As predicted I didn’t sleep very well last night… I woke up around 4AM and could get back to sleep. I kept feeling like there was this electrical tingling going through my body, which most of the subjects in The Nightmare identified as the first warning signs of a bought of sleep paralysis. This was clearly just my mind playing with me… but it was strong enough to keep me up for a few hours. So, to ensure that I get a good night’s sleep tonight I decided to go with a classic that I’ve watched probably a dozen times: Friday the 13th. Also, because of the recent passing of Betsy Palmer, I figured it’s a good time to revisit the film. She is one of the major reasons this film works… she does just the right amount of overacting, but also completely sells her character. We are all very lucky that she needed a new car (she claims that this is only reason she took the role).
I was obsessed with the Friday the 13th film franchise when I was a kid. I think it came from two places. First, my sister is six years older than me. Therefore, I was aware of her watching all of these “cool” movies and couldn’t get access to them myself. I would just sit there and lament my loss. So, once I got old enough to begin watching these movies, I devoured them. Somehow, watching them made me feel cool… that is no longer the case (let’s be clear, I’m watching Friday the 13th on a sunny summer morning… that’s pretty lame). The second reason is a specific experience. Every summer my family would go on vacation to my grandparents’ lake house in norther New Jersey. For the entire week we would be stranded in this moldy old house but at least one night every vacation my parents would spend what little money they were able to save and take my sister and I out for a night on the town. This meant going to the bowling alley and the drive-in… it was awesome! One summer in particular (when I was eight) we went to see some second-run, family-friendly movie… I can’t remember what it was as my eyes were glued two screens to the right where they were playing Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. I was in the back seat so my parents had no idea (my sister was in the backseat with me, but she fourteen at the time, so she had no idea I even existed let alone what I was paying attention to)… I remember laughing along to whatever movie my parents were watching as to not get found out. It was an illicit and exciting experience… but, I couldn’t hear anything so, I was left to wonder, who was this monster and how did he get this way. I needed to see the six preceding films… immediately. I honestly can’t remember when I first saw the series, but I’m guessing I was way too young. To this day, I still think the first four films in the series (before Jason becomes a zombie, for all intents and purposes) are solid… okay, maybe solid is a stretch… fun… let’s go with fun.
If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the introduction of the modern slasher film, and Halloween was the popularization of the sub-genre, then Friday the 13th was the introduction of the modern B-version of the slasher film. All of the architypes are here: sexually charged teens, bloody kills, the annoyingly goofy friend, bad dialogue, bad acting, bad decisions from the heroin, gratuitous nudity, drugs, and so on and so on. One of the major departures from what would become standard slasher horror fare is that the heroin, Alice, is introduced in such a minor way. In future slasher films there is usually a huge backstory, and you know she’ll (because, let’s be honest, it is always a she) be the one left alive in the end. Here, Alice is the sixth person introduced at the camp. She literally walks up while other characters are talking. At first (though it goes away quickly) you think she’s just more cannon fodder.
Here are a couple of other random observations from this viewing:
- There are so many first-person shots in the film… along with the victims saying things like: “Oh, it’s you”, “what are you doing here”, etc. It’s also hilarious how long a person has a one-sided conversation in this film as well as why the killer won’t speak to people.
- I never really put this together before, but the score (including the classic Jason music (though I guess it’s technically Jason’s music)) is deeply influenced by
- The Kevin Bacon (that’s right, Kevin Bacons in this movie) kill is solid… really solid. It’s great use of practical effects.
- I realized that every time I watched this film as a kid (and sometimes even as an adult) I spend most of the movie dreading the last scene. This is one of the most effective (and I mean that in a horror movie sense of the word… it stays with you, for a long, long time) ends to a movie. In fact, I would say that without this scene, this movie would not be the horror-classic it is considered to be today.
Well, I don’t have much more to say than that. One this is for certain, I don’t want to say too much about the plot since shockingly few people of my generation (or the generations that followed) have seen this movie, and while most are sure what’s going on, the majority of them will be pretty shocked.