Tuesday, February 17, 2009
FRIDAY THE 13TH REVIEW
When I went into the new Friday The 13th movie I wasn’t expecting much. I figured this would be another hollow attempt by Hollywood to jump-start an old franchise without actually doing anything new to it. The only reason I was even going to see this was that the original Friday The 13th really wasn’t very good. Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and movies of that ilk were completely brilliant in their original form so re-making them was a terrible mistake.
Friday The 13Th however was just a bad slasher flick. So while I wasn’t expecting great things from this new version I wasn’t offended they had made it. When I walked out of the new Friday The 13th I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t like it what surprised me was why. My disappointment with this film wasn’t because it was awful but more that the filmmakers chickened out on what could have been a really interesting new take.
The first half of this movie is actually pretty interesting. First off it does a great job of reducing the entire original first film into a fifteen-minute opening. It also manages to humanize Jason in a way that allows him to be brutal but removes the idiotic supernatural element the old films tried to make us buy into. Sure the young victims are one-dimensional and the plot is laughable but as far as horror films go there are some really great moments here.
This new version opens with a flashback to 1980 when Pamela Voorhees snaps over the death of her son and slaughters the counselors working at Camp Crystal Lake . As per the original first film the one surviving counselor beheads the psycho mamma and somewhere out there Jason sees this and decides to take revenge on anybody who comes near the camp. When the film jumps ahead to today the filmmakers start taking their liberties and adding new touches.
First off nobody is coming to try and reopen Camp Crystal Lake, it was closed in 1980 and remains that way. The kids we’re following now are coming up chasing a rumor about a huge field of marijuana they’re hoping to harvest and sell for instant cash. The kids are all caricatures and their dialogue badly written but the new twist of why they’re there keeps you interested until Jason appears (sans hockey mask) and starts hacking away.
The interesting thing here is that Jason, while still brutal, isn’t mindless. This new Jason plans his attacks, even going so far as to set traps that keep his victims immobile until he can get around to slaughtering them. The only eye rolling part of this opening attack is that the one girl who is obviously the good girl of the bunch looks exactly like a younger version of Jason’s mother. To make matters worse she’s the only one of the bunch we don’t see violently murdered. Gee, I wonder why that is.
Jump ahead six months and we find a group of way-too-attractive kids heading to a cabin for a weekend of sex, drugs and booze. The kids here are even more one dimensional than the first bunch. There’s the rich douche bag, the bad boy, the good girl, the bad girl, the token black guy and the comic relief dork. As they head up to the rich kid’s parent’s cabin they run into Clay (Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki) a young man looking for his missing sister. As it turns out this sister is the same good girl from before who looked like Jason’s mother. Clay heads off to find his sister as the kids hit the cabin and start the orgy. This is about half way through the film and right about the time the movie starts to fall apart.
Suddenly plot devices that seemed silly get ridiculous, the dialogue grows worse and the film resorts back to the slasher clichés it was trying to avoid. First of all there is too much exposition. We don’t find out anything instead the audience is spoon-fed the whole plot. Clay who seems like such a great guy has a dark past (oohh didn’t see that coming) and is trying to redeem himself by finding his missing sister.
As the movie progresses any personality the kids might have had gets dropped in order to line them up as victims. There’s also this ludicrous plot point (that we also see coming) where Jason has actually kidnapped Clay’s sister and is keeping her in his secret hidden lair. We’re supposed to believe Jason thinks this girl is his mother back from the dead yet he keeps her chained up like a prisoner. We also learn from a local cop talking to Padalecki that the state police did a gigantic manhunt for his sister. A man hunt that somehow missed entirely Jason’s huge secret lair built underneath Camp Crystal Lake.
There are also these moments that seem to be there simply to kill time. A run in with an old woman that goes nowhere, a local farmer who has lived in the area for years but suddenly gets attacked by Jason for no reason and a tension between the rich douche bag and Padalecki that never develops. The filmmakers also manage to address Jason finding his iconic hockey mask, which to me really brought the movie down. Up until now part of what made the film different was Jason sporting only a homemade cloth mask not the hockey mask. Not only is his discovery of the mask clunky in this version, it’s totally unnecessary.
From there the movie becomes a predictable series of violent deaths, near misses and chase scenes. The few things that seemed to try and set this movie apart from the original get lost and the new Friday The 13th basically becomes a replica of any of the earlier Friday The 13th movies without the roman numerals. Jared Padalecki is pretty strong as the protagonist but the rest of the cast is essentially forgettable, even the end falls back on a boring cliché that’s way too familiar to most horror films.
I know Hollywood will never stop with these remakes but if they’re going to tag them as “re-imaginations” of the original then they should live up to their end of the bargain. Friday The 13th seems like it started that way but then got nervous it wouldn’t sell tickets and fell on it’s own sword. Don’t get me wrong this new Friday The 13th movie isn’t god awful, in fact it’s a much better than either the Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween remakes. That being said it still isn’t something you need to fork over your hard earned dollars for. Save that for when Hollywood doesn’t define “re-imagining” as “better special effects”.