"Friday the 13th" (2009 remake) Review
FRIDAY THE 13th (2009 remake) Directed By Marcus Nispel
I was a major Friday the 13th fanboy as a teen during the '80s, and though in retrospect I admit that the series probably cranked out more bad entries than good ones, the franchise has remained a sentimental favorite of mine over the years. Therefore, when this 2009 remake turned up in the bargain bin at the local Shop-Rite some time ago I simply couldn't resist grabbing it. The remake (or " reboot," or "re-imagining," whatever you want to call it) attempted to dust off the dormant F13 brand (which had been languishing since 2003's crossover hit Freddy Vs. Jason, a film that capped off both the F13 and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises quite nicely in my book) and shine it up for a new generation of film-goers. Judging from the massive outpouring of hatred that exists for this film on the Internet, it would seem that the process was less than successful. But hey, I'm a Jason fanboy so I was trying to stay open minded. Besides, how bad could this one really be compared to such previous misfires as 1993's disastrous Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday or 1989's Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan? With trembling fingers, I pressed "play" and returned to Crystal Lake for the umpteenth time.
(Mostly) Spoiler-Free Plot Description!
The film opens with a Cliffs Notes version of the original "Friday," re-creating the tail end of the final showdown between the maniacal Pamela Voorhees and "Alice," the last surviving counselor of Camp Crystal Lake's Class of 1980. Mrs. Voorhees, as we all know by now, has done away with the rest of the Camp staff to avenge the death of her ten year old son Jason, who she believes had drowned while the counselors were busy fornicating. Alice beheads Mrs. V. with a handy machete and before the flashback fades to black, we see the deformed Jason pick up Mom's head and disappear into the woods with it. Whoops. Guess he didn't drown after all, Mom.
Flash forward to the present day, and we're introduced to a half dozen twenty somethings roaming around in the woods near the abandoned camp. They're looking for a massive field of wild marijuana reputed to be growing in the area, but of course they're also drunk and horny (it is a Friday the 13th movie, after all!) so they set up their tents for an impromptu party in a clearing. While one couple makes the unwise choice to explore the crumbling cabins at nearby Camp Crystal Lake, the rest hunker down around the campfire to hear about the legend of Jason. The story, of course, is promptly dismissed as "bulls###" by the gang of stoners -- until, a hulking form with a potato sack over his head shows up and mangles everybody in fabulously brutal detail. The final fate of one of the group, Whitney, is shrouded in mystery as we fade to black... again.
Six weeks later, the hunky Clay (played by Jared Padalecki of TV's Supernatural) comes to Crystal Lake on his motorcycle searching for his missing sister... Whitney. Since this is a slasher film, naturally he receives no help from the authorities (the sheriff suggests that "maybe she just ran off with her boyfriend") or the locals (a redneck mechanic quickly dismisses Clay so he can get back to smoking a joint and reading Hustler magazine, which doesn't end well for him). Clay also gets no sympathy from the odious Trent, an obnoxious yuppie with whom he has a chance meeting at the local convenience store. Trent's the leader of a group of typical slasher movie stock characters (i.e. the Stoner, the Wisecracking Black Guy, the Hot Girl, the Sensitive Nice Girl, the Surfer Dude, and The Airhead Girl) who are planning an epic party at Trent's palatial family estate for the weekend. Said estate just happens to encroach on the former Camp Crystal Lake property and we all know by now that a certain Mr. Voorhees doesn't particularly like trespassers on his turf...so do I have to draw you a picture of what happens next? Of course not. While Clay manages to convince Sensitive Girl Jenna to tromp around Crystal Lake with him in search of Whitney, Jason crashes Trent's sex-n-drugs-n-rock-n-roll party and picks off the rest of the gang one by one. This leads to the inevitable showdown between Jason, Clay and Jenna amongst the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake... where we learn that Jason's been keeping Whitney prisoner in the catacombs beneath the camp buildings because she resembles his dearly beheaded Mother. You've got that right, Jason takes hostages now. Oooooo-kay. Didn't see that one coming! Will Clay and Sister survive their battle with the hockey masked maniac? Does Jason get horribly mutilated by our heroes at the very last second, only to re-appear in a cheap jump scare just before the credits roll? If I need to tell you those things... well, then you've obviously never seen a Friday the 13th movie before.
What's Your Favorite "Friday the 13th" Flick?
The Good, The Bad, and the Final Grade..
I'm going to go against the critical grain and proclaim Friday '09 to be a mostly enjoyable ride. It's got a more up-to-date, grim 'n' gritty look to it than many of the older films, but it still maintains the series' hallmarks - the usual assortment of empty headed cardboard cut out characters, the lovingly detailed gore scenes, and of course the gratuitous female nudity (it wouldn't be a F13 flick without that!). Jason himself continues to be a mean machete swingin' motha, though they've done away with the "Unstoppable Undead Zombie Jason" that appeared in more than half of the old series and brought The Big Jay back to his (more or less) human origins... this new model Jason may not be quite as scary looking as the one we'd become used to (rather than a decaying corpse, he's just a hillbilly with Mommy issues) but he's just as crazy and just as handy with a variety of gardening implements. I wouldn't want to run into either version in a dark alley.
So when all's said and done, I didn't hate Friday the 13th 2009 but didn't love it either. Quite frankly, even with a new creative team and a new paint job, this "Friday" is no better or worse than most of the other films in the series. I'd rank it above sludge like Jason Goes to Hell or Jason Takes Manhattan, but I certainly wouldn't rate it as highly as Part VI: Jason Lives (a personal fave) or the ever-so-classic original 1980 film. The Fanboys had the final say, of course, and their anemic reaction to the "new" Jason resulted in less-than-spectacular box office returns for this remake. Therefore, a planned Part 2 to this saga has been shelved (at least for now)... which means that the Hollywood Remake Machine may have accomplished what a seemingly endless parade of "Final Girls" were unable to do in 30 years of films... kill Jason Voorhees!! Time will tell if slasherdom's favorite Mama's Boy ever makes it back to the multiplex.
© 2011 Keith Abt