Friday The 13th (1980) – A Retrospective Review.

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Friday the 13th (1980) is a slasher film directed by Sean S. Cunningham and starring Kane Hodder, Adrienne King, Tom Savini and Richard Brooker. It was distributed by Paramount Pictures and received an overall score of 8.5/10 on IMDb. Over the years Friday The 13th has gone on to become one of the most influential horror flicks in history, spawning sequels such as Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy vs Jason which also became cult classics. This retrospective review looks back at director Sean S. Cunningham’s classic horror film.

Friday the 13th was made in 1980, it was based on the book Jason, published in 1974 by Victor Miller. It was a low budget horror film. The movie grossed over $100 million dollars worldwide upon release and spawned an impressive crop of sequels featuring some of the best slashers of all time. A great deal of John Carpenter’s career was built upon this movie, which is why we will now analyze this movie.

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The Beginning Of Everything.

Friday the 13th” is a 1980 American slasher film. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Victor Miller, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. The novel was later adapted into a series of sequels, as well as a comic book series. The movie was directed by Steve Miner from a script he wrote with his brother Fredric, and stars Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, and Richard Brooker. It was followed by a sequel in 1982.

It is the first installment in the “Friday” film series and follows a group of five who come to Camp Crystal Lake for an overnight camping trip, only to find their friend has gone missing and a number of other teenagers murdered by an unknown assailant with a machete.

Friday The 13th is the story of a group of camp counselors who go out to the local island for their summer vacation, where they are brutally murdered one by one by a psychopathic killer known as Jason. The movie is considered to be one of the scarier horror films ever made due to its incredible make-up effects, disturbing storyline, and spectacular acting performances from legendary Hollywood actors like Tom Savini and Adrienne King. It is still the highest grossing horror film in America to this day and has gained a cult following with fans who cite its clever plot twists, shocking gore scenes and well-known stars like Paul Rudd, Mauris Morrissey, and Mark Rolston.

In 1980, during the inception of the slasher film, Friday The 13th was released. There were many directing and production companies that sought to produce the movie. These companies included Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, and 20th Century Fox. Paramount Pictures did not want Freddy entering their properties while they pitched the remake of Slumber Party Massacre. They eventually agreed to it with New Line Cinema’s help. 20th Century Fox also did not want to be a part of any project that would bring Freddy Krueger into their realms (because they owned Elm Street as well). Eventually they gave in because they knew that they needed a good film to start things off right on the first sequel to Halloween (1978).

Sean S. Cunningham, the film’s director, had previously collaborated with filmmaker Wes Craven on The Last House on the Left. Inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween and wanting to distance himself from The Last House on the Left, Cunningham wanted Friday the 13th to be shocking, visually stunning and “make you jump out of your seat.” He also wanted to distance himself from that film because he did not want it to become a formulaic slasher film; instead, he wanted it to be more of a roller-coaster ride.

Cunningham’s original screenplay was tentatively titled “A Long Night at Camp Blood.” While working on the redraft of the screenplay, he proposed the title “Friday the 13th.” He rushed out to place an advertisement in Variety using this title. Worried that someone else owned the rights to the title and wanting to avoid potential lawsuits, Cunningham thought it would be best to find out immediately. He commissioned a New York advertising agency to develop his concept for a logo based on big block letters bursting through a pane of glass. In the end, Cunningham believed there were “no problems” with his title but distributor George Mansour stated: “There was a movie before ours called Friday the 13th: The Orphan. It was moderately successful, but someone still threatened to sue either Phil Scuderi paid them off, but it was finally resolved.”

The screenplay was completed in mid-1979 by Victor Miller, who went on to write for several television soap operas, including Guiding Light, One Life to Live and All My Children; at the time, Miller was living in Stratford, Connecticut, near Cunningham. As they began collaborating on potential film projects, Miller delighted in inventing a serial killer who turned out to be somebody’s mother—a murderer whose only motivation was her love for her child. “I took motherhood and turned it on its head,” he said. “Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I’d always wanted—a mother who would have killed for her kids.” While unhappy about how Jason Voorhees became the killer’s name in the sequels, Miller said: “Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim not a villain.”

