In a world of slasher movies where you're often suspicious whether someone's recommending a movie because it's a good movie, or just because there's sex and blood, Friday the 13th is a good movie.
You follow a crew of hapless young people at a summer camp. During the night scary things begin to happen. It seems there's a killer out there, and our young people are getting picked off one by one. Who will make it out alive?
Friday the 13th was originally a cash-in after the success of Halloween. But Friday the 13th has a great twist on the genre, and I won't spoil it if you're going back and seeing it for the first time. Suffice to say, the idea that the iconic Jason Voorhees has always been the killing machine in popular culture is far from accurate. This movie is deeper, more nuanced, and quite unusual. The acting is quite good, the effects are amazing. It's a good movie.
Friday the 13th also explains the origin of a lot of modern slasher movie tropes. In short, slasher movies weren't supposed to be about murdering people while they were having sex just for cheap thrills (put that "just" in quotes). There is an actual story reason why people who are having sex at the summer camp get targeted. This logic starts to fade in the sequels, but here in the original, all of the killing more or less has an explanation. This is more of a dramatic film with slasher elements, than a regular dumb slasher.
Tom Savini's effects are magnificent. The film had to quick-cut a lot of the gruesome kills to avoid ratings issues, but what is there is just enough to surprise. At the time, the combination of violent kills and sexual imagery was thought by critics to be in poor taste. Here, I think the film is perfectly artistic and justified thanks to its story. It's not until later installments that I really begin to question the morality of the filmmakers.
Harry Manfredini's iconic score is a wonder. Equal parts classic movie score, with lots of strings, and a modern horror masterpiece with lots of editing and effects. The classic sound effect of "chu chu chu, ha ha ha" is actually related to the story. Again I'll limit spoilers, but the actual audio is a heavily distorted clip of the beginning sounds of "kill" and "mommy". Everything has a reason, and it's all amazing.
Great music, great effects, good to great acting. I'd recommend this movie even if people hate modern slasher films. It's so much smarter, more nuanced, and a "real" movie. Whether you love or hate later installments, Friday the 13th is a classic in its own right.