Friday the 13th (2009)
Reviewed by Carmen Potts
Starring Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Derek Mears, Danielle Panabaker
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Remakes by definition are sacrilege. But when it comes to a property like Friday the 13th, which began life as a cut-rate slasher clone, there’s nothing to get too worked up about. Nevertheless, there was something to those cheesy little films. They were cheap. They were badly made. They had little to no artistic merit. But even the worst of ‘em had a sleazy charm and low-budget ingenuity that made them infectious. They were a blast, and nothing beat watching them with a wild crowd on opening night.
Stepping into a crowded theater for the return of Jason Voorhees, I fully expected to be whisked back to a wild ninety minutes of screams, cheers, and flying popcorn, but what followed was something else entirely: absolute silence. And in a Friday the 13th movie, that’s not a good thing.
The new Friday is basically a streamlined version of Parts 1-4. The nonsensical origin story is whisked through in the opening title sequence and concludes with the quick beheading of Mrs. Voorhees (a blink-and-miss-it cameo from Nana Visitor). We then follow two sets of dumb teenagers as they venture out to Crystal Lake for some debauchery – and their eventual doom. In the middle of it all is Winchester boy Jared Padalecki, taking a side-trek from battling demons on "Supernatural" to hunt for his missing sister. The town locals all seem to know about the masked psycho in the woods but neglected to notify the poor saps who bought their Crystal Lake vacation home, where Jason shows up to wreak his usual brand of havoc.
True to form, the folks at Platinum Dunes have once again worked their signature brand of ultra-stylish, faux-gritty mediocrity, thus stripping Friday the 13th of its low-budget charm. While recent films like Hatchet, Wrong Turn 2, and My Bloody Valentine 3D understood and embraced the tone of old school slasher films, the new Friday seems to be actively running away from it, conforming to the modern trend of over-produced music video filmmaking. Marcus “Orange” Nispel, who helmed the overrated Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, is back behind the camera and art-directs the film within an inch of its life; but the real directors, as usual, are Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. While the team do far less damage here than in their other remakes, it’s clear that they still don’t understand the horror genre beyond its marquee value.
The movie’s biggest plus comes in the form of Derek Mears. He does Jason Voorhees proud, hulking through the frame with absolute menace (and even a shred of sympathy). His version is more wild woodsman than supernatural killer (with a touch of First Blood John Rambo thrown in for good measure), and it’s an interesting approach to a character that has always been one-note. Even jaded series fans won’t be able to deny that he’s one of the very best men to don the mask. It’s just a shame he doesn’t have more to work with.
Ever since that first trailer hit in 1980, Friday the 13th has lured audiences in for one reason: the kills. This is where the remake really drops the ball. Even the worst Friday films would have at least one wildly inventive murder that made you holler and elbow your surrounding buddies – but you’d be hard-pressed to do the same here. Sure, there are thirteen kills and most of them are fairly bloody, but they lack any sense of tension or creativity.
For example, we’re introduced to a weed-selling backwoods redneck who is first seen throwing junk into his oversized woodchipper. The excited murmurs of “Dude, he’s gonna get shredded!” are heard through the audience as they wait for the inevitable gory demise. But it never comes. Instead Jason shows up and dispatches him with a quick throat slash.
The entire film is full of these high build-up/no payoff moments that suck all the joy out of Friday the 13th. The makers are clearly striving for a back-to-basics approach with the kills but don’t seem to get that it was the twisted, often ironic execution that made us cheer every time one of those stupid teens got their comeuppance. After we’ve seen Jason mash and pulp people in every conceivable way, a simple CGI-enhanced stab of the machete just doesn’t thrill anymore. We need more.
Everything else from the soundtrack to the repetitive Texas Chainsaw set-pieces (get ready for more underground tunnel chasing) to the random way Jason dons his iconic hockey mask feels completely anticlimactic and forgettable, and the makers don't even think to throw in any fun nods to the original movies. No one expects high art from Friday the 13th, just basic bloody entertainment, and Platinum Dunes once again fails to deliver. I’m sure we’ll get the usual flurry of responses of “Well, it’s better than (insert bad sequel title here)”, but I would rather take bad shlock over this bland Hollywood mediocrity.
Say a prayer and grab your crucifix for Freddy Krueger, who is next up on the chopping block.
2 1/2 out of 5
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