Sunday, August 05, 2007
Friday the 13th. I was not a day older than 18 when it was released. A lot of people, kids my age, were talking about it. I had been a big fan of horror all my life. I read Famous Monsters and loved Shock Theater and Sir Graves Ghastly Presents and The Night Stalker, not to mention a lot of dark literature. So of course me and my then-best friend went to see it.
Honestly? I didn't like it the first time. I thought it was cheap, with little regard for plot and rather than suspense and atmosphere, it relied on gore and shock. And I was right.
That same friend had gotten a bunch of passes to see Friday the 13th and with little else to do, we'd catch a buzz and go see it. It began to grow on me, little by little. Yes, Friday the 13th is lowbrow entertainment, but I think it's okay to love gourmet cuisine, but also crave potato chips every now and then.
We used to get this really cheap beer called Canadian Ace, which came in clear half-gallon bottles. Once I chugged a whole one down and went in to see the Friday the 13th. I had a blast and cheered and whooped along with all the other young people in there.
It may be hard to comprehend just how popular these movies were today. Virtually every major critic unceremoniously panned Friday the 13th, yet the lines to see it were always long. They would turn people away after selling every seat in the house. This went on for at least three of the sequels.
You get a taste for this sort of thing in time. It helps to be beered up, and it's even better to see them at a drive-in, where you can have fun and not disturb other paying customers. I've seen every Friday film at the theater and most of them more than once. I saw most of the imitators too. Few are what you could really call good movies, but they served their purpose, much of which was a grand thumbing of the nose to our parents' generation and the so-called serious critics.
1980 is when Friday the 13th was released. In one sense it seems like several lifetimes ago, and in another it seems like only yesterday. One day you're still basically a kid, with your whole like in front of you and all the potential in the world. Then you wake up out of a fog and realize that you're over the halfway point in your existence and you know that your best years are behind you. Things go wrong with the body as it ages and hope becomes something different than when you're a kid. You hope for a relatively painless day, or for an effortless bowel movement. Maybe your hopes are for your children.
The friends I saw Friday the 13th and other slasher films with? They've grown up. They're adults now, for God's sake, and they don't waste their time watching those prurient movies anymore. They have dramatic TV shows to keep up with, or the latest generic New Releases. Sporting events and the like. Mature ways to spent their time.
They say that growing up is optional, but growing old is mandatory, and I can't argue that wisdom. But if growing up means that I lose sight of the things that gave my youth its magic, then I pass. I still adore monsters, slashers and madmen. I like nudity in movies; the more gratuitous the better. I like Jason, Michael, Leatherface and Chucky. I also like, no love, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney (Sr. and Jr.), Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
But some of today's horror doesn't appeal to me at all. I don't care for the video game approach of the Saw movies and CGI-heavy epics that look more like a cartoon or computer animation more than real life leave me cold. Happily, I do like Eli Roth and like the old Friday the 13th and its sequels and imitators, he and his films piss off the older generation. The same generation that I reluctantly am part of. I think it's great and I actually love to hear people putting Cabin Fever and the Hostel films down.
Even while Friday the 13th was inspired by Halloween, I think it was a catalyst for the slasher genre. It made obscene amounts of money and everyone wanted to get in on the bloody game. For a giddy, if relatively brief period of time, it seemed like there was a new slasher picture at the drive-in or walk-in theater very week or two. I'll always cherish my memories of those days.
I said before that I wasn't about to grow up and I hope to always stand firm in that conviction. I aim to keep the spirit of the drive-in alive in these pages and I celebrate blood, cheese and skin. Those seeking any sort of maturity are definitely at the wrong website. But those of us that cheered at the creative killings, roared at the nude scenes (or better yet, hot lesbian action), thrilled to car chases, laughed at and loved monsters with zippers running down the back of their suits, smiled at drooping mics and atrocious acting, are at the right place. The drive-in will never die.