31 Days of Horror, Day 13
Friday the 13th on Friday, the 13th – in October? Yeah, we kind of had to. Honestly, I was only half paying attention to the movie, since my last viewing was still fresh in my mind. But there’s still a lot to like here. Sean S. Cunningham took all of Middle America’s fears — hitchhiking in a stranger’s car, backwoods bumpkins and, yes, even premarital sex — and fed them.
At Camp Crystal Lake, doing any of those things is a recipe for certain death — and not at the hands of a hockey mask-wearing maniac. The real genius that separates Friday the 13th from Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween is that the antagonist here isn’t the boogeyman. It’s a middle-aged woman whose kind eyes are a proverbial mask for a split personality with a mean overhand knife swing.
Threre’s also a voyeurism to the whole thing that ratchets up the tension. In one scene, our heroes attempt to call for help, as the camera watches from outside the cabin. They begin to dial, and the camera pans up to the phone line, reavealing that it has been cut. The audience knows that the call will be in vain moments before the characters onscreen come to that same realization. In another scene, two characters are going at it – a sure sign that they’re doomed. The camera leaves them mid-coitus and pans to the bunk above them, where another character lies dead.
In some cases, it’s made explicitly clear that we’re seeing things through the eyes of the killer. In others, like the telephone scene, it’s ambiguous. Mrs. Voorhees would clearly take pleasure in the campers’ suffering. We, the viewers, probably would not – at least not in this first installment of the franchise. With each succesisive sequel, the characters become less sympathetic and the death scenes more fetishistic. Jason Voorhees, unstoppable boogeyman killing machine, straddles the line between protagonist and antagonist.
His mother? We see her for who she truly is. And that makes far her too terrifying to elicit sympathy.