Friday the 13th
Director
Cast
, , ,
Rated
R
Runtime
97 min.
Release Date
02/13/2009
friday the 13th 2009

In the latest Friday the 13th, there’s a decapitation via machete by the end of the opening credits. Five characters are introduced and subsequently killed off before the title appears. Hordes of topless women flash their breasts in sleazy sex scenes. Bloody violence splatters on the screen in nasty detail. As the body count rises, any member of the cast could be claimed. If these general descriptions sound appealing to you, chances are the latest Friday the 13th will offer you the thrills, laughs, and jumps the filmmakers intended. If not, well, you wouldn’t be reading this review if you weren’t interested just a little.

Not entirely a remake, not exactly a revision, the new Friday the 13th contains carbon-copied scenes and plot elements that audiences will recall from the original schlock movies. So perhaps this version should be called a “reboot,” a term Hollywood has the hots for lately. It’s familiar enough to bring back devotees of the established franchise, and hip enough to please today’s teen crowds hungry for mindless horror, but it feels misaligned with the original(s) somehow (think Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween).

My feelings toward the original eleven films are dismissive at best. Each entry follows a generic formula wherein horny campers are slain by the seemingly unstoppable entity Jason Voorhees. Seldom is the plot more complicated than that. And little has changed with this schema over the years, so much so that Jason X (aka “Jason in Space”) remains the most inventive in the series. Unlike competition such as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Friday the 13th franchise never had that first quality film made by an iconic horror filmmaker akin to John Carpenter or Wes Craven. They’ve always been bad, and based on the handling of this reboot, my assessment isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Michael Bay produced this second go-round with director Marcus Nispel at the helm—they’re the same pair that reimagined The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into an unwatchable grim film in 2003. And like that unrelenting, unpleasant experience, Nispel permeates a faster, gorier, and entirely more aggressive tone. In technical terms, the production quality is expert beyond its source material. But this is the same humdrum story about a killer hacking away at anyone and everyone around Camp Crystal Lake, with a few minor modifications. It’s painfully dull.

No longer does the hockey-masked slasher Jason walk at a snail’s pace yet mysteriously track down half-naked teens sprinting to escape into the woods. He stalks with all the confidence of a summer camp medal winner (the camera pans over Jason’s dusty camp trophies while future victims survey his lair). The maniac’s talents include elaborate uses of traps, archery, and underground tunnels to hunt his prey. Though, the movie never explains what he does with their bodies. Does he eat his victims? Bury them? Where is he storing these countless corpses? I kept waiting for the inevitable shot depicting mounds of decaying cadavers and bones of long-since-dead locals. Alas, writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift never wrote such a scene in their script.

What they did write was a procession of kills, best described as goreporn. Blood and sex take turns splattering across the screen. The blood is deep and thick and not color-crayon-red as in many 1980s slashers; sex scenes go on with detail enough for soft-core porn. The filmmakers intentionally create a product that alternates between scare tactics and sex appeal, prodding the audience with jolts that, by association, provide an odd sadomasochistic high. Most horror movies are little more than exploitation anyway; however, they veil their methods with a plot. Friday the 13th doesn’t bother wearing a mask; ironically, it offers cinematic masturbation to dismal extremes.

Notice in this review that I’ve made a point not to mention any actor’s names. That’s because there’s little acting done. I have a mental image of a casting director scouting colleges for aspiring actresses willing to take off their tops and the party-hardiest guys for this movie. After all, during one of its sex scenes, a guy calls a girl “dude” while admiring her breasts mid-coitus—only a true fratboy could say something so absurdly stupid. All nameless and personality-less constructs, the characters are built up only to be taken down, often with some kind of garden tool.

Which reminds me… Why bother introducing a wood chipper into a horror movie if someone doesn’t end up ground to bits inside? Friday the 13th makes this very mistake, forcing me to ponder its numerous missed opportunities. Not only did the filmmakers fail by not improving upon the story’s limitations, but it also didn’t deliver that climactic final kill everyone is supposed to shout “yuck” at. Seeing as the ending of the original is probably familiar to you, the recycled finale boasts no surprises. I could have put a spoiler warning before that last paragraph to save you from my disclosure of details, but why bother? You know the drill. If you’ve seen the other films, you’re doubtlessly accustomed to the recipe. After all, it’s a meal you’ve been fed for more than twenty years now. Aren’t you tired of its increasingly bland taste? Don’t you want to see what else is on the menu?

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