Surveying the eleven-strong Friday the 13th saga (twelve if you count Freddy vs. Jason…) the weight of several really bad entries in this slasher-styled film cycle is a difficult cross to bear. This is especially true for the occasionally-inspired franchise entry, such as this sturdy and even visually-accomplished 1980 originator from director Sean S. Cunningham and writer Victor Miller.
|This is Friday the 13th?|
|A snake in the garden gets decapitated by machete.|
|And then a second snake in the garden gets decapitated by machete.|
|Victim in a box #1|
|Victim in a box #2|
|Victim in a box # 3|
|Victim in a box #4|
|Well, the sign (on right) does say "DANGER."|
Where Friday the 13th treads even deeper into sub-text, however, is in the explicit connection between man and nature. The film’s full-on bloody assault occurs under cover of thunderstorm, pounding rain and lightning. If you watch every Friday the 13th film, you’ll find that this idea recurs more frequently even than the presence of Jason Voorhees. The “invader” arrives with natural cover, thus with the implicit help, perhaps, of a force beyond the human world. Is God on Jason (or Mrs. Voorhee's) side in this battle?
Have they affected nature with their wanton acts? Or contrarily, has nature affected them and thus spawned these very acts?
Accordingly, this storm brings with it a vengeful murderer.
Is the storm thus a manifestation of the killer’s undying rage? Is it a protest against the unnecessary death of an innocent child? Or does the storm represent the tears of God, as it were, the fact that a mother’s love has turned to cold-blooded murder?
One way of gazing at the film is to consider that those who are negligent -- those who smoke weed, and those who indulge in pre-marital sex -- are punished by a supernatural avenger, the Hand of God, for their transgressions. Mrs. Voorhees does the actual punishing via machete, but it is God himself – in the form of the rolling thunderstorm – that grants her murderous campaign the cover it needs to succeed. You can take or leave that interpretation, but it represents one valid reading of the film's text. As I like to say, in Friday the 13th and it sequels, vice precedes slice-and-dice.
One such moment involves Moravian Cemetery, the last turn-off on the road to Camp Blood. In essence, the shot of the graveyard reminds the audience it’s a short commute from the camp to death.
Secondly, one of the camp counselors -- the Practical Joker stereotype, Ned -- pretends to drown in the lake early on. His cruel and thoughtless act foreshadows, of course, the motivation behind the murders at Crystal Lake. He is re-enacting (unknowingly) the moment that killed Jason, and the moment that actually brings about his end. Thus even his "joke" is portending of doom.
|Camp Blood? Take a left at the grave yard.|
|Crazy Ralph: The Cassandra Complex.|
|Did somebody drown here?|
Impressively, that skill set is associated not with stereotypical male qualities or even with men at all, but with young, intelligent women.
But I’ve always felt it was wrong to lump in the first Friday the 13th with the mountains of dreck because it features some visually accomplished moments, a smattering of interesting symbolism, and -- not the least of all -- it conforms to the slasher format’s most noble conceit by reminding kids (and particularly girls) that even if the Boogeyman is at the door (in the form of the Cold War or anything else), they can survive.
And they can do so with the qualities they already possess in spades, namely intelligence and insight.