A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's lots of morbid, graphic bloodshed in this film; usually slashed throats and impalings, with the victims hung on hooks. When young camp counselors aren't busy being killed, they're either trying to get stoned or having sex.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A 1958 prologue (it looks like 1978) shows two young summer-camp counselors about to have sex when a mystery assailant -- apparently someone they know -- slashes them to death. The camp, now known to locals as "Camp Blood," is closed for 20 years as a result, but is now re-opening, on a dark-and-stormy Friday the 13th. Another group of young, largely sex-minded counselors are gathering for orientation (it's a small mercy that despite the summer-camp setting, children are not present in most Jason movies). Sure enough, an unseen attacker again begins knifing them to death, one by one. Since these youths are prone to playing practical jokes on one another, or sneaking off for sex and drugs, they take little note of their cohorts' strange absences until nearly all of them are dead.
Is it any good?
Unless you award points for the creative, gross-out makeup (by cult-hero special-effects artist Tom Savini), FRIDAY THE 13TH is a sick film with virtually no redeeming qualities. Even in the metaphor-stretched world of horror where intellectuals argue that flesh-eating zombies are really symbols of mindless consumerism; nobody defends Friday the 13th that way. Yet this movie series is infamous -- practically every kid knows about it. Hockey-masked "Jason" costumes are popular, and sequels continue to be produced. Too bad the first movie is, well, too bad.
Unlike other popular films in the genre, Friday the 13th hardly works as a whodunit because the Camp Blood murderer is nobody we've met or really know anything about. That just leaves the movie as one killing after another, with abundant, er, dead space in between. The doomed camp counselors go swimming, play "strip Monopoly," and chat unremarkably.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the victims of choice in typical slasher movies. Why does the marauder often prey on the most sexually active characters first? Families might make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, so to speak, by talking about this theme -- that teenage sex deserves harsh punishment. Maybe not death, but if you need to drive home the point, why not add some slasher examples for effect? On a more serious side, critics often see such horror movies as the extremes of depravity and exploitation. But isn't that a paradox when they also follow such a harsh, Puritan morality code?
- In theaters: May 9, 1980
- On DVD or streaming: October 5, 2004
- Cast: Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Kevin Bacon
- Director: Sean Cunningham
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic violence, profanity, sex, alcohol and drug use
- Last updated: November 6, 2019
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