Monday, October 13, 2014

31 Days of Horror: Friday the 13th

A beautiful day for a trip to the lake ... but maybe not Camp Crystal Lake if you find yourself in Friday the 13th.
In addition to our regular programming, every day this month, Last Cinema Standing will be bringing readers recommendations from the best of the horror genre as we make our way to Halloween. This should not be treated as a “best of” list but more as a primer. You can read the full introduction to Last Cinema Standing’s 31 Days of Horror here, and be sure to check back each day for a new suggestion.

Day 13: Friday the 13th

Forgive me for it being Monday, but one cannot pass up the opportunity to discuss Sean S. Cunningham’s classic Friday the 13th on the 13th. Depending on how you want to count, there are anywhere from 10 to 15 sequels and a remake of this one slasher picture, but it all starts here at Camp Crystal Lake.

Surely you have seen it. If not, whatever plans you thought you had today are canceled. See it. Camp counselors, premarital sex, gruesome kills, and a twist – it would be formulaic if it were not itself the formula. There are three movies that came out within six years of each other that have a permanent place in the pantheon, and we will talk about the other two tomorrow and the next day, but today belongs to Friday the 13th.

Cunningham, who directed the picture and has a story credit on it, did not go on to have the career of some of his contemporaries. He has only 12 other directing credits, and of those, I have seen only one (Terminal Invasion, a Sy-Fy Channel original movie starring Bruce Campbell; it is a madcap romp if anyone is interested). At the same time, Friday the 13th, more than any other movie, has influenced the way these kinds of pictures are made.

We will get into Cunningham’s influences a bit tomorrow, but there hardly exists a slasher film now that does not owe some debt of gratitude to the events at Camp Crystal Lake. The style, the pace, the structure, its DNA lives on in every masked killer and terrified teen committed to film since. This is down-and-dirty filmmaking elevated by the clear dedication of the filmmakers. There is real love in every X-rated frame, and that is a glorious thing.

Tomorrow, another killer targeting promiscuous teens and whose actions also spawned about a dozen sequels and a remake.

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