’s an absolutely timeless bit of horror that never fails to make me jump. Brilliant.
The acting and dialogue is atrocious and utterly cringe-worthy of course, but it doesn’t matter. This is a slasher movie; we’re not interested in what the characters say or how they say it, we just want to watch them getting butchered. It’s worth noting, therefore, that this film is completely uncensored and consequently features about thirty seconds extra footage. The footage is nothing major, it’s merely derived from the camera not cutting away as quickly from some of the death scenes. I’m glad it’s there as the extra lingering draws the deaths out a tad more, giving them a slightly greater impact and improving the pacing overall.
Considering the full movie hails from 1980 and had a low budget, the video quality excellent. It’s very clear, with decent definition and contrast. Shadow detail is found wanting in places but that’s down to the original print. Colours are nice and vivid, flesh tones natural. If you’ve never seen the film before though, tread with caution to avoid possible disappointment as it won’t be to everyone’s tastes due to its age. Every horror fan should watch Friday the 13th online free at least once though.