After the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, producer/director Sean Cunningham decided to rip it off, according to screenwriter Victor Miller. In doing so, they, along with make-up artist Tom Savini, created a pop culture sensation that returned more than 70 times its budget at the box office. Unknowingly, they were starting a horror movie franchise that would create more sequels and earn more money than its inspiration.
Friday the 13th opens in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake in New Jersey. A young couple of counselors sneak off to have sex in an attic and are killed. We flash-forward a couple of decades to present day, Friday, June 13, and meet Annie, whose vocals all sound dubbed. She is heading to Camp Crystal Lake, which is being re-opened, to work as a cook. She meets some townsfolk who warn her the camp is haunted. A truck driver informs her a young boy drowned and a young couple was murdered.
Other counselors are arriving and work to help Steve, the new owner, spruce up the place. He has some errands to run and leaves the camp in his truck. Annie gets picked up hitchhiking, but we never see the driver. When they pass the camp, Annie realizes she is in trouble. She jumps out of the car and is chased into the woods, but there’s no escape and she gets her throat slit.
Back at the camp, the counselors do what comes natural to young people when their supervisor is away: they soak up some sun, get high, and have sex. As horror fans know, this means, to quote Thunderdome’s Dr. Dealgood, “dyin’ time’s here.” No doubt to the delight of many male viewers, Marcie runs around in a tight, pink top and no bra, so it’s natural for her to sneak off with Jack (Kevin Bacon). You expect them to get killed during sex, but it is revealed Ned is dead in the bunk above. It’s a good twist on expectations and creates suspense. As the movie progresses, the characters get isolated and start dropping like flies. Alice is the last person standing and eventually battles with the killer. I was surprised to learn the killer’s identity and was impressed that it was cleverer than I expected.