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Sunday 30 September 2012

Burl reviews Friday the 13th! (1980)

Ch-ch-ch, ha-ha-ha, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review one of the granddaddiest movies of modern horror, the original Friday the 13th! Ha ha, I’ll tell you right off the bat that this has never been my favourite horror series, and even within that series this particular picture sits maybe third or fourth for me! I certainly prefer both part 4 and part 6 to this inaugural entry!
However, with that said, this certainly has a few virtues scattered here and there in its running time, and I try to be a positive person, so I’ll mention as many of them as occur to me! It’s tempting, too, to want to give the picture extra credit for being the first in the series, but even the people who made it won’t make any great claims to originality! All they did was go see Halloween a bunch of times and try to copy it as closely as possible, with the addition of some Special Makeup Effects!
Ah yes, Special Makeup Effects! This movie has that glorious credit prominently displayed in its opening titles, which is right where it should be! You know what perplexes me? Well, the fact is that if you do Special Makeup Effects for a movie, you really have to fight to get your name in those opening titles! But the credit being there serves as a statement of purpose to the savvy horror fan: they know firstly that the movie contains said Effects, and secondly that their presence is recognized by the filmmakers as a virtue! It’s win-win all around, and silly are the producers who try to save a buck, or retain a bargaining chip, by denying the Special Makeup Effects man or woman their rightful head credit!
And so to the picture itself: It starts in the most unconvincing 1958 since the Sha-Na-Na revival concert, and a pair of lustful Crystal Lake camp councilors are taught a harsh lesson at the point of a knife! Then, years later, that earnest gadabout Steve Christie has decided to spend twenty-five large to get the old camp up and running again! The camp’s history of violence seems to mean nothing to him, ha ha! He’s hired some attractive young folks (including Kevin Bacon) to help him fix it up, but then he and his moustache drive off in the unreliable camp jeep, leaving the kids he’s just barely even met in charge of the renovations!
Well, you know what happens next! Pot smoking, drinking, strip Monopoly, an annoying jokester character (why must there always be one of these!) and even making love! Oh, and there’s a mad killer on the loose, stabbing, hacking, chopping, firing arrows this way and that, taking final care of Steve Christie’s work force one by one, and eventually of Steve Christie too!
Well some of these killings are cheat jobs, but others employ the Special Makeup Effects wizardry of Tom Savini, and he did a fine job of it! Everything else about the movie is pretty mediocre, and I don’t recall ever actually being scared by it, even when I first saw it and didn’t know the killer was an old lady in a fishing sweater! It was wise of them to replace her with a hulking, deformed maniac in future episodes (which they pretty much had to do anyway, because, you know, DECAPITATION), but this first installment will always be the odd man, or should I say odd woman-of-advancing-years, out! Ha ha!
But that leaves me with one important question: Steve Christie! What was his story, really! What was that guy all about? And maybe he wasn’t even killed, because we don’t see it happen! He just doubles over with a surprised look on his face! You know, they should have brought him and his ponky moustache back in one of the later sequels and given him some prominent role to play in the larger narrative! Ha ha, maybe they still can! Anyway, I give Friday the 13th two unusual looking Final Girls!   

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