Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Friday the 13th

About every five years or so, I go back and watch the Friday the 13th movies in order. The sometimes good, sometimes kitschy series was part of my childhood, and I get a kick out of re-watching them. The five year gap is just enough for me to forget which ones are bad so I won’t skip them. I have started the cycle anew, so over the next couple of weeks, I hope to go through all eleven movies in order, which should be enough to convince me if you have sex, a maniac will split your skull with a machete.

Before I start with this dumb idea, I’d recommend to you the site http://www.fridaythe13thfilms.com/ if you want to learn more about the series. It’s pretty comprehensive.

When Halloween came out in 1978, it broke box office records for an independent film, raking in the dough after costing little to produce. The motion picture industry is nothing if not imitative, and other producers figured the formula was (Holiday name) + (Mad Slasher) = $$$$. So, with the only truly sinister holiday name already taken, Sean Cunningham chose Friday the 13th for his 1980 release. You don’t exactly need a complicated chart to diagram the plot: Some teenager camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are picked off one at a time, until Final Girl finally turns the tables at the end.

A few things strike you on re-watching the movie. First off, it is very ordinary. The acting is fairly bland (the only notable cast member was a young Kevin Bacon, but he has little to do in the film but die) and the murders are not very dramatic. If you didn’t know how it would end, you would think you were watching a whodunit, but of course the murderer turns out to be someone you haven’t seen until she shows up at the end to kill Final Girl. And for those of us who think of the Friday the 13th movies as being a hockey-mask wearing Jason Voorhees wreaking carnage, he won’t really show up until Part II (and the mask won’t be in place until Part III).

There is one thing in the film that works very well: The famous scene where a decomposed Jason comes out of the water to grab Final Girl (in a dream). I saw the movie when it first came out in the theater, and I can tell you I, and everyone else there, jumped out of my skin when it happened. I remember my date left fingernail marks in my arm. Even watching it at home in 2009 and knowing what was going to happen, I flinched. Maybe it was the effectiveness of that scene which enabled the producers to expand a ho-hum feature into a long-running series.

A couple of trivia notes:
Academy Award winner sally Field auditioned for the Final Girl role. She didn’t get it.

Betsy Palmer, who played Mrs. Voorhees, didn’t want to be in the film (she called it a “piece of shit”), but she was broke and needed to buy a car. She got $10,000 for the ten days she worked on the movie.

No comments: