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Friday the 13th (2009)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

Starring: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Derek Mears, Aaron Yoo, Julianna Guill

Written By: Damian Shannon (also story), Mark Swift (also story), Mark Wheaton (story)

Directed By: Marcus Nispel

The Short Version

The man in the hockey mask gets a reboot.

Friday the 13th lifts from not just one, but the first six movies of the original franchise.

Violence, sex, and simplicity: someone paid attention to how to get it right!

The guy playing Jason is still no Kane Hodder, but…

If you’re a slasher fan, this reboot’s worthy to watch or to own.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

PRINGLE'S CHEEZ-UMS.

Reprocessed, reformulated, and way cleaner looking than any natural potato chip ever was… but it’s a damn tasty imitation, all the same.


Pairs Well With...

PABST.

“Is this all we brought to drink?  No Heineken or anything?”

“Fuck that Euro shit.  This is Pabst Blue American Ribbon!”

“Come on.  Have sex with your boyfriend in a cramped little tent.”


On the one hand, I feel kind of dirty.  I actually like a Platinum Dunes slasher remake.  On the other hand, Michael Bay hated this one (he walked out of the premiere; more later), so I guess that means it’s okay, after all!

I had some definite reservations when I walked into the movie theatre on Friday, February 13th, 2009.  I’m an old school Jason fan, so any remake was going to make me nervous, and knowing that this one was being done by the same production company and even the same director who had turned out the abomination that was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake in 2003 only made me more so.  There were just so very many ways for everything to go wrong… but fandom is fandom, and if someone was going to pick up the machete and put on the hockey mask, damn right I was going to watch.

Watch… and be very pleasantly surprised.  Friday the 13th rocks.

We start with five minutes of flashback (dated 1980) meant to cover the original Friday the 13th.  Angry mother Pamela Voorhees – here played by Nana Visitor (that’s right: Major Kira from “Deep Space Nine”) – is about to finish exacting her revenge on the last of the camp counselors when the tables are turned and her own head gets lopped off by a machete.  Unbeknownst to anyone else, young Jason sees this from the woods, and goes to pick up the blade for himself…

Flash forward 29 years.  A gaggle of young people hike through the woods surrounding Crystal Lake: one horny couple, one “nice” couple, and one guy with a GPS who says he’s got coordinates for a secret patch of marijuana that the group plans on harvesting to sell for some quick cash.  Unfortunately for them, Jason’s still around, and he doesn’t take kindly to trespassers; especially to PBR-drinkin’, weed-sneakin’, loudly fornicatin’ trespassers.  Whackity-whack, look who’s back!

At just under twenty-four minutes in, the title card finally comes up.

Flash forward another six weeks to the “real” present, and a group of college-age kids head off to party at a big house near the lake.  Think they’ll run into anyone special during their visit?  Other than the nice young man trying to find his sister who went missing six weeks ago, that is?  Don’t think too hard, now…

As you may have noticed from what’s up above, Friday the 13th doesn’t just grab from the original film and go for a straight-up remake/re-imagination; instead, it samples the entire pre-Kane Hodder franchise library, with lifts from and references to Parts I-VI.  One might think that the end result would be a jumbled mess, but the lifts are deftly accomplished, and only recognizable as such to hardcore fans who remember it all from the first time around.  To anyone else, everything’s pretty seamless, and for all of the detail that gets thrown into the mix, the story remains simple.

Into this simple story is thrown the standard crop of slasher bait: a couple of nice girls, a few slutty ones, a sensitive guy, a complete douchebag, a nerd or two, and a couple of guys who just sort of exist.  Because this is the 21st century, a couple of them are allowed to be non-white, and a definite effort is made to avoid killing the black guy first, even though his character would be missed the least.  If you find yourself caring about any of these characters, odds are that the attraction is purely physical.  Every one is a stereotype, but that’s how it’s supposed to be in these flicks.  Any Friday the 13th fan knows that the movie isn’t about them.  It’s about him.  They exist for just two reasons: glue for the story, and fodder for the machete.

But – and this is a very important but – the writers were careful to remember both qualifications.  Yes, the story is simple, but there is a story which is credible and definitely present.  There’s just enough real plot and just enough character detail to hold it together and keep things from feeling mindless: not too convoluted, and not too dumb, either. Just right.

