Despite its popularity, FRIDAY THE 13TH still got a lot of flak from critics, and I must say they make a lot of good points against the movie. Okay, I won't go so far as critic Roger Ebert did when he said the film was "beneath contempt"---sure, compared to its superior predecessor HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH really is exploitation hackwork, but it isn't totally horrible as a horror flick. Director Sean S. Cunningham at the very least has a decent sense of how to create a tense atmosphere that gives the movie more class than it deserves---he isn't necessarily just interested in the next murder, like some lesser directors might be. It's too bad, though, that Cunningham knows very little about building suspense, relying instead on gruesome cheap shocks to make an effect. And he shows almost no sense of style---a stark contrast to John Carpenter, for whom style was just about everything in HALLOWEEN. In addition to all that, the film's attempt at being some kind of mystery totally fails, since the eventual solution to it is so out-of-left-field (not like it really matters anyway, right?).
Tom Savini's notorious gore effects in this one are admittedly kinda cool, though---and, in its own way, groundbreaking. In the film's own way, too, FRIDAY THE 13TH is groundbreaking, but for the wrong reason: it inspired a slew of imitators in the '80s that tried to make even more outrageously violent and bloody slasher flicks, where gore was everything and true horror was zero. FRIDAY THE 13TH might not have been "beneath contempt," but the bloody-slasher-flick subgenre it helped popularize sure became so. Still, on its own, FRIDAY THE 13TH is a sometimes decent but generally mediocre slasher flick.