The film that launched a long and rusty franchise of teenage slaughter (12 episodes if you count the gimmick addition of Freddy Vs Jason), this cheapo horror stands as one of the principal markers for the whole slasher phenomenon. In reality it is a pallid Halloween rip-off, with a mediocre shock count and a botched ending.
People tend to forget that this original lacks the remorseless presence of Jason himself, blanked off with a hockey mask, who we are told drowned as a small retarded boy in 1957 while his camp councillors are otherwise occupied. As the bodies pile up amongst this testy crowd of horny teens, there remains a vacant hole were someone scary should be. In a strange way, this film stands unique amongst all slasher films as one where the killer is nearly intangible.
Sean Cunningham, who never gained the reputations of Wes Craven or John Carpenter, does muster a chilling nastiness about the ensuing cull. Various nubile girls bounce about minus their bras, encouraging the boys to get randy, and, as we’ve all learned from Scream, any consummation spells certain death. The most famous slaying has a young Kevin Bacon punctured with an arrowhead up through the mattress from beneath a bed, although the most gruesome death has an axe bite realistically through a girl’s face. Comparatively Friday The 13th is fairly unbloody, and its fairly murky texture doesn’t fit the idyllic lakeside setting, while only Mark Nelson’s j0ker in the pack stands out as a memorable character.
And when it is exposed, the killer’s true identity actually forces the film into a rather pragmatic frame. Only a lazy, unfathomable twist ending would allow the endless hulk of splattered teenagers to lurch on for 25 years.