Review: FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

Posted by Peter Hall - February 13th 2009 @ 8:58 pm

Directed by Marcus Nispel, 2009
Written by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift

Given its pedigree, a 2009 remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH need only succeed by not disrespecting the brand.  No Jason talking, no Jason made of metal, just Jason sticking a machete (or whatever he can find) into a batch of attractive college co-eds.  Having Jason Voorhees in it means Platinum Dunes can succeed essentially by not fucking up, a brand advantage few films and filmmakers have.

Fortunately Marcus Nispel’s film does nothing to bury the brand.  Say what the harping fanboys will about the Michael Bay production house Platinum Dunes, but they keep their purchased properties for adults only and treat the money maker with more respect than most Hollywood studios muster and for that I am thankful.  It’s not inventive, opting to function as a conglomerate reboot of parts one through three and not a sequel or “re-imagining”, but it is a respectful heart pumper.  Aside from a few drug and sex happy caricatures, FRIDAY THE 13TH is a no nonsense slasher.  Case and in point, the most indulgently ironic moment in the film is when Bree (Julianna Guill), forever to be dubbed the girl with the stupendous rack, is killed when Jason impales her on a wall mounted rack of antlers.  Even this is not played for laughs (though, for all the 13 year old boys who snuck in, it’s probably the saddest moment of their film going careers).

Of course die hard purists will find something to complain about, but there is nothing that would please all the purists save for a film’s non-existence.  For those willing to accept that the industry will do what an industry does, FRIDAY THE 13TH is an acceptable (and thus welcome) stash of kills, thrills and drive-in decadence.

The Camp Crystal Lake roots are left almost intact.  A shortened introduction/title credit sequence efficiently conveys that Mama Voorhees killed off the camp counselors who neglected her deformed baby Jason, that a final girl chopped her head off and that Jason came back (somehow).  This prelude (part one, if it were) takes a scant few minutes, at which point Shannon and Shift’s script jumps to a present day group of friends (part two) hiking through the woods looking for a supposed pot field.  Of course they stumble onto the camp grounds by mistake, which is where a now adult Jason steps in, dispatching the teens in a glorious fashion within twenty minutes.  Enter part three, a larger group of co-eds six months later having a weekend getaway at a head douchebag’s luxurious lake house.

Our portal to the story is Jared Padalecki as Clay Miller, a dude in every sense who refuses to give up the search for his missing sister (Amanda Righetti from the abreviated part two).  Not to give away what little there is plot wise, suffice to say Padalecki’s path eventually crosses over with that of the lake house group, at which point the survival game is afoot.

Despite none of the characters ever elevating above the two sentence descriptions given to the casting department, there is a moderate level of sympathy felt when Jason turns his gaze on a few of them.  That’s fine though, as we are here for what happens when Jason does turn on our co-eds.  Horror fans will have plenty to cheer about.  While none of the kills may break new ground, they all rivet eyes to the screen, supplying the intended amount of adrenaline.  Hand in hand with the killing goes the final staple of the franchise (albeit one that came along farther in the series): co-eds doing what co-eds do in movies.  The sex here isn’t over the top, striking a screen time balance that will entertain the male portion of the audience while not alienating their dates.  Frankly for a FRIDAY THE 13TH in 2009 the topless nudity restraint is more than I expected.

My only complaint about the reboot is that it could have easily been called anything else, which is a problem.  The series is called FRIDAY THE 13TH for a reason, whereas the Nispel flick places no menacing emphasis on the eponymous date.  Remove the back story Shannon and Swift’s script maintained – an easy proposition considering how little of it there is – and Jason is nothing more than a bitter old man who doesn’t like kids playing on his lawn.  There is no motif of revenge, no motivation of servitude to his slain mother.  Boil it down and this iteration is GRAN TORINO with a hockey mask and the violence turned to 11.

I’ll confess that I never held the Jason franchise as close to my heart as many children of the ’80s did (more of a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET breed myself), so limiting the brand identity to the hockey mask isn’t too big of a deal to me.  Is the rest of the movie good enough to warrant it being a theatrical must-see, perhaps a daunting proposition to the generation who grew up with Jason and whose own young children now limit their free time at a cineplex?  Yes and no.  It’s a thrilling, respectful enterprise no doubt, but taking the respectful route also means the filmmakers took the safe root.  F1309 looks like every other Michael Bay produced project out there, which is to say that it is a Maxim photoshoot come to life set to a pseduo-industrial, bass heavy score applicable to all Platinum Dunes projects.

That means this FRIDAY THE 13TH is creatively unambitious, but there is no mistaking it for anything but a descendant of the definitive Dead Teenager Movie.  It delivers exactly what any reasonable person should hope for from a reboot of a cherished franchise.  Personally, I hope that now they’ve re-introduced the masked giant to a new generation that the inevitable sequel will take more risks.  Until then I will gladly settle for a film that knows the mark and hits it right through the head with an arrow.


rss 16 comments
  1. February 14th, 2009 | 9:02 am | #1

    It’s interesting to hear a good review of this movie, or at least a review that doesn’t bash it into the ground.
    I think as long as Jason is menacing and cool then it can’t be too bad. Many Friday the 13th’s contained annoying characters and awful plots, it’s all about Jason in my opinion.

