Friday the 13th (1980) is arguably the best horror film ever made. Although many would consider Halloween (1978) to be the better film, and in many ways it is, every time I watch it I can’t help but think of all the things I would have done differently if I had made it. With Friday the 13th (1980) there’s no room for improvement. It’s pure perfection from the opening shot.
And that opening shot is of the Paramount logo (a mountain) because that’s the company that won distribution rights, but immediately you know you’re watching a Friday the 13th film from the ominous whisper:
Ha Ha Ha
Chew Chew Chew
No that’s not someone sneezing. That’s the film’s demented sound track and are cue that the killer is approaching.
The film begins with a shot of the full moon and the sounds of nature (crickets, birds, frogs) and as the camera pans down, we see we’re at a Camp Crystal Lake in 1958. The sound of campfire songs in the distance.
Soon the camera places us in the POV of a mysterious stalker entering one of the cabins. Every detail meticulously captures the 1950s summer camp experience, from the crossed arrows above word “FOX” on the cabin door, to the abandoned checkers game on the table as the children sleep, not knowing they are being watched by a stalker from whose POV we’ve been placed.
Chew Chew Chew.
Ha Ha Ha.
Meanwhile in another cabin, the camp councilors are singing Down in the Valley, with two of them gazing in each other’s eyes as they seem to sing only to each other.
The two love birds decide to discretely sneak off and find an empty cabin to fool around in upstairs. With their Christian blond blue eyed boy and girl next door look, they perfectly epitomize the 1950s middle American ethos that so many conservatives are nostalgic for.
As the couple makes out, the camera slowly creeps up the stairs from the stalker’s POV:
Chew Chew Chew.
Ha Ha Ha.
“Someone’s there”, the girl says in a panic.
“We weren’t doing anything,” the boy says unconvincingly.
POW! He falls to the floor with blood gushing from his stomach and mouth.
Realizing her boyfriend has just been killed, the girl screams and runs back and forth, like a cornered rat. As we get closer to her from the killer’s POV, all she can do is throw empty card board boxes. Finally, she throws her arms up and screams and the shot is frozen in that iconic image that tells everyone they’re watching a Friday the 13th movie.
Suddenly the title FRIDAY THE 13TH bursts into the screen as if crashing through shattered glass!
This is horror filmmaking at its best.