House of Horror: Friday the 13th (1980)


Friday the 13th (1980)

Director: Sean S. Cunningham

Written by: Victor Miller


  • Betsy Palmer
  • Adrienne King
  • Harry Crosby
  • Kevin Bacon

Plot: Way back in the 1950’s, a young boy drowned at Camp Crystal Lake, a New Jersey summer resort. Not too long later two camp counselors were murdered with no trace of a killer found. From that point forward, the resort was closed. Now, twenty something years later, the resort is being opened again and bodies are hitting the floor. Is Camp Crystal Lake cursed or is there a killer on the lose?

Review: Who hasn’t heard of Friday the 13th? It’s an iconic franchise launched in the 1980’s during the height of the slasher genre, and helped write many of the rules that horror movies would follow after it. Sure, Halloween and even Black Christmas started the whole “unseen killer” era of horror movies, but Friday the 13th really kicked it up a few notches.


The story here is easy to wrap your head around, which it needed to be to get to the blood and guts of the movie. The story centers around Alice, the new head counselor, and Steve, the new owner of Camp Crystal Lake. They bring out a number of other counselors to help rebuild the place and get it ready to open. Over the course of three days, one by one each teenager is killed before Steve gets it. Alice is eventually the last one left alive, and ends up meeting Mrs. Voorhees, who explains how her young son Jason drowned there twenty years ago while the teenage counselors “made love”. This drove her insane, and she set about to kill any teenagers and anyone else that came out to Crystal Lake. The showdown between Alice and Mrs. Voorhees sets up the climax, where Mrs. Voorhees meets her demise via beheading.

The look of the movie captures the feeling of being isolated out in the woods, adding to the scariness of the picture. The film moves along at a good pace giving watchers plenty of suspense. With kills every few minutes, you won’t get bored watching this one.


Who could forget the fantastic score? The creepy stalking music, the famous ki-ki-ki-ki that still sends a chill down my spine works so damn great here. The music is fantastic, and much like it did for Halloween, the music adds to the creepiness of the film.

Tom Savini, the master of gore who worked on Dawn of the Dead among other films, really brought it here with the kills. For today’s fans, they won’t be impressed with the gore, for the time however it was pretty damn shocking. I still winch during the arrow scene, and the final kill of the film memorable.

The one complaint I do have is the lack of character development, which won’t always be a complaint from me (I swear) in future reviews. Here, however, we really only get to know Mrs. Voorhees and Alice, and we barely get to know them. The other characters are just glossed over here, and are mostly there for fodder. While this would be a normal occurrence for the franchise, there are characters that get plenty of backstory and time to develop, just not in this one.

This first movie is a toss up for fans thanks to Jason Voorhees, the killer for the majority of the franchise, not being the killer in this one. Spoiler alert for a thirty year old movie, the killer this time around is Jason’s mother, Mrs. Voorhees (Jason does make an appearance at the end).

Personally, I enjoy the movie even today. While it did bother me that Jason’s mother was the killer when I first watched the movie as a kid, I attribute that to having seen the other movies first. I grew up watching the Friday the 13th movies, and this is one of the best in the series.

Gore Factor: We get an arrow through the eye, a cut throat, an arrow through the neck, an axe to the face and full on decapitation. Gore it up horror fans, there’s plenty of red to see here!

Acting: Betsy Palmer pulled off her role of mom/serial killer perfectly, there’s a sweet charm to her as she tells the story of her son. When she finally turns and pulls out that knife I believe she was into it! Adrienne King put down just enough screaming to make it believable and got tough enough when she needed too. Kevin Bacon, in one of the his first acting roles, looked good here and got killed in the worst way (arrow through the throat).

Nudity Factor: There’s a small pair of boobs for the guys and the ladies will enjoy a shirtless Kevin Bacon.

Fun Facts:

  • Director Sean S. Cunningham has been quoted as saying that the type of actors that he sought for the film were “good-looking kids who you might see in a Pepsi commercial.”
  • Betsy Palmer said that if it were not for the fact that she was in desperate need of a new car, she would never have taken the part of Pamela Voorhees. In fact, after she read the script she called the film “a piece of shit”.
  • The movie was filmed at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in New Jersey. The camp is still in operation, and it has a wall of Friday the 13th paraphernalia to honor that the movie was set there.
  • The film made $39,754,601 and had a budget of $550,000.
  • Victor Miller admitted that he was purposely riding off the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween.
  • Sean S. Cunningham came up with the title of the film and placed an ad in the trade papers to create interest in the movie prior to having a script.
  • Originally planned as a stand-alone movie, the ending was not meant to leave things open for a sequel.

Overall: This is the one that started it all. It’s still a great watch even today as the suspense and scares hold up. Plenty of current horror movie writers and directors can learn a thing or two with this puppy.

Rating: 4.5/5

House of Horror is a regular series where Jeremy will be reviewing and rating horror films.