Halloween Review: Friday the Thirteenth

“We ain’t gonna stand for no weirdness out here.”
–A Motorcycle Cop who will be proved wrong.

Back in 1980, a low-budget film pillaged Halloween and Psycho, added loads of dumbass horny teenagers, and established that the Slasher genre was lucrative indeed.

Title: Friday the 13th

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Victor Miller and Sean S. Cunningham

Betsy Palmer as Mrs Voorhees
Ari Lehman as Jason Vorhees
Adrienne King as Alice Hardy
Jeannine Taylor as Marcie Cunningham
Robbi Morgan as Annie
Kevin Bacon as Jack Burrel
Harry Crosby as Bill
Laurie Bartram as Brenda
Mark Nelson as Ned
Peter Brouwer as Steve
Walt Gorney as Ralph, the Crazy Old Man Who Utters Dire Warnings
Rex Everhart as Enos
Ronn Carroll as Sgt. Tierney
Ron Milkie as Officer Dorf

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.


A bunch of really stupid teenagers get jobs at Camp Crystal Lake, which has been closed since an unfortunate death years earlier. The teens won’t get the opportunity to list the experience on their resumes.

High Points:

In terms of direction, this film is mostly a point-and-shoot affair. Only the killings have been executed with any finesse. However, the murder scenes are what this film is about, and the final third of the film holds some power for viewers.

Low Point:

It’s moderately entertaining, even a little frightening, and certainly iconic– but really, how did this dully-acted, derivative film birth twelve (I think) sequels, a television show, a remake, and more spin-off merchandising than I care to contemplate? It’s just not that good.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 It’s more original than its sequels, but it certainly has influences. Halloween and Psycho are most obvious, but, Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve inspired some of the murder scenes, and Black Christmas precedes both this film and Halloween.

Except for the distinctive”“Chi-chi-chi-ha-ha-ha…Ki-ki-ki-ki…ma-ma-ma-ma.” stuff, the score comes as close to stealing the theme from Psycho as possible without someone launching a lawsuit.

Effects: 3/6

Production: 4/6

Acting: 3/6 Mediocre performances abound, though Betsy Palmer brings some panache to the part and, like many viewers, I enjoy watching Walt Gorney’s deranged scenery-chewing performance as Ralph, the Crazy Old Creepy Guy who warns people not to go to Camp Crystal Lake, exclaiming, “you’re doomed! You’re all doomed!” Sure, Tim de Zarn arguably bests him in Cabin in the Woods, but de Zarn’s role wouldn’t exist if not for Gorney, who reprised Ralph in at least two sequels.

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 3/6

Protip: when you’re whacking a homicidal maniac in the head with a skillet, don’t skimp on the whacks. And don’t turn your back and relax until you’re certain the killer won’t be getting up again.

Overall: 3/6.

In total, Friday the Thirteenth receives 22/42.

Spoiler-filled Notes

The twist of this first film—Mrs Vorhees is the real killer—plays like a reverse Norman Bates. Sequels become more derivative, as Jason turns up, acquires the now-infamous hockey mask, and becomes a Michael Myers imitator.

The second twist that’s not really a twist (the dream of Jason emerging from the lake, still alive), prepares us for the sequels and presages A Nightmare on Elm Street.

October Countdown

Print Reviews:

Weekend of Oct 11: Friday the Thirteenth (1980)
Weekend of Oct 18: Zeiram (1991)
Weekend of Oct 25: ???
Halloween Day: Ghost Hunt (2006)


October 4th: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
October 11th: Predator (1987)
October 18th: The Terminator (1984)
October 25th: Ghostbusters (1984)
Halloween: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)