Friday the 13th (2009)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Derek Mears, Danielle Panabaker
Directed by Marcus Nispel
For years zombies were slow, lumbering creatures, gingerly raising their arms at you as you passed them by. In small numbers this meant you could easily avoid their bitey embrace and even engage in a game of “tip the dead guy over”. The same could be said for our friend Jason Voorhees, in a sense. So long as you kept him within your field of vision, he would fast walk at you all day long. Losing sight enabled him to activate his supernatural teleport power and most likely meant you were about to run right into the bad end of his axe on the next bend in the road. Today’s technology allows us to always keep Jason on the radar, using GPS to navigate through the woods, the chirp feature on your phone to warn friends Jason has ducked into some shrubbery on the path before you, and even laser pointers to temporarily blind his one good eye. Soon enough you are in your Hummer H3 and barreling away from Camp Crystal Lake, leaving poor Jason at the side of the road with a tear in his eye. Michael Bay and friends know you have the upper hand, so it was time to rebuild Jason. They could make him stronger … stealthier … faster … THEY HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY!!!
The newest re-imagining from the Platinum Dunes crew is actually three Friday the 13th installments in one. The first 10 minutes show a famous scene from Friday #1. Next we flash forward around 20 years with a pack of horny, good looking teens stumbling through the woods in search of a secret crop of weed. Soon the fires are lit and someone tells the story of Jason, who watched his mother beheaded and still roams the woods to this day. Muahahahahahaaaaa.
As the teens pair off and the boobies fly free, Jason makes his entrance (bag head in place) and we get our first taste of how vicious this film will be … and the short answer? Pretty freaking vicious!! This may not be the 10 gallons of blood we remember from the 80’s, but for a mainstream, big studio release, it’s fairly impressive! As well as being faster on the attack, this Jason is more calculating, leaving nasty surprises for those he is not pursuing directly. The unstoppable juggernaut of carnage is replaced by an ice cold killer who may even be taking delight in his handiwork, as evidenced by the particular way you’ll watch him dispatch some of his prey. The freight train of destruction comes to an abrupt halt, and up comes the movie title. HOLY CRAP!! That is what they are considering the opening sequence!!! Any horror fan would have been perfectly blissful to have that as the entire movie! It’s fast, mean, and all about the horror.
Now the scene opens again as a NEW set of kids head to the wilderness to kick back and abuse the good graces of their pompous rich friend named Trent (Van Winkle). I ask you, is anyone in movies named Trent not a complete tool? At the same time Clay Miller (Padalecki) is scouring the countryside in search of his missing sister, who disappeared with the previous weed-seeking crew. As they all journey farther into the woods on their separate agendas, Mr. Voorhees, now sporting his signature mask, takes notice and wants to join the party.
Friday the 13th proves itself extremely effective in setting up scares galore, be they of the creepy build or jumpy variety. Even the jump scare is becoming a lost art nowadays, but when you can make your audience shrink back into their seats with a slow walk down a dark path, you should be applauded! Friday disarms with a healthy dose of stoner comedy, stirring memories of the enjoyment had while watching kickass horror films from years past. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, add a level of depth, or recreate Jason in their own image with plenty of Bay-splosions popping off throughout the forest which is inexplicably exploding. This is a movie about a monster of a man whose only purpose in life seems to be awaiting victims on which to inflict maximum pain. THAT is really all you need to make a damn fine horror film. Of course you gain extra points when you can actually scare people and make them writhe in their seats as you do damage to a body in ways that made me flinch more than once. I’ve got to cop to it. I went into this movie with very low expectations and came out with a big smile on my face.
Adding to the believability factor is a superb cast of actors. Jared Padalecki is not given a wide range of feelings to display, and thankfully there are no tight shots on a quivering lip as done to his "Supernatural" co-star in My Bloody Valentine 3D, so his part is covered nicely. Instead he largely takes his lead from Danielle Panabaker as Jenna, a sympathetic “teen in the woods” who takes on his cause and as a result gets into the thick of it. Jenna gives Clay a lot to work with and pretty much conveys every ounce of emotion required of both characters. It’s a pretty smart move. For this turn we have Derek Mears behind the mask. After countless films where Jason was just sort of a mannequin swinging a machete at the call for action, it is fantastic to see someone make a valiant effort to convey menace behind a thick hockey mask. I swear you can see him acting!! The result is one royally pissed off looking Jason Voorhees … and one you won’t forget for some time to come.
Sure, awards are given out for exemplary levels of emotion displayed in many a war epic, but what of the rest of the world running past the hero? Aaron Yoo has perfected the high functioning stoner boy character on a level Pacino could never grasp. Yes, that was meant to be funny. Every time we might hit the doldrums of the film, awaiting the next strike from our favorite man in the mask, Chewie is there to make us spit our drinks out. Julianna Guill actually makes a gyrating, super slutty character named Bree interesting! Have you ever wanted the slutty chick to survive the monster’s attack? You will this time! I can go on and on about main characters acting their asses off, but it is a cast of highly likable, highly capable actors in this film that pull it all together and, most importantly, assure you will have a damn good time.
In approaching a new installment in the Friday the 13th series, you are looking for carnage, hapless teenagers in peril and their ample breasts (respectively), and plenty of scenes for the man, Jason Voorhees. Can you ever recall being scared during a Friday film or wincing in empathic pain from a slow, agonizing death? You just might this time! This incarnation of Friday the 13th ditches the overly used horror film formulas and keeps you guessing as to who will bite the big one next … and how badly they will get it! When a movie company makes an effort like this when they could have pissed all over a franchise and turned out PG13 drek, you have to cheer. Friday the 13th is worthy of the name and, more to the point, is what great horror is all about. Having one hell of a good time.
4 out of 5
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