Brief summary: The film begins at Camp Crystal Lake in 1958, where two counselors are murdered by a mysterious individual after being caught having sex. Fast forward to the present (1980), and the camp's being re-opened. A new group of young, nubile counselors (including a young, Speedo-clad Kevin Bacon) arrive early to get the camp ready. And over the course of one bloody Friday the 13th, someone or something methodically dispatches each of the kids in a variety of ways.
Cashing in on the success of HALLOWEEN made two years earlier, FRIDAY THE 13TH, for all it's lapses in continuity and logic, works in a very cheery and enthusiastic way. The score, "borrowed" from PSYCHO, works to add tension to the various chases and death scenes. The cast, while obviously inexperienced, nonetheless seem sincere and fun in a way that doesn't come off as annoying. Especially melodramatic and great is Mad Ralph, who's divine duty it is to pop up at weird moments to warn the gang not to stay at "Camp Blood." Director Sean Cunningham gets some great outdoor shots, most famously the shock ending on the lake.
Was it scary? Well, not to a 33 year-old guy on an early Sunday morning. The thing that surprised me was the amount of violence that happens off screen. You don't go into FRIDAY THE 13TH and expect any subtlety, but there you go! The movie also famously sets up conventions that later films would repeat endlessly until finally parodied in films like SCARY MOVIE - mantras like "have sex and die," "get naked and die," and "adults are no help what-so-ever." What makeup effects there are (courtesy of TOM F-CKIN' SAVINI) look great - from the throat slashing, decapitations and other gruesome deaths to the truly disturbing makeup for Jason at the end; I imagine for Hollywood and Middle America kids back then who hadn't seen a lot of the giallo films from Italy it was great over-the-top fun.
I guess the biggest shock to audiences was, to me, the biggest question mark of the movie - the ending. While visually stunning, it left me with a lot of questions that maybe, according to a friend of mine, I shouldn't be asking of a horror movie (although I found someone else who had the same issues). I think a cleaner cut movie without the ambiguous ending would have made for a more logical and solid slasher film, but if they hadn't done what they did, we wouldn't have one of the truly great horror scenes of all time, and one of the (for better or for worse) most iconic figures in modern horror.