Apparently, Mr. Nispel learned something after his first go-round.

And that, my friends, makes the “machete fodder” part all the more enjoyable.

Wielding that machete, of course, is our old pal Jason Voorhees, and while Derek Mears (Predators) is no substitute for Kane Hodder (who played Jason four times during the franchise’s first go-round), he’s no slouch either.  This is a revamped Jason: one who menacingly lumbers by choice, but who can also run.  And while sex may still equal death in this world (hang on, cowboy) and he’s still got the old mommy issues (shrine’s still there), he’s more of a wicked survivalist with a clear notion of sovereign territory than he is a mad dog killer.  Indeed, it’s been said that the portrayal of Jason in this film was deliberately crafted as a spin of John Rambo holding his ground in First Blood, and after looking at it again today, I can see that.  Is it how I would have done it as an old school franchise fan?  No, but it does work, and within those parameters, Derek Mears does the job well, and that’s what counts.

Well, that, and the wicked whacks of the machete.

Jason gets to pull in a double digit body count here (just how many he kills is subject to interpretation, but it’s in the neighborhood of 13), and he does so in very respectable fashion, revisiting some old favorites while riffing others into new ones.  The classic skull machete and slit throat are there, of course, along with various other stabbings that aren’t necessarily fatal but sure must hurt like hell.  There’s also a wicked axe throw, and fun with bear traps.  My favorite, though, is a riff on the classic sleeping bag kill: this time, he stuffs the victim inside and hoists the bag over a roaring fire.  Talk about well done.  The gore involved with these and other kills that I’ll let you discover for yourself is respectable, though on a second or third pass, it’s not actually as bloody as you’ll probably think it is the first time you see it.  Bloody enough to be effective, sure, but the movie never gets ridiculous with the red stuff, either.  Also worthy of note for a movie made in the modern age, the use of CGI is kept to a bare minimum – I mean to the point of near-but-not-quite-nonexistence – and that’s something that I for one definitely appreciate.

And speaking of bare…

As everyone who loves slasher flicks (and especially Friday the 13th movies) knows, sex equals death, and on-camera nudity of any sort isn’t going to earn campers an extended lifespan, either.  In order for this to play out, of course, there needs to be sex and nudity, and Friday the 13th delivers on that score like few others ever have.  The classic skinnydipping scene is replaced by topless wakeboarding.  (Though I suppose that once the boarder wipes out, she could be considered to be half-skinnydipping.)  And while there are no showers to be taken, the two on camera sex scenes more than make up for that; indeed, the second one is really about as graphic as one could possibly get without calling it full-on softcore, and that scene goes on for a long time.   Julianna Guill (The Apparation), welcome to permanent slasher movie history.

That, by the way, is why Michael Bay walked out of the premiere.  He didn’t like the sex.  Setting aside any possible jokes about going back home to play with his robots that move too fast for the human eye to properly see, what that tells me is that he had no business producing any of these slasher reboots at all, because he clearly doesn’t understand – or at least doesn’t appreciate – the rules and traditions of the genre.

With that said, I do understand why it was time to reboot Friday the 13th instead of trying to soldier on with what had been there before.  Though Jason X – the second to last film made, and the last in the series if one goes chronologically – is my favorite of the franchise, I think that if Freddy vs. Jason proved anything, it was that the original Jason and Freddy had given all there was to give, and that there was nothing left in the old tank.  And since I don’t want to let go of the mask entirely… yeah, I get the reboot.  As noted, it made me nervous, but I was and remain very happy to see that it turned out very well indeed.

It also did well at the box office, and it took almost no time at all for a sequel to be announced… but after a year, one of the producers confirmed that the idea had been scrapped.  Maybe that, too, is for the best… though I still don’t think that I as a fan am ready to let go of the mask just yet.

But that’s what home video is for, right?

Bottom line, Friday the 13th is a surprisingly good reboot/re-imagination of the classic slasher franchise, combining the best elements of several films with some new tricks of its own design.  Classic fans need not fear; this one’s safe to approach, and can even safely co-exist with your old box set on your video cabinet’s shelf as part of your permanent collection.  As for those who are new to the whole “old guard slasher” thing, this is also a great way start… after which I suggest that you find one of those old box sets and see where it all began, too.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, Friday, July 13, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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