Saturday, October 16, 2010

31 days, 31 faves: Friday the 13th (1980)




I figure it's possible I'll take a lot of criticism for listing this one as one of my all-time favorites. But Friday the 13th (1980) is my comfort food. I first saw it when I was twelve, on a night when my parents left me alone to go to a church meeting (how ironic). I was absolutely psyched to be watching an "R" rated movie without my parent's permission. And I was alone.

After surviving my first viewing, all I could think about was seeing it again. I think it's where my strange obsession with watching the same movies over and over again (well, not in one sitting mind you) came from. It quickly became the go-to movie to watch at sleepovers so I could scare the crap out of my friends, since I'd already witnessed the mayhem.

It seems redundant to discuss plot here, because I figure anyone who hasn't seen this shouldn't be reading this blog. So I've decided to still go through the movie, but pepper it up with a bit of my own lovingly sarcastic barbs and nostalgic memories of the film. Here goes nothing...

So it's a full moon (naturally) during the summer of 1958 and it's hot hot hot at Camp Crystal Lake, and not just from the weather. In fact, it's a sultry evening - the annoying little rugrats campers are tucked away in their cabins, and the counselors are singing (fairly silly) songs around the campfire. Things like 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore ' and 'Tom Dooley' and other particularly lame songs like that. (Not a Kum Ba Yah in the bunch!)
Two of the counselors are giving each other googly eyes and they take off to get it on in the barn (no 'roll in the hay' jokes, please). They discuss how "special" she is and how much he really means that when he says it (not) and proceed to move on to second base, cause he's really got to get back to that campfire - he's the best tenor in the bunch!

Cut to the killer's point of view (*cough cough* - blatant Halloween rip-off -*cough cough*). Said killer climbs up the stairs to the loft, all the while listening to our horny counselors smooching and such. Finally, our frisky duo hears someone coming (!), but alas it's too late. A few butcher knife slashes later and our famous logo bursts onto the screen and Harry Manfredini's iconic score bursts our eardrums.

Present day...which would be Friday June 13th (1980)... the lovely Annie (Robbie Morgan) is hitching a ride to Camp Blood Crystal Lake.
I have to ask - why does she seem to be backpacking to her summer job? Does she not have money for bus fare? No parents to drop her off at the nearest train station? She couldn't convince any friends to sign up too? I mean, really...before this film came out I'd have been all over the opportunity to hang out all summer far away from the folks and in the perfect place for some meaningless season-long love affairs and hanky-panky.
And can I mention how much Annie reminds me of a girl I went to high school with? Freaks me out every time.
I digress...

When she enters the local diner and asks for directions there is a noticeable and lengthy pause from everyone there, until the waitress finally answers. If it were me, I'd think it was pretty weird that everyone wants me to forget about going up there. I mean, these folks are from around the area, chances are they'll know about all the local stories. But hey, I've seen a lot of horror movies, so I know the ins and outs. Obviously Annie has no clue.

Luckily (?), Annie is able to hitch a ride with Enos (Rex Everhart), a local truck driver ("an American original!") - but not before fan favorite Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) comes out of nowhere to get in their face and tell her that not only is she doomed, but they're ALL doomed. (Personally, I love Ralph. He needed more screen time...and quite honestly I knew a guy just like this in my hometown. Only difference was my guy had a big flower on the basket of his bike. I shit you not.)

Enos waves Ralph off angrily and they continue on their way. Enos tells Annie about the two camp counselors who were killed in '58 and the young boy that drowned in '57, explaining that the place is jinxed. He carries on until he drops Annie off at a crossroads, one last time reiterating Crazy Ralph's warning about Camp Crystal Lake. He again tells her outright to quit.
Poor Annie, she should have listened.

As she's walking along, a Jeep drives by but then slows down to pick her up. Annie is utterly giddy, flapping her gums about working with children and how she hates when people call them 'kids', cause it makes them sound like little goats. (Yeah, superb narratives, that's what we've got here.) Because we never see the driver of the Jeep, we feel uneasy. Soon, when the driver bypasses the entrance to CCL, Annie finally feels nervous too. After asking the driver several times to stop, she opens the door (while the Jeep is going like a bat out of hell) and jumps out. She takes off into the woods, but the driver backs up, stops, and gets out to chase her.
I think we all know it doesn't end well for Annie. After tripping and falling she looks up, only to meet the driver's knife.

