No Jason with the mask on, sweater mama is the killer (spoiler) and teenagers are…as we expect them to be in these films. What makes this franchise so memorable is not the late appearance of a popular villain, but its twist on the traditional slasher genre. Let’s take a look at Friday the 13th…
Watching this film for the first time, I decided to go in with a clear mind. Like many, I already knew hockey mask Jason would not make an appearance until the next films. What I didn’t know was that it would take until after part II for him to show up. As a Halloween I and II fan as well as a Nightmare on Elm Street enthusiast, I have certain expectations when it comes to villains. 1, they always show up within the first 15 minutes of the film at the very least. 2, they have a supernatural element to them: Michael Myers can’t die (he also probably runs while you’re not looking and starts walking casually as soon as you catch a glimpse) and neither can Freddy Krueger. The killer in Friday the 13th, however, is acting on behalf of a dead character. Because the stalker is mortal, more attention is focused on the location. That certainly is a brilliant way to setup a franchise. Keep building around this place and you’ll have a never-ending story. Despite knowing not to eagerly wait for adult-body Jason, I was surprised by the reveal that a middle-aged lady in a knitted sweater had done all the killings. Some of those were rather extravagant. It’s hard to buy it, but you give it a pass.
Backtracking…the nearby town knows counselors are getting ready to open up Camp Crystal Lake. Apparently, parents ready to send their kids there will be expected to either know nothing about the history of the place or not be superstitious oddballs like the town’s inhabitants who renamed it “Camp Blood”. They also aren’t the viewers who know foreboding music is not a good sign. The first counselor to die is the one I felt the most likeable next to our Final Girl (our Laurie, Nancy, Kirsty…), Alice. I wasn’t big on most of the other campers, but they weren’t terribly unbearable. As far as teen horror goes, they didn’t make you want them dead. The killings were also quite creative, which added to a suspenseful and horrific atmosphere. Most of the film happens in the dark, and it is made clear by the first camper, who attempts to hitchhike all the way there, that it is difficult to access by foot. Thus, we know that escape could also lead to death. As noted previously, Camp Crystal Lake itself is considered the problem. Though the reveal of Jason’s mom is surprising, it seems almost as though the camp made her crazy, rather than just the drowning of her young son. You expect a silent Michael Myers type, only to find that the one responsible is actually a three-dimensional character. Her smile is just a little too wide for her cozy, familiar look. That’s actually the scariest part. She makes you take a step into Freud’s Uncanny and it isn’t very nice.
In retrospect, I’m not exactly disappointed that Jason as we know him did not show up. When the little boy emerged from the water to drag Alice straight to Hell my heart skipped about ten beats. One reason I truly appreciate pioneering slashers is that they know how to use jump scares effectively. Though the final chase with the dead child’s mom at night was the most stressful part of the film, tiny Jason jumping out of the water against the early morning sky proved that Camp Crystal Lake was officially haunted. Daylight in a horror film can be exponentially scarier than darkness. We see this in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is why the last scene of Friday the 13th really gets me. The notion that an unstoppable evil force has poisoned the earth is much more threatening than a mortal killer.
Overall, I would definitely watch this again and can’t wait to see the next installment. I will get back to you on the upcoming Friday the 13th with part II. Sleep tight!