Despite my particular fondness for the horror movie genre (I even wrote about my favorite obscure & underrated horrors), I never really got around to the Friday the 13th franchise. I don’t have any particular reason for this, but I don’t think its relatively bad reputation really helped much. Without having ever seen it, the most common complaint I had heard was that it simply had not aged quite as well as some of its slasher counterparts of the same era. Upon finally watching it for the first time, I was saddened to realize that many of these people were not at all incorrect for holding such low opinion of the film.
Simply put, the original Friday the 13th deals with many of the same tired tropes and clichés that those of us familiar with slasher horror have seen a million times before. Lack of originality isn’t inherently an issue – just look at the majority of modern mainstream horror – but it certainly becomes one when the film simply doesn’t offer anything more to work with. As I was watching it, I found myself accurately predicting what would happen next all throughout the film. A young couple has sex? They’re dead. One character states he’ll “be right back”? Dead. The killer isn’t actually who we all expect them to be? Shocker. It didn’t help that I’ve been aware of the film’s infamous final “twist” ending for a long time, but once again, it isn’t anything remotely fresh or unique, so I couldn’t imagine it being outlandishly shocking in its heyday.
One could certainly argue that though film’s freshness has inevitably waned, although it was surely effective back in the day when audiences weren’t used to these conventions being done over and over. However, I’m not really sure if that excuse would be substantial enough. Black Christmas and Halloween had exercised many of the elements found here years before this film and did so in much more effective, terrifying ways. Even today, many of Christmas‘ iconic imagery and rewatches of Mike Myers’ point-of-view shots bring chills down my spine. In Friday the 13th‘s case, the point-of-view shots feel nothing less than gimmicky and its special effects costumes and makeup are often hokey and laughable. In fact, I may have enjoyed the flick much more if it had intended upon being a parody of itself, a lá Piranha or Cabin in the Woods. Regrettably, the film expects viewers to find its brand of bland scares terrifying, which works against itself in the end.
So here I am, left to decide whether or not Friday the 13th was worth the watch. Overall, I’d be pressed to say that there are hundreds of other similar, much better films out there that would be far more worth anyone’s time. This one is simply a listless by-the-numbers slasher. Once again, lack of originality isn’t an inherent flaw, yet when there isn’t anything else available for the movie to offer – the acting is atrocious, the special effects are sub-par, the aesthetic is boring – all we’ve got left is just another run-of-the-mill, surface level horror film. It goes to show that even such iconic staples of the genre can often leave us scratching our heads over how exactly they came to be so.