Meanwhile, Jack (Kevin Bacon), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), and third-wheel Ned (Mark Nelson) are traveling to CCL in their old beater truck (while we hear some Dukes of Hazzard-worthy tunes in the background. Gee, I hope that's not on the score album!). They arrive just in time for the owner, the crabby Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), to start spouting orders before he drives off to get supplies. We also meet Alice (Adrienne King) and Bill (Harry Crosby). Alice is first seen actually nailing up a drain gutter (!) while Steve, obviously enamored with Alice, looks on dreamily. Bill is apparently the brains of the operation, fixing the emergency generator in between his duties as camp snake killer. Brenda (Laurie Bartram), wearing a fairly unattractive pair of bright red "mom" shorts, is in charge of the archery range, and flips her lid when Ned shoots an arrow right past her. Yes, Ned is the token jack-ass of the group.

When the boss is away, the camp counselors play. They put on their swim gear and take a dip in the lake, then Jack and Marcie head off to be alone for a bit. They hang out long enough for Marcie to give a meaningless speech about a dream she used to have as a kid where rain turned to blood.
Though the dialogue is pretty pointless, I rather like this part of the movie. As the couple sit and discuss her long-time fear of storms, thunder rolls quietly in the background and the wind whistles through the trees and across the lake. You can hear typical wildlife, like birds and crickets, and for some reason it does lend an ominous feel to that stretch of film.

Of course we're also privy to the fact that Ned, bored and unloved, has taken his own stroll. He ends up at about the same location as Jack and Marcie a few minutes before them, and is surprised to see what he thinks is a person, walking on the porch of an abandoned cabin. When this individual ducks inside, Ned goes to investigate. That is when we cut to Jack & Marcie and see them arrive.

At the sound of thunder, the couple heads for the same isolated cabin where they hunker down and get their groove on. Even though they have their own cabin (I'm assuming), they choose to have sex in a deserted cabin far away from the rest of the group. Am I saying that's a dumb ass thing to do? Actually I'm not. Because seriously, who wouldn't do that? It's really not that unthinkable. Besides, it's raining cats & dogs. Might as well get busy.

Back at the ranch, Bill, Alice and Brenda start up a game of strip Monopoly, enhanced (cause Monopoly is actually quite boring truth be told) by smoking some grass. Tell me how in the hell are they supposed to fend off ax murderers and the likes while utterly fucked up on weed? They'll have such a severe case of the munchies they'll be chomping on Oreos when the killer strikes!

This brings me to yet another observation.
I never noticed until now how nothing really happens in the first half of this movie. A lot of talk, a bit of nudity, and besides the pre-credits couple and Annie, only a snake bites the big one. Say what? Isn't this a down and dirty, blood and guts kind of film? No.... I only thought that when I was twelve.

So then, we catch up with Steve, who is riding out hurricane-level rain at a diner alongside the highway. He and the bea-U-tiful waitress Sandy (who for all intents and purposes looks very much like a tranny wearing Sally Jesse Raphael glasses) chat about the campers being babes in the woods while he has some coffee and pie. How nice. Oh, and he leaves Sandy a generous tip. Maybe he's a nice guy after all!

Back at CCL, the strip Monopoly game goes south after the wind blows the door of the cabin open and shit flies all over the place. Brenda only then remembers she left her cabin windows open. Um, duh! Would you really leave your cabin windows open on your first day there? You don't even know half these people. They could be utter thieves. Then again, so could your friends. And that's not even mentioning all the critters that could make their way into your cabin. Squirrels, mice, birds, bats...
Anyway, she heads back to her cabin to close up and retire for the evening. She puts on the most conservative granny gown you could imagine (looks like she wasn't planning on getting laid) and lies down with a good book (and it's not this one).
Until, that is, she starts hearing someone calling for help.

