He says, in effect, “Well kids, it made a lot of money and it is beloved for some goddamn reason, so who’s to say?”
Has the statute of limitations on plagiarism lapsed for films made in 1980? Does Miller think theft is okay, as long as one is not secretive or hypocritical about it? Does simply copping to it from the get-go somehow absolve him of the crime?
I, judge and jury all in one, sentence Victor Miller to be 1) stabbed with a large knife, 2) shot in the eye with an arrow, 3) left to drown because the lifeguard is off somewhere having sexy sex, 4) impaled with a second arrow, 5) clobbered in the head with an axe, 6) hung from the rafters to swing down at the moment we least expect, 7) decapitated by a plucky, never-say-die junior camp counselor, 8) grabbed out of a boat by a kelp-covered man-child, and 9) forced to sit through this ponderous, amateurish movie. (A harsh sentence, I know, but the punishment should fit the crime.)
So many adults champion this film that I am left to assume that they first saw it as children and had never seen a horror movie before, so they did not know any better; knew they were watching something that they were really too young to be watching, so still associate the movie with that secret thrill; or were honestly scared by the final “gotcha” moment and give the preceding ninety minutes a free pass.
What we have here is boring summer camp home movie footage occasionally interrupted by gore effects. As if that is why I go to the movies: “Honey, I’m just gonna doze through some of this nature stuff. Wake me when someone gets killed!”
Some random thoughts on the stinking pile of rotting camp counselor flesh that is this film:
• This film commits egregious wholesale theft from other, better films: we get a prologue set in the past, a first person killer-cam, and sex-obsessed teens from Halloween; a twist ending and almost an entire musical score from Psycho, and that last minute BOO from Carrie.
• To give you some idea of the quality of the dialogue in this film, at one point a character asks a dog if he can speak English. I am not making this up.
• The kids in this film inexplicably perform bad impressions of movie stars from the Thirties (Humphrey Bogart, Mae West, and Katherine Hepburn). Does this speak to the availability of these films in the early Eighties on television or does it speak to the age and interests of a much older screenwriter? Is this yet another cool teen trend from the Eighties that I missed?
• The kids in Halloween were interesting and unique; the kids in Friday the 13th are boring and interchangeable, except for the one that is an even bigger idiot.
• Strip Monopoly? I think not.
• I think a real snake was killed for this film. If not, the snake decapitation is actually the best special effect in the movie. If that scene is real, it is disgusting and cruel.
• Why does the film spend ten minutes introducing the audience to Annie the Cook, only to make her the first victim? Is this more theft from Psycho, or just bad screenwriting? In her short time on screen, we grow to like Annie; why not make her the heroine?
Why do all Halloween clones play the “who is the killer game?” The original Halloween did not: we know the killer is Michael Meyers, and we know that he has escaped from a mental facility and has returned home to wreak havoc. Friday the 13th and other films of its icky ilk play this guessing game, only to spoil it by making it impossible to actually guess. Characters confronted by the POV killer cam exclaim, “Oh, it’s YOU. I didn’t expect to see YOU here. What are YOU doing here?”
We are led to believe the killer could be Steve, who is reopening the camp; the overly suspicious Sheriff, who hassles the kids; the demented local man, who keeps shouting, “You’re doomed!”; any one of the other campers; a waitress at a local diner; or even the helpful truck driver who has a tiny cameo at the very beginning of the film. Surprise! Not only is the killer NOT one of those characters, the killer is a character that has NEVER been shown AND THAT HAS NEVER EVEN BEEN MENTIONED ONCE! Tricky… and by “tricky,” I mean “shitty.”
At least the endings of Psycho and Scream do not feel like cheats. It is difficult to puzzle out who the killer is, but it is possible. The audience does not feel cheated when the killer is revealed. Both endings play fair and pay off.
In another DVD special feature, composer Harry Manfredini crows about how iconic his score quickly became. But except for the film’s signature theme (every website I have visited spells it phonetically in a different way. I prefer Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch! Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!), the rest of the score is completely lifted from Bernard Herman’s famous “Shower Murder for Strings” theme in Psycho. The only thing scary about Friday the 13th is how much its makers stole from other films. Even the composer’s name seems to be a bargain basement rip-off of Henry Mancini… or the name of a kid’s birthday party magician.
FULL DISCLOSURE: There is one thing I love about Friday the 13th: the fact that the killer is psychic. In the scene where Kevin Bacon and his girlfriend steal away for some nookie, they repair to a deserted dorm room with three bunk beds. They choose one. They explore the natural, beautiful act of physical love. The girl leaves to go to the bathroom. Whammo! Kevin Bacon gets an arrow through his chest. That means the killer had to know IN ADVANCE what bunk out of the three the couple would choose, so the killer could hide under THAT bunk. That is a pretty neat trick. If the killer really was psychic, why couldn’t the killer predict that she would be decapitated at the end of the film? Spoiler! Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch! Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!
Oddly enough, the film’s original tagline from its trailer neatly sums up my attitude toward the film: “You may only see it once, but that WILL BE ENOUGH.”
BY THE WAY: Forget about iconic “Hockey Mask Jason.” He doesn’t show up until Friday the 13th Part Three.
BETTER YET: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Cat and the Canary (1927), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Old Dark House (1932), Freaks (1932), The Invisible Man (1935), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), Cat People (1942), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Curse of the Demon (1957), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Fly (1958), Psycho (1960), Carnival of Souls (1962), The Haunting (1963), The Birds (1963), Repulsion (1965), Wait Until Dark (1967), Night of the Living Dead (1968) The Exorcist (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Jaws (1975), Carrie (1976), Halloween (1978), Dawn of the Dead (1979), Alien (1979), The Shining (1980), or really any other horror film ever made.