Second Viewing: Friday the 13th (1980)

Patrick J Mullen
Jan 29, 2019 · 4 min read

I’m rewatching this entire series because I really enjoy it, and I can. I stand by my statement that the original Friday the 13th does not do anything spectacularly, but it does enough things pretty well.

Take the cast, for instance. Everyone is solid, which is a bit of a rarity among the ’80s slasher movies. There’s not a weak performance in here. But no one really stands out. Sure, Betsy Palmer delivers her evil monologue well, and her speaking as Jason is definitely creepy. But she gives an awkward physical performance.

There is a lot of downtime in this movie, and modern audiences will probably find it dull. I appreciate the pacing, though. The first couple of kills lull you into a false sense of security since they’re not overly violent. And then it takes a while for there to be another kill, and that one is pretty damn good.

For whatever reason, the horror genre seems to be helped out more than any other genre if the budget is low. This is the case especially with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, but I think this is a really good example, too.

The scenes of people walking around the woods at night are pretty creepy. They’re not lit in a cinematic way. They’re not lit at all, except for a flashlight in a few instances. This really helps make the characters feel isolated, and that helps create tension.

Each time I watch this movie, I’m more impressed with the final girl, Alice (Adrienne King). They do a lot to hint at her character, and perhaps a former relationship she had with Steve Christie who she isn’t that into, and Bill, who she is into. The performance isn’t spectacular, but it’s pretty good and natural.

And this movie does have some really memorable kills. Sure, some of them are pretty unspectacular, since they’re just stabs below frame. That makes sense because they’re trying to hide the identity of the killer. But the ones we do see are spectacular, and I have more appreciation for the craft of them each time I see them. They especially shine in comparison to a number of the sequels, which were heavily scrutinized by the MPAA.

That Kevin Bacon death is just iconic, come on.

I also appreciate how the movie shows its kills. For the ones we don’t really see, the reveals to both the audience and to Alice are nicely handled. For the ones we do see, those bodies don’t show up later. It’s a nice way to make things a bit unpredictable. We know when a kill is coming, but we don’t know exactly what is coming.

One thing I appreciate about this series is that each movie — even the worst of the series — seems to have at least a couple iconic moments. Here, Marcie’s and Kevin Bacon’s death stand out, as well as everything with Betsy Palmer. And of course the Jason jump scare.

We all know the structure of horror movies. They like to end on a scare, and this is something the series would do to a detriment later on. Here, though, it completely works. The movie does everything possible to make you feel like everything is okay, from the music to the beautiful cinematography. It just goes on for so long that even if you had thought something might happen, you might have given up that thought.

I’m still giving this the same rating, though I do like it a bit more having watched it again.

Rating: 6/10

As Vast as Space and as Timeless as Infinity

Horror, science fiction, and other