Sean S Cunningham is a hack, just a hack who’s been at it so long he’s now called a “legend” (by sites and magazines that want an interview, mostly). From producing his friend Wes Craven’s “Last House On The Left” in 1972, he went on to jump any bandwagon that’d have him. Let’s do a list!
1978 – “Here Come The Tigers” (rips off 1976’s “Bad News Bears”)
1980 – “Friday The 13th” (rips off 1978’s “Halloween”)
1983 – “Spring Break” (rips off 1982’s “Porky’s”)
1989 – “Deepstar Six” (rips off same year’s “The Abyss”)
These are the most obvious ones, but aside from a happy accident or two like 1986’s “House”, he’ll make anything that other people are making money from, just cheaper and nowhere near as good. Famed critic Gene Siskel called him “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business”, and that seems a fine place to start this review.
You don’t need me to recap the plot, really. A bunch of kids in their late teens go to work at Camp Crystal Lake, the site of the drowning of Jason Voorhees in 1957 and the murder of two counsellors in 1958. One by one, they’re picked off by Jason’s mother Mrs Voorhees, while Jason apparently waited in cryogenic suspension at the bottom of the lake, given how he emerges in the “famous” scene at the end. That’s it.
While its classic status is almost entirely to do with how old it is (it’s closer in age to the end of World War 2 than it is to today), and of course gorehound horror fans being idiots, some of the more interesting bits of it are in that time capsule aspect. The small towns in New Jersey where they filmed are fascinating visually, as are the rural landscapes (while owing quite a bit to all those ludicrous satanic panic movies of the 70s). I’m not sure how much of that is just seeing those places before the ravages of time got to them, as opposed to any particular skill on the cinematographer’s part, but it’s still fun to look at. The final scenes filmed on the lake are beautiful too, they found it at just the right time of year on a millpond-calm day.
While you’re ignoring the absence of any real plot or artistry, how the music is an appalling ripoff of “Psycho”, and how they spend a little too much time on their cannon fodder and a little too little time on the “final girl”, there’s stuff to wonder about in this movie. First up is the women – no nudity, and all the actresses are dressed appropriately for a rural campsite. No push up bras, no tight dresses, unisex clothes and hairstyles all the way. Also, a few of the murders take place off-camera, and while we see their bodies later on, it’s rare to see a slasher movie that takes the opportunity to not show us some gore.
Tom Savini’s effects look great, I like how they set the murder weapons up,the sensible local who tells one of the girls to quit (while giving her a ride to the lake) is fun too, and it’s not slow. What it is, is terrible stupid rubbish. I laughed at the “you’re all doomed” guy, which I’m not sure was the intention, and I just didn’t care about any of the doomed teens, including most famously of all a young Kevin Bacon. Plus, Mrs Voorhees should have really checked the lake a bit better for her (apparently alive) son, and not just gone round murdering a bunch of people for their very tangential relation to his death.
I’m actually kind of looking forward to the later ones, where we’ll see moderately famous actors slumming it, Jason turning from a flesh-and-blood psycho into a pure demonic force of evil, or whatever the hell it is, and lots and lots of teenagers who die for the horrific crime of sex or mild drug use. Although saying that, apparently part 2 is even worse than this one! Who’s with me?
Rating: thumbs down