Discover more from Fiction for the Cosmically Disturbed
It's Okay If You Aren't Good
Just Be Entertaining
While scouring the Internet Archive for vintage horror stuff, I came across this contemporaneous review for the original Friday the 13th. I’m not sure where it’s from as it isn’t explicitly cited, but it appears to be from a horror magazine of some sort, as there’s also part of a review of 1980’s Death Ship on the same page. As you can see from reading the piece, critic Tim Lucas was not a fan of the now iconic movie. He cites its reliance on cliches, its gruesomeness, and the motifs it borrows from other creators (specifically Romero, Carpenter, and DePalma) as his reasons for dismissing the film. He even goes so far as to call it “hack work,” which he acknowledges works as a pun on the film’s subject matter.
While reading his review, I found myself nodding my head. He’s not wrong about anything he says. Friday the 13th is heavily reliant on cliches, gruesome (for its time), and derivative of work that came before.
I still enjoy it. I enjoyed it when I first saw it way back in 1997 as a horror fan looking to level up my game, and I enjoyed it when I rewatched it earlier this week. Lots of other people appreciate this movie too. It was a cultural moment when it was first released, and it remains a beloved cult classic to this day.
Tropes are cool. They become tropes for a reason. Genres exist because tropes exist.
And I like genres (obviously).
They provide a framework for the stories we want to tell. Ultimately, Friday the 13th is about unresolved grief and how it can make you crazy with misplaced anger. It’s about the often suddenness of death. It’s about superstition and how it arises from the practical but no less horrific.
It’s also a lot of fun, and if you don’t want to think too hard about it, that’s okay too.
I love genre fiction, be that in books, comics, movies, or TV. I also like stuff that pushes the boundaries of genre, experimental works that defy easy definition. We need to have both because genres with all their tropes are our home base, while experimental works are more representative of that trip you took last year when you stayed in that sketchy hotel, ate weird food, and flew a redeye with a screaming baby in the next seat.
Genre is home. Home is a place to entertain and be entertained. It’s also a place of comfort. Friday the 13th is genre through and through, and it doesn’t aspire to be anything else. While that bothered Tim Lucas forty-three years ago, his gripes didn’t stop this little film from making a lasting impression on our culture.
I find a strange comfort in that.
Happy Friday the 13th, friends.
Fiction for the Cosmically Disturbed is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.