  2. R.J. Sayer
    February 14th, 2009 | 12:31 pm | #2

    Will, WTF are you talking about. i have yet to read a negative review on one of the geek sites.

    seriously. AICN, Shocktilyoudrop, DreadCentral, etc. they all love it.

    and i – for one – do NOT understand that. the thing sucked. seriously.

    looks like i’m the only one not drinking the kool-aid this time…

  3. February 14th, 2009 | 3:52 pm | #3

    RJ, Stacie Ponder hated it, if that counts for anything. I haven’t read any overwhelmingly positive reviews at any of the geek sites.

    I can see why no one would be blown away by it (I wasn’t either), but I think it is a stretch to say it sucked. There’s plenty I’d change about it. The pot field quest is retarded, for one, and I’d of liked Jason to not simply be a territorial goon. Was he taking a nap for the months and months it would have taken to build the pimpass lake house or something? And I know there was a single sentence early on in the film that mentioned there was an unmarked mine nearby, but the whole Dr. Satan lair was pretty goofy.

    But the deaths were cool and Jason wasn’t run into the ground, so it worked in my book.

  4. William Goss
    February 14th, 2009 | 5:03 pm | #4

    He couldn’t be run INTO the ground if he was too busy running UNDER the ground! Ki-ki-ki, ha-ha-ha!

  5. Matt
    February 14th, 2009 | 9:51 pm | #5

    Being a child of the JASON era…I have to say it was good. Exactly what I expected…nothing more…nothing less. It was fun. Personally i’m not a big fan of the current rash of remakes. Texas Chainsaw was fine the way it was, as is Friday and Halloween. I’m hearing that Nightmare is slated for a remake. If it aint broke…

    Did I get as much of a kick out of it as I did when I saw the original 20 sum odd years ago…nope. But it was still fun.

  6. February 15th, 2009 | 9:41 am | #6

    I never said that everybody was hating on the film, I just said that I hadn’t personally read any good reviews of the movie.

    I think that when I can finally find a day that my girlfriend isn’t working I’ll go and see this movie. And I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it regardless of how many people may not like it. I’m never too picky about what I watch and rarely dislike anything.

    I’m the horror fan who’s just looking for some good gore. I don’t care about how unbelievable the plot is or how stupid the characters are. To me that’s what most horror flicks are about anyway. The viewer screaming Don’t open that door and of course they do!

  7. February 15th, 2009 | 10:52 pm | #7

    I have only read the first paragraph and will only finish it after I have seen the movie.

    I look forward to it.

  8. February 16th, 2009 | 2:26 pm | #8

    Case IN point, not case AND point.

    You immigrants, I swear!

  9. February 16th, 2009 | 3:18 pm | #9

    Look here, Weinberg! If you’re going to keep pointing out my deep flaw for non-existent editing, you might as well bring me over to that yellow journalism joint you run, Comrade.

  10. February 16th, 2009 | 4:43 pm | #10

    Nice review Peter, and I agree, for the most part

  11. February 17th, 2009 | 9:19 am | #11

    Hands down, excellent remake. This movie had absolutely everything that you could want in a horror movie.

  12. February 17th, 2009 | 9:34 am | #12

    I thought the pot thing was retarded. “Let’s get POT and SELL IT!”

    For that matter, I get it that the guy likes underground stuff (Look at Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but Jesus Jason teleports, he doesn’t run around underground.

    There were things that I didn’t like, but a lot of it was pretty sweet.

    Like the sleeping bag.

  13. Mr. All-Star
    March 3rd, 2009 | 6:11 pm | #13

    I was really excited to see the “B” grade after having read a few scathing reviews, and even more pleased when I had finished reading (I especially liked the very last line about the arrow!). I think people tend to overthink movies like this and run them into the ground instead of just enjoying them for entertainment value. Obviously, the plot is contrived at best and the characters are nothing more than the embodiments of their respective stereotypes. But dammit, this movie was fun to watch with your girlfriend holding onto you in a crowded movie theatre! And the title flashing after the over-extended intro was just fucking cool, if you ask me.

    Although – and I’m just being a jerk now, I know – but the second group of kids was six WEEKS after the first, not six months. ;]

  14. athena
    June 18th, 2009 | 11:27 pm | #14

    need to leave the classic horror movies alone. stop trying to remake. if you like boobs, sex, and POT then this movie is for you. i did not find it that horrifying. somewhat of a copy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre with collection of dead bodies. Class C acting. basically the same story over and over again with Jason being 29 yrs older (1980). i am a huge horror film fan and appreciate horror movies that were created ORIGINALLY. need more NEW originals. hope there is not a sequel coming. total waste of money

  15. Brian
    December 14th, 2009 | 3:31 pm | #15

    This was borderline watchable. It isn’t like it’s going to make anybody’s top 10 horror films of 2009 or anything.

  16. May 16th, 2012 | 6:03 am | #16

    I enjoyed the film, but I felt like they were trying to fit too many of the more memorable kills from the first four movies into the script. I kind of feel bad for Padalecki if this is the best gig he can get outside Supernatural :)

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