Archive for May 1980

The Gong Show Movie

May 23, 1980

One way to understand The Gong Show Movie is to realize that it isn’t really a comedy. Sure, it has its funny moments, mostly dealing with the onstage antics of the brutally untalented contestants who made Chuck Barris’ prime-time masterstroke both addictive and reviled. But the movie it kept reminding me of was The King of Comedy, which Barris’ film predated by three years. (Tony Randall has jokey cameos in both movies.) These two movies are really meta-comedies — they’re more about comedy, and the toll it takes on the anointed famous, than actual ha-ha-funny romps. If Scorsese’s film had stuck with the beleaguered Jerry Langford instead of focusing on his obsessive stalker Rupert Pupkin, it might’ve come out a bit like The Gong Show Movie.

The movie is a fascinating public act of career seppuku. If Chuck Barris intended the film (which he wrote with the notoriously audience-challenging Robert Downey Sr., who had his own crashing flop that same year with Up the Academy) to end his tenure as America’s favorite master of raunchy, inept ceremonies, the movie can only be called an unqualified success. Viewers expecting a feature-length string of manic absurdity must have been bewildered: What they found was a rather sour document — Chuck Agonistes, in which the haggard-looking fifty-year-old celebrity bemoans his fame and feels trapped inside the phenomenon he created. Calling it The Gong Show Movie was the final perverse touch; yes, the film has some Gong Show highlights — including the infamous bits with the Popsicle Twins and Jaye P. Morgan exposing herself — but most of the film plays like Barris’ version of Woody Allen’s bitter Stardust Memories (also released that year).

Poor Chuck! Everywhere he goes, people recognize him and disrespect him on a variety of levels — launching into impromptu, excruciating auditions; telling him how dumb the show is and what a schmuck he is. Some of this must be exaggerated a little for absurdist effect, but probably only a little. (If you’ve read Barris’ Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and The Game Show King, you know that the loons he encounters in the movie aren’t far from reality.) His girlfriend Red (Robin Altman, Barris’ real-life wife for a while) encourages him to get out of the show to save his own sanity. An unctuous network executive (James B. Douglas) keeps telling him the show is getting too wild for mainstream America. Chuck drags himself out of bed every morning knowing that he has to endure an endless stream of auditions, followed by a crushing schedule of shows filmed back to back. His life has become all-invasive; he can’t get a moment’s peace. Even on his morning jog, a vicious dog strains at its leash trying to get at Chuck.

For reasons of its own, Universal bankrolled this 89-minute psychotherapy session, only to bury it quickly and decisively — as of this writing in July 2006, it has never been made available on home video¹, and fans have had to make do with bootleg copies probably taped off of the Movie Channel back in the early ’80s (I saw a bit of it back then). If you’re expecting nonstop raunchy laughs, the movie fails, and even some of the bits of business Barris intends to be funny don’t really make it. But the film is always fascinating when it’s not funny. To watch it is to show belated respect for Barris, a genuinely gifted writer and also a songwriter, who sort of fell into the creation of game shows and never meant to become the American schmuck of the airwaves (he would’ve had someone else host The Gong Show, but felt nobody else would really understand its premise as a subversion of conventional talent shows).

It isn’t all Barris’ show. He pulls together some oddball talents aside from the people onstage, such as a young and much skinnier Phil Hartman harassing Chuck at an airport, or the eternally death-faced Vincent Schiavelli as a guy incensed at Barris because the judges gonged his mom. We also get the usual standbys: Father Ed, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, and the Unknown Comic. Possibly the most unexpectedly saddening appearance is by Barris’ then-16-year-old daughter Della, looking happy and healthy; she died of a drug overdose in 1998. The movie functions in part as a family portrait and a snapshot that could only have been taken at the dusk of the ’70s.

Chuck Barris has been credited with being the godfather of what we know as reality TV today, an unfair label I don’t think he deserves (why blame him for Fear Factor?). His true achievement on television was to bring the counter-cultural concept of anti-entertainment — best typified by Andy Kaufman’s onstage experiments — to a mass audience five nights a week. The order of things, of course, was re-established when one of the familiar TV personalities hit the gong; but for minutes on end, people across the country were watching horribly bad performances, and tuning in night after night for more of the same.

Barris celebrated fringe behavior, exalted the no-talents who displayed their ineptitude in exchange for their 15 minutes (usually far less). The Gong Show Movie is about the intelligent man behind all the rampant stupidity. All the movie lacks is the true-life happy ending: Chuck dumps the show, sells his production company to the tune of $100 million, and moves to France, where Jerry Lewis (Langford?) has already prepared the natives for the arrival of a misunderstood comedian.

¹In 2016, Shout! Factory finally released the film on Blu-ray.

The Shining (1980)

May 23, 1980

shining_the_shining_1980_portrait_w858One thing to consider about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is that it’s no more a horror movie than 2001 was a science-fiction movie. Past a certain point in his career, Kubrick didn’t make genre films — he made Kubrick films. Kubrick said he was drawn to Stephen King’s 1977 novel because he’d “always been interested in ESP and the paranormal,” but also because he was intrigued by King’s balancing act between what could be the supernatural and what could be merely the product of a faltering mind. Is that truly what the movie expresses, though? Not really — not to me, anyway. Kubrick seems to use The Shining as a jumping-off point to explore a pet theme: man locked into certain behavior patterns, for no logical reason and with no escape. Beginning with, say, Lolita, Kubrick treated each new film as a chapter in his ongoing epic novel about how humans are imperfectly wired machines, programmed to do the same stupid, destructive things over and over. The Shining is just chapter six.

King’s story could be called nervously autobiographical — Jack Torrance is a failed alternate-universe King, a King who wrote anguished Freudian plays and didn’t make it. Jack, who grew up under the thumb of an alcoholic and abusive father, has watched himself helplessly turn into the same thing. Most of the time he has enough self-awareness to stay his hand, though he has a temper, which he once turned against his young son Danny without really meaning to. Then again, I’m sure Jack’s father “didn’t really mean to” beat the shit out of Jack’s mother on a regular basis, either. Such men don’t land here from another planet; they have demons unleashed by the bottle. The metaphysical terrors in King’s The Shining work as a metaphor for the pressures on a man who is trying terribly hard to be a decent husband and father and feels himself inexorably sliding into failure.

It helps to bring the knowledge of King’s book into Kubrick’s movie, because Kubrick doesn’t bend over backwards to establish most of Jack’s backstory. Jack was King’s avatar, not Kubrick’s. If anything, Kubrick’s avatar is the Overlook, the isolated hotel where Jack brings his wife Wendy and their son for the winter so that Jack can make a few bucks as the hotel’s caretaker. It isn’t long — at least in the movie’s compressed timeline — before the family turns and faces the strange. Danny, who’s psychically sensitive, has already had visions of epic gore — the famous shot of the elevator doors opening to pour out torrents (Torrance) of blood. He has a helpful imaginary (?) friend who shows him these things — Tony, who speaks through Danny’s finger and lives in his mouth.

In the early scenes, Kubrick and the actors — Jack Nicholson as Jack, Shelley Duvall as Wendy, Danny Lloyd as Danny — set up the dynamic. Nicholson’s performance has been criticized because his Jack seems not too far away from ax-swinging mania right at the start. But Kubrick, a shrewd man, knew that Nicholson’s persona would serve as shorthand. With Nicholson in the role, we know Jack is smart; we know he’s familiar with darkness. We see Jack trying gamely to play the role of husband and father; we don’t sense much love between him and his family. This Jack is a bit further down the road to damnation than King’s Jack was. We feel that Jack just wants to be left alone to do his writing. He’s doing the husband and father thing because that’s what men are expected to do.

The vast rooms and hallways of the Overlook mock Jack’s narrow imagination. He, too, has a bit of “shining,” but he uses it to generate visions of temptation — to lust (the woman in 237), drink (Lloyd the bartender), and finally murder (Grady, a previous caretaker who butchered his family with an ax). The question: are the “ghosts” real or just psychological projections? This seems to be definitively answered when, after Jack has tried to attack Wendy and she has locked him in a kitchen cooler, Grady visits him and seems to unlock the door — unless Jack also has previously-unknown telekinetic powers (something, of course, not alien to King’s metaphysics).

