Hello again ghouls and dolls! Your glamorous guardian of the gore Sharon here, continuing our sacred countdown honoring horror’s highest holidays. Yesterday we immersed in the masterful autumn atmosphere of Carpenter’s Halloween to launch us into October. Today I prescribe upholding tradition through a date with Camp Crystal Lake’s hockey-masked slasher supreme himself – Jason Voorhees!
…Alright, let’s rewind a bit. Technically the first Friday the 13th in 1980 introduced Jason’s vengeful mother as the killer, not Jason himself. But this gritty grindhouse gem laid the cursed campgrounds and gruesome groundwork for the juggernaut Jason would become. It remains irresistible viewing for slasher fanatics and horror completionists like yours truly.
While later entries drifted toward self-parody, Sean S. Cunningham’s backwoods body count film takes a clinical, vicious approach to its gore. This is slasher cinema stripped to the bone – horny teens arrive, teens party, teens die gruesomely, killer vanishes back into the wilderness. Rinse and repeat each endless summer.
Modern audiences may scoff, but Friday the 13th cut to the bloody heart of our primal obsession with cinematic violence and punishment. The slaughter is raw, remorseless, and ruthlessly repetitive. But therein lies its grim effectiveness – no frills needed when the formula is executed this ruthlessly.
And few settings prove more ominously ripe with eerie potential than the creaky cabins and moonlit lake shores of Camp Crystal Lake. The Platonic ideal of the summer camp slaughterhouse. Those cozy wooden getaways transform into gothic zones of voyeuristic murder. Cleverly placed POV shots make the viewer complicit in the carnage, leering through farmhouse windows and from the forest brush.
Our iconic killer might not have his hockey mask yet, but the inaugural Mrs. Voorhees embodies Evil Mom energy decades before tropes like Norman Bates’ domineering matriarch in Psycho. The deranged psychology underpinning her maternal vengeance still resonates. And her son Jason would fully assume the vengeful mantle soon enough…
But the original Friday the 13th retains an appeal beyond Jason or the crisp kills. It evokes the lawless atmosphere of 70s grindhouse cinema, and drive-in audiences craving gory thrills with no pretense or deeper meaning beyond titillation. The lurid poster art promised a sordid spectacle, and this movie delivered in spades.
So after you soak in the autumnal atmosphere of Halloween, honor Friday the 13th with a viewing of Cunningham’s ruthless exploitation classic. Let it whisk you away to an earlier era of gritty, sanguine horror paying homage to murderous campfire legends of old. For better or worse, Jason’s machete cut a swath for legions of imitators, from Sleepaway Camp to The Burning. But it was Friday the 13th that first dared you to go down to the woods…and never return alive.
Stream Friday the 13th 1980 now!
While I heartily recommend revisiting this seminal slasher to set the mood for spooky season, Friday the 13th unfortunately isn’t currently available to stream for free on any major platforms.
Your best options for catching this backwoods bloodbath are subscribing to HBO Max or Paramount+, both of which include the uncut original film in their horror libraries. The HBO Max platform also offers some of the better Friday the 13th sequels to make a marathon night of it.
Alternatively, most on-demand rental services like Amazon, iTunes and YouTube offer Friday the 13th available for just a few dollars. It’s a small price to pay for a hugely influential slice of horror history. And far better to legally support our beloved genre than risk the wrath of Mrs. Voorhees from beyond the grave!
Wherever you view, just be sure to toast to Camp Crystal Lake’s 80s slasher legacy. After all, without Cunningham’s cruel campground classic, we may never have met machete maestro Jason or seen such lovingly gruesome imitations as Sleepaway Camp, The Burning and more!