Search this blog and The Mike's favorite blogs!

March 18, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #11 - Friday the 13th

If you were to know only one thing about The Mike and horror movies, that thing would be that Halloween is The Mike's favorite horror movie, and it's not even a competition. However, if you were to know two things about The Mike and horror movies, you'd know that one AND that The Mike is generally opposed to the slasher film existing as anything more than mindless entertainment. There are some rare exceptions that he either loves blindly (Happy Birthday to Me, April Fools Day, and Cheerleader Camp come to mind) or that he respects for shaking or mocking the genre's faults (Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is the shining example here); but in general he finds that subgenre to be the horror film version of K-Mart. Meaning, you can get what you want there, but you've got to put up with a lesser quality and accept that you'll feel dirty afterward.

The number one culprit of slasher mediocrity, in my eyes, has been the original Friday the 13th. Released less than two years after Halloween made the slasher formula popular (Two notes: a)By adding "popular" I negate the right of anyone to say 'BUT WHAT ABOOT BLACK CHRISTMAS, HOSER????'; and b)While I say Halloween made the slasher formula popular, I would NOT call Halloween itself a slasher film...but that's a different story for a different day.), Friday the 13th never hid the fact it was a cash grab in the wake of Carpenter's film. But a recent post by Stacie over at Final Girl got me thinking a little more about the original film, even if I'd recently listed as one of my least favorite horror films (<------ Click there for shameless plug in which you can vote for The Mike!). I thus set out to watch Friday the 13th for the upteenth time, this time really trying to figure out what it was others see that I must have been clearly missing.So, all that said (Yes, I realize I sounded like a senile codger) let's talk about the original Friday the 13th. For the first time in a few years, I sat down with it (now "UNCUT" and on Blu-Ray!) with an open mind for the first time in probably a decade. And, looking past my cinematic grudge, I firstly found the film to be more technically sound than I remembered. The slasher genre of the '80s is known for minimal artistic value, but it's definitely clear that the F13 series didn't start off in the gutter. The film is shot well by director Sean S. Cunningham, who has maintained an involvement in the series for nearly thirty years and clearly has care for the material he's presenting. It's a dark film, like Halloween or Black Christmas before it, but the photography by Barry Abrams really enhances what's going on inside the dark, adding atmosphere to the secluded camp setting. Plus there's Harry Manfredini's eerie score, and editing that jumps between scenes and settings briskly, keeping the viewer caught up with and interested in several happenings at once.

Additionally, Friday the 13th does something Halloween didn't by offering up kills during broad daylight. The first kill (in present day, that is; also illustrated in the FG post I linked above) is one of the most dramatic and tense in the series, and Cunningham and Abrams frame it in daylight while using the wooded scenery to darken the scene. The film establishes that it will be unpredictable with this kill, and that dynamic carried through the rest of the series - for better or worse.Another thing that I've disliked about Friday the 13th in the past is that it lacks the iconic imagery of its killer that became the series' trademark throughout the mid '80s. However, looking at the original through fresh eyes reminded me how intriguing the mystery of our killer is in this film. Like the "Michael as Laurie's sister" storyline that was added in Halloween's sequel, it's hard to look back at the original without thinking of what came next. While I still find the reveal of the killer in this film slightly disappointing, mostly due to some hammy acting, it most definitely was an original idea at the time.

I'm still not sold on the original Friday the 13th as much more than a popcorn slasher to watch while zoning out, and I'd rather pop in one of the Jason-filled sequels most days. But as a standalone film, without the weight of my baby Halloween on it and the expectations of its followers chasing it through my head, I have to admit that Friday the 13th is an efficient chiller that's a step above most slasher films on a cinematic level. And, as a peace-making measure, I think it's only fair that I give it a week to reign as Midnight Movie of the Week.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


R.D. Penning said...

I'm glad you have sort of come around. I just try not to view it as part of the rest of the series. As a stand alone movie, I really enjoy it.

forestofthedead said...

Glad you gave this movie another view and said it wasn't completely terrible. I actually like Friday the 13th more than Halloween, but I'd like to think we can live in peace together. :)