When it comes to legendary slasher films that changed the genre, few can compare to the effect of Friday the 13th (1980). Originally conceived as a cheap rip-off of Halloween (1978), Friday has taken on a life of its own.
In addition to introducing the world to Jason Voorhees, the film inspired an entire generation of filmmakers. Friday the 13th was an incredibly cheap movie. Regardless of the low budget, the film saw one of the most significant box-office returns for a horror movie up to that point. This led other studios to realize they too could produce a low-budget horror flick and expect high returns. The result was the slasher boom of the ‘80s.
Friday the 13th’s impact can be felt decades later. To take a look at the film’s lasting legacy, here are 13 slasher movies that owe their very existence to Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th has the market cornered when it comes to summer camp horror. While that film is the poster child for this specific sub-genre, Sleepaway Camp is a close second. This classic chiller follows Angela Baker, a shy teen girl who is sent to summer camp with her cousin. Angela slowly begins to become comfortable with her new surroundings and even manages to make new friends. Things quickly go south when someone begins killing off those at the camp one by one. Whether counselors, cooks, or even campers, nobody is safe from this stealthy killer. Outside of the obvious setting, this movie takes several beats from Friday the 13th. A faceless killer, POV shots, and increasingly disturbing kills are all remnants of Sean Cunningham’s classic. Sleepaway Camp also has one of the most shocking final moments ever put to film, one that blows Friday’s infamous jumpscare out of the water.
One of the earliest films looking to cash in on Friday’s success was The Burning. A summer camp caretaker is horribly burned in a prank gone wrong. Surviving the indecent, he begins to lurk around the camp seeking revenge on those responsible. Even the plot is similar to Friday, which of course follows somebody seeking vengeance at a summer camp. What makes this movie stand out among other rip-offs of the time, is the incredible kill effects by Tom Savini. The Wizard of Gore also worked on Friday the 13th, but many feel his work here is far superior. While The Burning is far from a fantastic movie, it is a fun slasher movie with some stand-out kills.
Yet another summer camp horror flick released just a year after Friday is Madman. More of a shameless rip-off, Madman tells the legend of Madman Marz. When a group of teens at a camp tell call out his name, the legendary mass murderer seems to return to kill the teens in a brutal fashion. The movie isn’t shy in the fact it gets its inspiration from Friday the 13th, and this adds a bizarre sense of self-awareness. Today, Madman is seen as just one of the many cult classics spawned in the aftermath of Friday the 13th’s success.
It seems a running theme in Friday-inspired slashers is revenge. After all, what is more terrifying than someone with nothing left to lose? One such film is Slaughter High. Released near the end of the decade, Slaughter High is a bit more self-aware than many of its counterparts. Eight former classmates are invited to their ten-year high school reunion. They soon realize that another former classmate, one disfigured from a prank gone wrong, is out to kill them all. By the time this film was released, Jason and his trademark hokey mask were already well known. This is evident as the killer in this film has more in common with Jason than his mother.
Sticking with the school theme, we have Final Exam. This film is so shameless in where it got its inspiration, the cover art is a direct rip-off of Friday’s famous one sheet. The film follows a group of college students as they are picked off one by one by a deranged killer. Final Exam is the very definition of a brainless flick. That is to say, it is best enjoyed by one who doesn’t put too much thought into it. The characters are stereotypes of stereotypes, but the kills make up for it.
Isolated cabins, bloody kills, and mommy issues. These are key in any self-respecting Friday the 13th clone, and The Mutilator has them all. A college student accidentally killed his mother when he was a small child. After successfully moving past the incident, he decides to take his friends to his father’s fishing cabin. They soon realize that the father is also at the cabin, and he is out for blood. There is even a scene where some of the characters play Monopoly while others are being murdered, a scene taken directly from Friday the 13th.
My Bloody Valentine is an example of a movie that was made in the wake of Friday the 13th’s success but developed a legacy of its own. One of the key draws of Friday is how it felt like an urban legend come to life. A campfire tale that turns out to be real. My Bloody Valentine follows a similar idea. An urban legend that has plagued a small town for decades turns out to be true when a killer miner begins killing people on Valentine’s Day. In addition to being a whodunnit set on a holiday, My Bloody Valentine shares another connection with Friday the 13th. Both films were remade in 2009.
The Slumber Party Massacre is yet another film that started out as a rip-off but became popular on its own. The film follows a group of high school girls who are stalked and killed at, what else, a slumber party. The movie features a killer wielding a large drill, who has become a horror icon in their own right. Several sequels and a recent remake followed the film, while the original still remains a favorite cult classic.
When it comes to masked killers from the 80s, the killer from The Prowler isn’t mentioned as often as many feel he should. Once again focused on a past tragedy, a killer donning army fatigues torments a small town while trying to relieve a murder from 35 years ago. In addition to taking place in New Jersey, The Prowler has one more connection to Friday the 13th. Prowler director Joe Zito went on to direct Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter in 1983.
While basing a horror movie on a specific day is more of a rip-off of Halloween or Black Christmas (1974), Friday the 13th certainly helped it become a trend. Another movie to hop in on the trend is Happy Birthday to Me. Virginia is a young woman who survived a deadly accident. After brain reconstructive surgery leaves her with no memory of the event, she tries to move on with her life. When her friends begin to disappear on her 18th birthday, she grows to fear she is behind it.
Pranks in slasher movies rarely turn out well. Whether it is causing a young boy to drown or a sorority hazing goes wrong, things will often end up bloody. The House on Sorority Row of course falls into the later category. While celebrating their graduation, a group of sorority sisters begins to die one by one, and the aforementioned prank seems to be the reason.
Scream isn’t so much a direct rip-off of Friday the 13th, but it is a love letter to the slashers of the era. A horror movie-obsessed killer taunts and kills the students of Woodsboro High. When Sidney Prescott realizes the killer has personal ties to her own tragic past, it is clear that anyone can be behind the mask. This legendary slasher spawned its own successful franchise, and Friday the 13th was one of the key films referenced.
While not directly inspired by Friday, this legendary film was in response to the slasher craze. Thanks to Michael and Jason, every slasher movie had to be a silent killer in a mask. Wes Craven wanted to change the game, so he did the opposite. He created a killer that taunts his victims and has his face on full display. The result was Freddy Krueger, and horror was never quite the same. The movie of course spawned its own wildly successful franchise, and the pop culture reaction to Freddy helped horror become more mainstream than ever. Freddy of course eventually fought Jason, bringing it all full circle.