Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th: Uncut

Friday the 13th:  Uncut (1980)

Friday the 13th is an iconic 80's horror movie about a killer in the shadows, killing of camp counselors one by one as they try to get the camp ready for its reopening.

This movie is 36 years old, so it is far beyond the "spoiler" warning territory.  At this point, anyone who would see the movie has either already seen it or they know enough about it to know what happens.  If you know absolutely nothing about Friday the 13th, then chances are pretty good that you don't really have much interest in seeing it.  But, be that as it may, spoilers below...

Much like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th is a movie with a legacy that has far surpassed the actual movie.  Jason Voorhees would probably make the top 10 list of most recognizable movie monsters, and EVERYONE knows that Jason is from Friday the 13th.  But, he's not the killer in the first movie and is barely even in it at all.  He is certainly not seen in his iconic hockey mask and machete.  But somehow, that is the character that is forever tied to the series...just like how Freddy Krueger is barely in A Nightmare on Elm Street, but is a monster that continues to instill terror.

Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street are both iconic horror movies and two movies that are frequently compared to each other (to the point where Freddy vs. Jason was made) and they should both be on the must-watch list of any horror fan.  While horror fans might debate at length on which movie is better and/or scarier, I believe that it really comes down to when you first saw the movie.  If you were a kid the first time that you saw these movies, then the scarier one is obviously the one that gave you worse nightmares as a kid...and nothing is going to change your opinion.  However, if you are only just recently watching these movies, then I believe that Friday holds up better than Nightmare.

As much as I love horror movies, it has only been within the last few years that I have seen these two movies for the first time.  When I first watched Nightmare, I understood why it had such an impact on the horror genre, but the actual movie did not really give me any scares.  However, when I first watched Friday the 13th (even knowing who the killer really was and how things ended before even seeing the movie), I still found myself getting caught up in the suspense at times.  I think that one of the biggest reasons for this is that the killer was just a person, rather than some sort of supernatural being (just talking about the first movie...not any of the sequels).  If you don't believe that something can kill you in your dreams, then you probably are not going to be very scared by Freddy.  But, it is very believable that a deranged person could kill you while you are isolated in the woods.  You don't have to believe that serial killers exist...because it's just a fact that they do.

One of the other things that has helped Friday the 13th become such an iconic horror movie, and part of why I believe that it has held up as well as it has, is that it plays on so many fundamental fears:  something jumping out of the shadows, isolated and/or unable to contact help, mental illness, the loss of a child, the consequences of immorality (the reason that the mother went "crazy" and started killing people was because two of the camp counselors were having sex rather than keeping an eye on Jason).  A Nightmare on Elm Street played on many of those fundamental fears as well.  But, again, there is a more tangible fear with having a real, physical person doing the killing rather than a supernatural being.

On a side note, even though I think that the use of mental illness in horror movies is part of what perpetuates the negative stigma of the mentally ill and the false belief that all people with mental illnesses are dangerous, I do like how Friday the 13th does a sort of "reverse psycho" when you find out that the mother has started killing because of the loss of her son.

Recommendation:  If you are not a fan of horror, then this movie is obviously not for you.  However, if you are a fan of horror, this is definitely a must see.  It's an iconic 80's horror.  It's just one of those movies that, if you are a fan of horror, you need to see the cinematic roots that have brought horror movies to where they are today.  The horror plays on fundamental horrors, there are some good jump scares, the music draws on influences from several other iconic horror movies (which somehow makes it simultaneously memorable and easily mistaken), there is good use of shadow (rather than showing too much to the audience), a few genuinely creepy moments, and an ending that has you questioning whether Jason really came out of the water to grab Alice from the boat or if it was a hallucination from the trauma that she had just experienced.

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