Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Friday the 13th (2009) Review

Friday the 13th (2009)
His name was Jason, and today he got a makeover

Unlike many other treasured horror classics out there, Friday the 13th is one that I didn’t mind getting remade. I mean the original is still a good, scary, and suspenseful movie but it was by no means perfect. Despite it’s heavy influence on the genre, I think I would consider it more of a minor classic than a full on one. Also, unlike other franchises, a Friday the 13th movie can get by as long as it delivers sex and bloody violence, so that makes this remake even easier to get right. The question is though; does this reboot deliver the goods that are promised?

In a flashback to June 13, 1980 we see the last survivor of a recent massacre trying to run away from an unseen killer. When we learn that this killer is Jason’s mother, she explains that she’s doing this for revenge against the counselors neglect for Jason’s safety, and then her head is promptly lopped off. Flash forward to the present, and we meet a group of teenagers snooping around the Camp Crystal Lake so that they can find a supposed marijuana stash in the surrounding woods. Pretty soon they run into a grown up Jason who dispatches the teens rather easily. Six weeks later we meet Clay who’s looking for his sister Whitney (one of the teens in the last group) in the area. Eventually he joins up with another group of friends who are staying at a lake house near the camp, where Jason is awaiting his prey.


I’m going to base this review on the virtues of what Friday the 13th movies do best, namely having great kills and just offering up a fun horror experience. The question is, does this reboot successfully update Jason for the 21st century and still keep the feel of the old entries in the series? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, for the most part. Some of the kills are rather boring and straightforward; but when the film gets creative it’s a fun time for everyone. What director Marcus Nispel has done is combine the playfulness that the originals had with the grounded reality of today’s horror. So it’s still fun, but not in a very over the top way, which I actually liked. There’s a vicious undercurrent to the violence here that feels fresh and engaging after the series had been slogging through routine.

Jason has also been modernized too, but unlike many other modernizations in horror remakes this one actually works well. Jason is no longer just a dumb zombie; a lot of the times he uses clever strategies to trap his victims. He also doesn’t walk through areas like he’s got lead weights bearing him down. Instead he hauls ass towards people, so simply running away doesn’t work anymore. Actor Derek Mears makes this Jason his own and I could see him being the new “Kane Hodder” for a new generation if he continues playing the character. Most of the characters here are pretty stereotypical, but then again when have they ever not been? There’s the token black guy, token Asian guy, a final girl, the arrogant asshole, etc. Actually what surprised me a lot was that Jared Padalecki was actually a very sympathetic and relatable hero as Clay, unlike many other stock horror protagonists who’re usually rather boring and dull.


But that doesn’t mean that the movie’s perfect by any means. If you're unfamiliar with the first few Friday the 13th’s then you might get confused by the opening with Jason’s mother, as the remake doesn’t clearly present this plot point to newcomers. Also some of the kills are built up by emphasizing a potentially more gruesome death than what is presented (like the Asian guy’s death) which was a little disappointing. Hopefully this will be fixed with the unrated cut on DVD (apparently the MPAA cut a lot of the gore and a plot point was edited out). Plus the overall movie, while suspenseful and intense in some scenes, is only mildly scary. The musical score also tends to over emphasize jump scares by adding loud noises, which gets kind of annoying after a while.

But that doesn’t ruin the primal and simplistic fun that you can have with the film. Does it have fun kills? Yes, mostly. Are there teens that do drugs and have a lot of sex? Definitely. Does it feel fresh but still staying within the basic spirit of the originals? Yes. So give it a try, and just enjoy it for what it is.


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