Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th (2009)

Welcome to Crystal Lake

A group of teenagers come across the boarded up remains of Camp Crystal Lake during their hunt for a hidden weed crop nearby and are brutally murdered one-at-time by Jason Vorhees. A month later, the brother of one of the missing teenagers heads into the area to look for her even though police searches have found nothing. Also in the area are another group of teenagers who are heading to one of their father’s houses for a weekend of partying. It isn’t long before all of their paths cross with Jason.

 

After Marcus Nispel helmed the rather successfully reworked The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the studios went into remake overdrive. There have been over sixteen remakes of famous horror films since then including the likes of Halloween, The Hills Have Eyes and The Fog. Most have met with disaster and my utter disdain but there have been some exceptions, notably the Dawn of the Dead remake. I must say that I was very nervous about a reworking of my favourite horror franchise, the Friday the 13th films, given the propensity of studios to destroy everything that made these original horror films so great. My expectations were raised after Nispel was attached to production and, after seeing the reasonable job that he did with Leatherface, I was somewhat happy in that he was the right man to helm the return to glory of Jason Vorhees. But would it work in a modern era of horror? Friday the 13th and it’s many sequels were all about the low budget slasher film and having a bit of a laugh, especially in the later sequels when audiences rooted for Jason and wanted to see him kill and kill again in as many inventive ways as possible. The key to success for this series was not changing its formula in the slightest. But in a post-Scream world, is this really enough to satisfy the audience who now expected twists and turns? And in a post-Saw and Hostel world, is this just brutal enough to keep people happy?

I’m happy to say that Friday the 13th is a reasonable remake. The best and worst part about it is the same thing: it’s exactly the same as the other films in the series. I’m not sure whether to bemoan this fact or to embrace it. It’s simply the same old stuff being rehashed with a bigger budget. Now one of the reasons that the Friday the 13th films have proved to be so popular is that the formula didn’t change at all: lots of teenagers, lots of sex, lots of partying and then lots of inventive murders and blood and gore. Was playing it safe the best thing to do or should they have taken the series in a different direction? I honestly can’t make my mind up. I think playing it safe played to the strengths of the series but perhaps I was expecting a little more than just that especially given how a lot of modern slashers have ‘re-written the rules’ and poked fun at the genre so many times. I’m thinking Scream here – can we take a modern Friday the 13th film so seriously when Scream did all it could to turn the series into a walking cliché?

This is a Friday the 13th reboot for the 00s and features plenty of nodding winks to the numerous films of the past. The events of the original Friday the 13th are reduced to a mere five minute opening which sets out the back story for Jason. He wears a burlap sack (as he does in Friday the 13th Part 2) for the first part of the film before he finds his infamous hockey mask. There are nods to token characters from the past including Crazy Ralph (named after the crazy old man in the original who warns the kids not to go near Crystal Lake and has become somewhat of a staple in slasher films with many of them having some ‘doomsayer’ who warns the characters not to visit somewhere). There are also some nods to classic deaths of the past including one unlucky guy being shot in the head with a spear gun. In fact the death scenes here are a lot more drawn out than they ever were. Previously Jason just used to deal a quick death but here he seems to enjoy making people suffer a little more, probably in a nod to the ‘torture porn’ genre of late. The body count is also very high which is pleasing to see. Other staples of the series to return are the copious amounts of T&A and I’m glad to say that the hot chick finally gets naked in this one!

The cast is exactly what you’d expect from such a film – the females have been cast for their physical attributes, various males have been cast for their physical attributes and everyone else has been cast simply to fill their stereotype role with ease. There’s no characterisation for anyone although it makes a change to see a Final Guy instead of a Final Girl. It makes perfect sense though – you’d always have put your money on a 6ft odd, well-built guy being able to survive an onslaught by Jason as opposed to a weak, puny 5ft something girl yet somehow the majority of 80s slasher featured a girl surviving until the very end.

Derek Mears makes for a decent Jason. He’s no Kane Hodder but Mears instils the same menace and mass that Hodder did in his portrayals in the 80s. This Jason is also leaner and quicker which means the days of him slowly lumbering through the woods after his victims are gone – this guy will sprint after you to chop you into pieces.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of wasted potential here. The film opens up by introducing us to one group of teenagers. But then by the end of the next twenty minutes, all but one is dead and we’re introduced to a new group. Surely time would have been better spent in skimming over this and reducing the time given to these characters. Jason could have done his thing in a lot quicker time and we’d have been given a bit more time to spend with the new teenagers. But after twenty minutes it’s almost as if the film restarts (and the opening twenty minutes is pretty kick ass too, arguably the best bit of the film).

Harry Manfredini’s infamous score is also sorely lacking whenever Jason is lurking and that always managed to add a notch or two to the tension scale. There’s also the fact that Jason lurks in an underground lair complete with requisite chains, hooks and other implements more associated with Leatherface or the Hostel films. I didn’t see the need to have him lurk in this mine complex when he could have been holed up in a shack in the middle of nowhere and it would have made just as much sense. And at the end of the day, I think the film just takes itself a little too seriously when most of the series has been about poking fun at itself and having a bit of a laugh.

 

At the end of the day, it’s another Friday the 13th film, nothing more, nothing less. Quite what you expect from it will depend on whether you wanted the series to change or stay the same. I’m still undecided on what to make of it and so will sit on the fence. Those in familiar territory will be right at home here. Jason lives but it’s not quite the resurrection he deserved.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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