Malken

The F13 Films: What Worked/What Didn't

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I was thinking that instead of doing the typical movie review, it’d be interesting to examine, from a storytelling perspective, which ideas (concepts, plot points, etc.) worked and which didn’t for each film of the series. I'll deliberately be ignoring certain continuity mistakes and technical flubs when making my evaluations, so stuff like dates that don't fit together within the timeline, inconsistencies with Jason's appearance or bad acting won’t be up for consideration.

Obviously, these are simply my personal opinions, and you’re more than welcome to agree or disagree in the comments, point out things I forgot to mention, and share your own lists of things you thought worked or didn’t in the films.

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FRIDAY THE 13TH: WHAT WORKED

The Setting: A summer camp was a brilliant choice for the setting of this movie. During the day, it looks pleasantly quaint and wholesome. It’s quiet, peaceful and relaxing. Everything about the place is lulling you into a false sense of security. At night, however, it takes on an eerie vibe. The silence and isolation take on an ominous quality and the darkness becomes so dense it’s almost suffocating. That kind of environment effectively plays on our predator/prey and fight/flight natures, and the tension is only heightened by the camp’s remoteness, which effectively cuts you off from any possible source of help or support. This perfect contrast of charm and menace, I feel, makes the camp ideally suited for this story.
 

Pamela’s Goal: What’s often forgotten, is that murdering people for revenge wasn’t Pamela’s entire end goal… keeping the camp closed was! Now, obviously, killing people wasn’t something she had a problem with, but it wasn’t the only method she used or relied on. She also committed arson and poisoned the lake, whatever would work, just as long as the place didn’t reopen. That kind of “everything-and-the-kitchen-sink” approach, I think, sets Pamela apart from other slashers.
 

Camp Blood: I love the whole folk-tale, superstitious vibe the Crystal Lake locals give when talking about “Camp Blood”. Try as they might to put up a brave front and act casual about it, you can still clearly tell they’re completely unnerved about the place. It’s such a traditional, yet effective, plot device for a horror story, harkening back to old vampire movies, with their villagers that strung up garlic and crucifixes inside their homes and warned disbelieving travelers to turn back and go home. It’s so easy to sympathise with the terrified locals who just want to live in peace and avoid further tragedies, while also completely understand how easily that concern might be dismissed as ludicrous from an outsider’s point of view, especially after meeting a genuine prophet of doom like Crazy Ralph.
 

Characters are People: Unlike in some of the sequels (and the genre as a whole, TBH), these characters feel like actual people rather than clichés like the stereotypical jock, nerd, stoner, etc. They’re all likable, playful, respectful, helpful, and none of them are assholes to each other. Even Ned, who takes his jokes a little too far, doesn’t do it maliciously. There’s 2 cases of unreciprocated attraction between characters, and both times, the rejected character doesn’t react bitterly or angrily, but simply with resigned disappointment. When a couple has sex, it’s treated as a normal thing for a couple to do, rather than an attempt at emulating a cheap porn scene. Furthermore, Alice, the final girl, breaks almost all of the survival rules this franchise eventual made famous: she drinks beer, she smokes pot, and it’s only a freak turn in the weather that stops her from taking her clothes off. And yet, at no time does the movie ever feel like it’s passing some kind of moral judgement on any of them for what they’re doing. They’re just young adults doing what young adults do to try and have a good time. It’s amazing how refreshing it is to have characters that you can’t easily pin a label on or that don’t act like walking punchlines.
 

Perfect Bait: The way Pamela sets up Brenda was a stroke of genius. By this point, some of the characters haven’t been seen in a while, the storm’s getting intense, and Brenda’s starting to feel like something’s not right. She tries to dismiss her gut feeling and just go to bed, but then, a little boy’s voice is heard from somewhere outside, a voice pleading for help, and Brenda simply can’t ignore it. She rushes out into the storm to find the lost child, unaware that the only thing she’s rushing towards is her own death. This was incredibly crafty on Pamela’s part. She had already observed how Brenda and the others swiftly came to Ned’s rescue when he pretended to drown, earlier in the day. Add to that the fact that protecting children is such a fundamental part of our nature, and there was absolutely no chance Brenda would ever choose to stay put and not try to help a child in jeopardy, and Pamela knew it. 

Mommy Dearest: The idea of having the kind and unassuming looking mother turn out to be the murderer was an unexpected, and delightfully clever twist. She looks so sweet and average, that she’s the last person you’d ever suspect of being a vicious killer. But then, she starts talking… and talking… and the more she talks, the more it suddenly sinks in that something is terribly wrong with this woman, but by then it’s already too late… You realize you’re trapped alone with a bloodthirsty psychopath, and no one is coming to save you! And the best/worst thing is, she’s got such a sympathetic motivation, that it’s kind of hard to blame her for completely losing it (until she comes after you, that is). Making Pamela the murderer was simply an amazing idea.   
 

