Happy Horrific Summer, Campers! (A Film Series): #3

Welcome back, Campers! You survived the genetically modified, militaristic Piranha attacks in our first week thanks to your trusty inner tube, and last week you had the necessary spirit to make it through Cheerleader Camp (aka Bloody Pom Poms). The question is, do you have what it takes to survive the most famous camp horror movie of all time? Of course, to do so, you need to be elevated from camper to counselor. There are only two weeks left until the camp opens, so this should be a breeze, right? Well, unless you find Friday the 13th suspicious.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Yes, the film that started a franchise and, one could argue, the camp horror genre that followed: Friday the 13th. Hopefully most of you have seen the film or maybe you at least know the killer from a certain crucial trivia moment in Scream (1996). 

Like Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, the origin story goes back a few years. A young boy's drowning and the murder of  two teenage camp counselors in the 1950's to be exact. The locals still remember the carnage and dub Camp Crystal Lake, "Camp Blood."  A few of them even try to warn the counselors to turn away, but it is June 13, 1979 and these kids are looking for a summer of fun, love, and whatever else they can get up to. Local horror stories do not phase them.

There's Annie (Robbi Morgan), who just wants to work with kids and took a job as the camp's cook. Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) come to the camp as a couple, along with Jack's best friend Ned, or as they affectionately call him Neddy (Mark Nelson), who is the class clown and fool of the group. Brenda (Laurie Bartram) who apparently likes to play strip Monopoly, but owns and wears in the middle of summer the world's most conservative nightgown. Alice (Adrienne King) and Bill (Harry Crosby) who you actually see doing work and who maybe have a little chemistry despite the fact it seems that Alice also has a thing going with Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), the owner of the camp. I wish I could flush out these descriptions, but the one issue I have with this film is the lack of character development. The characters comes second to every bloody death awaits them... unless they have what it takes to survive.  

The cinematic quality of each chase or death scene is key. Then the location of a camp, plus the added obstacle of a rain storm, gives a feeling of being trapped. The campers spread out and because of all the places they could be, it takes a while for people to pick up on the danger stalking Camp Crystal Lake.  

I had a conversation over the weekend that discussed the scene where Alice makes coffee, which I agree is one of the most intense scenes in the film. To some it may appear that nothing is happening and let's skip ahead to the action, but in the simple act of boiling water, grabbing items from the pantry, keeping busy while waiting for Bill to return, a suspense is set. You expect the killer at any moment because of the pattern established in the previous scenes, but in this moment your expectations are challenged. Especially when you factor in the last time Alice was in the kitchen alone, Ralph, considered the local oddball, was hiding in the pantry to warn them of impending doom. 

Below is the trailer to Friday The 13th and I do hope you will give it a watch. It is a classic, after all. It has its problems (like they actually killed a real snake, did you know that?), but it is enjoyable and one I return to every year to rewatch. I think for next week, we should return as campers, because being in charge is too much work. Plus, there are so many types of camps to attend... it's not all about archery and canoeing, which is your hint for next week's fourth installment of Happy Horrific Summer, Campers! See you then.