Friday The 13th. We’d already been nigh on stranded in Stratford after the Overground broke down, we got on the wrong bus, we got back on the bus, then came the traffic. Finally arriving in Hackney Wick with minutes to spare, we searched just about everywhere for the enigmatic Queen’s Yard. That ghastly tense feeling settled in as we walked through iron grating, past a display of brightly coloured graffiti and then realised we were on a building site. Of all the days to lose yourself in the back streets of East London, this was not one of them. You can be sure we ran out of there as fast as we could and finally we saw, sprayed in big white letters on the exposed brick wall, ‘Queen’s Yard’, with The Yard ‘cinema’ located just behind it.
The Yard is generally a theatre, but has lent its space to the good people of the Rooftop Film Club who also have venues in Kensington, Shoreditch and London Fields. Situated in Bethnal Green, The Yard, upon first viewing is a little broken down, but kind of cool in that really pretentious hipster-type way that I secretly really enjoy – but then again it is a building built entirely out of recycled material from the Olympic Park.
Making it just in time, we grabbed some wine and headed upstairs, settling down on two of the raised chairs, whilst others lazed on a huge heap of curtains just in front of the projector wall. The lights dimmed and people hushed and giggled as dearest Annie, the camper who never quite made it, shared some casual dialogue with a stranger’s dog.
Of course, it’s a story that everyone knows, and quite rightly one of what I like to call ‘The Unholy Trinity’, alongside Halloween and Nightmare On Elm Street – the movies that set the bar for all the slashers that were to follow. It’s 1980 and a group of camp counsellors are stalked and viciously murdered on Friday the 13th, whilst trying to re-open Camp Crystal Lake, a summer camp where a boy once drowned. Queue toplessness, sex, drinking and general teen antics. Oh yes, and some fairly brutal murders.
Whilst the acting is a little hammy, in no way am I talking about you Kevin Bacon…honest, and the story so simple that it is almost non-existent, it is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable slashers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing – even more so when you’re with a group of 100 or so 20-somethings who are all laughing along, screaming and having a great time. The music is fantastic (Ki-ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma-ma *shudders*), the kills are pretty great, the axe in the face and Jack’s (Bacon) death in the bed went down particularly well at the screening, and of course it gave birth to one of the most notorious horror characters of all time. So whilst it may not even be the best in the Friday The 13th series, it is the original and therefore deserves a lot of kudos.
The real star for the show for me, apart from Steve Christy’s (Peter Brouwer) moustache, is of course Mrs Voorhees played by the sensational Betsy Palmer. Such facial expressions and such accents, you can be sure everyone at the screening was re-enacting “Kill her, Mommy, kill her. Don’t let her get away” “I won’t, Jason, I won’t”, until long after the movie had ended.
Whilst it was never my favourite of the late 70s and early 80s slashers, there’s nothing quite like watching Friday The 13th on Friday The 13th surrounded by a group of horror fans and it made me realise just how much I actually loved this movie. And it taught me a valuable life lesson – never go to a summer camp in the US.