Today marks the 40th anniversary of the slasher horror film franchise, Friday The 13th (1980) (directed by Sean Cunningham and written by Victor Miller). This day is special to some fans of the franchise who love to watch Pamela Voorhees kill her victims one by one for the death of her beloved son, Jason. Jason Voorhees had drowned at Camp Crystal Lake after the camp counselors paid no attention to the poor boy who apparently had mental issues. As the franchise progressed, Jason Voorhees had attracted super human powers and killed victims of his own.
The first film starred a line-up of up and coming actors and veterans: Betsy Palmer (Pamela Voorhees), Adrienne King (Alice Hardy), Robbi Morgan (Annie Phillips), Jeannine Taylor (Marcie Stanler), Laurie Bartram (Brenda Jones), Kevin Bacon (Jack Burrell), Walt Gorney (Crazy Ralph), Harry Crosby III (Bill Brown) and Ari Lehman (Jason Voorhees).
I first watched this film when I was five-years-old. I remember wrapping a blanket around my whole body and peeking through a small opening while I watched Alice (Adrienne King: The Butterfly Room 2012) chop Mrs. Voorhees’s (Betsy Palmer: Today TV series) head off. It was not only that anticipation of her demise, but the incredible score of the film that scared the crap out of me.
There’s always something in a horror film that frightens us… gets our hearts racing and our skin to crawl. I’m sure that’s what the director, Sean Cunningham (The Last House on the Left 1972), and the writer, Victor Miller (Rock Paper Dead 2018), wanted to accomplish to solidify the fear, the anticipation and the guessing game of the camp counselor’s killer. Friday the 13th was made at the beginning of the slasher era and has become a worldwide phenomenon that has inspired many horror films after its debut.
Even though some of the acting may have been a little amateur, the location was fantastic, the story was unique and the music put this fearful vibe inside of a viewer’s brain that pushed them into another dimension. The location was an actual camp (Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in New Jersey) that was found by mistake. Sean Cunningham once revealed that he was supposed to meet up with owners of another camp to make a deal for filming. Back in 1979, people only had maps. Cunningham got lost and ended up pulling into the drive of Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco. The rest is history.
The camp was extremely worn down, but it worked perfectly for the film as the counselors worked to fix it up for the campers. The lake water by the sandy beach set the tone for the unforgettable ending of young Jason (Ari Lehman: The Wicked One 2014), popping up out of the water. The story of Friday of the 13th was unique at that time period. It was almost unheard of to cast a female as a killer! The dominance of a nearly unstoppable female… well, until Alice puts a stop to it all! It’s a revenge plot against the death of Mrs. Voorhees’s twelve-year-old son. Really, who can blame Mrs. Voorhees? Jason’s death may have triggered something in her brain, and she just lost all hope for humanity. If she couldn’t trust others with her child, who could she trust?
Many fans may think that Sean Cunningham did an amazing job; not only with telling Mrs. Voorhees’ story in a way that would showcase that scary horror vibe, but also by showing the love that a mother has for her child. It’s sad if you think about it, but it’s one of those stories that still makes your skin crawl. The camp counselor deaths are wicked and Mrs. Voorhees’s death is memorable. Friday the 13th will live on, and so will Jason Voorhees!