Friday The 13th Revolutionized Not Only Slashers But Horror As A Whole!
The slasher genre started with ‘Peeping Tom‘ in 1960. The film introduced a sub-genre in horror that evolved over time. There was a major turning point for slashers in 1980: the bloody ‘Friday The 13th‘.
Hitting cinemas on May 9th, 1980; the movie was unlike anything mainstream audiences had seen before. Director Sean S. Cunningham took elements from slasher forefathers like ‘Halloween‘ and ‘Psycho‘ as well as a grindhouse picture that Cunningham worked on titled ‘Last House On The Left‘ to create something fresh.
Before there was even a script, a full-page print advertisement was published in Variety Magazine in which ‘Friday The 13th‘ was hailed “The Most Terrifying Movie Ever Made”. The genius marketing move was a way to see if they can attract interest to the project and see if there will be any copyright issues with the film’s title.
Bringing in writer Victor Miller and make-up master Tom Savini, Sean S. Cunningham started crafting together the events that would make Camp Crystal Lake such a memorable horror destination. From there, we got the story of a mother seeking revenge for the senseless killing of her young son. In the 1950’s, Pamela Voorhees lost her child Jason when he drowned in the lake because the camp consolers were having sex and ignoring him. Since that day, the summer camp where Jason died has been known to have a “death curse”. Ignoring that, someone attempts to re-open the camp under a new name. Mrs. Voorhees did not like that.
While ‘Halloween‘ strayed away from showing a lot of the gore, ‘Friday The 13th‘ rubbed your nose in their excessive violence. The camera rarely cuts away from one of the brutal murders of the teens; the iconic scene where Kevin Bacon gets an arrow through his throughout is proudly shown.
Facing harsh criticism from conservative critics, critic Gene Siskel famously called the film’s director “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business”. What an amazing compliment for any shock-loving horror filmmaker. It always shocked me that critics and politicians seemed to put down the message of ‘Friday The 13th‘ when in reality, the film was condemning the exact same people they had issues with. If you smoked pot or had pre-marital sex, you’re dead!
Gore isn’t the only thing ‘Friday The 13th‘ brought to the horror genre. Since and after, most slashers are usually men. This movie gave me something totally unheard of at the time. The major twist in the 1980 film is that elderly women Pamela Voorhees has been behind all the gruesome murders. While her hockey masked son would later take over after her untimely beheading, Pamela being the killer shook horror to its core. The twist infiltrated horror and pop culture as a whole. You can even find this mentioned a few times in fellow horror franchise ‘Scream‘.
The importance & success of this film can be found in the numbers alone. The cult classic grossed over $50 million dollars on a $550,000 budget and has spawned 12 sequels/crossovers/reboots. It even spun-off to a brilliant graphic novel where Jason Voorhees fought Freddy Kruger and Ash from ‘Evil Dead‘. The franchise shows no signs of stopping as there is a crowd-funded video game and new film coming to us sometime soon.
Just like Jason, you can’t keep this franchise dead even after 36 years.