"Did you know a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed? The counselors weren't paying any attention..."
The echoing chills of KI-KI-KI MA-MA-MA is one of films most popular sound effects. It ranks right up there with John Williams JAWS theme (which is technically a soundtrack), the Wilhelm Scream, Michael Meyers piano sequence, and the Freddy Krueger knives on metal scratching sound. Three of these pieces of music and sound effects have set audiences on edge for the past 35 plus years.
The Ki-Ki-Ki Ma-Ma-Ma sound, is probably the best spine tingling sound effect for horror movies. I say sound effect, because that's what it is. It effects the senses, it causes unease and makes you uncomfortable, because you never know when or where the "killer" is going to come from. Especially in those early years of the rebirth of horror movies in the late 70's and early 80's.
Friday the 13th twisted the standard of the "serial killer" in movies. Set at Camp Crystal Lake, before the opening of summer camp, councilors are there, preparing the cabins, opening everything up to clean and get the area ready for the kids that will be arriving in a few days.
Good movies will attempt to make a connection with the audience. Halloween, used... erm, Halloween. The Shining with it's use of the "average american family", Poltergeist used the same connection, the average american family. An American Werewolf in London, two best friends, touring Europe. The list goes on, and my point is is we can connect with these films, because it's not out of the the question that we have experienced some, if not many of the same things these movies have shown us. I don't mean the mythological werewolf attacks, or the serial killer attacks.
We can connect with these films, because it borrows from real life. Most, if not all of us, have experienced summer camp or something similar, of course any of the holidays, taking trips to different states or countries. All real world stuff that happens and then you add in the fantastical, the "what would happen if..." to get the story rolling.
It's not just the "horror" part of the movies that makes them so popular, its the settings, the real life of the people happening around the events and that's a majority of the problem with today's "modern" cinema. Instead of pulling us in to this real type world, it's all about the fast cuts, the big explosions and the "reveal" so that we can get on with our lives. It doesn't allow us to connect with the people in the film because it doesn't feel grounded in any type of reality.
Friday the 13th, the 1980 release, as a horror movie, didn't seem so fantastical. I am a huge fan of the series and I skip this one, because of the lack of Jason in the film. It doesn't really fit the series, much like Season of the Witch didn't fit the Halloween series. What makes it unique for horror movies, is the fact the the lead character, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), is a serial killer. Not many movies until Friday the 13th had females in a role like this.
The basic plot is all about revenge. Jason, who is special needs, drowns while camp counselors frolic about, having sex, being irresponsible and not taking their tasks to watching the young children seriously, two camp counselors are murdered and the camp was closed due to the incident. It reopens twenty years later and the murders start happening again.
It grounds us in reality. A boy drowns, while swimming, unsupervised and his mother goes insane and seeks revenge on those people that wronged her. She doesn't call upon the supernatural to help her seek out those that "killed her boy". She wants justice and her brand of justice is getting back at immoral, pre-marital sex having teens.
It works. It worked so well, that Sean S. Cunningham used it as a template for 3 more sequels in the original run of the franchise. I use original run, because part 5 is a bridge sequel. It uses the myth of Jason, but had little to do with any of the original characters, save for Tommy Jarvis and it was a poorly made sequel.
I have always said, that when making a movie you keep it simple. Use the past to create the future. Make us care about the characters and pull us into the setting. This was attempted in the reboot from 2009, but again, it turned from wanting to care about the movie to another "lets see how inventive we can get with the different deaths". That's fun and all, but it doesn't deliver. It's not the answer, it's just a bad reason to make a horror movie.
With the success of John Carpenter's Halloween, the flood gates opened for horror movies to become more mainstream. Friday the 13th blew the dam apart, Paramount Pictures distributed the film and when it was all said and done, this small $550,000 film, grossed $59 million at the box office.
As far as originality goes, serial killer/stalker movies were nothing new. Using a female as the killer, set it apart from all the other horror movies out there. It was a genius move which very few other films in the genre have attempted to use with as much success as Friday the 13th.
Is it worth watching? Absolutely. It's a great starting point for future filmmakers to watch on how to grab an audience and it's just a fun popcorn movie to watch, sitting in the dark.
Rating - 7.5 out of 10.
Friday the 13th (1980)
R | 1h 35min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 9 May 1980 (USA)
A group of camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which, years before, was the site of a child's drowning.
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Writers: Victor Miller, Sean S. Cunningham (story)
Stars: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor