Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 8, 2009)
When will the parade of horror remakes end? Never, I’m guessing – at least as long as they make money. Since the majority come with very low budgets, it becomes easy for them to turn a profit. Case in point: 2009’s Friday the 13th didn’t light up the box office with its $64 million take, but given its $16 million cost – and the successful home video afterlife horror flicks enjoy – the remake made lots of money.
The 2009 Friday starts with a flashback to the original flick. It shows the demise of crazy Mrs. Voorhees (Nana Visitor) on June 13, 1980, and we see deformed young Jason (Caleb Guss) emerge from the shadows.
From there we leap to present day. A group of backpackers goes in search of a hidden stash of marijuana, and they end up at the old Camp Crystal Lake location. This doesn’t end well for them.
Six weeks later, Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) goes to find his sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti), one of the missing backpackers. He comes across Trent (Travis Van Winkle), a rich college kid who brings his friends to stay at his family’s lakeside vacation home. While Clay searches for Whitney, the others party – and eventually encounter the adult, homicidal Jason (Derek Mears). This also doesn’t go well for them.
When I went into the 2009 Friday, I expected a fairly straight remake of the original. Instead, it takes the Superman Returns route and appears to essentially ignore the existence of all the sequels. Granted, it doesn’t overtly deny them, but it seems to act as an extension of the 1980 flick and shows no indication that all of the Jason-centered adventures from 1981 to 2003 existed.
I like that twist, and the 2009 Friday also offers a few other shifts from the genre clichés. However, I don’t think it shakes things up enough to merit a successful reinvention.
A lot of the problem comes with the thin nature of the premise. Director Marcus Nispel offered a reworking of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that I thought topped the original film. However, that flick’s story had more potential depth to it, whereas every Friday movies revolves around little more than “crazy freak hacks up people”. Oh, the series occasionally tried to flesh out background a little better, but the situations and scenarios remained painfully similar.
That means the series lives and dies with its kills. I think that’s what the fans most like about the movies: the various methods Jason uses to dispatch his victims. During the opening sequence with the backpackers, Nispel accomplishes a good level of intensity and creates murders with more punch than the usual gross-out scenes. For instance, Jason roasts a backpacker in a sleeping bag. That segment transcended the standard icky slash ‘n’ hack to become genuinely horrific.
Had the rest of Friday been similarly off-putting, the movie might’ve delivered more of a punch. Instead, Nispel goes with a generic recitation of the same old bloody nonsense. Of course, these scenes are also pretty horrifying – much gore ensues – but they’re so over the top that they don’t really scare us or make us upset.
And that’s probably fine with the franchise’s fans, as they want to see bloody kill after bloody kill. I just would’ve liked to see the series take a different path, and the opening led me to think it might do that. The Jason of the first 20 minutes seems more suited to the 21st century than does the campy goof of the older films; the early Jason here just comes across as more genuinely unsettling.
After that fairly powerful opening, however, Friday settles into the same routine that marks virtually every other movie in the franchise. We meet a slew of attractive – and utterly expendable – young adults and watch them get killed. Again, a few minor twists occur, but for the most part, the new Friday just regurgitates the tried and true formula.
If that works for you, have fun. I can’t say that I genuinely disliked the new Friday, because I didn’t. For better or for worse, it fit with the series’ traditions, so I can’t criticize it for remaining true to form. Heck, it’s even better than the original Friday, though that’s not saying much; the 1980 film was popular and influential without actually being any damned good.
2009’s Friday the 13th isn’t particularly good, either, but it’s not bad. I do see it as a missed opportunity, though. It could’ve taken the franchise down a creative new path but instead preferred to stay with the same old hack and slash.
Note that the DVD reviewed presents an extended “Killer Cut” of Friday. It runs 106 minutes, which means it adds about eight minutes to the 98-minute theatrical version. Since I never saw the latter, I can’t comment on the changes. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention the fact that the DVD provides an alternate cut.