Now here's the downright stupidest move of the film (and dammit, I liked Brenda). She goes outside in her nightgown to call out to the person who she hears yelling. In her nightgown. In the pouring rain. We already know she owns a slicker, she had it on when she left Bill and Alice. SO she literally starts walking all over the place, drenched like a wet cat, trying to see in the darkness. Until, that is, the lights in the archery range come on.

Okay, back to Jack and Marcie - almost forgot about our two lovebirds! Following a rousing bout of coitus, they are basking in the afterglow until Marcie spoils it by having to pee. She gets up and slides on her slicker and tells Ren (whoops! careless Footloose error!) Jack that she'll be right back (so that's where that Scream reference came from...)

Now, I have to say, why could she not have just stepped outside the cabin door and peed? I mean, it's raining, right? Plus the cabin is far-removed from all the others, so who would see? Was she lying when she said she only had to urinate? What else would drag her ass down to the bath/shower rooms just to pee!? To make a long story short (too late!), Marcie gets an ax to the face in probably the spookiest part of the film.

Jack fares no better. Lighting up a ciggie, the fornicating wonder relaxes and thinks about more sex. 'Cause that's what guys do, right? Strangely, he feels a plop on his forehead. Reaching up to his forehead, he notices it's blood. Without warning, a hand comes from under the bed and an arrow twists through Jack's neck in what I think is the coolest kill. Blood gurgles up and spurts out just as the camera pans to the bunk bed above him. Where we see Ned, throat slit, eyes open.

When I was a kid, it scared the total shit out of me that the killer had been under the bed the entire time Jack and Marcie were having sex. Let alone dead Ned hanging out overhead. Oh my! That traumatized me so much that I still sometimes think about it when....oh, you know when.

When Alice tells Bill she thinks she heard Brenda screaming (and she did, as Brenda was murdered off-screen) they go to investigate. What do they find? A bloody ax in Brenda's bed. To which Alice delivers the appropriately droll line, "What is going on here?" If it were me, I'd have been beating feet out of there. Instead the two of them stare at each other with no more fear than you might have if your accountant said you weren't getting a refund this year.
I will give them credit for trying the phones to call the police. As in all horror movies, the lines are dead. Naturally, the car won't start either.

Steve, all caffeined up and riding high on sugar, heads back to camp but is intercepted by the killer once he arrives. But Steve knows his attacker, so you start to wonder just who this murderer is...

Because this is a horror movie, soon all the lights in the campground go out. Bill leaves Alice alone and goes to check on the generator (it's his job, remember?). When he's gone a bit too long, Alice decides to go look for him and finds him pinned to the shed door with arrows and his throat slashed. Bummer, he was the best looking dude.

And now the screaming starts.

Alice retreats post haste to her cabin where she proceeds to throw a ridiculous amount of furniture against the door and rig the door so it won't open. Seriously, what year did MacGyver start on tv? He has nothing on this girl. Of course she forgets how easy it would be for the killer to just break a goddamned window and get in.
And the next scene? Killer throws the body of Brenda through the window. Now what did I say? Duh.

Looking outside (which is fairly ill-advised considering what just happened) she sees headlights approaching and rushes outside, thinking it is Steve returning. She's greeted instead by a tall woman in an unforgivably ugly blue sweater who insists she calm down so she can help her. Smiling, the woman announces that she is Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), a friend of the Christy's. And even after Alice cries that everyone is dead and that she'll get killed too, Mrs. Voorhees brushes her off, claiming she's not afraid. Here's where I'd start to worry about our new friend.

They go back into the cabin where Alice shows Mrs. Voorhees Brenda's corpse, which in turn prompts Mrs. Voorhees to go into a long spiel about what a shame it was and how they never should have opened the place up again. Getting louder, Mrs. V. continues on about how a young boy drowned there years ago when camp counselors were supposed to be watching him. And as Alice begins to wonder about the sanity of the woman in front of her, Mrs. Voorhees tells her it was her SON, Jason, that died. He wasn't a very good swimmer, you know.
She pulls out a big-ass knife/machete from her hip and dives for Alice.

