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Friday the 13th (1980)

You’ll wish it were only a nightmare…

Directed by:

Sean S. Cunningham

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 95 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Back in 1958, at a New Jersey summer camp called Camp Crystal Lake, some teens were brutally bludgeoned by a mysterious killer – and, given that they’d been gathered around a fireplace wearing cardigans and singing ‘Kumbayah’, it has to be said that it was no more than they deserved. Skip forward to the present day (well, 1980 at least) and the place is finally due to be re-opened, with a gaggle of randy college-types arriving on the scene to try it out. But it’s not long before it looks like the problems of the 50s haven’t stayed in the 50s, and – predictably – this group of atrociously-dressed fornicators start getting gruesomely picked off one-by-one.

Yes, that’s right – it’s ‘Friday the 13th’, the oft-lauded throat-slasher from director Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller. It’s spawned a ridiculously-excessive TEN sequels, a TV series (imaginatively titled ‘Friday the 13th: The Series’), and countless conveyor-belt loads of merchandise. Everyone will have their own theories on what that says about society post-1980, but what it says to me is that there are a Helluva lot of people out there with exceptionally bad taste.

What strikes me about ‘Friday the 13th’ isn’t the surfeit of sex and violence (after all, none of it is remotely shocking by today’s standards), but the fact that it’s absolutely terrible. With the exception of an extremely young Kevin Bacon (who, as you might expect, gets to spend much of his time necking with a lady), the cast are faceless and forgettable. Their parts are shamelessly underdeveloped to the point that you can barely decipher one from another, and the peripheral characters are so clichéd and poorly thought-out that they become laughable (there’s even a “town crazy” who, inventively enough, is called “Crazy Ralph” and goes around telling people that they’re doomed and to turn back while they still can).

Add to all of the above Cunningham’s pedestrian direction and Miller’s seen-it-all-before storyline, and you’re left with one of the most over-rated, undeservedly-popular pieces of film-making in the history of cinema. Sure, it might be considered influential (though I’d argue that it’s really not original enough to fit the description), but it’s also a deserted cabin-load of plopsy.

It's Got: A killer who’s thoughtful enough to suddenly decide to stop and explain his/her reasons behind all of the violence to his/her final target – even though all of the previous victims got it “in the neck” without so much as a by-your-leave.

It Needs: To be universally recognised as the guff it is.

DVD Extras For a film so celebrated and well-known, there’s a disappointing lack of goodies on this DVD release. You get a director’s commentary, a 20-minute ‘Return to Crystal Lake’ documentary, and a trailer. Version Reviewed: Friday The 13th DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

Freddy vs. Jason, Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th Part 3, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason X

Summary

About as scary and innovative as a night out with Ken Barlow.

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