Friday The 13th: The Classic First Movie

friday the  13th poster

“Original Poster”

Whenever the words “Friday the 13th” are spoken, people around the world instantly think of the highly recognizable image of Jason Voorhees. This indiscriminate, machete wielding killing machine is the face of the long-running Friday the 13th series, but a lot of people, including the fictional character of Casey from the movie Scream, tend to forget that the original movie had a very different vision in mind.

I was first introduced to the “Friday the 13th” series as a very young child by walking in on my older brother watching a particularly gruesome death scene. Although I did not find out for a few years what exactly it was that I had just seen, the visceral impact that this scene had on me was immediate and long-lasting. Not only did I instantly develop the desire to see more, but I also experienced my first “how did that they do that?” moment, and this eventually led me to perform my own experiments with special F/X makeup.

When I finally discovered that the scene I had witnessed and replayed in my mind so many times was from a “Friday the 13th” film, I began avidly hunting them down at my local video store. For whatever reason, I did not watch the films in order, and it took me a few years before I actually viewed the original movie. By that point I was used to the standard template that accompanies the other films in the series, and I was surprised to discover that the first film was not showing Jason during the killing scenes.

Because I did not have the advantage of the Internet and had not discovered Fangoria magazine yet, I had no idea what the twist in the first film was going to be. As a child I remember being a bit disappointed by the way that things played out, but when I watched it again for the first time as an adult, I was enthralled by the driving force behind the story line. Here was a woman whose child had been taken from her due to the neglect of camp counselors who were in charge of his safety. The fact that she snapped and began taking revenge on all of the teenagers at that camp was actually somewhat understandable, even if it presented a completely horrible and unacceptable real world scenario.

One of my favorite aspects of the first film is the original score that was composed by Harry Manfredini. Unlike other horror films, Manfredini did not go over the top, and he also did not incorporate music to cue every single death scene. This lack of an auditory cue made certain sequences extremely effective, and it also enabled the music that was included to have an even bigger impact.

As was popular at that time, the filmmakers decided to include a final dream sequence that would hint at the possibility of a sequel. Although it makes no logical sense to see Jason pop out of the water as a child when we compare that scene to what would happen in later films, it was still a great stylistic choice that captured my imagination and made me excited to watch all of the films again.

As the reboot proved, if this series was to be introduced for the first time today, we would undoubtedly meet Jason as the killer early on in the first movie. The richness of his back story would most likely either be underdeveloped or reserved for a sequel, because Hollywood seems to think that today’s audiences cannot stay with a movie long enough for true tension to be built up. Fortunately, the horror filmmakers of the ’80s had a firm grasp on how to terrify people while also telling a solid story. Even though the character of Jason has become the entire face of the series, his actions no longer seem mindless when they are put into the context of what happened to him as a child and how it impacted his mother.

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