Thoughts on “Friday the 13th”

I’ve started watching horror movies again when I get a chance. No, this isn’t because we’re now in October and that means that it’s time for scary stuff, and so I’m following suit either out of personal preference or out of a desire to have the blog actually be talking about things when they’re relevant. Rather, it’s because I have a huge stack of those cheap horror movies to watch, so much so that it’s starting to overflow the little shelf where I keep them. It’s probably time to get some of them out of the way, for various reasons.

Of course, the fact that I’m starting with a collection of Stephen King works and now a collection of the Friday the 13th movies is not actually going to reduce that physical stack by very much.

Anyway, my experience with this franchise is a bit thin. I’ve watched one of the movies before this run (the one that Alice Cooper contributed to the soundtrack for, which was odd for me since I had listened to the songs long before watching the movie) and have also watched the TV series that was originally supposed to tie into the franchise but didn’t. I’m also not really a fan of slasher films, and so this is a series that wouldn’t interest me in and of itself. But it’s a classic series in the genre and the entire collection was pretty cheap, so it was something that I really should have gotten. And now I’ve watched the very first movie in the franchise.

This movie might be the first actual slasher movie, but even if it isn’t it’s probably the Platonic Form of the slasher genre. The movie is really nothing more than a movie where people get killed in gory ways. There’s really not much else there. The killer is hidden for most of the movie and there are some hints about who it could be and even some potential misdirections, but the movie never makes the mystery relevant, as the counselors don’t even know that someone is trying to kill them until the very end with the last survivor. The movie at times drops some foreshadowing of various things, but almost none of them ever pay off, nor does the movie ever really remind us of them or make a big deal out of them in any way. While the movie does at times add personality traits and relationships and so could be seen as Developing Doomed Characters, it mostly only does that to show some kind of normalcy before someone gets killed. In fact, all we really know about the Final Girl is that she likes to draw and might have had some kind of sexual relationship with the owner of the camp. Even the killer’s motivations are given short-shrift, as the killer doesn’t even seem to have the classic “kill people because of their mostly sexual sins” motif, as the first person killed is someone that we haven’t seen be in any way sexy or sexual. The movie, then, is all about people being killed, and even the suspense parts are only really seen pretty much right before the killings happen.

Now, while watching this I was asking myself a serious question. Look, I asked myself, you’re being pretty sympathetic to this movie. You even seem to kinda like it. But the lack of development of the mystery, the plot, the characters and all of that stuff is something that you’ve criticized other movies for. But you don’t seem to want to criticize this one for that. What gives? It’s Developing Doomed Characters which you hate, the rationale of the killer isn’t explored and simply hand-waved at at the beginning and then referenced at the end, that rationale has no relation to any of the actual killings, and so all it’s about is killing people, which isn’t something that you tend to care about. Why are you so much more pleasantly disposed to this movie than the others?

The reason, I think, is that the movie itself is unapologetic about what it’s trying to do, and doesn’t seem to be trying to reach for more. In the other movies, they draw attention to the plot or the characters or the mystery, but then don’t leave themselves time to properly develop and resolve them before the end of the movie. Friday the 13th treats these things as asides. The elements are there — and might be leftovers from a movie that was originally meant to be a deeper horror flick — but the movie itself pays them almost no attention. Sure, with the first killing we see that she was picked up by a Jeep that looked like the one the owner was driving, and then much later we note that it couldn’t be him at least because he had a trailer on his, but the movie itself pays this absolutely no attention. There’s a foreshadowing scene where one of the girls comments on a recurring dream she had about a thunderstorm where the rain changed to blood, but other than her death coming during a storm that dream has no relevance to it. Perhaps I should be more upset about them adding in things that aren’t relevant, but then unlike the other movies this one doesn’t really feel like it stops the movie to highlight that and then moves on, but instead, again, it feels just like asides. We might expect these things to pay off later and they actually don’t, but the movie itself doesn’t seem to be deliberately subverting that because it doesn’t seem to be drawing our attention to it. Thus, we notice them only as things that would be important in other horror movies, but the movie itself doesn’t make them out to be important.

Thus, the movie has a laser-focus on what it really wants to do: show gory — for the time, at least — deaths. The gore isn’t all that impressive by modern standards, but is still more than I’d expect for the time. But, again, the deaths are neither particularly motivated or ironic or have any point whatsoever (well, aside from all the pointed instruments that do the killing). They do tend to be with a variety of weapons, which might be one of the motivations behind having to use different weapons in the 1989 video game (I see a few similarities there, but those might be stronger in the later movies). It’s just killing for the sake of killing. Even the sexual scenes are rather perfunctory.

The movie was clearly enough to spawn a franchise, but I think that people used to modern slasher movies who come back to it are likely to be disappointed by it. There are a number of elements that would seem odd or lifeless if you don’t already know stuff about it. For example, at the very beginning the lead-up to the first murder uses the classic “Chee-chee-chee ha-ha-ha” sound, which works well if you know what that’s referring to but would just seem strange otherwise. Also, its gore is, again, a bit tame by modern standards, and at least some modern slasher movie fans will find the lack of anything other than simply killing a bit boring and lacking in depth.

Still, I enjoyed it enough that I could watch it again, which puts it ahead of most of the other horror movies I’ve watched.

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5 Responses to “Thoughts on “Friday the 13th””

  1. Thoughts on “Friday the 13th, Part 2” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] original Friday the 13th movie was probably the Platonic Form of the slasher genre. Unfortunately, the second movie is probably the Platonic Form of the uninspired sequel to a slasher […]

  2. Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] At the beginning of this series, I commented that I had seen one movie, and that it was the one with the Alice Cooper songs that I had listened to long before ever seeing the movie. This was that movie. From some minor reading around, I think that this movie is a bit of a base breaker because it’s not a lot like the other movies in the series. Despite that — or, perhaps, because of that — it’s also one of the better movies in the series. […]

  3. Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] previous one in the series. So far, the best movies have been when the plot has been perfunctory (the first movie) or when the plot ties directly into stopping Jason (Part VI). Here, it’s one of the better […]

  4. Thoughts on “Evil Dead (2013)” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] to castigate it as much as I do other movies. The reason for that is similar to why I actually like the original “Friday the 13th” movie: the movie rather messes up its plot and characterization and character arcs, but it also very much […]

  5. Thoughts on “The Sandman” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] watch them get out of it.  Thus, this means that the plot issues end up  being like the ones in “Friday the 13th”, where we can see that they’re there but the movie itself doesn’t seem to care at all […]

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