Final Scare: It’s easy to overlook this one, considering that it’s been overdone so much over the years that the concept has now become stale and cliché. It’s so expected nowadays, that there’s really not much point in doing it at all anymore. But back when this film was first released, last-minute jump scares were still a fresh idea, and this one was set up and executed very well. It’s an incredibly memorable visual, and the fact that the film leaves it open to interpretation is a great idea, because it’ll keep the audience talking about the movie afterwards.

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FRIDAY THE 13TH: WHAT DIDN'T WORK

 Who Are You: Despite the fact that I gushed a bit previously about how the characters feel believable and aren’t clichés, etc. There’s no two ways around it; These characters are really kind of bland, and none of them particularly stand out in any way, shape or form. Ned might be the one who shows a tiny bit more personality compared to the others, but even then, it’s not that much of a difference. I guess that’s the downside of not relying on stereotypes; the characters might come off as more relatable, but at the end of the day, the only truly memorable thing about them is how they die.
 

Mr. Oblivious: Now, I can understand having a healthy dose of skepticism when faced with an unusual situation, but Bill is really pushing it into dumbass territory with the way he just dismisses everything weird that occurs. First, Alice hears Brenda’s death scream, which has to be pretty loud considering how strong the thunderstorm is. Then, they find a bloody axe concealed in a bed. Next, they realize their friends aren’t anywhere to be found (in the middle of a storm, no less), all the phone lines are dead and the only available car has been sabotaged. Finally, the power goes out around the entire camp, and somehow, Bill’s still thinks there’s “probably a stupid explanation for all of this”. I don’t buy it. There’s just too many suspicious things happening to just casually ignore them and stay put like he did. Bill should’ve at least considered for a moment the possibility that something terrible might actually be going on! 
 

Mrs. Obvious: One of the problems this movie has, is that it’s set up and presented as a whodunit, when it really isn’t one. This is a criticism even Betsy Palmer brought up during filming, and it’s easy to see why. At no point are we given any chance to deduce that Pamela’s the killer, because her introduction is literally the scene revealing she is. If Pamela had been in the background during the diner scene at the start of the film, that would at least be something. Instead, she shows up out of nowhere during the third act, by that point we know Alice is the only one still alive, we’re looking at the clock ticking, and we’re supposed to not immediately figure out that Pamela’s obviously the killer before she’s even spoken a single line of dialogue? Seriously?
 

Laying the Smackdown: This wouldn’t even be such an issue if Pamela hadn’t been so ruthlessly efficient in her kills throughout the movie. So far, she’s been nothing but stealthy, cunning, and methodical. But now that she’s at her most unhinged, and Alice has managed to slip out of her grasp, what does Pamela do once she finally gets the girl cornered? She starts smacking Alice around like she owes her money! This makes absolutely no sense! Alice has already proven herself to be a threat by disarming Pamela and knocking her flat on her ass during their first scuffle, so instead of trying to choke her or gouge her eyes out when she chases her down, Pamela opts to slap her in the face repeatedly. I’m not saying Pamela can’t get physical with her victims, but considering how brutal their last face-off on the beach looks, the slaps just come off as incredibly silly. This isn’t kindergarten, Pamela. Start taking this shit seriously!
 

Let’s go for a Walk: This has to be one of the most facepalming moment of the movie for me. After Alice knocks out Pamela with a skillet, she notices a few drops of blood on the floor next to her head… and that’s all it takes for Alice to assume it’s all over and decide now’s a good time for a relaxing stroll down by the beach… where she promptly gets attacked by Pamela again, of course. What was Alice thinking?! Now, I’m not suggesting she should have just bashed Pamela’s brains in the moment she went down (though, I couldn’t blame her if she had), but she could’ve at least tried to make sure Pamela was really dead, or taken some precautions to insure she wasn’t in danger anymore before leaving. Check her vitals, tie her up, nudge her a few more times with the tip of your boot. Do something! Anything! As long as it’s more than simply walk away slowly based on the flimsiest of evidence that Pamela’s no longer a threat.

