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Entries in Friday the 13th [2009] (1)

Wednesday
Feb182009

Friday the 13th (2009)

Enhanced But Not Improved

This may be hard for many of you to accept, but Friday the 13th Part Twelve isn’t a very good movie; I know, technically, this is supposed to be Friday-the-13th-Part-One-for-the-Facebook-Generation, but this is one shabby excuse for a reboot (I’d call it more of a re-wet sock). Sure it’s got the requisite blood and boobs, but it also has boredom, a real problem when you’re dabbling in the slasher genre. 

Let’s begin at the beginning. It’s a dark and stormy night at Camp Crystal Lake in the year nineteen-hundred-and-eighty; a desperate camp counselor (denoted by the word “Counselor” written in large block letters across the back of her clingy, drenched shirt) is on the run from a deranged old lady. There’s a confrontation, spliced lazily in with the opening credits, and we get the dinner theatre version of the “Jason-is-my-son-and-today-is-his-birthday” speech. The counselor- who has been running away from this unarmed geriatric troll while carrying a machete- beheads her pursuer and scampers off into the woods. A few quick cuts and credits later, we see a little boy pick up a locket that the old lady had been wearing around her neck (it’s really easy to get off, by the way) and he, too, scampers off into the woods. Yes, this is little Jason Voorhees, alive and well; and if you’re wondering why his mother would go on a killing spree to avenge the drowning death of her clearly un-drowned child, then you’re officially too smart to enjoy this movie. 

Flash forward 29 years to the same woods. A group of randy, good-looking twenty-somethings has set up camp for the night, taking a break from their search for a legendary marijuana crop in the wilds of New Jersey (sounds like the screenwriters found it alright). Because someone in the audience might not have heard of Jason Voorhees, or may have been asleep for the previous five minutes of the film, the legend of Camp Blood is retold; it’s such a sexy tale that the campers go off to their tents and into the woods to “make love”, at which point they are butchered by a grown-up Jason (Derek Mears) wearing a bed sheet over his head. One of the campers, Whitney (Amanda Righetti), is spared and held captive by Jason because she bears a (remarkably unconvincing) resemblance to the picture of Jason’s mother from the locket. Yep, it’s a new century, kids, and Jason Voorhees kidnaps people now. 

Twenty minutes into the movie, “Friday the 13th” appears on the screen in big red letters. 

Six weeks later (stay with me), Whitney’s brother, Clay (Jared Padalecki), shows up in town, looking for leads in her disappearance. We get several scenes of him knocking on doors and being rejected by the locals and the county sheriff, along with extended shots of a new group of campers buying beer and pumping gas. In the film business, these chunks of blood-and-boob-free time are known as “character development”, i.e. “lifeless filler”. Honestly, there’s nothing else to describe here, plot-wise, because you all know the drill. Stalk. Slash. Stalk. Slash. The story’s all by-the-numbers and unfortunately so are the murders. Because the filmmakers wanted to create a modern-day mash-up of the first three (really, four) Fridays, they end up delivering poorly-staged Xeroxes of deaths that were spectacular thirty years ago. There was only one true “jump” moment in the whole picture, and that involved the one scene that wasn’t completely telegraphed from start to finish. And that gets at the heart of what’s so very wrong with this movie. 

Director Marcus Nispel birthed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre update a few years ago, and has essentially remade his remake here; particularly in the latter part of the film, when we’re taken deep into the killer’s lair (Jason Voorhees does not have a lair!), one gets the feeling that the boy Jason did drown years ago, and that Leatherface simply relocated to Jersey and took up hockey. There’s too much intelligence in this Jason, a fact that many are praising, but which took me right out of the experience. Jason has always been a big, dumb, lucky death factory; the argument could be made that this version of the character has yet to become Mindless Zombie Jason, but that’s like making a movie about Darth Vader where he’s not yet become the all-powerful bastard of the universe (oops). If Nispel or his screenwriters had any talent, guts, or imagination, they would have truly rebooted the franchise with a movie featuring Mrs. Voorhees as the killer; they could have explored whatever happened to Mr. Voorhees and tidied up the hole-filled mythology that has plagued the Friday films for decades. But, no, they had to have the guy in the mask wielding the machete; I’m not saying I want my slasher movies to be Memento, but they have to have a reason to exist beyond the easy stuff. After having been shot into space and fighting Freddy Krueger, planting him back in Camp Crystal Lake with the same crop of mentally deficient teenage Spam-shavings seems like a cruel joke (one that’s on us). 

I’d like to close with a brief note about breasts. While it’s true that the new Friday the 13th has an abundance of female nudity, I must confess that nearly all of it had the opposite intended effect on me. The girls were uniformly attractive in this picture, but once their tops came off, I was faced with the oddest pairs of “enhanced” boobage that I’ve seen in quite awhile. Only one actress looked to have dodged the scalpel, but she was part of one of the weirdest, most poorly cut sex scenes in the series’ history. If you think this last paragraph is chauvinistic, you probably have a point; but it’s also the perfect illustration of why Nispel’s Friday is slasher porn for idiots: it opts for flashy freak fare when all that’s needed are the simple pleasures of the real thing(s).