13 and life

Pub date June 11, 2008
WriterCheryl Eddy
SectionArts & CultureSectionTrash

HORROR CLASSIC The scene: Camp Crystal Lake, 1958. The song: "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore." As a full moon looms overhead, someone sinister enough to get their own POV shot creeps into a cabin where two fresh-faced counselors are groping each other with wanton glee. "We weren’t doin’ anything!" the boy protests. Too late, sucka! With a scream, a freeze-frame, and a title card that zooms forward so fast it apparently shatters the camera lens, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th begins. Already, two key facts have been established: summer camps are inherently hotspots of evil, and the series’ signature sound effect (all together, now: "Ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma!") is a sure sign that whoever’s onscreen is about to meet a gruesome end, courtesy of effects make-up god Tom Savini.

Back in Crystal Lake, circa "present day" — a time of feathered hair and Dorothy Hamill hair and side-ponytailed hair — a young woman soon to be employed at the reopened camp bums a ride from a friendly townsperson. But not before the appearance of my favorite Friday character, Ralph the bicycle-riding town drunk. "You goin’ to Camp Blood, ain’t ya?" he slurs. "You’ll never come back again! It’s got a death curse!" As we’ll soon see, this is the third truth taught by the Friday the 13th series: the town drunk is always right! Before long, the assembled counselors (including a very young Kevin Bacon, awww) start expiring with all the glorious gore a killer named Voorhees can supply. Other highlights: dope-sniffing cops, errant snakes, more Ralph ("I’m a messenger of God — you’re doomed if you stay here!"), a heated game of strip Monopoly, archery-range fun, a clothes-soaking rainstorm, and a conveniently-timed power outage.

Friday the 13th, made for far less than a mil, came out in 1980; it was modeled after 1978’s Halloween and met with such success that numerous slasher flicks followed — including several that picked up on Halloween and Friday‘s special-occasion theme: Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine, Graduation Day, and the original Prom Night all dropped before 1981 was over, with many more to come (including 1993’s Leprechaun). And that’s without even mentioning all 11 Friday sequels. With the best ending (and dénouement) of any slasher film before or since, Friday the 13th features a strong performance from final girl Adrienne King and a menacing turn from Betsy Palmer. That fisherman’s sweater? Far more iconically terrifying a garment than any hockey mask could hope to be.

Oh, and about that Friday the 13th remake, due out in 2009 and helmed by Marcus Nispel, who’s already on notice for sullying The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Let’s hope it’s doomed. (Cheryl Eddy)


Fri/13–Sat/14, midnight, $8.50–$10.50

Clay Theater

2261 Fillmore, SF

(415) 346-1124, www.landmarkafterdark.com>.