Frame by Frame: Friday the 13th (1980)
Year – 1980
Decade – 1980s
Cinematographer – Barry Abrams (imdb link)
Director – Sean S. Cunningham (imdb link)
Make-Up Effects – Tom Savini (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio – 1.85
Distributor – Paramount
Genre – Horror, Slasher
Lenses – Spherical
Format – 35mm
Other Key Words
Point of View
Shot-by-Shot Scene Breakdowns
Click on a link to view other films featuring frames from that category.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th by Peter M. Bracke. Amazing book that offers exhaustive oral histories for each of the “canon” Friday the 13th films. All the quotes below come from Bracke’s book, which you can get on Kindle right now for $9.99.
“By the mid-1980s I began to get asked these questions about themes that were being superimposed upon Friday the 13th and other slasher films. That thing of, “Oh, the slut’s gonna die. And the good virgin will survive.” And honest to God, I thought they were nutty. Friday the 13th wasn’t meant to be misogynistic. It certainly wasn’t trying to demean women. We killed democratically….It wasn’t meant to be a morality tale. In fact, I think that diminishes the form at some level. The fear comes from bad things happening to good people for no apparent reason. And reconciling yourself to the fact that bad things are out there. We think that we protect ourselves by being nice to our mothers, being polite, by being good people, going to church. And doing all the good things. But gnawing in the back of our minds someplace is the notion that they may not protect us. It’s as cold as that.” – Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham, from Crystal Lake Memories
A group of young counselors at a summer camp with a tragic history are dispatched one-by-one by an unseen killer.
Friday the 13th began life over the Fourth of July weekend in 1979, when The Last House on the Left producer Sean S. Cunningham took out a full page ad in Variety touting the upcoming production as “The Most Terrifying Film Ever Made!” At that point, Cunningham had no money and no script. He wasn’t even sure he could legally secure the rights to the title. Yet less than a year later, the movie opened in 1,100 theaters and ultimately grossed just under $40 million on a $500,000 budget while spawning 11 additional sequels, reboots and crossovers.
The frames below give away much of the movie, including the twist ending. If you haven’t seen the film, probably best to not go any further.
(Below) A few behind the scenes shots from the finale’s decapitation gag.
Makeup effects supervisor Tom Savini touches up the fake noggin.
“When Betsy Palmer’s head goes off her body, her hands actually come up into the frame, as if looking for the head. That’s our way of making fake stuff look real. But if you notice, her knuckles are full of black hair because that’s (special makeup effects assistant) Taso (Stavrakis’s) hands. He was actually slumped over with Betsy’s fake head stuck to the body with toothpicks. So that the machete, when it hit, would just break the toothpicks and the head would spin off.”
Groups of Frames
The Point of View shots in the original Friday the 13th serve two functions – (1) to create voyeuristic unease as the camera watches the characters from afar, and (2) to provide a subjective POV of the killer during the acts of violence, which obscures the culprit’s identity until the third act reveal.
Director Sean S. Cunningham on the killer’s POV shots…
“I remember thinking what was so scary about Jaws were the point-of-view shots of the shark looking up at the legs of all these innocent children and lovers and parents. It wasn’t that they did anything wrong, or right. With Friday the 13th, I wanted to create this world of young lovely kids, and somebody is going to bite their legs off without any rhyme or reason. And therein lies the fear.”
In the pre-credits prologue set in 1958, two amorous counselors are murdered from the POV of an unseen assailant.
Scene Length: 4 minutes 53 seconds
Number of shots: 17
Average Shot Length: 17.2 seconds
Annie’s death scene
Scene Length: 20 seconds
Number of shots: 8
Average Shot Length: 2.5 seconds
Jack’s death scene
Kevin Bacon’s post-coital demise on the bottom of a bunk bed remains my favorite effect in the film. A body cast of the actor was made and Bacon was positioned underneath the bed so that his head was the only real part of his body seen in the shot.
Scene Length: 36 seconds
Number of shots: 2
Average Shot Length: 18 seconds
“Ned” actor Mark Nelson…
I remember watching them shoot Kevin’s death scene, and it was so funny. There was a pump that was supposed to spray blood as the arrow came up through his chest, and they could only shoot it once because the arrow would break the skin on the mold of his chest and that was it. Only the suction pump that was going to spray the blood stopped after the camera started. But Taso saw it and jumped in, and saved the day.
Special makeup effects assistant Taso Stavrakis…
So there we are, all cramped under the bed. And my knees were getting wet because the tube came off by mistake and I was pumping blood all over us. So I grabbed the tube and started blowing with all my might. And that’s why, in the finished film, what you see coming out of Kevin’s neck are two or three spurts of arterial spray. It was terrific. Then, after we got the shot, I spit out all the blood and ran down to the lake and jumped in, still hacking, trying to get that shit out of my mouth.
Marcie’s death scene
Scene Length: 2 minutes 5 seconds
Number of shots: 10
Average Shot Length: 12.5 seconds
Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller on the debt that the film’s epilogue owes to Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976).
“….(the ending was) as close as I could steal from Carrie without being arrested.”
Scene: 2 minutes and 2 seconds
Number of shots: 10
Average Shot Length: 12.2 seconds
Tom Savini’s make-up process for the boy in the lake. From Issue #6 of Fangoria.