Exactly thirty-nine years ago today, “Friday the 13th” was released in American cinemas. The popular horror film centered on a summer camp where a series of increasingly inventive murders take place. The film featured a cast of up-and-coming actors, many of whom have gone on to noteworthy careers (chief among them is Kevin Bacon, who played the camp counselor Jack when he was 22 years old).
A number of elements in “Friday the 13th” have helped to establish trends in the teen slasher genre and codify the tropes that make such films instantly recognizable. The idea that sex kills and virgins face the greatest chance of survival is featured heavily in this, particular, film, as several of the murders occur while the victims are literally in the middle of intercourse. Upon its release, the film was incredibly successful, becoming an essential piece of popular culture. The film spawned eleven sequels and remakes, the most recent coming out in 2009. There have been some rumors of a thirteenth “Friday the 13th,” but plans have failed to materialize.
Since “Friday the 13th,” audiences have seen the teen slasher genre evolve and expand over the years. There was a significant renaissance during the 1990s when Wes Craven released the “Scream” franchise, followed by copycat films like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Urban Legend.” Even the slasher parody “Scary Movie” was popular enough to develop into a franchise. In recent years, the genre has become even more nuanced, with something films like “It Follows” providing a contemplative and thematically complex take on the traditional teen slasher film.
Ironically, as much as casual audiences like to define the teen slasher genre as fitting a narrow set of criteria and tropes, there are a variety of options that suit an array of tastes. Whether you’re a horror junkie with an encyclopedic knowledge of slasher film history or more nostalgia-driven, hearkening back to the teen horror films that were popular when you were actually a teenager, we’re betting that you have a front-runner in mind.