Friday the 13th


A perfect illustration of why, for all its subsequent imitators, Halloween has never been bested at the slasher game. Friday the 13th is beautifully shot–Sean Cunningham lingering on Barry Abrams’ deep-focused wilderness with slow pans and Carpenter-copying POV shots–but slapdash in every other way. Halloween built its tension specifically off informing the audience who Michael Myers is and his proximity to his victims. Pamela Voorhees, however, spends most of the film as an unseen, unknown presence. A dramatic twist paying off mentions of a drowning which began Camp Crystal Lake’s tragic history. Cunningham is able to mine this for the occasional, unpredictable shock–as when a post-coital Kevin Bacon notices blood dripping from the bunk above him, just as an arrow pierces his throat from beneath the bed–but suspense is downplayed in favor of piling coincidences and inconsistent characterization. Pamela unseen reads as an implacable bogeyman, able to slither into the right place at the right time; once viewed, she becomes a mumbling split personality, as incapable of controlling her impulses as the horny teens/twenty-somethings she despises (the “Sex is Death” trope, codified here from Halloween‘s unintended subtext, is incoherent just based off this and throwaway dialogue between final girl Alice and camp owner/boyfriend Steve). It becomes no wonder son Jason, despite not appearing in the film as the hulking murder machine most know him by, became the series’ standout figure.


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