I finally got a chance to check out Platinum Dunes’ Friday the 13th remake, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. This glossy franchise reboot ups the gore factor as our favorite hockey-masked malcontent Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears) stalks a bunch of douchey college kids ripped straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. It’s horribly acted, totally predictable and never allows you to actually care about the people being slaughtered. And you know what? That’s okay. If anything, that just shows director Marcus Nispel’s dedication to the source material. Friday the 13th films have always been schlock—reverting to self-satire by around the fifth sequel or so—and this update never strays far from the proven slasher formula.
Friday the 13th is essentially a retelling of the first few films in the original series. As horror aficionados or trivia buffs may know, Jason’s mom Pamela Voorhees was the killer in the original film, while Jason did not don his iconic mask until the third installment. While this reboot retells Jason’s origin story, rest assured: Jason gets his hockey mask pretty early on.
The film begins in 1980 with a young Jason witnessing his mother being beheaded by a camp counselor, thus ending her bloody rampage at Camp Crystal Lake. The movie then flashes forward to present day, where a bunch of unwitting friends venture into the woods near Camp Crystal Lake in search of weed. The group decides to spend the night, and sex ensues. Jason hates that.
The film’s first group of victims is cut down pretty quickly, reminding audiences that this isn’t one of those snarky, self-aware horror flicks that were so popular in the 1990s (see the Scream films). These characters are friggin’ stupid. If they hear a strange noise, they’re going to investigate it. If one of their friends is missing, they’re going to go looking for them alone. If one of these guys comes across a run-down shack in the woods, he's going to check it out despite his girlfriend’s protests. Palm, meet face. Repeat as necessary.
The second group fares a little better than the first, heading to Crystal Lake to stay at their friend Trent’s (Travis Van Winkle) family’s summer cabin. Because he’s the “rich kid” in a slasher movie, he’s a complete and total tool who might as well have a target painted on his torso. He’s also got a girlfriend, Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), who he’s totally going to cheat on in the third act. That’s okay, because Jenna’s kind of into Clay (Jared Padalecki), the film’s resident all-around good guy who’s looking for his sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who disappeared with the first group of victims and is presumed dead.
Of course, do we really care who these people are? No, and this film, for better or for worse, makes no real effort to let us like them. With the exception of dweeby stoner Chewie, played by Aaron Yoo (21, Disturbia, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), we’re pretty much rooting against these kids whenever Jason unsheathes his machete.
Speaking of machetes, the kills here are pretty creative, and most are incredibly gory. In addition to standard knifing, Jason shows some deadly proficiency with a bow and arrow, a bear trap and even a sleeping bag. Kudos to Nispel and the writing team of Damian Shannon and Mark Swift for keeping this film’s bloodshed creative despite the stale premise.
Jason’s been killed, resurrected, sent to space and has even sparred with Freddy Krueger. And now, he’s been rebooted, the latest in a long line of classic movie characters brought back to the screen by an idea-starved Hollywood. Was this necessary? Absolutely not. But Friday the 13th is a fun 97-minute diversion that does everything it sets out to do, ensuring another incredibly long line of sequels in the coming years. Ch ch ch ch ha ha ha ha.
Friday the 13th (2009)
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears