You know what? This movie still holds up. Before Friday the 13th became a hydra of a franchise, before Jason was an unstoppable killing machine, Sean Cunningham and company put out a scary little slasher movie that gets under my skin- even today, over a cup of coffee.
All the little touches add up to keep this one at the top of the heap: the fantastic use of slow-motion and both the beginning and end, the fade to white after a kill, Henry Manfredini's score- a jarring, grating rip-off of Bernard Herrmann's work in Psycho...it was all fresh way back in 1980. While it certainly followed in the footsteps of Halloween, F13 hadn't yet devolved into 90 minutes of cliches and stereotypes. There's some character development, and you kinda sorta care about the counsellors- the acting is also decent, and that helps. Despite the high body count- 10- the film's pace is fairly slow, so it's not just a mind-numbing kill-kill-kill. There's something about this one that has always scared me more than almost any other slasher- the grittiness of it, the pounding rain, the fleeting glimpses of the killer, the haunting child's voice that lures Brenda to her death with cries of "Help me!"...there's alot of atmosphere here, believe it or not. And even when we know who the killer is the frights don't let up, because Betsy Palmer is just so damn good- when she talks to herself in the voice of her dead son Jason, it still gives me the chills. And then there's Jason himself, all crusty looking, popping out of the lake at the end: it's preposterous, silly, and horrifying. Was it just Alice's dream, or was there a boy in the lake? I'll find out when I turn on Part 2! I'm guessing that it wasn't just Alice's imagination, though- I've still got 10 movies to get through.