Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday the 13th (1980): Looking Back on Camp Blood

First off, Happy Friday the 13th everyone!  I trust you're all in the midst of your date-appropriate marathons of Jason's greatest adventures!

Give me a few minutes of your time to talk about the original, and for my money, still the best entry in the long-running series....1980's Friday the 13th.  I recently posted my own gut-reaction ranking of all 12 films in the series with the original being at the top.  Of course, this caused a bit of head-scratching among my friends and family, so allow me to explain....

There was a time when all things Friday the 13th were sort of taboo in my life.  The most intense thing I'd seen was the trailer for Leatherface:  Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 before a screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 when I was 7yrs old.  Aside from a brief peek on USA Up All Night and maybe a scene or two on Cinemax or HBO while my parents weren't looking or were out of the room, I'd never seen any of the Friday the 13th movies.  As a kid in the 80s, Jason Voorhees was a playground legend; you were considered cool if you'd see a Friday the 13th movie.  Hell, I remember when my hometown movie theater showed Friday the 13th Part VIII and I thought my babysitter's daughter had guts and was cool as hell for going to see it!

I'd say my love affair with Friday the 13th, the first film, goes back to 1993.  I was 12yrs old and it was right around the time that Jason Goes To Hell was being released.  I don't remember the exact first time I saw the original film, but I do know for sure that I went and told everyone that I had finally seen "the one that started it all."  

Shortly before I was born (1980, to be exact), my parents had been dating for a short while and had made a habit of seeing horror movies on their double dates.  Dawn of the Dead and Silent Scream were two that Dad loves to tell stories about!  Of course, his greatest story is that of going to see Friday the 13th; Dad and his friend knew it wasn't over as Alice lay in that canoe and they kept assuring Mom and her friend that "it's all over" . . . as soon as Jason popped up from the mucky lake to pull Alice under, the ladies of the double date had to be peeled off the ceiling of the theater!  Classic stuff right?  You can kinda see where I get the love from, no? 

The film itself is simple and has a home-grown nature to it; sort of like a band's demo tape from "before they got big".  All the traits that will eventually make it a household name are there...they're just a little rougher.  

Everything in the movie just clicks with me.  The music is fantastic and creepy (by the time you hear the same similar score throughout all the sequels, although it was still Harry Manfredini and still cool, it just felt like a copy of the original).  The special effects are top-notch and I think are only matched by Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, again created by Tom Savini.  The acting is...well, I wouldn't say Oscar-caliber, but it's charming and believable to me.  Finally, the story is simple and contains all the elements of a great campfire tale told at a summercamp!  

One thing the series itself is known for is its seemingly endless supply of teenage stereotypes, often times introducing a character only to be machete fodder for Jason mere minutes later.  Again, I wouldn't say that the character in the original Friday the 13th are fully rounded-out characters (this IS a horror movie and I'm not here for Shakespeare, ya know?), I would maybe put them a level or so below the characters in the A Nightmare On Elm Street series.  For me, the teens in Friday's main competitor were more believable and were actually kids that I'd either wanted to be, already was to extent, or would want to hang out with.  The counselors in Friday the 13th seemed real enough to me and I took stock in their untimely fates.

Also, as a kid, you can imagine how many kids I know who went to "the camp from Friday the 13th"...probably the same amount of kids I knew who swore they either had a hoverboard or knew a kid who had one.  When I later found out that the movie had indeed been filmed in my homestate of New Jersey, that made it even cooler!  

The movie LOOKED like areas that I either played in right outside my house or the "summer home" that we had in upstate Pennsylvania in LeRoy Township.  Hell, the road that Ned/Jack/Marcie drive down on their way to the camp, as well as the "town" of Crystal Lake itself, all looked like they were right out of LeRoy, PA!   You look at the sequels and, aside from part 2 (which was filmed in Connecticut), you can tell they're not filmed on the East Coast.

Me, circa 1986, on the front porch of the house belonging to my Dad's hunting club.

They should have filmed the sequels up here at Sunfish Pond!
Another shot of Sunfish Pond.

This may as well have been a cabin in Friday the 13th!


Me, the last time I visited Sunfish Pond.

The fictional Camp Crystal Lake also looked like a very real area cubscout camp I had attended for a few brief hours (long story short...I didn't stick around after the initial tour and left my fellow pack members).  

Some people get freaked out by the faux-realism of a horror movie that's done in the "found footage" style...but me, just film it in my backyard and I'm sold!  

Speaking of the actual locations where the film was shot, the fact that I've been able to visit them multiple times over the years probably has something to with my undying love.  

Checking out the Mechanic's Lodge, which doubled for Alice's cabin!

Standing in front Jack and Marcie's cabin.  This is where Kevin Bacon got the arrow in his neck!
Sandee and I on the REAL Crystal Lake!