REVIEW: Friday the 13th [2009]

“You should have been watching him”

The scariest part of the new remake Friday the 13th … that’s right, getting into your car and realizing that the eternity was only 90 minutes. All jokes aside, what I learned from the newest installment in one of horror’s never-ending franchises is that you do not mess with Jason Voorhees’s weed. The guy has a nice little crop growing over there at Camp Crystal Lake, and he protects it with his machete and burlap bag covered grotesque mug. Honestly, the first few deaths can all be attributable to people trying to cut in on the drug trade, but don’t worry, that story thread is soon abandoned and we get back to the gratuitous nudity, impressive death scenes where you actually get to see things impaled into people’s heads numerous times, and a lot of running and screaming away from the big guy. I apologize for being so tongue-in-cheek here, because the film really wasn’t that tragic. I’ll admit that the original bored me to tears and I enjoyed Freddy Vs Jason, (probably because I love me some Kruger), and this one had some laughs—that’s right, the laughs worked—and some decent moments as far as the genre goes. Still, though, that banned Nike commercial with the out of shape Jason is by far the best adaptation of the myth, or was that more Texas Chainsaw?

What the film gets right: playing a Santogold track during a sex scene, so I could at least enjoy a good tune. Okay, I’ll be serious now … I really enjoyed the beginning, no joke. It all starts with the revelation that concludes the original film. Here is young Jason’s mother coming upon the last camp counselor that neglected him, allowing his drowning in the lake. She has killed everyone else and is about to complete her revenge when her inevitable demise occurs—all while the boy watches on. Was he really dead? Did he rise from purgatory to avenge himself and his mother? Who cares; he’s there, he’s sad, and he decides to spend the next twenty years bulking up like a professional wrestler, earning all his merit badges, (I mean look at those perfect knots collecting dust on his cabin’s wall), and honing his archery skills with deadly precision. But that’s not all for the prologue to the tale, no, we also get to watch a horny quintet visit the secluded area and be ravished sexually by each other and violently by the homicidal maniac. This is where it may hurt me being such a cinema fan; I knew it was still the prologue since none of the “stars” were yet in attendance. Everyone else in the theatre seemed to not know this and clapped when the title finally made its way onscreen about twenty minutes in.

Why did that short sequence work, besides having everything you need in a successful slasher film—namely gore, Jonathan Sadowski’s fantastic comic relief, a very not so shy America Olivo, and the discovery of Jason’s creepily realized lair? It did because everyone was expendable, no stars had to survive until the end because they are collecting a paycheck and our country’s short attention spans need a recognizable face to fork over their hard-earned cash. This is what true genre success needs, absolute anonymity and the unknown of who may survive, if anyone. Unfortunately, after those twenty minutes, we are treated to your regular run-of-the-mill/get your frights mediocrity. Rich kids galore with Daddy’s boy prick versus brooding leading man looking for his sister, (who had been taking care of their cancer stricken mother, cue the sensitivity tears), and the obligatory machismo rearing its head like only spoiled brats can show. You want them all to die, and for the most part they do, but it is just so obvious and cliché; the only enjoyment you’ll get will be wondering what horrific fatality can be coming next.

I lied, that’s not the only enjoyment; there is always Aaron Yoo. The guy truly is gold in everything I’ve seen him in. Ultimately here for comic relief, I actually hoped he might somehow survive all the carnage. He and Arlen Escarpeta are great together, (love the exchange concerning the bong), and I found them so much more endearing then Travis Van Winkle’s Trent, whom you want to kill yourself, and our leads Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker. It appears that “Supernatural” isn’t paying enough these days with both stars seeking shelter in horror remakes, (co-star Jensen Ackles just graced the silver screen in My Bloody Valentine 3D). Padalecki is okay; the film doesn’t ask too much from him and he isn’t one to try and do more than he should. Panabaker, on the other hand, is a very interesting choice to be cast here. Known mostly as a mousy, nerdy girl in Empire Falls and Sky High, she is all of a sudden the “girlfriend” of mister Joe Cool Popular Trent and a total departure from the big-bosomed blonde bimbos her group consists of. Inspired casting? Sure, maybe. Does she shine and carry the film into a credible stratosphere? No.

When all is said and done, if you enjoy slasher films for what they usually promise—blood, camp, nudity, and more blood—you’ll probably have a good time. It’s all been done before, the turning of old classics that had a shred of subtlety and nuance into quasi-snuff films. However, since I wasn’t a big fan of the original, I appreciated what director Marcus Nispel attempted. Rather than a remake, he instead opens the film with a distilled version of the 1980 original, (even captioning the first scene as 1980 before getting to the “present day”), and makes his own piece to add to the legacy of the hockey mask. More Jason XI than Jason I Redux, it could have been a lot worse. But then again, I could have stayed home and not been any worse for wear.

Friday the 13th 5/10 | ★ ★

[1] Chelsea (WILLA FORD) discovers Jason (DEREK MEARS) watching her from the shores of Crystal Lake in New Line Cinema’s and Paramount Pictures’ horror film “Friday the 13th,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by John P. Johnson
[2] Jason (DEREK MEARS, right) crashes through a window and grabs Clay (JARED PADALECKI, left) in New Line Cinema’s and Paramount Pictures’ horror film “Friday the 13th,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by John P. Johnson


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