Friday the 13th at the home drive in: The original Friday the 13th (1980)

I remember seeing the poster for Friday the 13th at a movie theatre and thinking it looked scary. Too scary. I had always enjoyed watching scary movies, but something about this poster made me wonder if I should stay away. Fortunately, I was too young to buy a ticket anyway.

Friday3Fast forward a couple of years and Friday the 13th Part 3 3D was out. I had still never seen the original, or Part Two, but a kid at school had seen all three Friday the 13th movies and went on at great length about how good they were. I don’t remember everything he said, but he mentioned Jason a lot.

In Manitoba, Friday the 13th Part 3 3D was rated A.P.G. (Adult Parental Guidance), which meant that if I was going to see it, I would need an adult to take me. Somehow I managed to talk my Dad into it. I remember him removing his 3D glasses part way through and rubbing his eyes. Afterwards, he said it was the worst movie he ever saw.

RevengeCreatureI, on the other hand, loved it. It was the first 3D movie I saw in a threatre. I had seen a TV broadcast of Revenge Of The Creature (1955) with glasses that I’d bought at 7-11, but that’s another story. This was modern (1982) 3D technology on a big, big screen, with loud speakers blasting and a crowd to gasp and scream in all the right places. It was life-changing.

It wasn’t long after seeing Part 3 that I decided to rent the original Friday the 13th on Beta. These were the early days of VCRs, and my family had opted for the higher quality format which ultimately lost the war to the less expensive VHS players.

In some ways, Friday the 13th was the exact same movie as Part 3. But what shocked me, more than any of the gory murders, was the “unmasking” of the killer in the final act. Up until that point, the killer had been a POV shot that menaced its victims from off-screen. Now the killer’s face was revealed in the bright camp floodlights – and it was not Jason!  What the -?! I had heard so much about Jason, I had seen him in action in Part 3, and in flashbacks to Part 2!  I had just assumed that he was the killer in all of the Friday the 13th movies – and no one had ever told me different.

This unexpected twist ending convinced the twelve-year-old me that the original Friday the 13th was a brilliant murder mystery. Watching it again as an adult, I realized that it isn’t really a murder mystery at all. There are no suspects paraded before us. And we don’t even meet the real killer, until seconds before it is revealed that this person is, in fact, the killer. Would I have been as impressed with the movie if I had seen it when it was first released – before Jason mania had taken over the world?

There’s no way to ever know for sure. But I’ve watched the movie several times over the years, knowing full well who the killer is, and I’ve enjoyed it every time. Sometimes I wish I had seen parts 1, 2 and 3 in the proper order, as they were released. But other times, I feel very fortunate to have had the strange experience of manufacturing a shocking twist ending for myself, by watching them out of order. Friday the 13th is without a doubt a #NotQuiteClassicCinema personal favourite.