Friday the 13th (1980): More Than Meets The Eye
Sometimes a movie can just be a movie without needing a convoluted story line, complex character motivations and obvious themes about the human condition. Here we have a movie that is undeniably a commercial piece, and a horror film that seems simple to its core. However, few simple things really are so simple. There’s more nuance to Friday the 13th than it’s typically given credit for, though there doesn’t have to be for everyone. It is basically just a story about a mother whose son drowned at summer camp, and she goes nuts and starts offing counselors. Basic or complex? It largely depends on what you plug into it.
Revenge and rage are complex themes by their very nature, and often it makes no more sense than the plot of this movie. Want proof of what I’m saying? Look at various senseless murders, such as the 2012 Aurora shooting, where ?James Eagan Holmes shot up a movie theater during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, ostensibly because Holmes believed he was the Joker. If somebody approached me with that story, I’d think they might be making it up. Friday the 13th seems surprisingly plausible in comparison. And, if you want another example, has Charles Manson’s crazy “Helter Skelter” happened yet? Apparently not.
Interestingly, Friday the 13th’s murderous mother character, Pamela Voorhees, the mother of Jason Voorhees is not revealed until near the end. This takes away some element of mystery from the storyline, as it’s a character who basically comes out of nowhere, with a backstory out of nowhere. The audience has no occasion to get to know the character in advance — either to trust her or suspect her of the murders as things progress. This almost makes more sense for the movie.
In real life, not everyone facing crazy people knows what is going on, and they have little time to plan or react . So, oddly enough, this aspect of the movie could be seen as an example of realism. This probably was not intentional, and many don’t seem to recognize this aspect of the movie. Maybe it was only possible because the creators didn’t care enough to follow standard storytelling procedure. What may have been bad filmmaking looks like an almost profound artistic statement. Or you can just see it as a standard slasher flick. It’s up to you. Plenty of people watching horror lament the stupid decisions characters make. However, it’s like watching Wheel of Fortune at home. Actually being there is probably a different experience from shouting from your couch.
In any case, this movie stands largely on its own, without using Jason Voorhees as an ever-present mascot. Neither is Mrs. Voorhees a mascot here. She is a cinematic force and an interesting character who perhaps grows in importance as time passes. Crazy people can come out of nowhere and cause trouble. It’s a classic movie formula and also in the news.