I went through a “splatter movie” phase back in the early to mid ‘80s, in the theater and eventually catching up to those I had missed on VHS. I watched some of the better-known franchises (such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street), plus dozens of others which didn’t spawn multiple sequels. After I finally drifted away, I kind of lost track which movies of which series I had seen. (That’s why I thought I saw more than the first two installments of Halloween.) Although I can’t tell you at what point I stopped watching, I know I’ve seen more than two F13 movies, although I’ve never seen any of them more than once. I remember one time, some station aired a marathon and I recorded all that were out at that point. I still have that tape, but I have never watched it.

There will be spoilers as I move through the series, but because I’m watching these for the first time (for all intents and purposes, because even the ones I have seen I don’t remember all that well), I ask that no spoilers be posted for later films until they come up in discussion. Here’s a brief run-down of the major events from the first.

1957: Young Jason Voorhees drowns at Camp Crystal Lake while the lifeguards are off having sex.

1958: Two other councilors are killed while having sex and the camp closes.

1980: The camp (known locally as “Camp Blood”) is set to reopen, and councilors are being killed off one by one. Toward the end of the movie, the killer is revealed to Alice, the last surviving councilor, as the mother of the drowned boy.

After decapitating Mrs. Voorhees, Alice falls asleep in a canoe and drifts to the middle of the lake where the police find her the next morning. As she awakens, a boy covered with seaweed and mud pops out of the water, pulls her out of the boat and under water. She awakens screaming in the local hospital. The police who found her report no evidence of a boy, and Alice, refusing to believe the last bit was just a dream, concludes that he’s still out there.

Viewed on its own merits, Friday the 13th, like Halloween, is an good example of a well-made horror film, representative of its era. Consequently, also like Halloween, it spawned a slew of sequels. Also like Halloween, it didn’t really call for a sequel.

The original Friday the 13th was very obviously trying (and succeeding, in my estimation) to present the flip side of Psycho. For one thing, the soundtrack music is just different enough from the score of Psycho to avoid copyright infringement, but even more obvious, it is the mother who takes on the persona of her dead son and (very creepily) speaks in his voice, urging her to kill those he/she holds responsible for his death. It is revealed that she was working in the kitchen at Camp Crystal Lake when her son drowned. Granted she is mentally imbalanced and sets about killing councilors who weren’t even born at the time of her son’s death, but you think she would have spared the camp cook, but she didn’t.

Interestingly, Jason Voorhees does not appear in this film at all (although a very young Kevin Bacon does), unless you count Alice’s dream of the drowned boy at the end. If that really was Jason, the age doesn’t work quite right. I don’t know how old he was supposed to have been in 1957, but let’s say 10. That would make him 33 in 1980, a bit too old to be the “boy” of Alice’s dream. Or am I overthinking this?

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Interesting - I have all of these on disc (and the more recent re-make), your Halloween thread had put me in a mind to re-watch them.  I may break out the Elm Street pictures as well, eventually.

One of the most interesting things, for me, about the first film in the series---Friday the 13th---was the appearance of Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees.

 

You see, I remembered Miss Palmer from the '50's.  A young blonde with cute, wholesome features.  She had a modest film career, starting in 1951, in which she usually portrayed girls-next-door, ingenues, and the leads' sweethearts.  She quickly segued into television where she became better known as a perennial panelist on Goodson-Todman quiz shows---Password, To Tell the Truth, and, most notably, I've Got a Secret.

 

One of the things I always appreciated about quiz shows with celebrity panels was that they gave you a chance to see these folks as they really were, and it was tough to hide their real selves from the camera.  On IGAS, Henry Morgan (no, not Harry Morgan--but Henry) was a curmudgeon, no matter how hard he tried to appear affable.  And Betsy Palmer was obviously as nice and warm in real life as she was in her usual film rôles.  I noticed how she was always especially gracious and pleasant to the "ordinary folks" contestants, whom were no doubt more than a bit nervous at their first times in front of a camera.

 

So, for me, it was quite a stunner to see Betsy Palmer play the crazed, homicidal Mrs. Voorhees.  It was like seeing Mr. Rogers play Jack the Ripper.

 

And, under the Department of "Boy, Are You Old!", what's even more remarkable is when I realise that, to-day, there are at least two generations of movie-goers who know Betsy Palmer only from her stint as Mrs. Voorhees.  To them, she has always been the actress who played a maniacal killer.

 

 

Interesting stuff, Commander - I confess to being one of those who only knows her from this picture.  It puts me in mind of my buddy Dave's mom who could never quite wrap her mind around the fact that younger folks only knew the late Leslie Nielsen as a comedic actor, when she remembered when he was a young "leading man" type.

 

I watched Friday the 13th (1980) last night. Not much to add to the above - it's an OK movie of its type.

"It puts me in mind of my buddy Dave's mom who could never quite wrap her mind around the fact that younger folks only knew the late Leslie Nielsen as a comedic actor, when she remembered when he was a young 'leading man' type."

 

In fact, writing that piece on Betsy Palmer and her change of image reminded me of Leslie Nielsen, too.  You have to be of a certain age to remember the days when not only was Nielsen standard leading-man material, but he was also ultra-serious, in the same vein as Robert Stack and Eric Fleming.

 

That Nielsen could do a 180-degree turn in his image so completely was remarkable.  And, as in the case of Betsy Palmer's change of image, later generations never knew Nielsen was anything but a buffoon comedian.

 

 

Commander Benson said:

So, for me, it was quite a stunner to see Betsy Palmer play the crazed, homicidal Mrs. Voorhees.  It was like seeing Mr. Rogers play Jack the Ripper.

For me the stunner is finding out the good Commander has watched Friday the 13th. I would have lost that bet.

Travis Herrick said:

 

For me the stunner is finding out the good Commander has watched Friday the 13th. I would have lost that bet.

 

Heh. I wasn't born a commander, my friend (although my wife does think my oak leaves were issued at birth, along with the pine-tar-coated stick up my rectal canal).  At one time, I was a dashing young ensign who took in the town of Newport, Rhode Island on week-end liberty.  Of these days, I am reminded of the exchange between Larry "the Wolf Man" Talbot and Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein:

 

TALBOT:  "You don't understand.  Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf."

 

COSTELLO:  "You and twenty million other guys." 

 

 



The Baron said:

Interesting - I have all of these on disc (and the more recent re-make), your Halloween thread had put me in a mind to re-watch them.  I may break out the Elm Street pictures as well, eventually.

 

 

Jeff has dragged me kicking and screaming into watching the ten Friday films. You and he will be on your own if you both decide to watch the Elm Street films.

Not a Johnny Depp fan, Tracy?

You mean, he did something OTHER than George Smilely in "Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy?"

George Poague said:

Commander Benson said: "And, under the Department of "Boy, Are You Old!", what's even more remarkable is when I realise that, to-day, there are at least two generations of movie-goers who know Betsy Palmer only from her stint as Mrs. Voorhees."

That's how I feel when I meet people who are shocked to learn Alec Guiness played roles other than Obi-Wan.


PowerBook Pete (aka Tim Cousar) said:

Not a Johnny Depp fan, Tracy?

Well, *&#!. I cannot pass on Johnny Depp. Maybe I'll make Jeff watch all the Depp movies I like when this gore-fest is over.

Watched Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) last night. An OK sequel - pretty much more of the same. There are some good creepy bits, such as when the heroine stumbles across Jason's "shrine" to his mother.

PART II: Same lake, different camp.

The sequel begins two months after the original, with Alice still being haunted by the events of Friday the 13th. The end of the previous movie is recapped in a nightmare sequence, then Alice wakes up and goes to the kitchen. She opens the refrigerator to find Mrs. Voorhees’ head. She barely has time to scream before someone grabds her from behind and shoves and icepick into her temple. So much for the sole survivor of the first movie.

Then the story jumps ahead five years. Two movies in and they’re already screwing with the timeline! If II takes place in the present day, that automatically relegates the original to 1976. Or am I thinking about this too hard again? I have my own opinion about what happened at Camp Crystal Lake in 1957. I have it all mapped out in my head, but essentially Mrs. Voorhees herself is ultimately responsible for her son’s death; she just blames everyone else.

The setting this time is a training camp for camp counselors, so the stage is already set for sexual hijinks. The mythology of “Camp Blood” has also changed in the intervening “five years.” Originally it was closed simply because of the unsolved murders in 1958; now the legend has it that Jason’s body was never recovered (not very likely), and he still lurks in the area, killing those who venture too near. The counselors are vaguely aware of the events of the previous movie, describing them as “a girl falls out of a boat” while ignoring the half dozen other deaths. Also, we are led to believe that Mrs. Voorhees didn’t know her son was alive, yet he was present when Alice killed her and he recognized her as his mother.

If the first movie was an homage (of sorts) to Psycho, this movie shares a similarity with Psycho II in that the heroine of both movies masquerades as the killer’s mother in order to escape. Jason has not yet adopted his trademark hockey mask at this point, favoring a simple hood. We get a much better look at him this time, though, without the mask. In the first movie, his right profile was glimpsed only briefly, but this time we get to see him clearly from both sides. Apparently he suffers from neurofibromatosis.

I’m not quite certain exactly what happened at the end of the movie or how the girl, Ginny, survived. One moment it was night, the danger apparently over. Ginny and her boyfriend are alone in the cabin when Jason comes crashing through the window, grabbing Ginny from behind. The next thing we see, it’s morning, Ginny is being carried out of the cabin on a stretcher and her boyfriend is nowhere in sight. I’m guessing Ginny passed out, the boyfriend somehow managed to drive Jason off, but lost his life in the process. Maybe the beginning of the next movie will make it clear, but I’m not holding my breath. I guess it really doesn’t make any difference anyway.

There’s a whole lot of this movie that doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

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