“Did you know a young boy drowned here? He was my son. And today, is his birthday…”
The Scoop: 2009 R, directed by Marcus Nispel and starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker and Amanda Righetti
Tagline: Welcome to Crystal Lake
Summary Capsule: A bunch of idiot kids with various connections to one another end up in Crystal Lake, near an old summer camp with a brutal history.
Al’s rating: I know you kids are being dismembered in there, but can you keep it down a little? Some of us are trying to sleep!
Al’s review: Jason Voorhees has been though an awful lot of changes since audiences were introduced to the tiny, drowned boy in 1980. Since then, we’ve had four (or is it three?) movies worth of POV Murderer Jason, followed by three films of Zombie Action Figure Jason, one dose of Jason (Now With 40% Less Jason), a quick excursion with Shiny Robot Future Jason, and finally a buddy comedy featuring “Wasn’t I A Lot Taller In The Last Film?” Jason.
So, when some studio exec brought up the idea of rebooting the Friday the 13th franchise and giving us an All New Jason, it’s not hard to understand why people jumped on the idea. This was a chance to break away from eleven films of canon! To do something new! Something fun! Maybe something actually kinda funny! Maybe something actually kinda scary! In fact, no matter what you were going to do, this was your chance to do something different!
So… how did we end up with this?
Director Marcus Nispel, who did Pathfinder (which I liked) and the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which I really didn’t), gives us a leaner, meaner Jason Voorhees in the new Friday the 13th and a condensed origin story which takes him from Mommy’s little boy to hockey mask killer in just ninety minutes. The film starts familiarly, covering all of the important camp counselor stuff from the original Friday the 13th within the first reel, then fast-forwards thirty years and switches focus to a nubile, athletic group of disposable twentysomethings who lack common sense and are stomping around the woods at Crystal Lake in search of pot plants. Unfortunately for them, Jason has made Crystal Lake his home for the past three decades and doesn’t take kindly to intruders bogarting his herb.
Hack, hack. Slash, slash.
Six weeks later, we meet Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki), who has arrived at Crystal Lake to find his missing sister. Clay puts up “Missing” posters and goes door-to-door asking questions of the townsfolk. He’s earnest to an obnoxious degree, but it seems like he’s our hero so we all do our best to like him. Soon, Clay meets up with a second group of athletic, nubile victim archetypes who are partying at a summer cabin for the weekend. He enlists the help of Sincere Girl and her boyfriend, Smarmy Frat Boy, but their search raises Jason’s ire again, turning them and their meat puppet friends (Hazy Stoner, Surfer Guy, Sex Kitten, Other Girl, and Black Guy) into unwitting targets of Jason’s rampage.
Speaking of Jason, I want to give a shout out to Derek Mears, our new walking wall. While Kane Hodder is forever Jason in the minds of many fans (myself included), I thought Mears did a really excellent job with the physicality of the role and conveying the “survivalist hunter” persona Jason has adopted. The director has said that he wanted this Jason to be less of an unreasoned, unstoppable, killing machine and more of a territorial animal protecting its home, and I think he and Mears really achieved that.
So, I’m sure there are still some questions you want answered: Do any of our beloved stereotypes survive the chopping block? Does Clay find ever find his sister? Does someone finally take advantage of the fact the Jason has zero peripheral vision in that mask? Well, I’m going to leave those questions unanswered so I can ask you a better one: Did any of that sound familiar? Like something you’ve seen before? Perhaps something you’ve seen eleven times before?
It turns out, after all the talk from the studio and all the buzz about seeing something new or something interesting in the F13 series, there’s almost nothing worth remembering about the new Friday the 13th. They dropped the ball on this and they dropped it hard. It’s the same lumbering beast of a franchise, swinging the same rusted machete and hiding behind the same old hockey mask.
You know, for all the flack it takes, at least Jason Goes To Hell attempted to do something a little bit different. This? It has all of the right elements of a Jason slasher, but none of the spark and none of the love that could have made it something special. It’s like they had so many ideas for this film that might not work, that they simply decided not to try any of them. For all the disappointments that there could have been, there was none greater than finding out that the All New Friday the 13th is really nothing more than Friday the 13th, Part 12.
Kyle’s rating: Like trying a knock-off version of your favorite fast food and having an alien tapeworm burst out of your tortured stomach
Kyle’s review: The most egregiously offensive thing about the remake/sorta-sequel/”reimagining” Friday the 13th isn’t the gore, isn’t the acting, isn’t the near total lack of plot, and definitely isn’t the seemingly pathological determination on the director’s part to throw in enough sexual content to argue for a place for the eventual DVD in stores that sell only soft-core pornography. In fact, if any of those might be offensive to you, don’t even bother with this movie. Or any of the prior films with Jason wreaking bloody havoc. Are you kidding? Come on now.
