On Friday, June 13th, Steve Christy is preparing to reopen Camp Chrystal Lake with a group of camp counselors.  Many of the nearby townsfolk are dismayed at the reopening of the camp they nicknamed Camp Blood.  Ever since the drowning of a “sweet innocent” boy named Jason, the camp has been cursed with murders, fires, and poisonous water.  But even on this superstitious date, the camp’s horrid history fails to thwart the counselors’ merriment.  Their luck, however, soon runs out as the Camp Chrystal Lake carnage resumes.  

Bloody Rundown

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written for the screen by Victor Miller, Friday the 13th is a low-budget horror that garnered so much commercial success it spawned ten sequels, a remake, several documentaries, books, comics, and video games, along with a massive amount of additional merchandise.  Although Sean S. Cunningham declined to direct the offshoots, Friday the 13th is one of the pioneers of the franchise horror.  The creators have always been candid about the origins of Friday the 13th; their honesty and humility is refreshing.   Evidently, Cunningham contacted Miller and said, “Halloween is making a lot of money.  Let’s rip it off.”  Cunningham then went to see the highly successful Halloween (1978) and “figured out the format.”  Still, the creators could not foresee the absolute magnitude and cultural phenomenon Friday the 13th would create. 

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Stage and film veteran, Betsy Palmer almost declined the role.  When her agent explained that the film is a horror, she stated, “Oh, no. No, no, no.  Thank you, no.” The $10,000 compensation for a mere ten days of work compelled her to at least read the script, in which the long-time member of The Actors Studio concluded:  “What a piece of shit.”  She was certain that since nobody would ever see Friday the 13th, she figured she’d accept the role.  Well, she was wrong.  The film continues to garner Betsy Palmer immense accolades and fame amongst horror fans, spanning for nearly 35 years.  fr 10

The role also garnered Palmer a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress (a title she lost to Amy Irving in the romance Honeysuckle Rose), as well outrage from several critics who were so dismayed that an actor of her caliber would participate in such a film.  (One critic allegedly published her address to incite fans to write hate mail.  Luckily, he published the wrong address.)  In spite of the critical lashing, Betsy Palmer is still working and relishes her fame as the June Cleaver gone rogue.  

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Shot in the townships of Blairstown and Hope, New Jersey, many of the actors, some struggling and some seasoned, were unsurprisingly recruited from the stages of New York.  Rex Everhart, a 1978 Tony Award nominee, portrayed as Enos, the truck driver.  The now renowned award-winning talent, Kevin Bacon, played Jack Burrel, the victim of the film’s most creative murder.  Adrienne King, in the lead role as Alice Hardy, grew up pursuing the arts, starring in her first commercial at six months.  Stalked by an obsessive fan of Friday the 13th, she was unfortunately forced to withdraw from acting. 

Harry Manfredini’s iconic musical score was derived literally from Mrs. Voorhees line, “Kill her, Mommy.  Kill her.”  With a play on the hard consonants, Manfredini created the “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” which reverberates into a microphone as “chi chi chi, ma ma ma.” 

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The producers were thrilled to retain Tom Savini, who had honed his impressive special makeup effects creations in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978).  fr 8

It was his idea to include the final jump scare in Friday the 13th, an idea he admits was inspired by Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976).  Miller was not too pleased as the script he wrote concludes that Jason has already been dead for decades.  Despite the effective jump scare, Savini declined working on Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), as he too believes that “there is no Jason.” 

Overall, the critical reception was poor.  Many critics argued the film’s pacing was shoddy, the characters lacked any development, and their killings were entirely gratuitous.  The film was also nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Picture (losing out to Nancy Walker’s musical Can’t Stop the Music).

Despite its flaws, Friday the 13th was not “jinxed” at the box office.  The film is part of the highest grossing horror franchise of all time.  Furthermore, it is the mother of the most notable horror icon, Jason Voorhees.

Die-Anne’s Diatribe

A horror staple throughout my childhood, and adulthood, my high scoring is based more on nostalgia than objectivity.  Campy and bloodless by today’s standards, Friday the 13th renders such historical merit that it needs to be seen at least 13 times.  I suppose much of my praise derives from the film’s title, which exploits one of my favorite dates, as I too share a birthday with Jason Voorhees.  What a thrill!

Plot Mutilator

The film opens on Friday June 13th, 1958, with camp counselors partaking in a campfire sing-along while their campers are cuddled in their cots.  Two of the counselors sneak off to commit the number one deadly sin of all horror films—fornication.  Alas, they are the recipients of the ultimate repercussion.  The petting duo is slashed to death by an unseen villain. 

