Trever Palmer is a longtime horror and slasher movie enthusiast. Wait a minute, I'M a horror/slasher enthusiast...Trever is a walking, talking, writing encyclopedia of the genre. He is especially knowledgeable about slasher movies. The guy can discuss in minute detail every slasher movie you've ever heard of. And also ones you've never heard of.

This is the first in a semi-regular series where Trever celebrates the memories of the fun, the excitement, the thrills and chills of attending horror movies on the night in which they premier. So without further ado, here's OPENING FRIGHTS.


Campfire tales for the opening of the original Friday The 13th always simmer to the fact that it arrived amidst Stanley Kubrickís The Shining and The Empire Strikes Back, two heavyweights predicted to K.O. the low-budgeted independent slasher film. And although Darth Vader won out in that hot summer, hissing an infamous line of dialogue that is more fondly remembered than that of 1980ís burning question ďWho Shot J.R.?,Ē the unlucky counselors of Camp Crystal Lake couldnít be denied their place in cinema history.

Released in a handful of small cities on May 9, 1980, so that Paramount Pictures could gauge viewer reactions (a strategy that would help Porkyís in the same year); Friday The 13th would eventually slash its way through nearly $6 million dollars at the box-office. If one were to figure in inflation adjustments over the ensuing years, its final take would look more like $30 million dollars. Not bad for the little slasher that couldnít.

And Iím not ashamed to say that a few of the dollars which ended up in Paramountís bloody pockets were those of my own.
When television ads for Friday The 13th began to show themselves on late-night television (I candidly remember seeing one during an episode of The Twilight Zone - ďNick Of TimeĒ, for those who are interested, where Captain Kirk is fascinated with a bizarre fortune telling machine), the buzz for the film became louder than that in Irwin Allenís The Swarm.
It hadnít been two years since the release of John Carpenterís classic Halloween, and the slasher film was still in its infancy. Fans who would eventually turn away when the sub-genre needed arrested for animal abuse (beating a dead horse - ha ha) werenít yet hip to a formula that would be strained through countless sequels and imitators. All the 1980 crowds knew were what these television ads were telling them. You could say we were warned, and you could say that seeing it once was enough, but nothing spoke more loudly, or told more truth, than the simple fact that Fridays would never be the same, again.

To say I had no intention of missing this film would be a gross understatement.

Aside from the television ads, coverage was starting to leak into magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland and Starlog. The filmís poster, with unsuspecting victims wading through a camp scene outlined by a human figure brandishing a hunting knife, began to appear in movie theater lobbies. There was enough fuel for this campfire to keep even the likes of Cropsy happy.

Still, no matter how excited I was for the 13th to fall on a Friday, the same couldnít be said for everyone.
My friend, whom Iíll name Shirley to protect the guilty, used every available chance to take a potshot at the film. She was a big - or should I say BIG - Stephen King fan, and was quite righteous whenever telling me how a low-budget waste of celluloid like Friday The 13th would end up faring no better than dog crap on the heels of The Shining. Though I had to wonder if Shirley wasnít a card-carrying member of Siskel & Ebertís fan club (the idea of her being one of their storm troopers sent out to wreck the film faded when the duo tackled Friday The 13th, themselves), it nonetheless provided an interesting round of debates leading up to...

Opening Night.

Now, even though Shirley was apt to conceal her identity behind a ski-mask so that anyone she knew wouldnít catch her watching Friday The 13th, there wasnít a chance in the world of her not going to the movie. For her not to be there, with the possibility to start spewing ridicule shortly before the closing credits, would be tantamount to her missing The Shining after having been given free tickets.

So, on opening Friday, Shirley graduates her final college classes. She shows up at my house (sans ski-mask) later in the evening, where we killed time shooting pool and listening to Molly Hatchet. Then, dressed in our best civvies - which was narrowed down to jeans and concert t-shirts (I was a walking billboard for Ted Nugentís Intensities in 10 CitiesÖ it was 1980, shaddup!) - we poured into my rust bucket of a vehicle (make and model Iíd rather not reveal) and headed to Crystal Lake.

As much as Iíd like to tell you about the long lines dying to see Friday The 13th, it just wouldnít be true. On that opening night, it was as simple as stepping up to the ticket window, paying, and then finding a seat not covered in spilled popcorn butter (or worse!). Cigarette burns and tears were fine, but spilled butter (or worse!) was simply not acceptable. Any, and all, mass hysteria was reserved for those Star Wars fans bundled up outside in their sleeping bags, waiting for the release of that other movie. And they call slasher fans dumb?

Letís take a quick moment for the customary trip to the lobby (for treats!), a game or two of pinball, and maybe a slight buzz caught in the bathroom. Got it? Hey man, donít burn your fingers! Okay, good. The movie is about to startÖ
Now, Iím not going to give you a review of Friday The 13th. I think itís safe to say that since youíre reading this, youíve already seen the film or, at least, have a tight grasp on what the whole thing is about. And if you havenít seen it, may I ask: Why the hell not? Donít answer that now, though, bunky. Just send it to me in an e-mail, or something.
Friday The 13th evolved into a cinematic juggernaut over the weekend. Word-of-mouth spread into the high school halls, the shopping malls, and every place in-between.

The day after seeing the film for the first time, I stopped into a convenient store to pick up some cigarettes. The folks at the counter, a small crowd of teenagers or early twenty-somethings, were talking and laughing and acting like anyone does who is cornered into a minimum-wage job and doesnít have a family to feed. And Iím not even going to give you one guess about where the conversation turned once the sight of one of their friendís in a Pinto stopped being funny (did that ever stop being funny?). Was it the decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees, or possibly Jasonís burst from the mossy bottom of Crystal Lake? Nope. Nobody could stop talking about ďthat guyĒ who was lying on the bed, and got an arrow shoved up through his throat. Hmm. Wonder who he was?

And what about Shirley, you ask. Did she enjoy the film? Letís just say that it was all she could talk about on the way home that Friday evening, and that she ended up seeing the film in the theater - and from the backseat of a car at the drive-in - more times than I did. She did enjoy The Shining, and is still a BIG Stephen King fan, but will readily admit that Betsy Palmer took Jack Nicholson out behind the woodshed.

As for me, I returned home that Friday night to a dark house. And the front door was standing wide open! If it wasnít bad enough that I had just seen one helluva scary movie (and it was in 1980, believe me), now I had to come home to this! Ah well, allís well that ends well. I finally mustered up the courage and ventured into the shadows. There was no psycho waiting to kill me; no Siskel & Ebert waiting to tell me how Paramount had sunk so very low to release trash (that would take them a few more weeks when they urged a letter-writing campaign to boycott the film on their television show).

No, it was just me. Alone, and with my thoughts. And as I smoked the dayís last cigarette, remembering what she said, I couldnít help but think of the one thing that everyone seemed to agree on after having seen Friday The 13th: Thereís gotta be a sequel!

And oh, donít call me Shirley.



By Trever Palmer

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