Kubrick takes his time. Of all Kubrick’s drawn-out late-period films, The Shining feels the longest, though there’s a buzz of strange amusement in all those lengthy pauses, a kind of narcotized fixation. When Jack encounters (or imagines) Grady in a men’s room, their conversation goes on for so long that I think we’re supposed to take it as a mini-play Jack is writing in his head, stopping between every line to think about what each character should say next. The entire massive Overlook is Jack’s head, full of chambers of sin and viciousness, and a maze outside to get lost in. In this meta-universe, the entire movie could be unfolding in Jack’s brain, the real play he’s writing while his meta-self produces nothing but page after page of gibberish.

I said The Shining isn’t a horror film. Rather, I see it as an anti-horror film. Even given that Kubrick tended to explode genre, The Shining confounds expectations at almost every turn, with almost no jump scares — indeed, King complained that Kubrick blows an opportunity for a good seat-jumper when Jack discovers Wendy snooping through his “work.” Kubrick prefers to creep you out in other ways; he lets the music (score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, with needle-drops from Penderecki, Ligeti and others) do a lot of heavy lifting, particularly in the celebrated scene when Danny has his cautionary meeting with the ghastly Grady girls. Penderecki’s “De Natura Sonoris No. 1” shivers and shrieks as the girls issue their invitation: They want him to play with them. Forever and ever and ever.

There’s something formally off about the movie, some indefinable tension between subject matter and style. Kubrick the rationalist doesn’t put much stock in ooga-booga. He stays with the harsh, near-operatic emotions dredged up by the frustrated, cooped-up Nicholson and the cowed, insecure Duvall — it seems unlikely that such high-strung parents could produce a son like Danny, who as played by Danny Lloyd seems to have popped a Valium before each take. There’s soothing warmth in Scatman Crothers’ performance as the avuncular Dick Hallorann, the hotel cook who shares Danny’s powers, and even Barry Nelson as the Overlook’s manager Stuart Ullman is much more affable than the “officious little prick” King described. Even Anne Jackson in a brief bit as the doctor who gives Danny a check-up is a calming presence. Once the family is isolated from all these outside people, they’re thrown back on themselves. Jack gets weaker, succumbing to the Overlook’s promise of power, while Wendy gets stronger.

I always find it amusing that Kubrick, like a boy with a new toy, uses the then-recently-developed Steadicam to follow Danny on his Big Wheel, riding across carpeting and hardwood floor alternately, making that unaccountably satisfying brrrrr-clunk brrrrr-clunk sound. Danny glides around the mazelike Overlook halls naturally — a boy knows what to do with a maze. For Kubrick himself, The Shining is a maze, a series of technical problems to be mastered; it’s gorgeously lit and composed. Pauline Kael, in her bewildered review, asked “Who wants to see evil in daylight, through a wide-angle lens?” Well, evil doesn’t always abide by the clock.

Kubrick the perfectionist allowed a lot of disorienting details and contradictory information into the movie, as if the narrative were as jumbled and untrustworthy as Jack’s perceptions. Kael refers to a jarring cut to a television in Hallorann’s Miami bedroom, “as if the projectionist made a mistake,” but such a jarring transition is part of the design. Kubrick obviously knew it would have that effect; The Shining is loaded with such what-the-fuck? moments, including, legendarily, the contextless shot of a man in a dog suit preparing to fellate a man in a tuxedo. In the book, we’re told who these men are; in the movie, it comes so far out of left field that I can’t fathom how it plays for those who haven’t read the novel. (Maybe it’s creepier if you don’t know.) Some of the film’s mysteries can be traced back to King; some can’t. I’ve seen The Shining read as a metaphor for everything from the Holocaust to the genocide of Native Americans; in other words, eternal evil, endlessly playing itself out. Jack, or man, has always been “the caretaker” (murderer).

The Shining is an intense and not always ingratiating experience, a natural bookend to 2001, which also took a simple story and expanded its concerns far beyond narrative and even conventional “entertainment.” I’ve never watched Kubrick’s shorter version, which comes in at under two hours, as opposed to the 142-minute cut familiar to American viewers. But my guess is that the film loses much of its odd, arid gravitas at a shorter length. (Most of the scenes Kubrick took out had to do with the outside world.) The Shining is a perverse epic in which Kubrick dawdles over his beloved “phatic dialogue” and short-shrifts the stuff most viewers want: easy, “relatable” ways into characters, consistent story logic (the backstory we’re given changes according to the teller), catharsis. Kubrick just throws us into the deep end and expects us to swim. Many will get out of the pool resentfully; others will dive deeper to see what they can see.

