The Video Nasties #90 – Friday the 13th (1980, Sean S Cunningham)

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‘They’re all dead. They’re all dead.’

I’ve seen Friday the 13th. You’ve seen Friday the 13th. Your mother has seen Friday the 13th. We all know it’s a slasher movie inspired by the success of Halloween, and that it’s Jason’s mum who’s the killer in this one, and that Kevin Bacon is in it, and that there’s a big shock ending that rips off Carrie. We know that it was followed by countless sequels and even more copycat movies, movies that felt more able to replicate the grimy thrills of Friday the 13th than they felt able to imitate the sedate classiness of Carpenter’s seminal film. We know that Tom Savini provided the dated but still cool gore effects. What else is there to add?

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Going by title alone, this is easily the best known Nasty, and up there with Halloween, The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street as the most famous horror movie title ever. Friday the 13th already has several books devoted to its production, so it should suffice to say that like most horror fans, I love it too. It’s a well-paced thrill ride, with a score that, whilst not as memorable as Halloween, plays a bigger part in the film’s success than it is often given credit for.

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One part this is not successful though is the mystery angle of the film. To all intents and purposes, Friday is a whodunit, and probably the worst whodunit ever made. I mean honestly, who could the killer possibly be? The list of suspects is small. Could it be Steve Christie, owner of the camp and wearer of denim cut-offs and a red neckerchief?

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No it couldn’t, because we see him at a diner during all the murders. Could it be Crazy Ralph? Possibly, but the cop says he dropped Ralph back home earlier that day, and Ralph is too obviously a red herring anyway. Could it be…well, that’s about it really. There are no other suspects, because we don’t even meet the killer until 75 minutes into the fucking movie.

That, my friends, is cheating.

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The fun of a whodunit is guessing who the killer is, but you have to at least seen the killer before their revelation for that to be effective. The mystery in Friday the 13th is so half-hearted and half-baked, you wonder why they even bothered. It’s a concession to an older style of horror movie – I guess the makers didn’t realise they were accidentally co-creating a whole new sub-genre of movie, where the identity of the killer didn’t matter so long as they were killing beautiful young people who wander around in thunderstorms in their underwear and play Strip Monopoly.

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But just how does one play Strip Monopoly? The rules, as given in the film, are as follows – ‘instead of paying rent you pay clothes.’ That’s it. Now, I hate Monopoly. It’s the most boring, long-winded game around, so I welcome any attempt to liven it up, particularly if nudity is involved. But it makes no sense! Bill is told to be banker – but why would you need a banker? There’s no money, it’s clothes, Brenda, like you just said! Later, when the door blows open, they scrabble about trying to catch all the money flying about, like it even matters. Guys, you’re playing for clothes. Forget the money. Why is this so hard to understand? Brenda also makes it perfectly clear that, ‘Community Chest can not give you your clothes back.’ No shit Brenda, I don’t think there’s a Community Chest card that says that. You know what? I think Brenda is making this up as she goes along. Well, her or the script-writer.

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Guys, we’ve all seen Friday the 13th. But you know what? There’s no harm in watching it again. Subsequent installments may have improved on the formula and lost the stupid mystery angle, but how many of the sequels had an extreme close up of a woman squeezing Kevin Bacon’s naked butt cheek?

The answer is none, gang. N-O-N-E none.

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