No matter how subversive or original they may seem, it’s exceptionally hard for modern horror movies to avoid the same tropes or storytelling tricks established by their predecessors. Nowadays, it seems like all horror movies are, in one way or another, indebted to the films that have come before them. Even innovative films like Get Out, Barbarian, and Midsommar owe a lot to horror classics like The Stepford Wives, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Wicker Man.
When it comes to iconic horror movies, though, there aren’t many that have been more influential than 1980’s Friday the 13th. Produced partly in response to the overwhelming success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, the original Friday the 13th established many of the slasher movie tropes that even the genre’s newest entries continue to follow. While it isn’t quite as artfully made as Halloween, either, there’s something undeniably effective and engrossing about Friday the 13th.
Fortunately, the film is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. Here’s why Inverse recommends that you make some time for it ASAP.
Friday the 13th follows a group of counselors at a remote sleepaway camp named Camp Crystal Lake as they quickly realize they’ve become the targets of a mysterious, ruthless murderer. As more and more of the counselors are killed, the surviving characters are forced to not only fight for their lives but try to determine what they did to catch their stalker’s wrath.
For most experienced moviegoers, that plot will sound incredibly familiar — if not downright clichéd. However, while Friday the 13th has been copied and imitated countless times over the past 42 years, it wasn’t seen as quite so formulaic when it was originally released. From its merciless treatment of its sex-obsessed camp counselors to its delightfully gory kills, Friday the 13th introduced and invented many of the tropes and storytelling beats that have come to define the slasher movie genre.
Like Halloween before it, Friday the 13th was also made on an infamously small budget. Even though it doesn’t quite work with its budgetary constraints as well as its John Carpenter-directed predecessor, there’s still plenty of visual invention running throughout Friday the 13th. Not only are there moments when director Sean S. Cunningham and cinematographer Barry Abrams wisely adopt their fictional killer’s POV, but the film also manages to pull off its practical effects-driven kills surprisingly well.
In addition to its memorable kills and satisfyingly low-budget aesthetic, Friday the 13th also boasts a small supporting appearance from a very young Kevin Bacon and features two last-minute twists that are among the most iconic in horror movie history. The latter, without giving too much away, helped establish a killers-never-die trend that the horror movie genre continues to follow to this day.
Beyond their lasting influence, though, the final minutes of Friday the 13th are so effectively dreamlike and haunting that they ensure the film goes out on an even greater high note. Forty-two years later, the faint ring of that note can still be heard every time a modern slasher movie takes the time to unleash one final violent twist in its closing moments.
Friday the 13th is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.