Is the movie “scary”? In an interiorized headspace way, yes, but also in a maximalist philosophical way. The tiny humans blundering around in Kubrick’s maze are insignificant to the design. Murder, or redrum (booze as lifeblood?), flows eternally. Sometimes brains and courage can ward it off. Most often, not. The weirdest thing about this exceedingly weird movie is how the Overlook seems to be a microcosm and a mindscape at the same time, but then this is a film full of doubles and mirrors, so everything in it is something and something else, including the film itself. It is a horror film and it isn’t.

The Empire Strikes Back

May 21, 1980

For the sake not only of the Star Wars saga but of large-scale fantasy filmmaking, we must breathe a word of thanks that George Lucas felt so ass-kicked after having gone through the wringer directing Star Wars. The best move he ever made was to leave The Empire Strikes Back in other, infinitely more capable hands.

To write the screenplay, Lucas selected veteran scribe Leigh Brackett (who worked on, among many others, The Big Sleep back in 1946) and, when Brackett died, fresh-faced Lawrence Kasdan (who’d later go on to direct The Big Chill — not to mention writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I just enjoy the Big Sleep/Big Chill thing). To direct, Lucas made an unusual choice — Irvin Kershner, whose biggest successes prior to Empire were the 1970 drama Loving and the 1978 thriller Eyes of Laura Mars. No particular experience or expertise with special effects or droids; no visible credentials to direct the first follow-up to the most wildly lucrative movie in history. Lucas must’ve seemed insane at the time. But, since he was bankrolling Empire out of his own pocket (as he has done with each subsequent Star Wars entry), who could argue with him? It’s pretty certain that 20th Century-Fox wouldn’t have signed off on Kershner if given its druthers; if Lucas wasn’t going to call the shots himself, let’s get a proven sci-fi guy in there, or at least a non-entity we can push around.

It would appear that Empire, of the three Holy Original Trinity, endured the least Special Edition tweaking. This only makes sense: it needed nothing. (I have agreed to accept the new footage of the Wampa on Hoth. Truth to tell, it always seemed a little odd that we never saw more of the thing in the original cut, given how unshy Lucas was about showing off various critters in Star Wars. I can live with the Wampa Version 2.0. As it happens, Lucas was unhappy with the way the original Wampa looked, and — like Steven Spielberg with Jaws when the shark turned out not to bear close scrutiny — elected to keep it as much offscreen as possible.) There are no major restored scenes, just polishing here and there. But Empire, even with its visible matte lines in the Hoth sequence and its mostly-invisible Wampa, was always magical. Story? There isn’t one, really, as always — the Star Wars films have a series of incidents, not plots. Still, the movie is carried along — as no Star Wars movie before or since has been — by the dual currents of emotion and climate.

Credit Brackett and Kasdan — the former a real veteran of film noir, the latter an acolyte of same — for the emotion, particularly the bad-boy-good-girl rapport between Han and Leia. While their dialogue doesn’t quite equal that spoken by Bogie and Bacall, in Star Wars context it’s urbane and (very rare in this saga) human. Credit, too, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, doing their best collaborative work here. Han acts irritable and macho-superior around Leia; she in turn acts disdainful and flustered; but the key lies in how they actually relax around each other. They are expending a lot of energy trying to deny their attraction (for Han, it must be in part because he doesn’t want to hurt Luke), but when the shields come down and they inch into a kiss, their passion has already been so successfully sublimated in their trading of insults that it’s as if kissing were just the next logical step.

There’s heat, too, in the duel between Luke and Vader, with its symbolic castration and Freudian bombshell. For once, a Star Wars confrontation has reams of subtext. “All too easy,” Vader growls when he thinks he’s manuevered Luke into the carbon-freezing chamber for good; he sounds almost disappointed — that the fight is over, and that his son wasn’t a worthy opponent. People like to make fun of Mark Hamill’s shrieking when he discovers his true lineage, but I find it a perfectly operatic response; the scene contains some of Hamill’s finest acting, particularly his expression right before he falls to what, for all he knows, is his sure doom. The look says, “You may kill me, you may kill my friends and control the galaxy — but you’re not going to control me, you bastard.”

