FRIDAY THE 13TH

Here is a film that attempts to cash in on the success of earlier teen slasher films such as Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left” (1972), Bob Clark’s “Black Christmas” (1974) and John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978), which was a landmark, and fails miserably. In 1957, Camp Crystal Lake was the site of a terrible accident, in which a young boy drowned while under the care of a bunch of horny teenage counselors too busy fornicating to notice when one of the kids in their charge couldn’t swim and needed help. In 1979, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) decides to reopen the camp, with a new team of horny young counselors who will spend their time “preparing” the camp for reopening, all the while having sex, getting high and gradually, one by one, being murdered by an unseen (and, apparently, unalarming) assailant. The film, directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller, has problems too numerous to mention, beginning with the fact that it has a young, fresh-faced cast, none of whom register even slightly as memorable, unique or interestingly developed characters. By the time the one developed and vaguely interesting character showed up in the final half-hour or so – about which the less said the better – I simply didn’t care. Essentially, the film’s main actors are just bodies to be butchered while looking good in the process – and even that is a failure. The film is also not very technically accomplished; “Halloween,” you’ll recall, began with that wonderful Steadicam shot from the point of view of the young Michael Myers as he stalked his first victim. Here, point of view shots are used for everything from the apparent killer’s perspective during the murders to simple conversations between mundane and random characters. What is the point of that? Finally, what does this film in, I fear, is that it simply isn’t too scary. Because nobody is established as a character to root for, there is nothing to emotionally invest in as young person after seemingly endless young person is brutally slaughtered during the film’s 95 minute duration. As such, whatever shock or scare value the film might have is seriously diminished. Credit must go, however, to the gruesome makeup effects by Tom Savini (“Dawn of the Dead”), who does the best he can to at least make the increasingly bloody and macabre deaths look as realistic and disturbing as possible. Still, it’s not exactly a cause for celebration in light of what amounts to a pretty dismal and ho-hum experience.

 

NOTE: Look for a young Kevin Bacon as the only discernable youngster murdered.

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