I knew very little about this movie when I rented it out. I first saw it about two or three years ago, back during my 'initiation into horror' years, when I was completely naive and knew next to nothing about the genre. Man was I in for a shock when I popped this one into my video player on that dark night and settled down into bed to watch it!
Friday the th starts well with a rather ethereal opening sequence in which a couple are murdered after being caught in a barn cavorting together, and then quickly goes downhill as we encounter the counsillors of the soon-to-be-re-opened Camp Crystal Lake. In these first thirty minutes, the movie is apalling with laughably-bad acting that makes the audience groan and wonder just why they began watching it. Filled with chillingly-bad dialogue and terrible character introduction scenes, it has none of the style and wit that Victor Miller's original script held. But as soon as the storm sets in, along with the unbreakable darkness, Friday the th becomes the movie that we all wanted to see.
Isolated and alone in the cabins that surround the 'Crystal Lake', the setting creates an extremely eerie and original place for a horror movie to be based. Thankfully, director Sean Cunningham doesn't miss a single opportunity to inpinge on any of the creep-factor that can be drawn from such a promising area, and the film itself is infused with an intense dark atmosphere that even hardened horror fans would be bluffing if they said it didn't get to them.
The death scenes aren't anywhere near as elaborate as those that have appeared in latter-day horrors like I Know... or Scream, but are more rather hurled at us haphazardly which actually heightens the tension and unpredictability rather than hindering it. The make-up effects are the best that I have ever encountered to this day in a slasher, and are so life-like and believable on-screen that you can't help but squirm in disgust - most memorable is Kevin Bacon's swift exit, which provides one of the greatest scares ever in a horror. Of course it didn't help that I was watching this in bed!
The thing that I love about this movie is the simple 'whodunnit' plot-thread that is so neatly interwoven throughout the movie but never exploited. There aren't any characters walking around screeching 'Who is doing this? Why are they trying to hurt me?', so when the twist ending rears its head, the end result is something very satisfying and surprising in equal amounts. The final showdown is cheapened a little by the badly-choreographed fighting, but the last scare of the movie is one that proves how inferior the slashers of the 's are in comparison with their 'fake scares'. Don't people know how to write decent scares anymore? Or maybe they just can't be bothered. My advice to them: watch this, and take notes, and then you can say you're ready to write a really scary, unsettling horror!
An effective, macabre shocker that is a milestone in slasher movies, and one which has been replicated more times than I care to acknowledge, but never matched in sheer horror, suspense or gore effects. Going the complete opposite to the original Halloween and showing us all the blood, this still manages to have the same effect, and there are some effective and horrific moments to be found in this movie.