Friday the 13th (2009)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears, Jonathan Sadowski, Julianna Guill, Ben Feldman, Arlen Escarpeta, Ryan Hansen, Willa Ford, Nick Mennell, America Olivo, Kyle Davis, Richard Burgi, Nana Visitor
(out of 4)
Warning: Some Spoilers Within
Note: This review is for the “Killer Cut” of the film.
Michael Bay can’t leave well enough alone. That’s why he keeps stealing titles from the 70s/80s cabinet – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hitcher, The Amityville Horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and this slasher-in-the-woods franchise that all started right before Reagan took the helm. But everybody’s going to these “re-imaginings” so you can bet he’ll keep drawing water from that well over and over when he’s not directing bad Transformers sequels. (Somebody better put a lock on that cabinet). In any case, my feelings on 2009′s version of Friday the 13th are a little ambiguous – on one hand, I like how the killer is made more flesh-and-blood than supernatural, how he seems a bit smarter than usual; I like the abundance of nudity that a lot of the sequels shied away from; I liked how the kills are more realistic than cartoony. And yet, there’s something missing from this remake that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the gloss, or the unlikeable characters, or the lack of the film’s ability as a whole to leave a lasting impression. Maybe it’s the fact that no matter how Marcus Nispel tries to dress it up in new clothes, underneath it’s still just like every other Friday sequel.
Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the appearance of Nana Visitor (from Star Trek: Deep Space 9) as Jason’s mom Pamela Voorhees, as we catch her towards the end of her killing spree, only to be decapitated by a surviving final girl. Before she croaks, we get a few lines about Jason being her son, and the counselors let him drown, etc. It’s the first movie condensed into 5 minutes over opening credits. We watch as little boy Jason stares down at his mom’s body and picks up a locket (and a machete). It’s about 30 years later when grown up Jason dispatches a group of idiots looking for weed in the woods near Camp Crystal Lake, while having some hot sex too. One poor girl (well, not that poor – somebody paid for her implants) is strung up in her sleeping bag over the campfire to roast while her boyfriend loses his leg in a bear trap before getting a machete in the head. That’s probably the best double-kill scene in the picture. Unfortunately, nothing that follows will match this scene in intensity.
Six weeks later, a new batch of meat bags arrive, including Chewie (Aaron Yoo – the Asian), Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta – the African-American), Bree (Julianna Guill – great boobage), Chelsea (Willa Ford – nice boobage), and rich asshole Trent (Travis Van Winkle – sounds like the perfect guy to play him). It’s Trent’s cabin, and it’s very clear that nobody is friends with Trent because of his charming personality. Clay (Jared Padalecki, celebrity beefcake) shows up looking for his lost sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti) and Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) takes a liking to him. The locals and cops are no help, so they start exploring the area and come across Jason’s lair, just in time to see him dragging bodies around. We discover that Jason lives underground in a series of tunnels (or perhaps an abandoned mine – under a camp? by a lake?), which explains why he’s able to pop up suddenly in places. He’s also taken Whitney as a pet, since she bears a certain resemblance to mom – Jason being a sentimental guy. After that, we’ve got more brutal killings involving any tools Jason has handy (bow-and-arrow, machete, axe, screwdriver, etc), which are bloodier but less creative than the kills in previous sequels. There’s a girl hung on antlers, too – nice homage to Silent Night, Deadly Night, and I suppose there’s a wild-girl connection between Julianna Guill’s character and Linnea Quigley, anyway.
Basically, the Friday remake takes Parts 1 (mom), 2 (sack, mother issues), 3 (hockey mask, arrow-deaths), and 4 (sister subplot), and combines them into one, logic be damned. Is there a reason why the idiot/horny/pot-smoking redneck local has a hockey mask? Of course, silly – it’s so Jason can find it and change out his burlap sack. With all the clues lying about (like the old cabins with incriminating evidence in them), is there a reason why the police (including “10 year veterans”) haven’t made headway in their investigation? Well yeah – that would get in the way of Jason’s killin. There are hints that the locals know all about Jason and are keeping it a secret (Stop Snitchin) – I wish I had seen more of that plot point. There’s also the pungent stench of marijuana in the air – if people in this movie aren’t smoking it, then they are selling it, or looking for it. (Was that Jason’s secret stash?) Oh – there’s lots of sex, too, plenty of bare breasts, and multiple characters breaking out various magazines so they can start wackin’ when nobody’s around. (Seriously – if you go out to the woods for the weekend, do you really have urges to start spankin’ it to the girl in the LL Bean catalog?) But there’s no real “sex=death” motif here (Jason isn’t a manifestation of anything except for a force of nature) and the use of him as a boogeyman or “town curse” is barely touched upon.
Still, the flick moves pretty quickly and isn’t afraid to knock off main characters when you least expect it. There’s some nods to Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and John Carpenter’s Halloween, and then there’s the supremely goofy final shots that reminded me of Friday the 13th, Part VII. I must admit to finding the ending a bit underwhelming and I have to wonder about the characters in this movie – people play sports with themselves and talk to themselves a lot. What ever happened to reading a book? As for the production and direction – it’s much more professional and glossy than any of the previous films, save probably Freddy vs Jason. However, I wonder if that takes something away from the flick – the original Friday movies have a je ne sais quoi that may have been partly a result of their modest budget. The weirdest part is – despite the brutality of the film, the whole thing kinda dissolves from memory not long after you watch it – it’s like I was smoking some of the cheeba featured in the movie (in retrospect, that probably would have enhanced my enjoyment of the film). This is a movie not that far removed from what Rob Zombie might have done; it’s not a great remake, not a horrible one either. But at least it has a topless girl on water-skis.
- Bill Gordon