Saturday, 12 March 2011

Friday the 13th (1980) - Sean S. Cunningham

I have friends who swear that this is a great film, can't really see it myself though. Made in the aftermath of the far superior Halloween and owing a huge debt to Carpenter's masterpiece. It takes Halloween's premise of teens + knife-wielding loon = horror, and throws in what would become Friday the 13th's biggest contribution to horror cinema, the idea of setting it in a cabin in the woods. It's safe to say that no Halloween, no Friday the 13th. Both films have a leading lady that ultimately is the one survivor to go up against the nutjob who's bumping off her friends, both were low budget flicks that made huge profits at the box office, both spawned a host off naff sequels and of course most obviously both have dates for titles.

The similarities end there though since Halloween is a masterclass of tension filled scares, genius low budget direction, pretty solid acting and the reason why the heart still hopes that Carpenter might turn in another genius film after all these years, even though the head knows it's never going to happen. All set to a gorgeous pulsing soundtrack. Friday the 13th has none of the above, one of the most wooden casts ever assembled for a film, even the sight of a young Kevin Bacon in speedo's can't lift the feeling that you're watching the sort of people that wouldn't even get past the audition for a non speaking role in a daytime soap. One last gripe I have with the film is it's soundtrack that in keeping with Cunningham's idea of lifting from better films does the same. Snatches of Jaws, Psycho and Suspiria pop up at various points.

What Friday the 13th does have going for it though is Tom Savini, and his bag of gore effects. Axe through the head, throat slashed open or an arrow through the neck, Tom can do it. There are some moments of tension such as someone standing behind a shower curtain in one scene, but in general more could have been done with a better director. The stand out scene for me didn't involve anything more than the making of a cup of coffee, nothing happens and it's all done in one take, with the camera slowly pushing in on Alice as she makes her coffee. It's as menacing as anything in the film and more of this kind of thing might have made for a better film I think. Even the films best scare moment is ripped straight from Carrie. Tut tut, could have been so much better.

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