Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Friday the 13th Part 1 to 4
Of course what is a horror marathon without Friday the 13th. To many, its a horror classic while to others its a Halloween clone that had one-too many repetitive sequels. In some ways, they are right and in other ways wrong. Producer and Director of the first installment, Sean S. Cunningham said he wanted to do a movie like Halloween but more on the tone of a roller coaster. As a result, he crafted one of the most infamous slasher franchises to stalk the big screen. It has spawned nine sequels with the addition of a crossover film and a remake. To keep things simple, I’m only going to look at the first eight films in the franchise for time purposes and I feel personally these are the original saga. I’ll explain in the next article a bit more clearer why I chose them but for now, lets talk about the first four films.
The first installment deals with a couple of young camp counselors prepping for the re-opening of Camp Crystal Lake. Legend has it that a “death curse” exists on the place because a kid drowned in the lake back in 1957 along with the subsequent killing of two teenagers. With the camp being refurbished for a new generation, the new counselors don’t expect that someone is planning to bring revenge. But they don’t care. All the teens do is just goof off, party and have sex. This would start off the typical slasher genre cliche game of how someone dies on their personality, virginity and brain. Its something that would be carried over in other horror movies even up to this day. On first watch, its a nail-biter but on repeated viewings the novelty wears off. Now the only reason to see these movies is just for the nostalgic factor and the special effects. At least in my opinion that’s how I feel towards most of Friday the 13th films.
What’s interesting is seeing how most of the cast had an early start in their career before they went on to “big name” projects. To think a then unknown cast with names like Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram and even Kevin Bacon is interesting to see. Even if they would move on to different projects, its nice to see where they got their start. The special effects in the death scenes were crafted by none other than Tom Savini. A big name for the horror genre as he did so much work on films like Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow that it would be hard to list them down. Again, the purpose for these movies was to see who would live and who would die. But as I said, the novelty wears when you already know who gets the ax and who lives. After that, its only re-watchable to see how well staged the kills are or just in case you have a friend over.
Now, Halloween was a slasher movie but what keeps me coming back to that is how well developed the characters are. Yeah, I know who dies in the first movie but at least there is more to admire. Friday the 13th is a simple premise with some “one trick” thoughts. However, I can’t say its no classic. It did reinvent the slasher genre for good or worse and its perfect for when you are in the need of an adrenaline rush.
Curious enough, the first killer in the first movie wasn’t Jason. It wouldn’t be till Friday the 13th Part II would come along and here is where the series would take a different turn. True, a lot of things would be repeated here like Camp Crystal Lake reopening again or in this case another camping place near the infamous killing site. We get a new host of teenagers up for the slasher game and also get more into Jason’s backstory. Most fans regard this one as a better film seeing it focuses on developing Jason as he would later be the center of the series and I do agree. If your going to introduce a new villain to the series, why not spend time going into the mythos or learning about who he is.
I will admit through, I am not a fan of his first appearance. Throughout the majority of the movie, his face is obscured by a potato sack bag. It feels too generic and “Elephant Man” like for me. Other than that, its very much the same as the first film with a different killer and set in a different camp. Not too much to talk about here but at least its a slight improvement
Friday the 13th Part 3 took things in a whole new dimension. Literally, its the only one in the series to be in 3D. This was when 3D movies were having a small revival in the 1980s when movies like Jaws 3 or Spacehunter were filmed in the famous gimmick. The story of this one goes a bit different as a bunch of teenagers go to Crystal Lake but not to counsel. This time, its to party. Equipped with snacks and two hippies loaded with drugs, they make their way to a small camping house to take refuge. But Jason, that unstoppable killer is on the loose again. This time, we get a different range of characters with a mixture of ones from the previous movie. We get the obvious heroine, the ditzy one and that one guy who you think will get out but ends up getting his eye shot out.
There’s again a mix of new characters to jazz it up a bit and keep it fresh. But it backfires because of how questionable likable they are. We get a kid that is into pranks too often and even goes to the extreme at times like a fake knife to the head. Worse of all, this is how he thinks he will get a girl to like him. I don’t know what planet he is from but Mars is not the answer. There’s also two quirky hippies that just do nothing but goof off a lot. Once in a while, they have a funny line but mostly feel dated for the time this movie is set. They even throw in a gang of bikers to even the score but their actions don’t do much damage aside from one small thing that comes into play at the final chase scene.
Two things that stand out in this entry at least make it a decent entry. Its the first time Jason dons his infamous hockey mask which would carry over into the later films. And of course the 3D. I can’t help it. I’m a huge 3D junkie. I like the idea of being sucked into a huge environment or watching how objects can be tossed at the screen and make you feel part of the movie in a way. Its a cheap gimmick but I can’t help it when I see good 3D effects like when one of the biker gang climbs up a ladder and the camera is facing above her. So I say watch this one just for the 3D but as it stands in 2D, its just ok.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is probably my favorite of the bunch. Or at least my favorite one of this era. Yeah it uses the same plot as the previous one but there’s just more remembered moments to it. The teenagers are more likable this time around and make up for their sleazy actions with quirky personality and less jerk. Crispin Glover and his craziness is a huge highlight and so are the over the kills that are really more graphic and gory compared to the previous films.
On top of that, what makes this entry really crucial is the introduction of Tommy Jarvis played by Corey Feldmen. This kid is nuts ranging from an obvious obsession with monster films and even having special effect props. Later on, Tommy goes mad and tries to be the next Jason but that was something they hoped would be explored for later sequels. Corey’s performance is the glue to this one as he goes from a simple kid with a horror obsession to the idea that it might be more than a fascination. What works best is how Tommy transforms over the course of the film and even manages to be likable aside from his weird things like playing video games while wearing an alien mask.
Bottom line, most of the first Friday the 13th movies were very much the same thing but changed in characters and location to keep it fresh and new. Each one is really not that different but it often depended on what the entry was doing story-wise and what is notable about it. The first movie was more akin to Halloween while its sequel puts the franchise in the right perspective. The third is one is easily the weakest so far considering its camp value and poor characters but the 3D version does make up for it. The fourth is easily the best so far and if you don’t believe me, check it out and you will see why. The franchise as a whole is not a great one but it doesn’t have to be perfect in order for it be enjoyed. The next set of sequels on the other hand….well, I’ve only just begun….
Posted on October 12, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged 3D, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Jason Vorhees, Part II, Part III, Slasher, The Final Chaper, Tom Savini. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.