Kershner was fortunate enough to work with a script boasting a wide variety of climes. From the skin-biting ice of Hoth, to the muggy swamps of Dagobah, to the cotton-candy warmth of Bespin, to the steam and menace of the interiors during the duel, the movie tries on atmospheres and moods as if going through a deep wardrobe. Each section of the film has a stand-out sequence that inspires hyperbole like “best ever”: the battle in the snow between the Rebel forces and the hulking AT-ATs is the best combat sequence ever in a Star Wars film and possibly among the best ever, period; the chase through the asteroid field gets my vote as the most exhilarating action sequence in the saga; the entire trilogy’s emotional high point is probably the moment when tiny Yoda concentrates and gently lifts the X-Wing out of the water. (John Williams is at his best there, too — the lilting refrain of “Yoda’s Theme” gaining in power until it does justice to Yoda’s own power.) Bespin, the Cloud City, seems like a soothing place until you realize the moments of greatest pain happen there — the dismantling of C-3PO, the torture and later freezing of Han (“They didn’t even ask any questions,” he moans post-torture, in the closest the saga comes to nihilism), the grief of Leia and Chewbacca, and of course the soul-shaking trials of Luke. Even R2-D2 gets a nasty shock from a power outlet.

Nobody gets out of Empire unscathed; everyone, by the time the end credits roll, is nursing a big personal loss. Luke gets a nice new (robotic) hand, a chilling premonition of what he might become if he’s not careful — a being “more machine than man,” as Obi-Wan says of Vader. Empire, alone among its Star Wars peers, is more human than machine. It has room for great pleasure as well as great pain — the elation of Luke coming into his powers in Dagobah; the blossoming of romance between Han and Leia; the bloodlust of victory on Hoth. All this has its dark side, too: Luke also faces himself on Dagobah (in that superb, Freudian-nightmare moment under the ground); Han and Leia are separated almost as soon as they acknowledge their love (that famous “I love you”/”I know” exchange is perfect succinct screenwriting courtesy of Ford himself, who came up with it on the set); the Rebels don’t have much time to enjoy their triumphs over individual AT-ATs before they’re forced to retreat. The title speaks truly: this was the one where the Empire played for keeps. So does the movie.

Friday the 13th

May 9, 1980

Thirty years on, Sean S. Cunningham’s original Friday the 13th looks … almost innocent. It doesn’t have the merciless style of Halloween, or the gnashing sadism of Last House on the Left, or the sweaty lunacy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s a cash grab, with no particular vision, and if not for Tom Savini’s gore effects — which scandalized so many critics but play relatively tame today — we’d be looking at a made-for-TV movie, a piece of anonymous hackwork.

Still, there’s something there. Partly it’s the energy of the young cast, who all seem thrilled to be in a movie. (This wasn’t Kevin Bacon’s first movie, but it was his first substantial role.) Partly it’s the moronic, sub-And Then There Were None purity of the script. And partly it’s because it seems to tap into something elemental — the campfire tale, the cautionary tale about teens who got drunk and high and laid and dead. Friday the 13th was far from the first film to use the fuck-and-die formula, but it sure solidified it.

John Carpenter has argued persuasively that the reason sex equals death in Halloween is that if you’re making out, you’re distracted from impending danger. In Friday the 13th, on the other hand, the equation is very much moralistic. The whole saga, after all, begins when camp counselors back in 1958 are too busy having sex to save young Jason Voorhees from drowning. Sex, for teenagers, is all-consuming and wrapped up in countless fears. It’s terrifying and annihilating enough without a vengeful stalker looming over you with a machete. And then there’s the actual identity of the killer, who — spoiler here, though I’m guessing if you’ve read this far you’ve seen the movie — is like someone’s mom or grandma. Stated plain, Friday the 13th is about your mom catching you jerking off and doing terrible things to you. The subsequent films in the series, I don’t know. The sexual dynamic is different in those, and perhaps even weirder.

Everyone loves Savini’s blood gags. But DVD’s clarity shows you the seams, spoils the trick. I think Kevin Bacon’s death by arrow through the neck runs a little longer in the uncut version, and the added lingering does the makeup no favors: suddenly Bacon’s throat is a vividly different color from his face. Is that realistic? Savini, a combat photographer in Vietnam, might counter that a part of the body rapidly losing blood would become pale. It still looks fake. Savini had to jerry-rig a lot of this stuff, and the budget was not enormous. Somehow the effects add to the handmade, amiably average flavor of the piece. Maybe it’s just that Sean Cunningham didn’t know how to shoot effects sequences. Or much else. The shots are competently framed (by Barry Abrams) but will make no one forget the work of Dean Cundey on Halloween or Daniel Pearl on Chainsaw.