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The film then progresses to Friday, June 13th, “Present Day.”  (“Present Day” lends evidence that the creators never envisioned that Friday the 13th could quite possibly transcend to Friday the 13th, 1986, 1997, 2003, 2008, 2014, or even 2025.) 

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Strapped with a backpack full of idealism, Annie pops into a town diner to request directions to Camp Chrystal Lake.  She is exceedingly chipper, beyond the point of annoying.  Everyone is flabbergasted at the mention of the Camp Chrystal Lake.  Enos, a patron of the diner, agrees to drive her halfway.  Ralph, the “town crazy” and “Prophet of doom” warns her not to go.  While in route, Enos tells Annie to “Quit,” and divulges the horrendous history of the “jinxed” campsite:  a young boy drowned in the lake in 1957 and two counselors were murdered in 1958.  There were then two fires, and in 1962, the water was poisoned.  Annie remains optimistic and undeterred, even after Enos drops her off at a cemetery.  The perky dipshit then hitches a ride in a green jeep.  She blabbers on to the silent driver about how she dislikes when people call children “kids” because it “sounds like little goats.”  The driver, who remains unseen to the viewer, speeds past the road to Camp Chrystal Lake.  Annie’s gut instincts finally kick in, and she jumps from the moving jeep and runs into the forest.  The driver gives chase and slashes Annie’s throat.   

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Meanwhile, Steve Christy, the owner of Camp Chrystal Lake, pleads with Alice to stay another week.  She decides to “give it another shot.”  Evidently, they had a romantic fling.  Counselors Bill, Ned, Brenda, and couple Marcie and Jack then convene onto the camp. 

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They question Annie’s whereabouts, but Steve quickly puts them to work before heading out for more supplies.  Brenda sets up the archery bags, and Ned shoots an arrow nearly missing her.  (Ned’s prankster antics are perhaps the basis for the character of Shelly in Part III (1982).)  

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In Steve’s absence, the counselors swim in the lake where Ned pretends he’s drowning.  After his practical joke is revealed, the counselors resume the preparations.  Alice then finds a snake in her cabin.  Once the group locates the snake, which had slithered under her bead, Bill slashes it with a machete.  (Allegedly, the snake was real as was its onscreen demise.)

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As Ned is fooling around in his underwear and a Native American headdress, Officer Dorf arrives on his motorcycle.  Bewildered at the rowdy display, he accuses them smoking “Columbian gold, man. Grass.  Hash. The weed.  Dig it?”  When they assure him that they do not smoke “the weed,” he asks if they’ve seen Ralph, the “town crazy.”  They declare they have not seen him.  Officer Dorf soon departs, and the counselors assemble in the main cabin.  Ralph jumps out of the kitchen pantry door, declaring, “I’m a messenger of God.  You’re doomed if you stay.”  He then leaves, pedaling off on his bike, reiterating, “You’re doomed.  You’re all doomed.” 

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As night falls, the counselors enjoy a respite.  Ned sees someone entering his cabin and follows to investigate.  Marcie and Jack frolic through the forest, and as a storm brews, they take their romantic rendezvous into the cabin’s bottom bunk bed. Unbeknownst to them, Ned is dead, and he is lying in the top bunk with his throat slashed.  (How they missed seeing his dead body is beyond me.)   Marcie goes to the communal bathroom, leaving the footloose-and-fancy-free Jack in bed. 

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As Jack lights a joint, Ned’s blood drips onto his forehead.  Before he can react, the killer thrusts an archery arrow through his throat from underneath the bed.

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Meanwhile, Bill, Alice, and Brenda play strip Monopoly with bottles of Red Stripes and some of Marcie’s “leftover grass.” 

fr 5In the bathroom, Marcie hears a noise coming from the showers.  Thinking that it’s Jack and Ned playing a trick, she checks behind the shower curtains.  The killer sneaks-up behind her and strikes an ax into her head.       fr 6

As the torrential rainstorm continues, the strip Monopoly comes to an abrupt end.  Brenda returns to her cabin and hears someone crying, “Help me!”  With a flashlight in hand, she is led to the archery range where all the flood lights are then switched on.

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The power goes out and Bill leaves to check the generator. Bill returns, confirming that the generator is working.  Alice tells Bill that the she heard someone scream.  Concerned, the two search for Brenda only to find a bloody ax in her bed.  No one can be found in any of the cabins or the bathroom.  They attempt to call for help in the camp office, but the phone lines have been cut.  They then try to leave in the truck, which is now dead.  Alice suggests that they hike out of there, but Bill declines.

