Killer Thursdays

Of Masks and Slashers: Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980)

*The wise and inspiring Gary Gauthier is at the Life List Club talking about how to find your natural voice as a writer. Come on over and join the conversation.*

Both Halloween (1978, directed by John Carpenter) and Friday the 13th (1980, directed by Sean S. Cunningham) are so well-known that they have passed into the realm of modern folklore. Even if you haven’t seen them yourself, you probably feel like you have. The knife-wielding, mask-wearing (in this case…no, Wednesday, homicidal maniacs do not look just like everyone else), killing machines from both of these movies (although Jason Voorhees doesn’t actually become the  antagonist until Friday the 13th Part II and doesn’t pick up the infamous hockey mask until Part III) have become iconic.

On Halloween night 1963, a 6-year-old Michael Myers stabs his older sister to death. He’s imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital and attended by Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance), who comes to believe the boy is the embodiment of pure evil. 15 years later, Myers escapes to wreak havoc on his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. Dr Loomis pursues him, desperate to stop Myers before he kills again. The killer becomes obsessed with teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) begins stalking her. On Halloween night 1978, Michael Myers kills (Nick Castle) again…and again. He stabs and slashes and strangles his way through Laurie’s friends until only she is left and then he zeroes in on her with a vengeance.

20 years after Camp Crystal Lake was closed due to a grisly double murder, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) plans to reopen the summer camp for underprivileged children, much to the dismay of the townspeople who believe the place is cursed call it “Camp Blood”. On Friday, June 13, a group of teenage counselors arrive to spruce up the camp before it opens. Over the course of that long day and night, an unseen killer will pick off the counselors, one-by-one, each killing more brutal than the last until only Alice (Adrienne King) is left…and she’s not giving up without a fight.

Both of these movies spawned huge franchises which continue to serve up thrills and chills today. There’ve been sequels, spin-offs, books, spoofs, comics, and tv shows. They’ve influenced generations of film makers and fueled our nightmares for decades.

They could be the reason you never wanted to go away to summer camp. Or babysit on Halloween. Or why hockey masks give you the willies. Or how that simple little ditty from Halloween or the “ki ki ki ma ma ma” from Friday the 13th can give you goosebumps or leave you obsessively looking over your shoulder and locking the windows and doors…even if you can’t remember where you heard them from.

While neither of these movies is exactly high-art (and both have been ripped by critics at one time or another for being “immoral trash” and/or “misogynistic”), they’ve both become cult classics for good reason. If you haven’t seen them or it’s been a long time since you last watched, put ’em on your Netflix queue or trot down to the nearest video store (just not at night…or on Halloween…or on Friday the 13th) and check them out (with all the lights on and the doors/windows locked).

Have you seen the originals of Halloween and Friday the 13th? What’s your favorite part? What’s the scariest part? Whose slashing skills reign supreme, Micheal, Jason or Mrs Voorhees?

Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
Adapted from ominous by bionicteaching (Tom Woodward) at Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Image from Halloween (fair use)
Image from Friday the 13th (fair use)
Blood Spatter by Heo2035 (Marcelo Duarte) at Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

19 thoughts on “Of Masks and Slashers: Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980)

  1. With the obvious exceptions of Hitchcock’s Psycho and Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and the not-so-obvious exception of Cabin Fever, (2002, James DeBello and Giuseppe Andrews ARE the movie) the original Halloween is the the most honest and well-crafted of the popular slasher / teen horror movies, IMO. The unmasking gets me every time:

  2. Although not a real big fan of “slashers”, I believe these two franchises tie them as a subgenre into Horror.Both had their ups and downs, their “Wth?” moments, and their marketing ploys (ala Freddy v. Jason). I would have to say that, as a long-time lover of all things Horror, my vote favours the Halloween series. The (back)story is superior and even the “fan fiction” (such as the Zombie rendition) turned out to be pretty good. [I know that is a sore spot with die-hard Halloween fans, but I look at it as fan fiction rather than a part of the series itself]

  3. I don’t really get into scary movies – mainly because they scare me – duh… anyway, I do like Psycho and I have made it through parts of the original Halloween…Okay, I’ll admit it, even Jaws scared me…

    1. I guess I was pre-programmed to be a horror fan. I saw Texas Chainsaw on it’s first run, read Jaws, Flowers in the Attic, and Amityville and watched The Exorcist…all before I was 10. Probably did a little to push me into wanting to write horror. To me, scary is healthy. It’s when you AREN’T scared of anything that something’s wrong!

      1. I think I have to blame my uncles for my love of horror. They were teens then and thought it was funny to show 9 me horror movies. Traumatized me so much I became a horror fan rofl.

  4. It’s strange but I love horror films and I don’t think I’ve ever sat through either of those movies from start to end. Time to correct that I think 🙂

  5. Along with ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘Hellraiser’ (first, maybe 2nd also) & “The Excorcist’, these should be required viewing for horror fans…lol

  6. “Your all doomed!”
    Hello there, Sonia. I love the trip down Memory Lane, or was it Elm Street? 😉 I grew up with those two iconic films. What comes to mind now is the fact that both, as well as Spielberg’s “Jaws”, rarely showed the killer. The beauty was the edge of your seat part of the whole thing. Later, especially with Jason, I felt they kept showing him too much. It’s the suspense!!!
    Have a great weekend.


    1. Agreed. Halloween is surprisingly low key on the blood and violence but all the more effective because of it. And Friday’s not showing the killer for so long definitely ratcheted up the tension for me.

  7. But of course I’ve seen the originals! Halloween tends to be more a favorite of mine, but I think I’m due for another screening of Friday soon. I think both films are super creepy because they each play on that “sense of the unknown”. The music, that looming low music that signals a shadow around every corner, and the fact that the killer never talks! Psychopath indeed!

    No joke, I totally just looked behind me. Even thinking about the movie creeped me out!

  8. Ever since the summer of ’78 when I was 16 years old and working at a Baskin Robbins store, I ALWAYS look in the back seat of my car before getting in it at night.

  9. I’m always up for a good slasher. It’s always hard to pick a favorite. I even enjoyed the insanely cheesy ones later one were they start traveling to space and doing crossovers. I also enjoyed their spiritual ’90’s successors, like “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

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