Fighting ensues, and a long chase scene almost bores us in the process. There's a moment of true bliss (one that makes my hubby laugh out loud every time) when the two are fighting at the shoreline of the lake and Mrs. Voorhees slams Alice's face into the dirt several times. It is rather amusing, if I do say so myself.

And - ta dah! (*Major Spoiler*) Alice struggles but manages to retrieve the machete from Mrs. V. and decapitates her. As the dead woman's head falls to the ground, we get to see her fingers grabbing...reaching out....wondering what became of her noggin. Ahhh! Love that. Thank you, Tom Savini.

Alice drags her beat-up ass to a nearby canoe and gets in. (Which is, of course, the first thing you'd do, right? Um, no. What I would do is head back to Mrs. Voorhees Jeep, throw out the dead bodies of Steve and Alice, and head back to town for heaven's sake!) But Alice prefers an aquatic departure and drifts out onto the lake. Seriously, just where did she think she was going?

When morning comes, the lovely strains of a peaceful melody make everything seem like wine and roses as we cut to Alice, just waking up in the canoe. She sees a police car at the shore and notices a cop calling out to her. Just as she is becoming fully aware, a boy lurches out of the water and grabs her, pulling her under the water. And not just any boy - JASON!!! The disfigured, water-logged, creepy mess of a boy that died all those years ago.
Props to the director for that one! That is one jump-scare that trumps most of the others in the genre, hands down. If anyone can tell me they didn't fly out of their seat the first time they saw this film, I want to shake their hand. Then I'm going to slap them for lying.

Suddenly, Alice is at the hospital. With the cop and a doctor looking on, a nurse gives her a shot in the ass and she calms down enough to ask about the boy. Where is the boy? When she gets a quizzical look from the cop, she explains about Jason.... the boy that pulled her under the water.
When the cop tells her they didn't find any boy, Alice gives a forlorn expression of disbelief, delivering the final line - "Then he's still there..."

Cue sequel!

6 comments:

lazlo azavaar said...

I must admit to being fond of the first two Friday the 13ths. There's a cheesy charm to them totally missing from every other film in the series.

Pax Romano said...

First, that waitress was played by the ONE, the ONLY, Miss Sally Anne Golden! And she was a goddess! ;)

I also am fond of this movie. Yes, it tried to ride Halloween's coat tails, but, IMHO, it had a pretty cool "12 Little Indians" vibe to it. Most of it was a murder mystery. And Betsy Palmer was an awesome villain.

They really should have stopped after this one. The Jason films make no sense at all, if you take part one at face value. If the little bastard was alive, what was his mother's vengeance about?

PS, I loved how young Kevin Bacon filled his Speedo in this film.

Christine Hadden said...

Lazlo: I actually like the first three films (each one less than the last) - but agree the rest are pretty much crap.

Pax: I LOVE Sandy! She rocks.
And you are utterly right when you say the whole Jason issue is stupid. It makes the first film seem pointless. Besides, Pamela Voorhees was a menacing bitch, and you gotta love that!

And yeppers, Kevin certainly had no problem with his...parts. Further proof comes later in Wild Things ;)

Cinema Du Meep said...

I love the atmosphere of the first film. It's pretty genuine. I drove around the area it was shot pretty recently and it totally felt like watching the first film. Love it.

Catherine said...

Fully realizing that it's probably a little strange to call this one of my favorite horror films (because it's a non-thinker, pure fun sort of thing), I still love it!

Jenny Spencer said...

It's one of my favorites as well. Maybe it wasn't the most original slasher film ever but who cares? It was scary as hell, had some incredible special effects, and gets serious props for having a female killer (and such an intense one!)

It also corrupted my view of the woods from being a beautiful place to a scary one where killers were lurking behind every tree. When I saw this film as a kid, I lived in a rural area surrounded by woods, and I just knew that Mrs. Voorhees (and later Jason) were hiding out there, waiting to come and get me. Needless to say, I didn't go exploring very often by myself.