Friday the 13th
by Brandon Peters
In the current trend of remaking or “re imagining” horror classics, there is one key goal that must be adhered by: taking a film franchise that once scared so many, and making it scary once again. While succeeding tremendously on his first venture, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Marcus Nispel’s second effort, Friday the 13th, falls flat on its face.
Friday the 13th, while being one of the most well known horror franchises, is definitely dated and could actually use a modern reboot. When re imagining the series, it is important to look at the highs and lows of said series, pay some homage, and yet tell a new, more frightening version of the tale. This new version of Friday makes its biggest mistake in taking the lower notes of the original series and embracing them rather than letting them rest in peace.
Instead of a straightforward remake of the original film, this one crams a retelling of the first four films of the franchise as its template (most critics and the like are touting this a remake of films 1-3, however the movie and most of our characters are based heavily off of the 4th Friday). Seeing as Jason Voorhees, the character that will bring in the money, didn’t appear until the second film, and then donned the iconic goalie mask in the third, this is an obvious choice. And instead of bringing a fresh writer to the series, the writers of the poorly received Freddy vs. Jason have been brought back to the franchise.
The film opens with a really brief black and white retelling the end of the first film, where Pamela Voorhees (Jason’s mother and the killer in the first film) is beheaded by the lone surviving camp counselor of the original Friday the 13th massacre. This is not the only setup scene we are treated to. Next, we are given four young people going camping in the woods, with hopes and aspirations to find some marijuana and sell it. One of these characters is Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti). She and her boyfriend stumble upon the now closed Crystal Lake Camp and a mysterious cabin. While at the cabin, Jason murders their friends and later comes for them. We are now 20 minutes into the film and they happily let us know that the title of this movie is Friday the 13th. (Interestingly enough, this part of the setup would have made the movie slightly more serious and intriguing had we not seen this whole ordeal.)
The movie jumps to six weeks later (in a half hour, we jump in time twice). Trent (Travis Van Winkle) along with his girlfriend (Danielle Panabaker) are going on a weekend getaway with their “oh so lovable” friends to Trent’s father’s cabin in the woods. When they stop at a gas station, they run into Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki), who is searching for his lost sister Whitney (who we last saw having a murder party with Jason). Trent and Clay do not hit it off during their first exchange, but Trent’s girlfriend takes a liking to him. After this, Trent and gang head to the cabin for a crazy party weekend. Clay shows at the cabin, and is quickly ushered out by Trent. However, Trent’s girlfriend, feeling sorry for Clay, joins him on his quest to find his lost sister. Meanwhile Trent and the rest do what all stereotypical Friday the 13th cast members do; smoke weed, drink beer, have premarital sex, show off your rack, piss people off, and not have a care in the world for anyone other than yourself. Now, cue Jason. Go movie go!
An essential part of making a horror movie scary again is giving us characters we can actually care about and that don’t deserve to be killed or tortured. This is where both Platinum Dunes Texas Chainsaw pictures excel and a film like Rob Zombie’s Halloween fails miserably. Sadly, this Friday takes the Rob Zombie route. This happens when you mistake nudity and smart ass comments every two seconds for character development. Naturally every character deserves to be killed within the first word that comes out of their mouth. In this film, Trent hilariously comes off as a live action version of one of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s “Frat Aliens.” The characters that you do care about are the ones you know are going to be within reaching distance of the closing credits.
On a side note, are today's movie going teens actually caring about these characters? Some of these would-be victims say some raunchy and funny things that make me snicker every once in a while, but does it make me care for them? No. It makes the characters that much more obvious to be the “funny guy who you like, but you know is going to get it.” These characters are simply throwaways. Also, are today's tween, teen, and college females identifying with the “slut who takes her shirt off” characters? I hope not. Finally, casting former pop musician and Dancing with the Stars contestant Willa Ford and known joker character actor Ryan Hansen (from Veronica Mars) does not help to add to the credibility of this film being scary in the slightest. These are the kind of obvious victims and character types that I thought ended when we were given much more quality products like Scream and the like.
On the plus side, the kills (while seen from a mile away every time) are much more inventive than most remakes. A sleeping bag tied shut over a campfire is a highlight. If they had spent as much time on at least some characterization as they did the kills, the cast might be more likable. Each kill is very enjoyable and for the most part isn’t over the top or insanely graphic (funny how Michael Myers is remade with Jason-style kills and Jason is remade with more stealthy thoughtful kills).
Despite having the best production values of the series (and probably being the best made Jason movie of all), I couldn’t tell the difference between this film and any random entry in the original series, be it Jason Lives or A New Beginning. I honestly cared more for the characters in the original two films than I did this one. It didn’t feel like a remake, nor did it feel like it was our first venture. It honestly feels just like another Friday sequel, albeit with a bigger budget, sexier cast, and a better cinematographer.
There is one last little bit worthy of mention. There is an overabundance of marijuana and marijuana-related referencing in this movie. It is completely unnecessary to many scenes and the entire story. Perhaps this film could serve as a modern day Reefer Madness.
If you’re looking for just another Friday the 13th, or you’re the death enthusiast type that roots for the killer rather then damsel in distress running from said killer, this is definitely up your alley. If you’re looking for some creative reinvention, an engaging story, or you just want to be scared by a little suspense, go ahead and wait. I did have fun, but this was not the film I was looking for it to be.