The film is boringly heteronormative; nobody has any kinks or quirks, they just want to fuck (one guy even says he doesn’t always think about sex, sometimes he also thinks about kissing a woman). The kids are more or less defined by the ways they kill time — strip Monopoly, smoking weed, getting laid. They’re pretty much interchangeable except Alice (Adrienne King), who seems a little older and more mature, and had something going with the camp manager. Alice doesn’t particularly want to be there, working alongside her ex, but she has more experience than the kids coming in, and she’s kind of like a den mother, or den older sister. She can let her hair down and smoke a spliff, but she wouldn’t have let Jason drown. Which makes her final showdown with Mrs. Voorhees all the more appropriate. Alice stands for balance between horny teenagers and the grown-up world.

Other than this sort of English 201 reading, there’s not a lot going on in Friday the 13th. The closest thing to a subplot is the dorky camp manager trying to get back to Camp Crystal Lake in a thunderstorm. Everything else is set ’em up, knock ’em down. Again, moronic purity. The only thrill is the variations in murder, and if you haven’t seen the film in a while, or if your memories of it have merged with your memories of the later films, you may be remembering more inventive gore than there actually is. What was notable at the time, in an R-rated movie, was the camera’s unflinching gaze at a throat-slashing or at Bacon’s death; the other murders are either rote stabbings beneath the camera frame or take place offscreen. The ax-to-the-face effect is achieved with editing; you may think you saw the ax hit the girl in the eye, but you didn’t — what you do see is the ax in her face a second later. (Again, you see more of it in the uncut version.) One character wanders into a cabin, and the next time we see him he’s stuck to a wall by several arrows. We’re not used to people dying offscreen in what’s supposed to be a go-for-broke slasher flick.

Michael Myers had a kind of sputtering career in the ’80s; he in fact sat out most of the decade, between Halloween II (1981) and his return in Halloween 4 (1988). Leatherface only had one film that decade. So the slasher genre in the ’80s, other than the innumerable rip-offs and one-offs, came down to Jason and Freddy (who of course had to share a film eventually, though not until 2003, oddly). Freddy was a cackling gargoyle whose quips became lovable; soon enough he was hosting shows on MTV. Jason, masked and silent, was Freddy’s opposite number, and since Michael Myers wasn’t around, Jason took over by default as the faceless, voiceless Boogeyman who’ll kill you because you happen to be there and it’s Tuesday. He became something of a camp (no pun intended) icon, too — laughably unkillable and unstoppable, a slasher version of the Terminator. (Jason X would finally just go all the way with this.) But in this first film, Jason isn’t around except as a memory, a ghost, a nightmare, a trauma animating the slaughter. In effect, it’s as though he directly killed these victims — his batshit mother thinks he’s talking to her, spurring her on to kill. But it’s not a Jason film; it’s an origin story, like the ones you find in comics or, of late, comic-book movies.

I can’t call myself a fan of the Friday the 13th series, yet I own the box set of the first eight films in the series, as well as Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X and Freddy Vs. Jason (though not the 2009 remake; I have standards). Why? I suppose I like owning big chunks of horror-film history; also, the idea of the Friday the 13th films is more fun than the actual films tend to be individually. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, yeah: this first Friday the 13th, not so great. The whole series is a kind of shabby epic of retributive pain, an After School Special on the perils of drugs and sex done up in a way that teens would actually respond to.

Is it a nostalgia trip? Partially. It hasn’t aged well; its nonstyle renders it pretty sedate these days, although I still prefer being able to see what’s going on to today’s smash-and-grab editing. Of the early slashers (I don’t really consider Halloween a slasher), I prefer The Burning, which has layers of perversity and genuine rage, and much better Tom Savini effects to boot. Ultimately, Friday the 13th isn’t good enough to stand with its betters, and not bad enough to be a beer-and-pizza hoot like the many Canadian-tax-shelter slashers that followed in its wake. It’s average, bland, more memorable for what it started than for what it is.