With all the horror remakes whizzing around the place during the noughties, it’s frankly amazing that a Friday The 13th remake took so long to surface.
Six years after Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company charged German director Marcus Nispel to smear a glossy sheen over the stylish grime of The 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they teamed up to give a facelift to Jason Voorhess in very much a similar vein which frustratingly remains currently the last outing for cinema’s primary machete swinger (sorry, Danny Trejo).
Clay has come to Crystal Lake looking for Whitney, his sister who went missing while going camping in the area with her friends. Unbeknownst to Clay (but VERY beknownst to us), she’s had the unfortunate luck to have an encounter with Jason Voorhees, a hulking, deformed murderer who has been living off the land ever since he witnessed his lunatic mother beheaded in self defence when he was knee high to a wood chipper.
Finding the town unresponsive at best (and downright hostile at worst), Clay hooks up with a group of youths holidaying in the area who are up for a weekend of quiet rest and introspection… only kidding, they’re here to drink like fish, fuck like bunnies, get heroically stoned and even indulge in a spot of topless water skiing (as you do). Bonding with Jenna, who is a nice girl who happens to be dating a massive asshole named Trent, Clay continues his search unaware that Jason has set his sights on this group of idiot teens and is ready to go utterly medieval on these chemically addled kids at a moment’s notice.
Can Clay and Jenna figure out what happened to Whitney before Mr Voorhees uses every sharp implement in his vast armory to send them to meet their ancestors?
For a movie that’s come from a franchise notorious for unleashing gimmicks as outlandish as launching it’s signature character into space or dumping him in a version of New York that looks suspiciously like a soundstage in Vermont; the Friday The 13th redux is suprisingly straight laced for the twelfth installment of a long running slasher series. Released about a month after fellow 80’s slasher remake My Bloody Valentine (which boasted in-your-face 3D effects and murders so crazy it’s a miracle they weren’t sectioned under the mental health act), Friday The 13th seemed to be underachieving by comparison and was dubbed a little bland.
However, the truth of the matter is that for all it’s faults, Friday The 13th 2009 is actually a welcome – if boneheaded – return to the low tech hack and slash of the early movies and even pulls off the neat trick of remaking the first four films into one adventure. The first film is covered in a pre-credits flashback and covers Jason’s mother, another pre-credits scene picks up the second movie with Voorhees wearing a sack on his lumpy noggin and worshiping the head of his mother, the third is riffed on with Jason obtaining his iconic hokey mask and the subplot of a guy looking for his lost sister comes straight from Part 4.
But wait – what’s that you say? Wouldn’t covering parts one and two in a pre-credits sequence be rather long?
I’m glad you brought that up, because as the film trundles along, suddenly, out of nowhere, the title pops up on screen, indicating that despite the fact you’ve been watching this thing for twenty three damn minutes (and five people have been slaughtered already), it hasn’t even fucking started yet! Surely this has to be some sort of record…
Anyway, back to the main bulk of the movie and THIS Jason (energetically played by Derek Mears) is a version of the character that’s certainly been working on his cardio as he’s quite possibly the most versatile Voorhees we’ve seen to date. Portrayed as somewhat of a deformed survivalist who has rigged up Camp Crystal Lake as a mess of booby traps, secret tunnels and a suprisingly intricate lighting setup (when the hell did Big Jay pick up tips on being an electrician?), the masked mutilator sprints like Usain Bolt, can hurl an axe like like a goddamn viking and most likely can bench press like a complete animal too and if there’s any justice in the world, the man needs to be invited back if a thirteenth movie ever gets off the ground.
As for the non-masked members of the cast… well… they all do what’s asked of them by the script and that means that most of them are portraying drunk, masturbating knuckleheads whose legendarily awful decision making can be logically explained away by how much chronic they’ve hoovered into their lungs. Constantly banging on about their dicks, each of the males in this movie are prime candidates for therapy for sex addiction; christ, one of these pervert’s even lovingly fondles a mannequin while promising to have his way with it – even for characters in a slasher film, these guys really need to think about taking a cold shower – although during a particularly frenetic sex scene someone his heard to utter the magnificent line: “You got fucking perfect nipple placement, baby!”.
In comparison to the legion of gibbering morons they have to play against, Jared (Supernatural) Padelecki and Danielle (The Flash) Panabaker come across as sweet, but fairly dull and while the film looks slick (like I said earlier, it’s produced by Bay so this isn’t exactly a surprise) and is appropriately brutal when necessary, it’s lacking the same sense of character most latter day remakes seem have trouble.
The kills – the REAL draw for any self-respecting slasher – are perfectly decent and stylistically well carried out (a guy getting sawed vertically up though the midsection is suitably gruesome) but it lacks the ferocious variety of the spectacularly meaty skull tearing of 2006’s indie throwback, Hatchet.
A basic and ultimately empty remake that trades too much in it’s name and character while not offering much in the way of originality, Friday The 13th is nether the less still a solid retread that offers a welcome return for a horror icon who spent way too much time away from camp and who, thanks to legal issues, won’t be coming back any time soon.