Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Friday the 13th (2009)

Last Friday night, I was at the sold-out 11:00 o’clock showing of the new Friday the 13th. Through a complicated process, I was with a good friend who hates horror movies, and having watched all eleven prior movies in two weeks left me babbling F13 trivia like an idiot, but my friend is good natured.

Any time you remake a movie with legions of fans, there are going to be some people you can’t please. If you just redo the exact same movie, you get panned for being unoriginal; if you re-imagine it, you take flack for straying too far from what the fans love. I thought Marcus Nispel and the rest of the people behind this did a good job of presenting something new while staying true to the spirit of the original movies.

The movie condenses the first three films of the series into one. A prologue tells what happened to Jason’s mother, the catalyst for his actions from the first one, and through the first half of the movie, he wears the sack on his head, a la Part 2. There are also two groups of victims. The first are campers who get attacked by Jason when they wander onto his territory. The second are a group of college kids staying at a rich kid’s lake house, and Clay (Jared Padalecki), whose sister was in the first group, and who is now trying to find her, or at least what happened to her. If there is one great flaw, it is there are too many victims for a 97 minute movie. You don’t really have a lot of time to get to know them before Jason does, and that hurts the impact of the movie somewhat. An exception is the rich kid (Travis van Winkle), who is a total asshole, which makes your anticipation of his eventual demise pretty sweet.

Nispel also directed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, and his Friday the 13th has a very similar tone, which may be off-putting to some. Here Jason is much smarter and faster than in previous films, setting traps for his victims, using tools more effectively, and killing just those who encroach on his territory. Kane Hodder does not return as Jason, to the disappointment of me and many others, but Derek Mears does a good job. Jason has also dropped his supernatural aspects, and is portrayed her as just a man, albeit a very effective killer and outdoorsman. Padelecki makes a likeable protagonist, and most of the rest of the cast does what they can with somewhat underwritten roles.

There are a lot of little details filled in on background shots if you look for them (and care). When Padelecki and one of the young ladies goes down Jason’s tunnel, you can see behind them a wheelchair, which represents one of the victims from Part 2. I mentioned earlier Jason’s uncanny skill with killing devices which starts in Part 3, and here he makes a difficult shot with an arrow to skewer one of the kids. If you look closely, this is explained when the campers go through his house, and you see archery trophies.

A neat trick was presenting us with two possible Final Girls (since the movie is an amalgam of several installments). I picked the wrong Final Girl, so it was a slight shock when she didn’t make it. The ending was a little too predictable, but not enough to spoil things.

As I mentioned, the show was packed, and it was a very animated crowd, jumping and screaming during scare sequences, so it seemed to be effective. I was very surprised when my non-horror-watching friend told me how much he enjoyed it. This is a definite thumbs-up from me, probably a 7.5/10 (and I’m a hard grader).

One last aside: I’ve read a lot of interviews with cast members in genre magazines like Fangoria and Rue Morgue, and I was impressed they talked about how much they liked this sort of film (especially Padalecki). That;s a refreshing change from the early films, which seem to have embarrassed the actors who appeared in them.


Craig Clarke said...

Thanks for your intelligent take. This definitely sounds like one I'll pick up on video.

KentAllard said...

Disclaimer: Any intelligence seen on this site is either accidental or illusory.