Movie Reviews 32 – Friday the 13th

As yet another Friday the 13th approached the calendar this year, I decided it was high time I addressed my much procrastinated promise to one day catch up on all those Friday the 13th movies that I’ve missed during my formative years acquiring an education, career and life. But having achieved all those lofty goals, I sat down my box set collection of the first 8 movies (From Crystal Lake to Manhattan) and the odd single DVD to complete the franchise and got down to discovering Jason in all his bloody glory and now bring you this first installment of reviews.

Friday the 13th (1980)
While the child-beast ‘Jason’ went on to become a hockey goalie mask wearing horror icon, he is barely mentioned in this first movie of the series and isn’t even seen until the final heart palpitating scene. In fact, he wasn’t even really the bad guy. As we find out, it is only in his name that all the camp leaders at Camp Crystal Lake (and collateral victims) are disposed off. While now cliche, the rampaging killer motif, and the slasher film mania of the 80’s itself lend a large part of their success to this surprise hit. Pretty much the birth of the ‘kids at camp all die’ genre as well. A young Kevin Bacon’s throat thrust death scene is in itself an iconic slasher classic. But the oddest thing about this movie (if Hollywood gossip can be believed) is that it was first announced with only an ad in a trade magazine for the movie and nothing more. No script, no concept, nobody signed for anything. But the title alone was enough to entice producers to cough up some dough and jump into the slasher film bandwagon forming at the time based on the success of Halloween. Apparently the producers were right as this movie franchise is still limping along 30 years on. Be sure to pick up on the ‘whisper calls’ in Harry Manfredini’s score, another signature of the series.

Friday the 13th part II (1981)
Not much different from the first movie really, although Jason is now the acknowledged killer this time around. He first tracks down and kills the last survivor from the first movie, and then settles in the woods near Camp Crystal Lake until some foolish souls decide it’s a good idea to reopen a new camp right next to the original. Bad idea, really. Not only is Jason hiding out in the nearby woods, he’s also kept a memento of his problematic upbringing. But as far as all the killing is concerned, it’s pretty much the same as the first. Jason has yet to adopt the goalie mask getup and opts for a cloth shroud for the time being. A nice touch in the movie is the addition of a wheelchair bound camp counselor though. Equal opportunity victimization well before political correctness became a mantra. I was hoping for a particularly imaginative end to that character which was only partially full-filled. I also admit a tear coming to my eye as one counselor reaches out for a chainsaw in trying to deflect Jason. Alas, we don’t get to see Jason himself hoist that weapon. Not as good
as the first but a decent flick.

Friday the 13th part III (1982)
Sporting the tagline “Part 3 in 3D”, it was one of many movies that tested the 3D waters of the early 80’s (who says 3D is new?) and evidenced by thrusting broomsticks and projectiles coming right at the screen. You can’t forget the 3D gimmick even when watching it in 2D after all these years since a lot of the scenes were created solely to inject 3D effects. But that’s OK as most of the 3D moments are now fun to watch without the actual visible effect. As for casting, the producers finally sunk low enough to include the mandatory ‘fat kid’ to the camp supervisors ensemble. But that’s a good thing because it’s the fat kid that brings the along goalie mask prop. Before the end of the movie it’s Jason that dons the mask and Friday the 13th is forever thereafter to be identified with the now masked murderer. Aside from the mask and screen projectiles, the movie is decent enough to watch. Certainly a lot better than some of the later movies in the series.

Friday the 13th part IV The Final Chapter (1984)
Believe it or not, it’s Corey Feldman as a child actor (later to become problem plagued adult actor) that is pivotal in this third sequel. The finale in which he purposely transforms into a mock mini-Jason is memorable and is also instrumental in setting up the future direction of the franchise. The series also departs from the ‘kids at camp’ motif, but makes up for it by having a few kids rent out a summer beachfront home which is close to the former Camp Crystal Lake. Their next door
neighbors are a mother with a teen daughter and little Tommy (Feldman). The movie is basically Jason alternating between the two houses looking to knock off a few bodies. Look for a young Crispin Glover as one of the partying
kids. The finale puts Jason down for the count with a decidedly deadly chop administered by little Tommy. But as far as it really being the ‘Final Chapter’, you can kiss my ass. We’re not even at the halfway point in the franchise yet!


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