Some movies achieve their infamy based on their content. They become classics or crap because of what is actually up on the screen. Then there are those titles that, while seemingly inauspicious in their debut, take on greater significance as the franchise moves forward. Such is the case with Sean S. Cunningham’s Halloween riff. Inspired by the John Carpenter hit, the films of Mario Bava, and his own success with fellow fright filmmaker Wes Craven (he helped produce Last House on the Left), Friday the 13th would go on to be a “monster” success for Paramount, spawning many sequels and a formidable fan base.
In 1958, Camp Crystal Lake was the scene of a notorious double murder. It closed down amid scandal and a soiled reputation. Now, 20 years later, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), the new owner of the property, wants to reopen it. He hires a group of counselors and invites them out to the location for help fix up the place. Little do they know, there’s another in their midst, an individual bent on revenge for the events that took place all those years ago. As a horrific storm hits, the group indulges in some random sex and drugs, unaware that, lurking outside the cabins, a killer awaits.
For all its mythos, its legacy of slasher lore and foundations in fear filmmaking, Friday the 13th‘s greatest achievement might be Tom Savini’s make-up and effects work, and there is indeed a lot to be celebrated. His throat slashings were definitely ahead of their time, ultra-realistic, and incredibly brutal, and the many divergent methods used to off people set the tone for the entire genre to come. In fact, some could argue that because of Savini’s participation, the entire horror category earned a kind of visceral renaissance. Of course, Paramount and the MPAA mandated massive cuts, and until recently, few have had an opportunity to see the bloodshed uncut and unrated. Still, even sans the splatter, Friday the 13th still works.