There’s nothing wonderfully terrible about Friday the 13th. It’s not like any of the cast are bad in funny ways, not even Betsy Palmer who’s doing inept histrionics. Are any of the cast members good? Not really. Some are better than others. Kevin Bacon’s probably the most useless (and annoying, due to an affected Southern accent) and Jeannine Taylor is okay, which is strange since most of their scenes are opposite each other.
Inept is a good word to describe the film in general. Director Cunningham rips off a style or a device from another film and then changes it just enough to make it not work. Without Harry Manfredini’s omnipresent score, there wouldn’t be any tension in the film. Cunningham can’t direct for it and writer Victor Miller can’t plot for it. Friday the 13th is obvious at every moment; there’s no inventiveness.
Well, except for the special effects, which are a little too slick for the film. Cunningham tries to make an exploitation picture, but does it with a little too much budget and not enough understanding of how to actually be affecting while terrorizing your audience. He and Miller try for “scary” things because it distracts from their inability to form a connect with the viewer. Friday the 13th doesn’t use any of the viewer’s brain cells, unless he or she is counting shockingly obvious moments for later review.
The single surprise–the ending scare is really well-executed (thanks to Manfredini’s cheap, obvious and effective music).