Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th (2009)

Before I get into this review, I must make it clear that I thought the idea of having Jason Voorhees go up against Freddy Krueger in 2003’s Freddy vs Jason (part of my Cinema Bits review, “A Nightmare on Elm Street: Ex Post Facto”) was brilliant and very courageous of New Line Cinema to green light that project.  I’d thought it was a good movie, probably the best treated Jason Voorhees movie that New Line had made (at that point in time), and I really wanted a sequel—preferably adding Michael Myers to the mix.  But, sadly, they did what most movie studios do these days and just started it all over again with a reboot.  Much like a child, playing a game that’s not going so well and instead of seeing it through until it gets better, hit the reset button…start over.  And that’s exactly what New Line did in 2009, getting Paramount back on board, together, making the reboot of Friday the 13th.

Now, I’m not too clear on the deal made to purchase the franchise rights to Friday the 13th back in the early 90s, but I think I had heard that Paramount Pictures sold the rights of only the characters and the Jason Voorhees name to New Line Cinema, but still had the rights to the moniker.  If this is so, it makes sense why none of the three movies that New Line made—especially the first two—had the Friday the 13th name in the titles.  Because of that stipulation in the contract (again, I’m not sure if this is true), it’s probably the reason why New Line had to share the distribution and release for the 2009 remake.

In any case, the deal was done, the movie was announced to be made, and fans were happy.  But when it was announced that Michael Bay’s production studios, Platinum Dunes, was to produce the film, a lot of the fans began to worry.  See, Platinum Dunes was responsible for the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel, which fans of the original—and horror fans in general—did not like.  However, I thought the movies were fine and I waited patiently and neutrally to see what would come of the Friday the 13th 2009 reboot.

Directed by Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Conan the Barbarian remakes), the film opens on a stormy night with basically a redo of the last ten minutes of the original 1980 film, as we see Pamela Voorhees (Nana Visitor) going after a female camp counselor (Stephanie Rhodes), meaning to kill her.  But the girl has a machete, decapitates Mrs. Voorhees and runs off.  Out from the wet brush comes a
young, deformed boy, Jason (Caleb Guss), who had seen the whole thing and walks to his dead mother.  He takes her locket and runs off.  The film, then, cuts to present day, where a group of twenty-somethings are walking in the woods near Crystal Lake and decide to camp for the night.  Two of the kids, Whitney (Amanda Righetti) and her boyfriend, Mike (Nick Mennell), go for a walk, finding themselves at the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake, causing the adult Jason (Derek Mears) to start his killing spree.  And so, begins Friday the 13th.

First off, I’ve got to like how the filmmakers chose not to remake just the first movie, making the killer Mrs. Voorhees.  It might’ve been a bit of cowardice on their part, because most new audiences only relate the franchise with the character of Jason Voorhees and wouldn’t accept a film without him in it.  But let’s face it…even old school fans—like myself—wouldn’t enjoy it either.  The franchise of Friday the 13th is synonymous with the name Jason Voorhees, so you’ve got to have him in this reboot.  Overall, they’d made the right choice, for whatever their reason.

Secondly…Jason Voorhees’s look in this film is, at first, pretty menacing as he sports the sack on the head.  Though, in this film, they did it right as they designed the sack more streamlined by having it sort of wrapped tight on his head.  In the original part two of the series, Jason had a sack just thrown loosely over his head, making it seem a little implausible as he would have a difficult time seeing through the eyehole.  With the sack form-fitting in this reboot, he’d have no trouble seeing out of the opening.  However…the moment in the film when he gets the hockey mask seems a little obligatory and hokey.  It happens during the scene where he kills a local hick (Kyle Davis) in the upper floor of some old barn.  Before Jason kills him the guy tears off the sack, ripping it in two pieces.  After dispatching of the victim, and seeing that he can’t use the tattered remains of the sack, Jason looks on the floor and—cue the music—he finds an old hockey mask.  After watching the movie quite a few times, you start to notice a little more about this set the scene is staged on.  You can notice things in the background, making you understand the hick—or whoever owns the barn—collects junk and with that understanding, you can believe it was possible an old hockey mask might’ve been lying around.  So, I can forgive this part, but because of the filmmakers not establishing the set pieces more clearly, the scene really seems forced and insignificant.

Another point that has been complained about, and I’d like to come to its defense, is the subplot of Jason holding a girl captive.  A lot of fans say that’s something Jason wouldn’t do, that all he wants is to avenge his mother’s death by killing anyone who comes into his Crystal Lake territory.  Yes, that’s a good stance to take if this was a continuing sequel from the original film.  But seeing as this is a reboot, the filmmakers can go into another direction and have Jason do as he pleases…there are new rules and a new story, the character is not bound to repeat his conducts from the old films.  Plus, wouldn’t it be boring to have a straight re-filming of the original movies?  Isn’t it better to change up the formula? 

Lastly, I thought it was a great idea to not only remake some of the first original film, but some aspects of the following sequels as well.  Of course we see a little rehash of the climax from the original part one, then seeing Jason with the sack-head look of part two, getting his signature hockey mask as in part three, and featuring the avenging brother of a past victim as seen in part four.  All that was done well, never feeling dragged on, and established the new generation of Jason Voorhees.

Speaking of the all new Jason, in this film he’s not just a lumbering serial killer, not some slow-moving or zombie-like murderer…no, in this one, he’s like some survivalist who has plans and thinks ahead.  He has a hide-out that’s rigged on the outside to warn him of intruders.  Yes, we have an intelligent Jason, one who runs and moves around swiftly, not just walking slowly and appearing out of nowhere.  You’re able to see the reason why he does show up in places where it seems impossible.  The film makes it clear that he knows the surrounding area of Crystal Lake and why he makes the area his home.  Even though Derek Mears had some huge shoes to fill, he fit them perfectly and made the character of Jason Voorhees his own.

Now, after all the establishment of why he becomes who he is and how he gets his mask…all we’re left with is Jason stalking a group of kids in a cabin, killing them off one by one.  None of the kills are really that original, some of them shock you, but all in all this film could’ve simply been another sequel to the original storyline.  The only semi-original subplot within this film is the brother looking for his missing sister.  Other than that, it’s just kids drinking, doing drugs, and having premarital sex—nothing more, nothing less.

But I loved it.  The scenarios were believable (except for the black guy deciding to attempt masturbation in the middle of the living room where anybody can walk in—and they do, before he starts—while there are quite a few people milling about) and you do feel a sense of dread at times.  The film definitely doesn’t go back to the feel of the original first four films, but it’s certainly a few steps above the cheesy last four or five films of the franchise.

I’m getting a little too longwinded here so let me give you my final “bit” on 2009’s Friday the 13th.

A more powerful and fast Jason gives the film more terror than felt in some of the later films of the 1980s franchise.  Though not so unique in some of the killing sequences, fans of the old—as well as new—generation will enjoy this tremendously.  It’s a step in the right direction, especially if they get the sequel off the ground, and there may be saving Jason Voorhees yet.  Talks and rumors have intensified on the internet, from doing a found-footage type film to having no Jason in it (!), but a film is coming nevertheless.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading…and I welcome any comments!

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