Welcome faithful readers, to another edition of Late To The Party! This is a very special edition as we transition from a scary summer, to frightening fall (and Halloween on the way!). As well, a movie that epitomized the transition from thrillers, murder mysteries, and giallo into that beloved staple of horror, the slasher genre. I am of course talking about none other than the original Friday The 13th!
Love that title! I do feel some shame in having missed out on this landmark horror film for so long. Though, having seen several other entries in the massive franchise, I got the gist of the progenitor to Jason Voorhees in every sense of the word. On that, after the first film, the entire franchise revolved around everyone’s favorite hockey masked maniac! So, it was very interesting jumping into the roots of such a horror staple. I was fortunate enough, once again, to catch it at a local revival screening for the full experience.
In the Summer of 1959, a couple of counselors decide to get frisky at Camp Crystal Lake only to meet their ends at the hands of an unseen killer. Now, 1979. The camp is getting renovated despite the ‘blood curse’ proclaimed by lovable deranged local, “Crazy” Ralph. A group of teen counselors (Including a young Kevin Bacon!) and the camp’s new owner clean up the site for a new generation of campers… only to befall that same unseen killer! Tell me if you hadn’t heard that one before?
Of course, at the time, this was a groundbreaking independent movie from horror maker Sean S. Cunningham. It was very interesting to watch, as it was truly here that the sub-genre we know as the ‘slasher’ was born in blood. As opposed to its pumped up bloodier, and gorier sequels, the original was more a murder mystery in the vein of giallo or classical “Twelve Little Indians.” It’s only by the very end that it’s revealed that the least likely suspect was the true killer all along. And one who’s introduced rather abruptly and late into the game.
The twist, which honestly isn’t much a spoiler anymore considering it directly leads into Jason’s reign, that it was middle aged camp cook, Pamela Voorhees must have been rather shocking for its time. Knowing this beforehand thanks to the remainder of the series, it didn’t have quite as much an impact. Though still a bit shocking to think that Pam was surprisingly spry for her age! Especially handling that hunting knife. Though it did feel odd that Pamela’s introduction came with just the bare amount of foreshadowing. The other counselors mention a boy drowning and then the accidents, but it’s only after everyone is dead and Alice confronts the camp cook do we get the full story. It was also interesting to see, after so many sequels of Jason being a juggernaut, that the killer is all too human. Pamela takes time to recover after Alice bludgeons her. Plus, Pam’s desire to kill seems mentally driven as opposed to supernatural. “Kill them all, mommy” She keeps on repeating. Almost like a reverse Norman Bates. And it was only then I realized that Jason’s iconic them ‘ki-ki-ah-ah’ was a derivative of that crazed mantra!
Though, the film did a great job in establishing many of the hallmarks of the rest of the franchise, including: creative kills! No one’s ever going to forget seeing Kevin Bacon get stabbed through the neck from beneath his bed with an arrow. And it forever changed the way we look at machetes! We have the artistic and strong-willed Alice as the first in a long, long line of “Final Girls”, though things take a turn for her come Part II…
The gore still holds up thanks to the masterful work from Tom Savini, complete with “Jason’s” first explosive appearance.People in the audience still shrieked as he dove out of the lake at Alice like a rabid dolphin! Which just goes to show that the classics can still be just as effective today.
Thanks for following us through a slasher filled summer, and join us next time for another carnage filled Late To the Party!