In the original script, Miller’s final draft of the film ended with Alice merely floating on the lake. Jason’s appearance was suggested by makeup designer Tom Savini. Savini stated that “The whole reason for the cliffhanger at the end was I had just seen Carrie, so we thought that we needed a ‘chair jumper’ like that, and I said, ‘let’s bring in Jason.'”

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The Castings.

A New York-based firm headed by Julie Hughes and Barry Moss was hired to find eight young actors to play the camp’s staff members. Cunningham admits that he was not looking for “great actors,” but anyone that was likable, read the dialogue somewhat well and worked cheaply.

Moss and Hughes cast four actors who had previously appeared on soap operas: Kevin Bacon, Laurie Bartram, Peter Brouwer, and Adrienne King. The role of Alice Hardy was set up as an open casting call and a publicity stunt to attract more attention to the film. The producers originally wanted Sally Field for the role of Alice but realized they could not afford an established high-profile actress and went for unknowns instead. According to Adrienne King, “originally, the producers were looking really hard for a name actress to play Alice. They finally realized that even if they could find somebody like that who was willing to do it and would not cost them too much money, they would not be able to afford her because there is no other way around it—they would have to pay her what she is worth”.

King was cast in the lead role of Alice, and Bartram was hired to play Brenda. Kevin Bacon, Mark Nelson, and Jeannine Taylor—all with prior experience with each other—were cast as Jack, Ned, and Marcie, respectively. It is Bacon and Nelson’s contention that because they had already worked together before, they already had the chemistry the casting director was looking for in the roles of Jack, Ned, and Marcie. Taylor has stated that both Hughes and Moss were highly regarded while she was an actress so when they offered her an audition, she felt that whatever part it was would be a good opportunity.

 Estelle Parsons was initially asked to portray the film’s killer, Mrs. Voorhees, but declined with her agent citing that the film was too violent and did not know what kind of actress would play such a part. Shelley Winters was also offered the part but turned it down. Hughes and Moss sent a copy of the script to Betsy Palmer in hopes that she would accept the role; Palmer could not understand why someone would want her for a part in a horror film as she had previously starred in films such as Mister Roberts, The Angry Man, and The Tin Star. Palmer only agreed to play the role because she needed to buy a new car; even when she believed the film “to be a piece of shit,” she still accepted it because she knew that if she did not do it, she would lose out on several more lucrative roles.

Stavrakis substituted for Betsy Palmer as well, in which Morgan’s character is chased through the woods by Mrs. Voorhees. Although it was not seen on film, Palmer had just arrived in town when those scenes were being filmed and was not in the physical shape necessary to chase Morgan around the woods. Her training as an acrobat assisted her in these scenes, as her character needed to leap out of a moving jeep when she discovers that Mrs. Voorhees does not intend to take her to the camp.

Betsy Palmer, who played Mrs. Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th film, explains how she developed the character: Being an actress who uses the Stanislavsky method, I always try to find details about my character. With Pamela … I began with a class ring that I remember reading in the script that she had worn. Starting with that, I traced Pamela back to my own high school days in the early 1940s. So it is 1944, a very conservative time, and Pamela has a steady boyfriend. They have sex—which is awfully bad of course—and Pamela soon gets pregnant with Jason. The father takes off and when Pamela tells her parents, they disown her because having … babies out of wedlock is not something that good girls do. She took Jason and raised him the best she could, but he turned out to be a very strange boy. She took lots of odd jobs and one of those jobs was as a cook at a summer camp. Then Jason drowns and her entire world collapses. What were the counselors doing instead of watching Jason? They were having sex, which is the way that she got into trouble. From that point on, Pamela became very psychotic and puritanical in her attitudes as she was determined to kill all the immoral camp counselors.

Cunningham wanted to make the Mrs. Voorhees character “terrifying”, and to that end, he believed it was important that Palmer not act “over the top.” There was also the fear that Palmer’s past credits, as more of a wholesome character, would make it difficult to believe she could be scary. Palmer was paid $1,000 per day for her ten days on set. Ari Lehman (who previously auditioned for Cunningham’s Manny’s Orphans), failing to get the part, was determined to land the role of Jason Voorhees. According to Lehman, he went in very intensely and afterward Cunningham told him he was perfect for the part. In addition to the main cast—including two other actors who had auditioned for Manny’s Orphans—Walt Gorney came on as “Crazy Ralph”, town seer. Cunningham has stated that he was apprehensive about including this character but accomplished his goal of creating a new suspect.

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The Horror In Friday The 13th (1980).

In 1958, counselors Barry Jackson and Claudette Hayes sneak into a storage cabin at Camp Crystal Lake to have sex. They are later murdered by an unseen assailant. In 1979, twenty years later, Annie Phillips is driven halfway to the reopened Camp Crystal Lake by Enos, a truck driver, despite warnings from elderly Crazy Ralph and disgusted reactions from the townspeople. While driving there, Enos warns her about the camp’s troubled past in 1957 when a young boy drowned in Crystal Lake. After being dropped off at the camp site by Enos, she hitches another ride from an unseen person who drives her past the camp site before fleeing when Annie escapes his vehicle. The killer chases after her into the woods where he slashes her throat with a knife.

The camp’s owners Steve Christy and counselors Ned, Jack, Bill, Marcie, Brenda, and Alice renovate the cabins and facilities. Steve departs from the campground to gather supplies as a rainstorm threatens. Ned observes someone enter a cabin and decides to follow. Jack and Marcie are having sex on one of the bunk beds in the cabin, but they are oblivious that Ned is lying dead with his throat slashed over them. Jack’s throat gets shot with an arrow from under the bed while Marcie goes to the bathroom. Marcie is attacked with an axe after the murderer follows her into the restroom. As Brenda turns in for the night, she hears a little boy’s voice calling for help and ventures outside to the archery range. Later, Steve returns and recognizes the unseen killer, who stabs him to death.

Worried by their friends’ disappearances, Alice and Bill leave the main cabin to investigate. They find the axe in Brenda’s bed, the phones disconnected, and Ned’s truck inoperable. When the power goes out, Bill goes to check on the generator. Alice heads out to look for him and finds his body pinned with arrows to the generator room’s door. She flees to the main cabin to hide, only to be traumatized further when Brenda’s body is thrown through the window.

In the film, Mrs. Voorhees reveals that her son, Jason, was the young boy who drowned in 1957. However, she blames his death on neglect by the counselors and is having sex instead. Revealing herself as the killer, she attempts to kill Alice, but Alice knocks her unconscious. At the shore, Mrs. Voorhees tries to kill Alice again with a machete, but Alice gains the advantage and decapitates her with it. Exhausted from fighting off her attacker’s undead spirit, Alice boards and falls asleep inside a canoe which floats out on Crystal Lake; suddenly Jason’s decomposing corpse attacks her and she awakens in a hospital surrounded by police officers tending to her wounds as they describe how there was no sign of any boy found by them in the water after they searched for him there earlier that night while talking about Jason’s disappearance amidst dark ripples in the lake water visible from inside it. When Alice asks about Jason’s whereabouts again later during this conversation between herself and some other officers regarding their search for him, one officer says there was no sign of any boy at all and that he had been completely wiped out by what happened earlier tonight

The Legend Related To The Movie.

Tony Williams, a contemporary film critic, credits Friday the 13th with initiating the subgenre of the “stalker” or slasher film. Cultural critic Graham Thompson also considers the film as a template, along with John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), that have “instigated a rush” of films of its type in which young people away from supervision are systematically stalked and murdered by a masked villain. While critical reception of the film has varied in the years since its release, it has attained a significant cult following. In 2017, Complex ranked it ninth on the list of best slasher films of all time.

Film scholar Matt Hills wrote, “Friday the 13th has not just been critically positioned as intellectually lacking, it has been othered and devalued in line with the conventional aesthetic norms of the academy and official film culture.” The film was nominated in 2001 for AFI’s 100 Years… one hundred Thrills.

In April 2018, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco held “Crystal Lake Tours,” an event dedicated to the making of the film that brought attendees to nine of the filming locations on the property. Actress Adrienne King spoke to fans at the event, recounting her experience working on the film.

6 thoughts on “Friday The 13th (1980) – A Retrospective Review.

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