Death by Sex : A Review of Friday The 13th (1980)

It is perhaps one of the most well-known horror/slasher films to date. I’m sure we’re all familiar with Jason Voorhees and his accidental drowning due to the neglect of the “distracted” camp staff. Throughout the franchise, he is often either the killer or the motive behind the killings and is featured in every film.

The original 1980’s film was low budget, to say the least, and was not well received by critics at the time in the slightest. In a review of the film by Variety, the publication stated that “producer-director Sean S. Cunningham telegraphs the six murders too far ahead to keep anyone in even vague suspense, and without building a modicum of tension in between…” and the Chicago Tribune called the film “a disgusting, artless shocker…” Despite the negative feedback the film managed to gross $59.8 million dollars at the box office and today the franchise has grossed over $464 million dollars worldwide!

Synopsis

After years of being inactive, the rundown Camp Crystal Lake is about to be reopened. That summer a group of young would-be counselors prep for the camps for its grand reopening. Unknown to them the camp has an ill-fated and violent history which includes:

•One accidental drowning

•An unsolved double homicide

•Several mysterious fires

•And a strange case of water contamination

The neighboring townsfolk call the place “Camp Blood” and tell people that the camp is jinxed whenever they get the chance. Some locals even say that the camp has a “Death Curse.”

Given this place’s history, it’s no surprise that the townies would prefer that Camp Crystal Lake never opens again. Unfortunately for our young counselors, one disgruntled native seems to be taking out their frustrations in a pretty extreme way. To prevent the camp from opening an unknown assailant starts killing off the teenage counselors one by one. But don’t worry, it’s just another unlucky day at Camp Crystal Lake (as always) and remember that no one is safe.

The Stalker is in the Camera and in The Music

Although many viewers criticize the film for being tasteless, and “artless” I’d beg to differ. While the film is low budget it effectively takes advantage of the natural scenery around them. POV shots shown from the perspective of the killer are handheld and shaking. The shaking camera movement makes a scene visually unbalanced and creates a feeling of unease. Most of the movie was filled with natural sound and very little musical scoring.

Composer Harry Manfredini’s scoring further enhanced tensions. Manfredini wanted a distinctive sound for any point the killer is present with a scene. Interestingly the inspiration comes from Mrs. Voorhees’ (Betsy Palmer) imitation of her son Jason.

Now, whenever we do hear the film’s now iconic musically scoring we automatically associated with the crazed killer’s mysterious presence. The scoring speak to us whispering “kill her, kill her” gently into the wooden winds. The sudden start of the score alone fills you with anticipation and disturbs you like hearing the crackling of leaves under feet but never seeing what is pacing in the dark. As the score gets louder and louder it’s as if those footsteps are creeping closer and closer long before the danger appears.

Death By Sex

The title “Friday The 13th” signifies Jason’s birthday and has a vague hint of irony to it. After all, it seems like everyone is trying to get lucky in what is obviously an unlucky site. Slasher films are fueled by sexual fury a trope that was was popularized by John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” However psychosexual obsession being paired with homicidal rage can even be seen in pre-Halloween Slasher films such as 1960’s Psycho.

Horror movies are tools used to highlight and confront our deepest fears. This film in particular dramatizes the consequences of sex and highlights the backlash young adults fear for having sex. In a way the killer acts as a kind of boogy man punishing teens for an act social regarded as taboo; premarital/teen sex. Throughout Friday the 13th sex or sexual acts are juxtaposed with graphic violence.

In the first few moments of the film two adolescent camp counselors runoff away from their peers to have sex. They passionately kiss, feeling each other on the hard and dirty floor. The breath deeply and moan loudly, absorbed in their own passions oblivious to the world around them. They are so preoccupied that they don’t even notice that they are being watched and by the time they do notice it’s too late. They are now dead to the world in a different way entirely.

The pattern repeats itself throughout the film.

The moaning, and thrusting, and kissing, and licking, and scratching, and biting is interrupted by the cutting, and the slashing, and the screaming, and the tears, and the blood. Even if death isn’t immediate it’s is still present. For example Ned (Mark Nelson) is killed off screen yet the camera pans to his lifeless mutilated on the bunk above Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) as they are having sex. Jack is killed after having sex and so is Marcie shortly afterwards.

Even sexual acts are punishable by death. At one point Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), and Alice (Adrienne King) play a game of strip monopoly. Shortly afterwards Brenda is killed and so is Bill. The killers revenge is a violent answer to teen sexuality. Despite the controversy regarding what messages death by sex delivers it’s horror staple that’s here to stay.

Advertisements
Tagged with: