Friday the 13th may be the only film I can think of that could roll the credits after the first twenty minutes and have most people leave happy. The following seventy minutes are basically a drawn-out version of the first twenty, but I’ll be damned if this movie isn’t way more fun than you could possibly expect. For once we have a rehash (“remake” doesn’t quite describe this one) that has the feel of its predecessors and delivers what we show up to see. That’s something considering that, after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake a few years back, I was convinced that producer Michael Bay and director Marcus Nispel were out to desecrate every horror franchise under the sun.
Fortunately for all of us, Nispel and his screenwriters don’t bother with nonsensical back story (I was so surprised that Leatherface was picked on as a kid, honestly) and instead deliver a baker’s dozen platter of gruesome deaths, juvenile humor, and a whole lot of boobs. That’s what people showed up for in the 80’s, and that’s what we’re here for now.
From a narrative standpoint, the film basically covers the events of the first three in the original series. We go from Mrs. Voorhees’ demise to Jason’s first killing spree in a matter of minutes. Soon he is donning the infamous hockey mask (which he didn’t even originally acquire until Part III) and dispatching victims at a torrid pace. Most of the victims come from a group of party animals who are in the vicinity of Crystal Lake for a party. Also thrown into the mix is Clay (Padalecki), a man who is searching for his missing sister.
That’s about it. Nispel utilizes many of the tricks from the old movies, which means Jason appears out of nowhere or is in plain sight of his victims before planting some sort of sharp object in their jugular. There are no genuine scares and Sean S. Cunningham’s original easily has the upper hand in terms of foreboding atmosphere. Nispel is more interested in a tribute, and I think he has succeeded. Nearly every grisly event somehow harks back to a notable death from the previous series (think sleeping bag).
It’s way too easy to come down on a film like this. While I hardly think of the original series as high art, I can appreciate what it did to jump start the era of the slasher and most of them are still a lot of fun to watch. Unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Nispel and Bay manage to not piss on the fond memories many of us have of this franchise. Sure you could replace Jason with a stock killer, retitle it, and have a completely separate movie. But Jason is back onscreen, and this should tide over fans of grisly murder theater until the next Final Destination entry arrives in August.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 97 Minutes
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material.
Theatrical Release: February 13, 2009
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Damian Shannon & Mark Swift. Story by Shannon & Swift & Mark Wheaton. Characters by Victor Miller.
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears