‘Friday the 13th’ (2009) Outdoes the Original in Almost Every Way

Friday the 13th 2009

I would never go so far as to say that I dislike the original Friday the 13th. I enjoy it as a thrilling slasher effort that introduced the world to the Voorhees clan. We get a solid final girl in Alice (Adrienne King), some intense kill sequences, and a fantastic score. With that said, the inaugural installment in the Friday the 13th series has some issues. The acting is a little hammy and the filmmakers really fumble the introduction to the killer. The flick does viewers the disservice of inexplicably introducing the audience to Mrs. Voorhees mere minutes before she’s revealed to be the antagonist.

The setup is giallo-inspired. But no self-respecting giallo filmmaker would introduce the killer into the narrative mere moments before revealing their status as the antagonist. That’s anticlimactic and keeps the flick from working as effectively as it would have if Mrs. Voorhees had presented earlier on. But I would argue that the aforementioned issues are rectified in the 2009 redux, which just so happens to observe a release date anniversary today.

The 2009 redux combines the events of the first several franchise installments to give us Mrs. Voorhees and adult Jason in the same film. After a bloody prologue, the film pivots to focus on the actual core cast. Among the key players is Clay (Jared Padalecki), a young man searching the area around Crystal Lake for his missing sister. Along his quest, Clay runs into Trent (Travis Van Winkle), Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), and several of their pals. As Clay and Jenna join forces to search for Clay’s missing sister, members of Trent and Jenna’s friend group begin to succumb to grisly deaths at the hands of a machete-wielding behemoth. 

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Unlike its 1980 predecessor, the 2009 remake often works to subvert expectations. We’re introduced to multiple characters in the first 20 minutes, only to see all but one of them unceremoniously killed off. Friday the 13th (1980) didn’t really set out to upend expectations like that. The film follows the template established by Black Christmas and Halloween and doesn’t do a lot to differentiate itself. That’s fine. I’m all for executing on a proven formula. And I enjoy the original movie on that basis.

But fans sometimes put it on a pedestal because of nostalgia blinders. Friday the 13th was the first slasher film many of us watched growing up. Therefore, it holds a special place in our hearts. But one must be able to discern the difference between liking a movie because it brings back fond memories and serves to entertain, versus liking a film because it is effectively executed.

To be fair, the original Friday the 13th was made for a much smaller budget. And the remake was able to command a larger investment thanks to the name recognition of the original. So, it’s not a direct apples-to-apples comparison to pit one against the other. That ties into some of my previous critiques of the original. One is the performance aspect. A bigger budget allowed the remake’s casting department to secure more experienced actors. For many of the key players in the 1980 original, that was their first major role. With that said, the sometimes cheesy performances do give the original a certain charm. But the performances in the redux are a little better. They aren’t shockingly immersive. But the key players do less to take me out of the film than the core cast of the Sean S. Cunningham-helmed original. 

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The character work and dialogue are also better in the 2009 remake. We have reasonably likable protagonists in Jenna and Clay. And we have fantastic comic relief in Chewie (Aaron Yoo). He’s hilarious as the requisite stoner character. And that’s to say nothing of Trent, who may be the most perfectly portrayed douche-bag ever to appear in a horror film. He is so grating and such an ass. That makes his death so satisfying. Damian Shannon and Mark Swift clearly kept him in the script as long as they did because they knew that the more time he had to rub viewers the wrong way, the more satisfying it would inevitably be to see him kick off. 

Marcus Nispel proves himself a competent director in this reimagining. He stages some intense stalk-and-slash sequences that keep the proceedings engaging. He utilizes lurking camerawork and an ominous score to establish a baseline of tension. The underground chase sequence near the end is especially memorable for the chaotic editing and intense pace. 

All things considered, Friday the 13th (2009) features some unexpected narrative developments, serviceable performances, and a perfect blend of archetypal characters. Though it owes a debt of gratitude to the original, the remake still manages to surpass its predecessor.  



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