Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday the Thirteenth (2009) review

    Happy Halloween, folks! Today as a special treat, I'm going to be reviewing a horror movie which tried to re-bottle lightning. It's not one of my favorites but tries so very hard. I think it deserves to have its efforts recognized even if the results were underwhelming. I speak of the Friday the Thirteenth reboot.

    Jason Voorhees is one of my favorite movie monsters of all time. He's up there with Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman in my opinion. The thing is, I recognize Jason is kind of an accidental success. He's a transparent rip-off of Michael Myers who came back as a zombie because they "almost" killed him four times. The producers are surprisingly candid about all this.

    I like the F13 movies more than I like the Halloween movies on a per movie average. Halloween and H20 are classics of horror cinema but the Friday movies are consistently schlocky fun the whole way through. That and the other Halloween movies are really-really bad. There's no "classic" Friday the Thirteenth but they're all entertaining.

This is why you should always take Dean with you, Sam.
    The reason for this is because Jason Voorhees is, if you're honest with yourself, a cartoon. He's the Wolverine of horror monsters. Jason's appeal is that he looks cool, can take any amount of punishment, and kills people in interesting ways. Jason's character, per se, doesn't actually matter all that much. Except when it does.

    Really, the greatest addition to Jason's character the movies made was making it so he never talked. You can project all manner of tragic motivations (or not) onto him without being contradicted. The most sympathetic reading of Jason's actions is the poor kid just wants to be left alone, doesn't understand death, and has a real hang-up about people coming to his turf to have sex. He's like the Hulk, that way, except with a machete. New Jason is not like the Hulk.

    The original movies remain the best of the films because they had a sense of authenticity to them. The latter films became deliberately camp and lost a lot of what made them scary. It's why you can pretty much watch 1-4 and skip the rest (with the possible exception of The New Blood). Freddy versus Jason had a lot going for it, too, so there's another argument there. Still, this version has a little too much polish to it that makes it feel like a modern slasher movie with a CW cast (a lot of the actors are actually on the CW in fact) that undercuts its strength. It's a little too glossy and everyone a little too pretty to be quite what the original films were--which was a bunch of teenagers in the woods.

I wish we'd followed this group instead.
    The 2009 reboot makes the mistake of attempting to take the F13 movies seriously. It takes the plots from the first three movies, distills them into one, and attempts to explain who Jason Voorhees is. If you need to explain who the monster is, you're doing a bad job of storytelling. We, the audience, are sometimes unobservant cretins but we don't need it spelled out Jason has mommy issues.
    New Jason is a wild man who lives in the woods, killing people who come to visit his home because he witnessed his mother getting murdered. He kidnaps women who remind him of his mother and holds them prisoner until they die. He's not a funny character and while you may question whether or not a slasher should be funny, Old Jason certainly was.

Amanda Righetti is lovely. Too bad she doesn't ever get a chance to act.
    Jason's choice of victim is also a bit different. They're still all a bunch of horny young people but, unfortunately, they're now likable horny young people. The majority of Jason's victims were ciphers and quite a few of them were [censored]. There were exceptions, Part II and IV were well-regarded for the fact you didn't want anyone to die, but everyone here is awesome except the designated rich a******. And, of course, he lasts to almost the very end.

    This is one of those rare Friday: The Thirteenth movies where I didn't want Jason to win and that's against the formula. I wanted one of the many cool victims in this movie to put him down. There's much to like in this film: Supernatural alumni Jared Padalecki more or less plays Sam and Amanda Righetti is stunning. There's plenty of fanservice, too, and it's unashamed of this fact. The kills are lacking their humor value, though, and whereas previous Jason would kill in a variety of fascinating ways--this Jason just stabs people with a machete.

     I think this could have been a great movie with a little more effort or, ironically, a little less. There's two decent movies with the group of pot heads seeking a natural farm of it in the Crystal Lake area (who planted it? Jason?) and the subsequent kidnapping/rescue/camper plot. The two plots fused together undermine the whole. It's a shame because everyone does a decent job here and it shows a respect to the material absent from everything since the eighties but Freddy vs. Jason.

    In conclusion, this is not the Friday the Thirteenth which will ignite the passions of millions. Slasher movies will never die but films like Scream and Cabin in the Woods remember that if you're going to make the victims the stars, they should fun. If the movie is making the monster the star, though, you should make them the one the audience roots for.


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