I know, it’s blasphemy. One of these films literally invented the template of slasher horror, instantly became an iconic hit, and made its impression in pop culture at large in a number of demonstrable ways. The other is a shameless rip-off of the first one, a cliché-ridden grab-bag of horny teens meeting their comeuppance, and its resulting franchise’s primary influence upon pop culture didn’t even appear in it. And yet — I have always found Friday the 13th to be the superior slasher film to Halloween.
I am not here to bury Halloween, but to praise it. It remains an engine of dread. A showpiece of low-budget ingenuity. A firework of a calling card for screen icons like John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Donald Pleasence, and of course Jamie Lee Curtis. It works, man! But, especially when screened one after the other, I think Friday the 13th works even better — both in the facets that make it explicitly dissimilar, and in the similar thematic choices Halloween tries to make.
I’ve visited both Haddonfield and Camp Crystal Lake, and I’m here to explain why the latter is the scarier spot. With apologies to Mr. Myers, whom I would desperately like to not come visit me and hide behind my laundry, this is why Friday the 13th is better than Halloween.
Warning: Spoilers for both Friday the 13th and Halloween to follow.