Friday the 13th Is 35 Today: Happy Birthday Jason

Poster from original Friday the 13th
Adrienne King shared a post on Facebook from Jon Bassuk, film aficionado extraordinaire, where he pointed out that 35 years ago on this date Friday the 13th premiered on cinema screens across the US. Ms. King played the lone survivor of that film, if that is a spoiler I apologize but really you should have seen the film by now, who has Jason come up from the lake to scare the bejesus out of her and the audience.

While many who are fans of the movie, “Kill her mommy, kiiilllll her!” saw the film in theaters surrounded by other patrons and a darkened room, many more watched the slasher film that killed off Kevin Bacon with an arrow through the throat, via the good old Drive-In.

A friend of mine watched the film at the “walk-in” cinema and came to work the next day telling me all about it. A true cinephile he had managed to, quite admirably, memorize huge chunks of dialogue as well as the “kill, kill, kill, ah, ah, ah” sound whenever the hockey mask-wearing killer appeared, or was about to appear.

Recounting the events he had witnessed on the movie screen, which in those days was huge as this was before the downsizing that came with multiplex cinemas, he hesitated when he got to the film’s climax. “I don’t want to tell you in case it spoils the ending for you,” he said. “That’s okay,” I replied, “by the time I see it I’ll have forgotten it anyway.”

He then went on to describe the peaceful scene in the lake. Adrienne King’s character, the virginal good girl Alice, has dispatched the maniacal machete-wielding mother of Jason (a wonderfully cast-against type Betsy Palmer who I remember watching on I’ve Got a Secret when I was a wee lad) and then pushed a rowboat, that she clambered into, out towards the middle of Crystal Lake.

Alice in Friday the 13th,
Alice, calm before the storm…

She drifts peacefully on the water trailing her hand along the lake’s surface with a contented look of relief on her face. Suddenly, and here we’ll go into my friend’s brilliant description: “This bald kid who’s all rotting and shit leaps up out of the water behind the boat and and grabs her. He is the ugliest little f***er you ever saw and he drags her kicking and screaming out of the rowboat and into the lake. Man! I screamed like a little girl!”

We both laughed at the idea of this ugly little sucker grabbing the heroine and his screaming like a girl. I was right about the amount of time it took me to see Friday the 13th but I was wrong about forgetting the ending. When the film finally got around to the Drive-In, where I saw it, I still remembered that ending, although I had forgotten how good old Kevin Bacon bought it.

So there I sat at the 71 Drive-In with a giant bag of Doritos and a huge Dr. Pepper. I’d just finished snorting double streams of fizzy soda out of my nose at Betsy Palmer’s “kill her mommy” line (that line never fails to send me into gales of laughter) and was mopping up the mess from the front of my shirt. I had enough time to wait patiently for the bald kid to pop up like a wet and terrible Jack-in-the-box which was, my friend assured me, the final act.

I sat there for what seemed like ages and had just decided that the dead Jason Voorhies was not going to jump up and that my good friend had been telling porkies when, BOOM! The ugly bald and rotting sucker shot up from behind the boat amid a gush of lake water, that you just knew smelled like rotting fish and rotting Jason, and I swear that not only did I scream like a “little girl” but I nearly knocked myself out on the roof of the car.

Friday the 13th was the film that set the bar for all the slasher films that followed. Despite having enough sequels to sink Alice’s rowboat, Jason never got old and Betsy Palmer went down in history as the first killer in one of the longest running horror franchises in cinema history. It also had what I consider one of the best “kill scenes” ever set up by the legendary Tom Savini who “shoved” an arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat.

Happy 35th birthday to Friday the 13th and happy birthday Jason.

9 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

When a Stranger Calls (2006):Agonisingly Slow

Cover of "When a Stranger Calls"
Cover of When a Stranger Calls

I remember seeing the original of this film, the 1979 one with Carol Kane as part of one of those Drive-in Special features where you got three films for the price of one. Not too different from the $1.00 a car night where no matter how many hot and sweaty bodies you crammed in the car, it only cost a buck.

I say not too different because the concept was the same, you got two films that were kind of crap and one  “big” feature. If memory serves me correctly, the 1979 When a Stranger Calls was not the main feature, something else was and it wasn’t as good as the Carol Kane film, which scared the crap out of everyone in the car.

The whole premise came about because of an urban legend. I still remember it making the rounds ages before the film came out. It was, funnily enough a girl who was about 3 to 4 years younger than me (who had an embarrassing crush on me, if I’d only known how she was going to be when she grew up, I wouldn’t have been so embarrassed…I know, shallow; uh-huh) who was going to be doing her first professional baby sitting job.

We’d just finished messing around (With a Ouija board! Get your mind out of the  gutter!) when she relayed to me in a kind of breathless yet horrified way the story as she’d heard it.

“This girl? Well, she goes to baby sit these twin boys…or girls…I don’t remember which and she starts getting phone calls. Which she isn’t supposed to get cos she’s meant to be babysitting, right? So this guy keeps asking her if she’s checked the kids. So she keeps checking on them and when she gets tired of this whole rigamarole, she calls the cops. They then put a tracer on her phone and then they call her and say get out of the house! He’s upstairs!”

Incredibly, everyone believed this particular boogeyman story, as folks were just getting into having separate phone lines put in for their kids to have their own phones, so it sort of made sense. Of course it was easier in the days before the internet to spread those kind of urban myths because it was a lot harder to check up.

Presumably the film makers who decided to make the remake thought, quite rightly, that cell phones (or mobiles over  here) could facilitate the plot just as well.

Unfortunately the film moves at a snails pace and no one ever explained to the director that suspense that drags on too long becomes tedious and then boring. The addition of loveable Clark Gregg (aka Agent Coulson from S.H.I.E.L.D.) in a minute part as the babysitter’s pop, could not save this yawn fest from dragging on and on and on and on….

Camilla Belle is too stunningly attractive to be a real teenage babysitter in the real world and although her performance convinced me that she was about to have a major league panic attack or heart attack, the films agonisingly slow, almost backward, pace wouldn’t let me care.

So, as this is on Netflix right now (in the Uk anyway) and  if you’re having trouble sleeping, pop this puppy on and you’ll doze right off.

A 2 out of 5 stars only because. dammit, Belle is gorgeous and hey, it’s got Agent Coulson in it.

Phil Coulson
Phil Coulson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)