Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th (2008)/Friday the 13th (1980)

Spoilers Ahead…do I really need to say that for a movie that came out in 1980?

When writing about Jason X, Pete mentioned that the film thrives on its ability to parody the previous installments in the series. As the Friday the 13th franchise grew, Jason’s murderous habits nearly became a genre on their own. The Friday the 13th series is and was the prototypical slasher series. But before Jason reigned supreme, his mother terrorized in the first installment, one that ends up quite different than what followed.

As Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th explains, the first film was an amalgamation of the popular horror of the time. Perhaps most obvious is the film’s connection to Halloween, something that gets blurred at the series progresses. As writer Victor Miller points out in the feature, Producer/ Director Sean Cunningham basically asked him to derive Halloween into a formula. He did this by focusing on teenagers and isolating them from adults that could perhaps help. Not unlike Halloween, the original Friday the 13th is not a tale of the supernatural, but of a very grounded murderer. Also like Carpenter’s masterpiece, the implications of the killer may have shifted toward the occult by film’s end. Jason’s arrival was also directly influenced by another film, but I’ll let Tom Savini and Victor Miller tell you about that themselves. Even with that surprise twist at the end, the first film’s strength is really in its relative restraint. As Composer Henry Manfredi recounts, there were even strict rules on when score could be used, and it wasn’t always where you’d expect it to be. Friday the 13th has the benefit of no real expectations, and though Cunningham blatantly sought to piggyback off the success of Halloween, he was able to create a film that was brutal in many unique ways. The film is a slow-burning slog, a grueling ten round prizefight that rewards the viewer with a grounded explanation of the murders; At least until it doesn’t. Even after the big revelation is made, Alice still tangles with Pamela Vorhees in an exceptionally long climax. Surely this was inspired by Halloween, but by that time the film has already shifted into something very different. Miller and Cunningham craft a notably smart horror film, one that doesn’t cast its teenagers as idiots, nor does it give them much opportunity to escape. Though many movies have taken a lot from the series, perhaps they should look more closely at the first entry, its a better film than its reputation would lead you to believe.

Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th is available exclusively on the Friday the 13th Uncut Blu-Ray, which is also included in the Friday the 13th 8-Movie Collection and the unfortunately out of print Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection.