Friday the 13th (1980 film)
|Friday the 13th|
Theatrical release poster by Alex Ebel
|Directed by||Sean S. Cunningham|
|Produced by||Sean S. Cunningham|
|Written by||Victor Miller|
|Music by||Harry Manfredini|
|Edited by||Bill Freda|
|Box office||$59.8 million|
Friday the 13th is a 1980 American slasher film produced and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, and written by Victor Miller. It stars Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Kevin Bacon, Jeannine Taylor, Mark Nelson, and Robbi Morgan. The film tells the story of a group of teenagers who are murdered one by one by an unknown killer while attempting to re-open an abandoned summer camp.
Prompted by the success of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), director Cunningham put out an advertisement to sell the film in Variety in early 1979, while Miller was still drafting the screenplay. After casting the film in New York City, filming took place in New Jersey in the summer of 1979, on an estimated budget of $550,000. A bidding war ensued over the finished film, ending with Paramount Pictures acquiring the film for domestic distribution, while Warner Bros. secured European distribution rights.
Released in May 1980, Friday the 13th was a major box office success, grossing over $39.7 million in the United States alone. Critical response to the film was divided, with some praising the film's cinematography, score, and performances, while numerous others derided it for its depiction of graphic violence. Aside from being the first independent film of its kind to secure distribution in the U.S. by a major studio, its box office success led to a long series of sequels, a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a 2009 series reboot.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Analysis
- 4 Production
- 5 Music
- 6 Release
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Related works
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Works cited
- 12 External links
In the summer of 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake, two counselors named Barry and Claudette sneak away from a campfire and into a storage barn. They prepare to have sex before an unseen assailant enters and murders them.
Twenty-one years later, on June 13, 1979, newly hired camp counselor Annie Phillips asks for directions to the reopened Camp Crystal Lake. An elderly man named Crazy Ralph warns her against going, claiming that the camp has a "death curse." A friendly truck driver named Enos agrees to give Annie a lift halfway to the camp. During the drive, Enos warns Annie about the camp, informing her that a young boy drowned at Crystal Lake in 1957 and about the two murders the following year. After Enos drops her off, Annie hitches another ride from an unseen assailant, who chases her into the woods and slashes her throat.
At the camp, counselors Ned, Jack, Bill, Marcie, Brenda, and Alice, along with the owner Steve Christy, refurbish the cabins and facilities. As a thunderstorm approaches, Steve leaves the campground to stock supplies. Meanwhile, the killer arrives at the camp and stalks the counselors. Ned sees someone walk into one of the cabins and follows, only to be killed off-screen. Later, while Jack and Marcie have sex in one of the cabin's bunk beds, they are unaware of Ned's body directly above them, with his throat slit. When Marcie leaves to use the camp bathrooms, Jack's throat is pierced with an arrow from beneath the bed. The killer then follows Marcie to the bathrooms, and slams an axe into her face. Meanwhile, Brenda hears a child's voice calling for help and ventures outside her cabin to the archery range, only for the range lights to turn on as she is attacked off-screen. Steve later returns to the camp and is confronted by the unseen killer, who stabs him.
Alice and Bill are worried by their friends' disappearances, and they leave the main cabin to investigate. They discover a bloody axe in Brenda's bed, the phones disconnected, and the cars inoperable. When the power goes out, Bill goes to check on the generator and is murdered by the killer. Alice then heads out to look for him. Upon finding Bill's body impaled with arrows to the generator room's door, she flees back to the main cabin to hide only to be traumatized further when Brenda's body is thrown through the window.
Alice sees a vehicle pull up and rushes outside, thinking it is Steve. Instead, she is greeted by a middle-aged woman named Mrs. Voorhees, who claims to be an old friend of Steve's. As Alice brings her inside, Mrs. Voorhees begins to reminisce that her son Jason was the young boy who drowned in 1957. She blames his death on the counselors who were supposed to be watching him, but they instead were having sex and not paying attention to Jason's drowning. Revealing herself as the killer, Mrs. Voorhees turns violent and rushes toward Alice with a bowie knife, attempting to kill her. In the ensuing chase, Alice finds Annie's body inside Mrs. Voorhees' car and Steve's body hanging from a tree. Following a confrontation in which Mrs. Voorhees is knocked out, Alice escapes to the shore. Just as she begins to relax, Mrs. Voorhees finds her and attempts to kill her again with a machete. During the final struggle, Alice ultimately decapitates Mrs. Voorhees with her machete. Afterwards, a traumatized Alice boards and falls asleep inside a canoe, which floats out on Crystal Lake.
Just as Alice awakens and sees the police arriving, Jason's decomposing body suddenly emerges from the lake and drags her underwater. She then awakens in a hospital, where a police officer and medical staff tend to her. When Alice asks about Jason, the officer says that there was no sign of any boy. Alice says, "Then he's still there," as the lake is shown with a single ripple on the open water.
- Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees
- Adrienne King as Alice Hardy
- Harry Crosby III as Bill Brown
- Jeannine Taylor as Marcie Cunningham
- Laurie Bartram as Brenda Jones
- Kevin Bacon as Jack Burrell
- Mark Nelson as Ned Rubenstein
- Robbi Morgan as Annie Phillips
- Peter Brouwer as Steve Christy
- Rex Everhart as Enos
- Walt Gorney as Crazy Ralph
- Willie Adams as Barry Jackson
- Debra S. Hayes as Claudette Hayes
- Ari Lehman as Jason Voorhees
Film scholar Williams views Friday the 13th as "symptomatic of its era," particularly Reagan-era America, and part of a trajectory of films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Race with the Devil (1975), which "exemplify a particular apocalyptic vision moving from disclosing family contradictions to self-indulgent nihilism." The film's recurring use of point-of-view shots from the killer's perspective have been noted by scholars such as Philip Dimare as "inherently voyeuristic." Dimare regards the film as a "cautionary tale that succeeds in warning against the sexual impropriety even as it fetishizes violent transgression."
Film critic Timothy Shary notes in his book Teen Movies: American Youth on Screen (2012) that where Halloween introduced a "more subtle sexual curiosity within its morbid moral lesson," films such as Friday the 13th "capitali[zed] on the reactionary aspect of teen sexuality, slaughtering wholesale those youth who deigned to cross the threshold of sexual awareness." Commenting on the film's violence and sexuality, film scholar David J. Hogan notes that, "throughout the film, teenage boys are hideously dispatched, but not with the same buildup and attention to detail that Cunningham and makeup wiz Tom Savini reserved for nubile young girls."
Gender of villain
The film has spurred critical discussion in regard to its villain being female, a plot point examined at length by film scholar Carol Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Clover notes the revelation of Pamela Voorhees as the killer as "the most dramatic case of pulling out the gender rug" in horror film history. Commenting on the first-person point-of-view shots from the killer, Clover writes: ""We" [the audience] stalk and kill a number of teenagers over the course of an hour of movie time without even knowing who "we" are; we are invited, by conventional expectation and by glimpses of "our" own bodily parts—a heavily booted foot, a roughly gloved hand—to suppose that "we" are male, but "we" are revealed, at the film's end, as a woman."
On the killer's identity, Dimare has noted:
Because Cunningham avoids revealing anything about the psychotic killer beyond the fact that the figure is dressed in men's gloves and boots, the audience assumes the slayer is a man... Cunningham sustains the eerie indeterminacy of the killer's age, social status, and gender deep into his film. The use of this cinematic process of abstraction allows the film to linger over the ambiguous nature of evil until 'sits climactic last act.
Scholar and author Nick White examined the film in the context of queer studies in a 2017 essay, noting the villain, Mrs. Voorhees, as a reverse of the Norman Bates character in Psycho: "The effect of her being the killer is queerly destabilizing. For one, we cannot underestimate the import of having a woman be the architect and cause of such gruesomely creative murders. It’s a radical departure from other slasher flicks, like Halloween, which was released a few years before, where the killer is almost always male and perversely hellbent on punishing sexually-active teenagers."
Friday the 13th was produced and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, who had previously worked with filmmaker Wes Craven on the film The Last House on the Left. Cunningham, inspired by John Carpenter's Halloween, wanted Friday the 13th to be shocking, visually stunning and "[make] you jump out of your seat." Wanting to distance himself from The Last House on the Left, Cunningham wanted Friday the 13th to be more of a "roller-coaster ride."
The original screenplay was tentatively titled A Long Night at Camp Blood. While working on a redraft of the screenplay, Cunningham proposed the title Friday the 13th, after which Miller began redeveloping. Cunningham rushed out to place an advertisement in Variety using the Friday the 13th title. Worried that someone else owned the rights to the title and wanting to avoid potential lawsuits, Cunningham thought it would be best to find out immediately. He commissioned a New York advertising agency to develop his concept of the Friday the 13th logo, which consisted of big block letters bursting through a pane of glass. In the end, Cunningham believed there were "no problems" with the title, but distributor George Mansour stated, "There was a movie before ours called Friday the 13th: The Orphan. It was moderately successful. But someone still threatened to sue. Either Phil Scuderi paid them off, but it was finally resolved."
The screenplay was completed in mid-1979 by Victor Miller, who later went on to write for several television soap operas, including Guiding Light, One Life to Live and All My Children; at the time, Miller was living in Stratford, Connecticut, near Cunningham, and the two had begun collaborating on potential film projects. Miller delighted in inventing a serial killer who turned out to be somebody's mother, a murderer whose only motivation was her love for her child. "I took motherhood and turned it on its head and I think that was great fun. Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I'd always wanted—a mother who would have killed for her kids." Miller was unhappy about the filmmakers' decision to make Jason Voorhees the killer in the sequels. "Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim, not a villain."
The idea of Jason appearing at the end of the film was initially not used in the original script; in Miller's final draft, the film ended with Alice merely floating on the lake. Jason's appearance was actually suggested by makeup designer Tom Savini. Savini stated that "The whole reason for the cliffhanger at the end was I had just seen Carrie, so we thought that we need a 'chair jumper' like that, and I said, 'let's bring in Jason'".
A New York-based firm, headed by Julie Hughes and Barry Moss, was hired to find eight young actors to play the camp's staff members. Cunningham admits that he was not looking for "great actors," but anyone that was likable, and appeared to be a responsible camp counselor. The way Cunningham saw it, the actors would need to look good, read the dialogue somewhat well, and work cheap. Moss and Hughes were happy to find four actors, Kevin Bacon, Laurie Bartram, Peter Brouwer, and Adrienne King, who had previously appeared on soap operas. The role of Alice Hardy was set up as an open casting call, a publicity stunt used to attract more attention to the film. King earned an audition primarily because she was the friend of someone working in Moss and Hughes’s office, and Cunningham felt she embodied the qualities Alice. After she auditioned, Moss recalls Cunningham commenting that they saved the best actress for last. As Cunningham explains, he was looking for people that could behave naturally, and King was able to show that to him in the audition.
—Jeannine Taylor on how she viewed Friday the 13th
With King cast in the role of lead heroine Alice, Laurie Bartram was hired to play Brenda. Kevin Bacon, Mark Nelson and Jeannine Taylor, who had known each other prior to the film, were cast as Jack, Ned, and Marcie respectively. It is Bacon and Nelson's contention that, because the three already knew each other, they already had the specific chemistry the casting director was looking for in the roles of Jack, Ned, and Marcie. Taylor has stated that Hughes and Moss were highly regarded while she was an actress, so when they offered her an audition she felt that, whatever the part, it would "be a good opportunity."
Friday the 13th was Nelson's first feature film, and when he went in for his first audition the only thing he was given to read were some comedic scenes. Nelson received a call back for a second audition, which required him to wear a bathing suit, which Nelson acknowledges made him start to wonder if something was off about this film. He did not fully realize what was going on until he got the part and was given the full script to read. Nelson explains, "It certainly was not a straight dramatic role, and it was only after they offered me the part that they gave me the full script to read and I realized how much blood was in it." Nelson believes that Ned used humor to hide his insecurities, especially around Brenda, whom the actor believes Ned was attracted to. Nelson recalls an early draft of the script stating that Ned suffered from polio, and his legs were deformed while his upper body was muscular. Ned is believed to have given birth to the "practical joker victim" of horror films. According to author David Grove, there was no equivalent character in John Carpenter's Halloween, or Bob Clark's Black Christmas before that. He served as a model for the slasher films that would follow Friday the 13th.
—Robbi Morgan on how she obtained the role of Annie
The part of Bill was given to Harry Crosby, son of Bing Crosby. Robbi Morgan, who plays Annie, was not auditioning for the film when she was offered the role; while in her office, Hughes looked at Morgan and proclaimed "you're a camp counselor." The next day Morgan was on the set. Morgan only appeared on-set for a day to shoot all her scenes. Rex Everhart, who portrays Enos, did not film the truck scenes with Morgan, so she had to either act with an imaginary Enos, or exchange dialogue with Taso Stavrakis—Savini's assistant—who would sit in the truck with her. It was Peter Brouwer's girlfriend that helped him land a role on Friday the 13th. After recently being written off the show Love of Life, Brouwer moved back to Connecticut to look for work. Learning that his girlfriend was working as an assistant director for Friday the 13th, Brouwer asked about any openings. Initially told casting was looking for big stars to fill the role of Steve Christy, it was not until Sean Cunningham dropped by to deliver a message to Brouwer's girlfriend, and saw him working in a garden, that Brouwer was hired.
Estelle Parsons was initially asked to portray the film's killer, Mrs. Voorhees, but eventually declined. Her agent cited that the film was too violent, and did not know what kind of actress would play such a part. Hughes and Moss sent a copy of the script to Betsy Palmer, in hopes that she would accept the part. Palmer could not understand why someone would want her for a part in a horror film, as she had previously starred in films such as Mister Roberts, The Angry Man, and The Tin Star. Palmer only agreed to play the role because she needed to buy a new car, even when she believed the film to "be a piece of shit." Stavrakis subbed for Betsy Palmer as well, which involved Morgan's character being chased through the woods by Mrs. Voorhees, although the audience only sees a pair of legs running after Morgan. Palmer had just arrived in town when those scenes were about to be filmed, and was not in the physical shape necessary to chase Morgan around the woods. Morgan's training as an acrobat assisted her in these scenes, as her character was required to leap out of a moving jeep when she discovers that Mrs. Voorhees does not intend to take her to the camp. Betsy Palmer explains how she developed the character of Mrs. Voorhees:
Being an actress who uses the Stanislavsky method, I always try to find details about my character. With Pamela... I began with a class ring that I remember reading in the script that she'd worn. Starting with that, I traced Pamela back to my own high school days in the early 1940s. So it's 1944, a very conservative time, and Pamela has a steady boyfriend. They have sex—which is very bad of course—and Pamela soon gets pregnant with Jason. The father takes off and when Pamela tells her parents, they disown her because having... babies out of wedlock isn't something that good girls do. I think she took Jason and raised him the best she could, but he turned out to be a very strange boy. [She took] lots of odd jobs and one of those jobs was as a cook at a summer camp. Then Jason drowns and her whole world collapses. What were the counselors doing instead of watching Jason? They were having sex, which is the way that she got into trouble. From that point on, Pamela became very psychotic and puritanical in her attitudes as she was determined to kill all of the immoral camp counselors.
Cunningham wanted to make the Mrs. Voorhees character "terrifying", and to that end he believed it was important that Palmer not act "over the top." There was also the fear that Palmer's past credits, as more of a wholesome character, would make it difficult to believe she could be scary. Palmer was paid $10,000 per day for her ten days on set. Ari Lehman, who had previously auditioned for Cunningham's Manny's Orphans, failing to get the part, was determined to land the role of Jason Voorhees. According to Lehman, he went in very intense and afterward Cunningham told him he was perfect for the part. In addition to the main cast, Walt Gorney came on as "Crazy Ralph", the town's soothsayer. The character of Crazy Ralph was meant to establish two functions: foreshadow the events to come, and insinuate that he could actually be the murderer. Cunningham has stated that he was apprehensive about including the character, and is not sure if he accomplished his goal of creating a new suspect.
The film was shot in and around the townships of Hardwick, Blairstown and Hope, New Jersey in September 1979. The camp scenes were shot on a working Boy Scout camp, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco which is located in Hardwick, New Jersey. The camp is still standing and still operates as a summer camp. The cinematography in the film employs recurrent point-of-view shots from the perspective of the villain.
Savini was hired to design the film's special effects based upon his work in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). Savini's design contributions included crafting the effects of Marcie's axe wound to the face, an arrow penetrating Jack's throat, and Mrs. Voorhees's decapitation by a machete.
During the filming of the fight sequences between King and Palmer's characters, Palmer suggested rehearsing the scene based on her training in theater: "I said to Adrienne that night ‘Why don’t we rehearse this scene, I have to slap you,’ because on-stage when you slap somebody, you slap them." While rehearsing, Palmer slapped King in the face, and she began crying: "She collapsed to the floor, crying, ‘Sean! [Cunningham] She hit me.’ I said, well, of course I hit her, we were rehearsing the scene. He said, ‘No, no, no Betsy, we don’t hit people in movies. We miss them."
|Friday the 13th|
|Soundtrack album by Harry Manfredini|
|Released||January 13, 2012|
La-La Land Records
When Harry Manfredini began working on the musical score, the decision was made to only play music when the killer was actually present so as to not "manipulate the audience". Manfredini pointed out the lack of music for certain scenes: "There's a scene where one of the girls... is setting up the archery area... One of the guys shoots an arrow into the target and just misses her. It's a huge scare, but if you notice, there's no music. That was a choice." Manfredini also noted that when something was going to happen, the music would cut off so that the audience would relax a bit, and the scare would be that much more effective.
Because the killer, Mrs. Voorhees, appears onscreen only during the final scenes of the film, Manfredini had the job of creating a score that would represent the killer in her absence. Manfredini borrows from the 1975 film Jaws, where the shark is likewise not seen for the majority of the film but the motif created by John Williams cued the audience to the shark's invisible menace. Sean S. Cunningham sought a chorus, but the budget would not allow it. While listening to a Krzysztof Penderecki piece of music, which contained a chorus with "striking pronunciations", Manfredini was inspired to recreate a similar sound. He came up with the sound "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" from the final reel when Mrs. Voorhees arrives and is reciting "Kill her, mommy!" The "ki" comes from "kill", and the "ma" from "mommy". To achieve the unique sound he wanted for the film, Manfredini spoke the two words "harshly, distinctly and rhythmically into a microphone" and ran them into an echo reverberation machine. Manfredini finished the original score after a couple of weeks, and then recorded the score in a friend's basement. Victor Miller and assistant editor Jay Keuper have commented on how memorable the music is, with Keuper describing it as "iconographic". Manfredini says, "Everybody thinks it's cha, cha, cha. I'm like, 'Cha, cha, cha? What are you talking about?'"
In 1982, Gramavision Records released a LP record of selected pieces of Harry Manfredini's scores from the first three Friday the 13th films. On 13 January 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition 6-CD boxset containing Manfredini's scores from the first six films. It sold out in less than 24 hours.
Distribution and promotion
A bidding war over distribution rights to the film ensued in 1980 between Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and United Artists. Paramount executive Frank Mancuso, Sr. recalled: "The minute we saw Friday the 13th, we knew we had a hit." Paramount ultimately purchased domestic distribution rights for Friday the 13th for $1.5 million. Based on the success of recently-released horror films (such as Halloween) and the low budget of the film, the studio deemed it a "low-risk" release in terms of profitability. It was the first independent slasher film to be acquired by a major motion picture studio. Paramount spent approximately $500,000 in advertisements for the film, and then an additional $500,000 when the film began performing well at the box office.
A full one-sheet poster, featuring a group of teenagers imposed beneath the silhouette of a knife-wielding figure, was designed by artist Alex Ebel to promote the film's U.S. release. Scholar Richard Nowell has observed that the poster and marketing campaign presented Friday the 13th as a "light-hearted" and "youth-oriented" horror film in an attempt to draw interest from America's prime theater-going demographic of young adults and teenagers. Warner Bros. secured distribution rights to the film in international markets.
Friday the 13th opened theatrically on May 9, 1980 across the United States, ultimately expanding its release to 1,127 theaters. It earned $5,816,321 in its opening weekend, before finishing domestically with $39,754,601, with a total of 14,778,700 admissions. It was the 18th highest-grossing film that year, facing competition from other high-profile horror releases such as The Shining, Dressed To Kill, The Fog, and Prom Night. The worldwide gross for the film was $59,754,601. Of the seventeen films distributed by Paramount in 1980, only two: Urban Cowboy and Airplane!, returned more profits than Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th was released internationally, which was unusual for an independent film with, at the time, no well-recognized or bankable actors; aside from well-known television and movie actress Betsy Palmer. The film would take in approximately $20 million in international box office receipts. Not factoring in international sales, or the cross-over film with A Nightmare on Elm Street 's Freddy Krueger, the original Friday the 13th is the highest-grossing film of the film series.
To provide context with the box office gross of films in 2014, the cost of making and promoting Friday the 13th—which includes the $550,000 budget and the $1 million in advertisement—is approximately $4.5 million. With regard to the US box office gross, the film would have made $177.72 million in adjusted 2017 dollars. On July 13, 2007, Friday the 13th was screened for the first time on Blairstown's Main Street in the very theater which appears shortly after the opening credits. Overflowing crowds forced the Blairstown Theater Festival, the sponsoring organization, to add an extra screening. A 30th Anniversary Edition was released on March 10, 2010. A 35th-anniversary screening was held in the Griffith Park Zoo as part of the Great Horror Campout on March 13, 2015.
Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times referred to the film as a "silly, boring, youth-geared horror movie," though she praised Manfredini's "nervous musical score," the cinematography, as well as the performances, which she deemed "natural and appealing," particularly from Taylor, Bacon, Nelson, and Bartram. Variety, however, deemed the film "low budget in the worst sense—with no apparent talent or intelligence to offset its technical inadequacies—Friday the 13th has nothing to exploit but its title." The Miami News's Bill von Maurer praised Cunningham's "low-key" direction, but noted: "After building terrific suspense and turning over the audience's stomachs, he doesn't quite know where to go from there. The movie begins to sag in the middle and the expectations he has built up begin to sour a bit." Lou Cedrone of The Baltimore Evening Sun referred to the film as "a shamelessly bad film, but then Cunningham knows this. This is sad."
Many critics compared the film unfavorably against John Carpenter's Halloween, among them Marylynn Uricchio of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who added: "Friday the 13th is minimal on plot, suspense, and characterization. It's not very original or very scary, but it is very low-budget." Dick Shippy of the Akron Beacon Journal similarly suggested that Carpenter's Halloween played "like Hitchcock when compared to Cunningham's dreadful tale of butchery." The Burlington Free Press's Mike Hughes wrote that the film "copies everything, that is, except the quality" of Halloween, concluding: "The lowest point of the movie comes near the end, when it exploits the genuine grief and madness of the villain. By then, things simply aren't fun anymore." Ron Cowan of the Statesman Journal noted the film as a "routine "endangered teenagers" exploitation movie," adding that "Cunningham betrays a rather plodding approach to suspense for most of the film, sometimes allowing his camera to act as the killer, sometimes as the victim. And the victims, of course, deliberately put themselves in peril."
A significant number of reviews criticized the film for its depiction of violence: The Hollywood Reporter derided the film, writing: "Gruesome violence, in which throats are slashed and heads are split open in realistic detail, is the sum content of Friday the 13th, a sick and sickening low budget feature that is being released by Paramount. It’s blatant exploitation of the lowest order." Michael Blowen of The Boston Globe similarly referred to the film as "nauseating," warning audiences: "Unless your idea of a good time is to watch a woman have her head split by an ax or a man stuck to a door with arrows, you should stay away from Friday the 13th. It's bad luck." The film's most vocal detractor was Gene Siskel, who in his review called Cunningham "one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business." He also published the address for Charles Bluhdorn, the chairman of the board of Gulf+Western, which owned Paramount, as well as Betsy Palmer's home city and encouraged fellow detractors to write to them and express their contempt for the film. To convince people not to see it, he even gave away the ending. Siskel and Roger Ebert spent an entire episode of their TV show berating the film (and other slasher films of the time) because they felt it would make audiences root for the killer. Leonard Maltin initially awarded the film one star, or 'BOMB', but later changed his mind and awarded the film a star and-a-half "simply because it's slightly better than Part 2" and called it a "gory, cardboard thriller".
Contemporary internet review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes awards the film a 61% approval rating, based on 51 critic reviews, with the consensus reading: “Rather quaint by today’s standards, Friday the 13th still has its share of bloody surprises and a ‘70s-holdover aesthetic to slightly compel.” Bill Steele of IFC ranked the film the second-best entry in the series, after Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981).
Critic Kim Newman, in a 2000 review, awarded the film two out of five stars, referring to it as "a pallid Halloween rip-off, with a mediocre shock count and a botched ending... As the bodies pile up amongst this testy crowd of horny teens, there remains a vacant hole were someone scary should be. In a strange way, this film stands unique amongst all slasher films as one where the killer is nearly intangible." Jeremiah Kipp of Slant Magazine reviewed the film in 2009, noting "a kind of minimalism at work, eschewing anything special in terms of mood, pacing, character, plot, and tension." Further commenting on the revelation of the killer's identity, Kipp observed:
The murderer turns out to be a middle-aged woman named Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) with a butch haircut and a gigantic bulky sweater, whose line readings are akin to nails on a chalkboard (“They were making love while that boy drowned! His name was Jason!”) and a predilection for speaking to herself in the mincing voice of her dead child (“Kill her, Mommy! Kill her!”). It’s only in this last 20-minute appearance of this scene-stealing harpy (not to mention the memorable cameo by her rotting zombie son) that Friday the 13th becomes memorable as high camp.
—Critic Scott Meslow on the film's legacy
In 2012, Bill Gibron of PopMatters wrote of the film: "This movie feels at least twice as long as its 90 minute running time and not always in a good way. There are far too many pointless pauses between the bloodletting. On the positive side, Tom Savini's make-up work is flawless, and Betsy Palmer's turn as big bad Pamela V. has to go down in history as one of the meanest 'mothers' in the entire horror genre. For those who think it's a classic–think again. Of a type? Absolutely. Of faultless movie macabre? No way."
Scott Meslow of The Week reviewed the film in 2015, assessing its original critical reception in a contemporary context: "Before it became an absurdly prolific franchise, Friday the 13th was a cynical, one-off attempt to make a fast buck on a sleazy slasher movie that accidentally ended up spawning a decades-spanning, multimillion-dollar phenomenon... What's most striking about Friday the 13th is how little regard anyone but its fans seem to have for it."
Friday the 13th was first released on DVD in the United States by Paramount Home Entertainment on October 19, 1999. The disc sold 32, 497 units. On February 3, 2009, Paramount released the film agaon on DVD and Blu-ray in an unrated uncut, for the first time in the United States (previous VHS, LaserDisc and DVD releases included the R-rated theatrical version). The uncut version of the film contains approximately 11 seconds of previously unreleased footage.
In 2011, the uncut version of Friday the 13th was released in a 4-disc DVD collection with the first three sequels. It was again included in two Blu-ray sets: Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection, released in 2013, and Friday the 13th: The Ultimate Collection, in 2018.
Contemporary scholars in film criticism, such as Tony Williams, have credited Friday the 13th for initiating the subgenre of the "stalker" or slasher film. Cultural critic Graham Thompson also considers the film as a template, along with John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), that "instigated a rush" of films of its type, in which young people away from supervision are systematically stalked and murdered by a masked villain. While critical reception of the film has been varied in the years since its release, it has attained a cult following. In 2017, Complex ranked the film no. 9 in a list of the best slasher films of all time.
Film scholar Matt Hills wrote of the film's legacy: "Friday the 13th has not just been critically positioned as intellectually lacking, it has been othered and devalued in line with the conventional aesthetic norms of the academy and official film culture, said to lack originality and artfulness, to possess no nominated or recognized auteur, and to be grossly sensationalist in its focus on Tom Savini's gory special effects." The film was nominated in 2001 for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.
In April 2018, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, where the film was shot, held "Crystal Lake Tours," an event dedicated to the making of the film which brought attendees to nine of the filming locations on the property. The event was attended to actress King, who recounted the making of the film to fans.
As of 2018, Friday the 13th has spawned ten sequels, including a crossover film with A Nightmare on Elm Street villain Freddy Krueger. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) introduced Jason Voorhees, the son of Mrs. Voorhees, as the primary antagonist, which would continue for the remaining sequels (with exception of the fifth movie) and related works. Most of the sequels were filmed on larger budgets than the original. For comparison, Friday the 13th had a budget of $550,000, while the first sequel was given a budget of $1.25 million. At the time of its release, Freddy vs. Jason had the largest budget, at $25 million. All of the sequels repeated the premise of the original, so the filmmakers made tweaks to provide freshness. Changes involved an addition to the title—as opposed to a number attached to the end—like "The Final Chapter" and "Jason Takes Manhattan", or filming the movie in 3-D, as Miner did for Friday the 13th Part III (1982). One major addition that would affect the entire film series was the addition of Jason's hockey mask in the third film; this mask would become one of the most recognizable images in popular culture.
A reboot to Friday the 13th was released theatrically in February 2009, with Freddy vs. Jason writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift hired to script the new film. The film focused on Jason Voorhees, along with his trademark hockey mask. The film was produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller through Bay's production company Platinum Dunes, for New Line Cinema. In November 2007, Marcus Nispel, director of the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was hired to direct. The film had its United States release on 13 February 2009.
Adaptions and literature
In 1987, seven years after the release of the motion picture, Simon Hawke produced a novelization of Friday the 13th. One of the few additions to the book was Mrs. Voorhees begging the Christy family to take her back after the loss of her son; they agreed. Another addition in the novel is more understanding in Mrs. Voorhees' actions. Hawke felt the character had attempted to move on when Jason died, but her psychosis got the best of her. When Steve Christy reopened the camp, Mrs. Voorhees saw it as a chance that what happened to her son could happen again. Her murders were against the counselors, because she saw them all as responsible for Jason's death.
A number of scenes from the film were recreated in Friday the 13th: Pamela's Tale, a two-issue comic book prequel released by WildStorm in 2007. In 2016, the book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th was released detailing the planning and filming of the movie.
- Friday the 13th franchise
- Friday the 13th (2009)
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