Friday the 13th, an ominous day with its origins draped in mythology and superstition, is now mostly associated with a masked murder in a dozen films. What started as a simple cash-in on the rising slasher market, would soon blossom into the most iconic titans of the genre. As over four decades ago, audiences got to see the genesis of the blockbusting franchise and got an experience that is almost unrecognisable to the future of Friday the 13th.
In 1957, a couple of young carnal councillors met a gruesome end at Camp Crystal Lake in New Jersey. On the 13th of July, 23 years later, the place is soon to be reopened. Considering the camp’s ghastly history, which the locals are all too familiar with, they are apprehensive about Crystal Lake reopening. Still, undeterred by ghost stories, the crop of new councillors get to work trying to renovate the place into a fit state for their new guests. However, when someone takes matters into their own hands, The teens will disappear one by one, can the surviving councillors get to the bottom of this, or will history be forced to repeat itself yet again on that fateful Friday?
What can be said about the first Friday the 13th? If you have any preconceived notions about hockey-masked hackers, you can check those at the door. Most of the kills are done via P.O.V. shots, obscuring the murderer. The identity of the killer is shrouded in mystery until the end, unless you’ve seen films like Scream. The whodunnit element is a fun throwback to similar films like Prom Night and less of a standard boogeyman like Jason himself or Freddy Kruger. While some audiences may miss their iconic presence, it offers a refreshing pace change. Along with one of the most effective jump scares I have seen in quite a while.
As is the difficulty in a good slasher, the cast of characters is certainly likeable. Sure, they may crack some bad jokes sporadically, but it feels a shame to have them meet a grisly end, almost every time. You might recognise one or two of the victims too, as Friday the 13th offers one of Kevin Bacon’s earliest appearances, and you can see why he would end up going places. Adrienne King’s Alice makes for an interesting protagonist, for reasons that will become all too apparent later on, didn’t have much of a career outside the film, nor unfortunately in acting.
Friday the 13th is a curious yet brilliant first chapter into the iconic franchise. One that offers a slasher experience that feels completely contrary to the established preconceptions you would have going into the franchise. It doesn’t feel like it is breaking the rules, because those rules haven’t been codified yet. The subversive slasher ends up feeling like one of the best of a franchise, a franchise that has barely started yet. While the future is strong for the series, with at least 10 more stories to come, you’ll always remember your first time.
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