Friday the 13th

If I'd just lost my head I'd be shaking my fists at the heavens, too

If I'd just lost my head I'd be shaking my fists at the heavens, too

The first Friday the 13th movie definitely feels like it has training wheels on. It hasn't quite figured out most of the sundry details, but the big picture is kinda-sorta there.  The violence that would go on to define the series is already present - a lot of half-naked summer camp counselors are massacred before the credits roll. Unfortunately, they die in separate locations by an unseen hand, which means that the audience is supposed to wonder who is doing this, but none of the living camp counselors realize that they're being picked off one by one, so they can't begin to investigate.  Immediately after it gets around to acknowledging it's central mystery, the movie turns around and answers it anti-climatically - and then of course it answers it with the wrong answer. (The spree killer isn't Jason Vorhees, who would be the villain in the rest of the series - it's someone far less scary.)

The movie is at a weird level of competence, because the later movies would be less amateurish, but once they perfected the formula they just coasted on it, turning the films into a repetitive slog. But the uneven little details that make this movie stand out a bit aren't interesting enough to make it a unique movie going experience. No, this movie is neither fish nor fowl - not fully generic, but close enough to border on being tedious.

So instead of breaking down this movie fully (which would be fine but unnecessary) I want to do something else: I want to talk about Crazy Ralph.

Crazy Ralph is one of the townies who lives near the summer camp where the movie's massacre takes place. We meet him early on when the camp's cook shows up in a local diner to try to hitch a ride out to the camp. Ralph gets in her face, ominously warning her that if she doesn't turn around now bad things will happen to her. That scene is fine as far as Crazy Ralph being crazy goes, but the better Ralph scene takes place a little bit later.

One camp counselor realizes that a snake has gotten into her cabin, so she screams. The other counselors rally to the scene and kill it with a machete. Once it's dead they start to calm down... And then Crazy Ralph appears out of nowhere! Like the snake he's doing a surprise drop-in, but unlike the snake he wants to warn them that the camp is haunted by evil and that they need to leave. (Ralph seems to have a bit of a one-track mind. The sheriff later reveals that Ralph is married, and I can only imagine that his wife's life is great.) Once the counselors realize that Ralph is just a weirdo who has wandered onto their property they tell him to scram. He starts to walk away, but then he stops to give them one final warning... Then he hops on his bicycle and pedals away.

Wait. Bicycle?

It was established in the first scene of the movie that the camp is 20 miles away from town. That means that Ralph biked twenty miles so he could say two or three cryptic sentences to complete strangers, then he hopped on his busted-looking bike so he could bike another twenty miles back to town. Of course, it could have been more than a 40 mile trip, depending on whether he lived on the far side of town or not - they are in the country, after all. No matter how you slice it, however, he devoted a whole afternoon to being a total creep, which requires a notable amount of dedication. Especially given that the camp's phone lines still work at this point, and phones were made to make saying three sentences across a twenty mile distance a lot easier.

When Ralph started to slowly pedal away I had to think of that scene in the Simpsons where Mr. Burns throws down a smoke bomb so he can escape in a cloud of mystery, only he's so old that he is barely halfway to the door by the time the smoke has dissipated. Crazy Ralph's dire warnings would have been a lot cooler if he'd been able to immediately vanish into the woods, because watching an old man bike slowly on a squeaky bike down a long country lane is not the scariest thing in the world. Crazy Ralph needs to learn how important a proper exit strategy is; you have to stick the landing if you want to make the proper impression.

Now, even though Crazy Ralph is only in two scenes and only serves one purpose, I'd like to tell you about the next twelve things I noticed about him...

Winner: Draw

Friday the 13th on IMDB