Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham / U.S., 1980):

To Halloween what Rhinestone is to Nashville, though within the dead-teenie realm it achieves a certain classicism. The cut from the 1958 preamble (the end of a repressive decade) to the eponymous unlucky present (the beginning of a repressive decade) is a pregnant one, lubricated by Henry Manfrediniís pastiche of Bernard Herrmann. A wave of disasters after the drowning of a certain Jason Voorhees turns Camp Crystal Lake into "Camp Blood": The townspeople react to a visitorís mention of it like Transylvanian villagers hearing about Count Orlokís castle, the stagecoach ride comes courtesy of a trucker who doesnít get "these dumb kids." The counselors (an anonymous bunch that includes Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham and, gah, Kevin Bacon) are getting things ready for the campís re-opening, which means smoking pot, lounging around in bikinis, and playing strip Monopoly; the town loony chants "Youíre all doooomed," and soon enough the handheld killer-o-vision camera from Black Christmas is introduced with extra heavy-breathing. Since the hockey-masked boogeyman is a few sequels away, Sean S. Cunningham can still sketch a bit of detail between the guts-spilling -- one appreciates Jeannine Taylorís telling of a dream in which the rain runs red, or her Kate Hepburn impression at the outhouse mirror before she takes a hatchet to the kisser. The wackiest frisson has to be the unveiling of Special Guest Villainess... Betsy Palmer. (What, was Jaye P. Morgan busy?) "So young. So pretty. What monster could have done this?" Intentional or not, what you have here is the idleness and stupidity of post-Seventies hedonism, where the apolitical dummies come to life only as Tom Savini gore effects (cf. the bridal tableau animated by the ex-loverís revolver in The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz). The finale takes from De Palma (who took it from Boorman), and gazes ahead into dark waters. With Robbi Morgan, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer, Ron Millkie, and Walt Gorney.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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