No, what’s most disappointing about 2009’s Friday the 13th is that there are so many “easter eggs” and blatant references to the entire series that it is clear that this installment’s creators have a real love and appreciation for possibly all of those movies (although it’s hard to imagine anyone ever liking F13 Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan). Which makes it all the more hard to handle that their final product is such an utter dud.
Gone are any attempts to provide the sort of rudimentary plot structure that made the films of old charmingly bad: instead, much like the production team’s earlier attempts at reimagining The Texas Chainsaw Massacre “franchise,” a bunch of disposable victims are placed in the crosshairs for about an hour’s worth of uninspired stalk-and-kill sequences. People tend to go to these type of films for gore and nudity — let’s be honest — but if the film itself is boring there is no reason to stay or even go to the theater in first place. After all, up until Jason faced down Freddy, his most formidable foe was usually a plucky virginal heroine. Now he has to fight the draw of free blood and boobs on the Internet, and as cute as the girls around me squealed about him being the star of television’s Supernatural isn’t enough to be the sexy yin to Jason’s zombie killer yang, demographics-wise.
The new Jason himself is probably the film’s greatest strength: although definitely a human monster without any hints of supernatural prowess, I appreciated the simultaneously clever and ham-fisted nudges the film made towards showing how growing up in a summer camp setting allowed Jason untold years of practicing archery, axe-throwing, setting traps, and learning to tie every possible kind of knot. A deformed and monstrous cinematic version of Jack Bauer, Jason is fairly calm and cool about killing and strategic enough to use everything to his advantage: placing victims in predicaments to act as bait is the sort of thing a master outdoorsman would do. And some of his bait-and-trap scenarios are great; the lengthy pre-title sequence sees one victim put in a situation that made me gasp and made her would-be savior’s actions seem more spontaneous than scripted-to-be-dumb.
Unfortunately, as great as the new Jason is, the kids infringing upon his turf are as dumb as usual, if not quite a bit worse. Much will be made of one character excelling at playing a total scummy “bro” whose acting manages to capture everything that is unsaid about a million polo-wearing sandaled blonde “himbos” used in ads for and adorning the walls at places like Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister: not only does he ace his role as head jerk-off, but when called upon by Jason to scream he delivers in what could be the biggest audience-pleasing moment of the entire movie. But his sliminess and a great Jason isn’t enough to redeem the rest of the cast’s performances, which range from merely adequate to lifeless-before-Jason-kills-them. Setting up ciphers for kill shots is all well and good, but even the worst horror films can stay memorable for sketching at least vaguely interesting characters. Here, the stand-out observances were “Oh, is that the best friend from Disturbia?” and “Whoa, that bit with the catalog was sort of funny maybe.” Not quite the stuff cult infamy is made of.
Friday the 13th started out with all the slack in the world, since the F13 formula is fairly simple and there was no room anywhere for R. Lee Emery to come in and sabotage the movie with over-the-top shenanigans. But bit by bit, a dumb story structure and dumber characters whittle away at your patience until you realize that beyond everything else, this movie is just boring, plain and simple. From Part 1 to Jason X, the earlier films didn’t aspire to be great cinema but they did attempt to be entertaining. The 2009 film is too bland to be shocking, not bold enough to be uniquely memorable, and too poorly paced to hold a drop of tension. I guess as a date movie for teenagers without much to say to each other it’ll do the trick, but anyone looking for a good movie should look elsewhere. And F13 fans, unless they’re dedicated completists, shouldn’t even bother.
- Among the most obvious references to the earlier installments is the wheelchair tacked to the wall in Jason’s tunnel lair, which should remind you immediately of Part 2’s memorable dispatching of a wheelchair-bound young man. Go big, Friday the 13th franchise!
- Smarmy Frat Boy’s name is Trent DeMarco. Actor Travis van Winkle has confirmed that this character is the same Trent DeMarco he played two years previously in Transformers.
- Pamela Voorhees is played by Major Kira!
Pamela Voorhees: Did you know a young boy drowned here? He was my son. And today, is his birthday…
Clay: Hey, I’m not from around here, but I’m looking for my sister. She’s gone missing.
Richie: Do you know how many lakes there are named Crystal-something? Go to the supermarket, every single bottled water is named ‘Crystal’ something!
Chewie: [watching Bree dancing] In my next life I want to come back as one of the buttons on the ass pockets of her jean shorts.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
- Freddy vs Jason