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While Steve is in route to the camp, his Jeep breaks down.  Sgt. Tierney pulls over to give him a lift.  Sgt. Tierney states, “It’s not bad enough to have a Friday the 13th, we’ve got a full moon too.  We keep statistics.   We have more accidents, more rapes, more robberies, more homicide, more of everything when there’s a full moon.” He is then radioed to tend to a car accident and drops Steve off at the entrance of the camp.  Steve is greeted by someone he knows, who then kills him.   The power goes out again.

fr27Bill leaves Alice to check on the generator.   She drifts off to sleep, has nightmare, and then calls out for Bill.  Anxious, Alice makes two cups of instant coffee.  Finally, she goes to look for Bill, calling out his name.  She finds his discarded parka outside of the utility room.  Alice then sees Bill dead and affixed to the door by archery arrows.  She runs back to the main cabin, ties the door shut, and then barricades it with furniture.  Alice goes to the kitchen and pensively states “What am I going to do?”  Brenda’s bloodied body is then thrown through the kitchen window. 

fr29Alice is relieved to see a jeep approaching.  She runs out thinking its Steve, but its “Mrs. Voorhees, an old friend of the Christys.”  Panicked, Alice pleads for help, screaming “They’re all dead!”  Mrs. Voorhees demands that Alice show her the bodies, and she reluctantly leads her to Brenda.  Mrs. Voorhees states, “Oh my Lord.  So young.  So pretty.  What monster could have done this?”  

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Mrs. Voorhees then continues, “Oh, God, this place.  Steve should never have opened this place again!  There’s been too much trouble here.  Did you know that a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed?  The counselors weren’t paying attention.  They were making love while that young boy drowned.  His name was Jason.” 

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Revealing that she was the cook when it happened, Mrs. Voorhees states, “Jason should have been watched every minute.”  She has flashback of Jason drowning.  Mrs. Voorhees then divulges:  “Jason is my son and today is his birthday.”  She explains she could not allow Steve Christy to reopen Camp Chrystal Lake after her only son was killed. 

fr26A fight ensues with Alice knocking out Mrs. Voorhees.  Alice runs to the jeep where she finds Annie’s dead body.  She then runs off through the woods and comes upon Steve’s dead body hanging upside down from a tree.  Mrs. Voorhees comes to, and in a childlike voice, repeats “Kill her Mommy.  Kill her.” She gives chase with Alice hitting her with an unloaded gun.  Alice then returns to the main cabin and hides in the kitchen pantry.   Mrs. Voorhees tears down the door with a machete.  Alice then hits her over the head with a frying pan.  Another chase then struggle ensues.  In slow motion, Alice decapitates Mrs. Voorhees with the machete. 

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She then boards a canoe that drifts off to the middle of the lake while she drifts off to sleep.  As the cops arrive in the distance, the first-time viewer is led to believe that the film has concluded.  However, in an a la Carrie final moment, a disfigured boy lurches from the water and pulls Alice under.

Alice awakens in a hospital bed, and asks the authorities about “The boy, Jason.”  They assure her there wasn’t a boy.  Alice’s eerie response is the perfect set-up for the ten (and counting) sequels as she states: “Then he’s still there.”    

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Moral of the story:  If you must go camping on a full moon of Friday the 13th, stay in a hotel. 

Deadly Details

Director ∞ Sean S. Cunningham
Producers ∞ Sean S. Cunningham
Screenwriter ∞ Victor Miller
Music ∞ Harry Manfredini
Cinematographer ∞ Barry Abrams
Editor ∞ Bill Freda
Makeup ∞ Tom Savini (special makeup effects) 
Special Effects ∞ Steven Kirshoff
Studio ∞ Georgetown Productions Inc. and Sean S. Cunningham Films
Distributor ∞ Paramount Pictures (USA) and Warner Bros. (International)
Release Date ∞ May 1980
Running time ∞ 95 minutes
Country ∞ United States
Language ∞ English
Cast ∞
Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Pamela Voorhees 
Adrienne King as Alice Hardy 
Jeannine Taylor as Marcie Cunningham 
Robbi Morgan as Annie 
Kevin Bacon as Jack Burrel 
Harry Crosby as Bill 
Laurie Bartram as Brenda 
Mark Nelson as Ned Rubinstein 
Peter Brouwer as Steve Christy 
Rex Everhart as Enos, the Truck Driver 
Ronn Carroll as Sgt. Tierney 
Ron Millkie as Officer Dorf 
Walt Gorney as Crazy Ralph 
Willie Adams as Barry 
Debra S. Hayes as Claudette 
Dorothy Kobs as Trudy 
Sally Anne Golden as Sandy 
Mary Rocco as Operator 
Ken L. Parker as Doctor 
Ari Lehman as Jason Voorhees