After the success of Halloween, filmmakers everywhere wanted to cash in with a holiday themed horror film. Sean Cunningham and his friends had made a kids movie previous, but thought they could make a cheap horror movie and rake in the cash.
Sean Cunningham is a bright guy. They chose Friday the 13th…which had little to do with the plot. They came up with an idea for a tale and started work.
So, the film begins with what has become standard in horror, two counselors sneak off to have some sex. While they are doing that, someone walks into the room and startles them. We don’t see the killer, because it is supposed to be a mystery, see. With a twist no less. Now, unlike it’s predecessor Halloween, which had it’s twist in the first five minutes, Friday the 13th draws it out. We jump ahead to modern times (well, 1980). And Camp Crystal Lake is getting re-opened. One of the counselors has apparently hitch-hiked her way there (oh, the carefree days of the late seventies and early eighties). She walks into a small town diner with, like, six locals. She asks which way to Camp Crystal Lake. The room goes, predictably, silent. And then the locals call it Camp Blood. Scary, huh? Finally a trucker offers to drive her there, since he is going that way anyhow. As the are getting in the truck they are stopped by the small town’s official Crazy Old Guy. He warns the girl that she is going to die. Her and all the other counselors. The trucker brushes him off as the Crazy Old Guy. Which is funny, because after a few miles; the trucker suddenly switches gears and becomes the Official Crazy Trucker. He starts going on about how bad of an idea it is to re-open Camp Blood and that she could be in danger. She gets out of the truck and starts to walk.
As it turns out, the two crazy guys were not so crazy. She gets picked up by a person in a jeep. We don’t see this person, and I am guessing they are not wearing a hockey mask, since the girl gets in the jeep. But finally, the girl gets freaked out by the fact that the camera keeps looking at her. So she leaps from the jeep and starts to run. The jeep stops and the camera gets out and follows her. Then the camera catches up and slits her throat. The real bummer here is that she is the camp cook.
The rest of the counselors get there without getting impaled with sharp objects. And then you have hijinks. It’s not terribly interesting for awhile. College kids chat, flirt and go off into the woods by themselves to get killed. We get more of the back story of Camp Blood in this portion of the film. The guy re-opening the camp-apparently the son of the original owners-explains a bit as do other characters in the know. Some kid (Jason) drowned a few years back and shortly after two counselors were found dead. Apparently, parents were a bit squeamish about sending their kids to such a camp.
Then a storm hits and that allows the killer to go crazy. Finally, it’s down to the Lone Survivor and the killer…and that’s when we discover, the killer is the crazy old lady whose son drowned years ago! Jason’s mother Pamela went a little loopy and started to kill people to get the camp closed all those years ago and now she is at it again! So they duke it out, all the while, Mrs. Voorhees talking to her dead son-kind of Norman Bates style.
Even though actress Betsy Palmer thought the script was a steaming pile of crap and took the job because she figured the movie would quickly be forgotten, she does a solid job as Mrs. Voorhees. Outside of a final jump scare, Jason was a cautionary tale for counsellors to be responsible in this first film. He is not a living character.
It is a decently made low budget film, and the effects are quite good. The script is the weakest link. The film is a bit slow and clunky at points, but can be effective at times as a thriller.