Friday, February 13, 2009
The answer is I don't know and I don't think the filmmakers (which include original director Sean S. Cunningham) know either. All I think they had on their mind was to cash in on the franchise while they still could.
This latest Friday the 13t h opens on a Friday the 13th back in June 1980 (the year Sean S. Cunningham introduced Jason to unsuspecting audiences). So we get a little backstory on Jason, his mom and the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. But you really need to have seen the earlier films to make sense of the jumbled info presented here. This teaser open wraps pretty quick with multiple deaths. Then we jump to the present day Camp Crystal Lake and a group of kids trying to find some pot growing out by the old campground. This leads to another mass slaughter and then we get the title, Friday the 13th. All that (some 15 to 20 minutes or at least that's what it felt like) and we hadn't even gotten to the opening title! Now the film can properly start with a new set of characters that are nothing more than Jason fodder.
On one level I can applaud the film for setting up not one set of characters for slaughter but three, thereby increasing the potential body count. But director Marcus Nispel (who did much better remaking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ) doesn't even know how to off his victims in anything remotely approaching a clever or gruesome manner. **SPOILER** At one point the token Asian gets killed and his friend comes out looking for him and carrying a wok. Is that meant to be some kind of an ethnic gag? Or was the guy just going for a wok in the forest hoping to cook his Asian buddy up for Jason? But as my friend pointed out, at least there was a reinvention of the death by sleeping bag. His only innovation is to make Jason run fast, but that just seems wrong - like having zombies run fast. Jason shouldn't have to run fast, that makes him too human and normal. But we do get to see how Jason makes the fashion conscious choice of going from the burlap sack on his head to the much more menacing and hip hockey mask. (So in a sense this film could be placed chronologically between 2 and 3 since my friends and I decided it was Part III where Jason began wearing his iconic goalie mask.)
This version of Friday the 13th does have its fair share of gratuitous nudity and as expected it's all female. (Wonder when Hollywood will start to realize that women go to horror films as well and wouldn't mind seeing some of the hunky guys strip down as well, com'on let's be fair about this!) There are plenty of killings but not a lot of blood, gore, or creativity. The cast seems entirely interchangeable. They are all cute enough and each has been given a clich e to hit - Asian, black, slut, good girl, etc. As my other friend at the screening noted, why couldn't it be the slutty girl who's left standing at the end. Now there would be a twist.
Friday the 13th (rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material) comes amidst a slew of horror remakes of 80s films. Still to come: The Last House on the Left and Nightmare on Elm Street . At least the recent My Bloody Valentine 3D had a better take on how to approach this whole remake idea: find a bad movie, pay homage to the genre, crank up the gore, and add a gimmick (3D). This Friday the 13th commits the worst sin a horror movie can be guilty of - it was boring. I suggest you go out and rent John Carpenter's Halloween to see how a slasher film can be well made and effective. The scariest thing about this film was Michael Bay's name in the opening titles.
Companion viewing: Friday the 13th (1980), Hell's Ground (slasher film with killer in a burka); Halloween... oh and I almost forgot to include Saturday the 14th (the horror spoof with Richard Benjamin)