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On 11/2/2017 at 3:30 AM, Malken said:

FRIDAY THE 13TH: WHAT WORKED

The Setting: A summer camp was a brilliant choice for the setting of this movie. During the day, it looks pleasantly quaint and wholesome. It’s quiet, peaceful and relaxing. Everything about the place is lulling you into a false sense of security. At night, however, it takes on an eerie vibe. The silence and isolation take on an ominous quality and the darkness becomes so dense it’s almost suffocating. That kind of environment effectively plays on our predator/prey and fight/flight natures, and the tension is only heightened by the camp’s remoteness, which effectively cuts you off from any possible source of help or support. This perfect contrast of charm and menace, I feel, makes the camp ideally suited for this story.
 

Pamela’s Goal: What’s often forgotten, is that murdering people for revenge wasn’t Pamela’s entire end goal… keeping the camp closed was! Now, obviously, killing people wasn’t something she had a problem with, but it wasn’t the only method she used or relied on. She also committed arson and poisoned the lake, whatever would work, just as long as the place didn’t reopen. That kind of “everything-and-the-kitchen-sink” approach, I think, sets Pamela apart from other slashers.
 

Camp Blood: I love the whole folk-tale, superstitious vibe the Crystal Lake locals give when talking about “Camp Blood”. Try as they might to put up a brave front and act casual about it, you can still clearly tell they’re completely unnerved about the place. It’s such a traditional, yet effective, plot device for a horror story, harkening back to old vampire movies, with their villagers that strung up garlic and crucifixes inside their homes and warned disbelieving travelers to turn back and go home. It’s so easy to sympathise with the terrified locals who just want to live in peace and avoid further tragedies, while also completely understand how easily that concern might be dismissed as ludicrous from an outsider’s point of view, especially after meeting a genuine prophet of doom like Crazy Ralph.
 

Characters are People: Unlike in some of the sequels (and the genre as a whole, TBH), these characters feel like actual people rather than clichés like the stereotypical jock, nerd, stoner, etc. They’re all likable, playful, respectful, helpful, and none of them are assholes to each other. Even Ned, who takes his jokes a little too far, doesn’t do it maliciously. There’s 2 cases of unreciprocated attraction between characters, and both times, the rejected character doesn’t react bitterly or angrily, but simply with resigned disappointment. When a couple has sex, it’s treated as a normal thing for a couple to do, rather than an attempt at emulating a cheap porn scene. Furthermore, Alice, the final girl, breaks almost all of the survival rules this franchise eventual made famous: she drinks beer, she smokes pot, and it’s only a freak turn in the weather that stops her from taking her clothes off. And yet, at no time does the movie ever feel like it’s passing some kind of moral judgement on any of them for what they’re doing. They’re just young adults doing what young adults do to try and have a good time. It’s amazing how refreshing it is to have characters that you can’t easily pin a label on or that don’t act like walking punchlines.
 

Perfect Bait: The way Pamela sets up Brenda was a stroke of genius. By this point, some of the characters haven’t been seen in a while, the storm’s getting intense, and Brenda’s starting to feel like something’s not right. She tries to dismiss her gut feeling and just go to bed, but then, a little boy’s voice is heard from somewhere outside, a voice pleading for help, and Brenda simply can’t ignore it. She rushes out into the storm to find the lost child, unaware that the only thing she’s rushing towards is her own death. This was incredibly crafty on Pamela’s part. She had already observed how Brenda and the others swiftly came to Ned’s rescue when he pretended to drown, earlier in the day. Add to that the fact that protecting children is such a fundamental part of our nature, and there was absolutely no chance Brenda would ever choose to stay put and not try to help a child in jeopardy, and Pamela knew it. 

Mommy Dearest: The idea of having the kind and unassuming looking mother turn out to be the murderer was an unexpected, and delightfully clever twist. She looks so sweet and average, that she’s the last person you’d ever suspect of being a vicious killer. But then, she starts talking… and talking… and the more she talks, the more it suddenly sinks in that something is terribly wrong with this woman, but by then it’s already too late… You realize you’re trapped alone with a bloodthirsty psychopath, and no one is coming to save you! And the best/worst thing is, she’s got such a sympathetic motivation, that it’s kind of hard to blame her for completely losing it (until she comes after you, that is). Making Pamela the murderer was simply an amazing idea.   
 

Final Scare: It’s easy to overlook this one, considering that it’s been overdone so much over the years that the concept has now become stale and cliché. It’s so expected nowadays, that there’s really not much point in doing it at all anymore. But back when this film was first released, last-minute jump scares were still a fresh idea, and this one was set up and executed very well. It’s an incredibly memorable visual, and the fact that the film leaves it open to interpretation is a great idea, because it’ll keep the audience talking about the movie afterwards.

And this is why Pamela Voorhees needs and deserves to be added into the game!!!!

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