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Camp Crystal Lake was a picturesque destination for summer school revellers until, in 1958, young Jason Voorhees drowned in a tragic accident and several students were murdered. Twenty years later, a new group of counsellors prepare to re-open the camp despite warnings it is cursed. As owner Steve Christy (Peter Browner) busies his enthusiastic - and horny - young group (Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Jeannine Taylor, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson), they soon discover that someone out there is prepared to kill to stop them. 

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
This low-budget 1980 bloodbath might have been deliberately made on the success of Halloween, but Friday The 13th is still the original and best of its slasher flick series, which stand at 10 sequels and counting. It's the type of awfully dated horror flick from the dreaded '80s that takes itself very seriously, the kind that's been parodied so well by recent desmystifying comedies as the Scream and Scary Movie series. You know the type: A group of horny 20-somethings find themselves in the middle of
nowhere with a maniacal killer coming to slice, dice and julienne them one-by-one. Sex equals death and virgins get out alive. But there's one key rule of the horror genre that's the secret to Friday's success; the past evil. 

Between flashbacks to the original tragedies that links the camp to the current grisly murders, the film is a clever Psycho-in-reverse, with a climax that shocks even by today's standards. That ending launched the multiple sequels where Jason becomes an unkillable sword-weilding psycho, and made this original just that; original. Special effects guru Tom Savini provides the gruesomely good deaths, and seeing Kevin Bacon (in an early role) get an arrow through the neck is always amusing. There's not a lot of skilful tension about the murders, but for slashed throats and axes in the face, Friday is a genre-defining film. Sure, John Carpenter's Halloween might have done it better two years earlier - starting the mini-revolution that this helped propagate - and yes, Jason straps on a hockey mask for no apparent reason in the sequels. But for late-night, lights-off nonsense, you can't beat it.

As for the extra features on this seminal slasher flick, the kooky 2-minute trailer that counts down the 13 delicious deaths will put you in the mood for what's to come on the handful of extras. Return to Camp Crystal Lake: The Making of Friday the 13th is a terrific 21 minute documentary that puts the film in a nutshell; it's inception, location, casting, special effects and how it was received. It's common knowledge that commercially-motivated writer-director Sean S. Cunningham made it after the success of 1978's Halloween. The doco doesn't ignore that, with Cunningham and writer Victor Miller admitting they learnt the rules of horror - prior evil, isolated location, virgins live, promiscuous teens die, etc - mostly from that movie. Cunningham was adamant he would make a movie with the title Friday the 13th, and convinced the studio with the poster image and ad campaign (but no script) that this would be the "scariest film of all time".

The doco also reveals how far special effects guru Tom Savini went to create those classic gory scenes and how they came up with the "Ki-k-i-ki...Ma-ma-ma" sound effects that would become the signature of the series. Lead actress Adrienne King briefly discusses how the film led to her having a real-life stalker (ending her film career), while Cunningham is proud that his film was one of the first indies to get a national release, panned critically but loved by audiences. Though a cunning businessman, he had little artistic insight, thinking that bringing Jason - who only appears for three seconds here - back for a sequel was one of the worst ideas he'd ever heard.

There is also a commentary that combines input from several cast and crew, but this is mostly an extended, drawn out version of what you get on the much snappier documentary. The extras may be brief, but they are fittingly informative and enjoyable for this low-budget classic.

Published November 6, 2003

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(US) - 1980

CAST: Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Harry Crosby, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson, Robbie Morgan

DIRECTOR: Sean S Cunningham

SCRIPT: Victor Miller

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 16:9 enhanced

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Making of Documentary, Theatrical Trailer.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: October 8, 2003

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