Saturday, December 02, 2006

[1980] FRIDAY THE 13TH: Okay--this is the Argento with training wheels (Watcher In The Woods is the Argento big wheel.) It's effective at what it does--nice scares (in particular Kevin Bacon's death and the final dream/flashback) in between long stretches of nothingness--nothing conversations, nothing lives, nothing situations, with a dash of a sense that something's out there, like when the town crazy shows up, or they kill the snake and the kid with the knife looks like a psycho, or the constant shots of the moon Cunningham keeps feeding us. Mike Bracken called it "almost a minimalist film," and there definitely isn't any evidence that it's minimalist on purpose--meaning the low-keyness has more to do with Cunningham's pretty much bland directing style and not with anybody's aspirations at doing an intentionally streamlined slasher picture. Maybe "bland" is too harsh, but he never really succeeds at creating an atmosphere of menace; he plays at it with the Mrs. Voorhees point-of-view shots but the rest of the time I felt pretty safe that a body was not going to fall into the frame. And then the final Alice-Voorhees feels longer than it should because we already know who the villain is and we're just waiting for everything to conclude already, so all the shots of Alice being scared are somewhat exasperating. Oh--and in a film filled with one-note performances (and I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, like with the minimalism question above; were they bad actors? Or just badly directed?) Betsy Palmer was the only one who did something memorable with her part. Cunningham knew what he was doing with her, at least, with those closeups on her bared teeth as she switched from Jason to Mama Voorhees. A really good bit in a fair-to-good movie.

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