Friday the 13th (2009)
In 2005, Peter M. Bracke’s gorgeous and obsessively detailed Crystal Lake Memories was published. A reverent tribute to the Friday the 13th films, it covered the whole series from the first one (1980) to Freddy Vs. Jason (2003). But that definitive tome is no longer definitive; there is now a new film, a “reboot” of the series. And if Bracke feels compelled to update his book to reflect the new entry, I won’t be buying the second edition.
Nor will I be adding this Friday the 13th to my shelf alongside the previous eleven films featuring hockey-masked slasher Jason Voorhees. For me, it’s an expensive fan film, best forgotten. And by “fan” I don’t mean fan of the series; I mean fan of the money this cheaply made rehash will rake in, both from kids too young to know it’s been done better and from nostalgic suckers like me. I mean, Jason X — which shot Jason out into space and turned him into a cyborg — took lots of critical lumps and some derision from the fans, but damn it, it was fun. This movie? Not fun.
Let’s start with the director, Marcus Nispel, who once got fired from his would-be Hollywood debut (End of Days) after attending a meeting and announcing to those present, “I am not interested in working with you guys if you don’t give me the same respect you would give a Coppola or a Kubrick.” Since then, Nispel has helmed such treasures as Pathfinder and the shitheaded 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which like this film was produced under Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes shingle. (Neither, I would add, has endangered the status of The Godfather or 2001.) Whatever he might say in interviews, Nispel seems to hate the horror genre, and he seems hell-bent on throwing away everything that distinguished the movies he remakes and turning them into grim, suspenseless slogs.
Under the loving care of Tom Savini (who executed the special gore effects in the first and fourth Friday the 13ths) and those who succeeded him, the Friday series gained a reputation for its imaginative kills, even in the old days when all they had to work with was latex and Karo syrup. The new Friday, which theoretically could’ve benefited from advances in technology, offers nothing in the way of robust carnage whatsoever. Jason goes after his victims with a machete or an axe, and the results are obscured either by the antsy editing or by the murky photography. So not only is the violence dull, you can hardly make it out. For all I know, the next Tom Savini could’ve done the effects here, but you’d never know it from the onscreen evidence.
The plot finds a group of kids getting stoned at a cabin near Jason’s stomping grounds of Camp Crystal Lake, while a biker-loner (Jared Padalecki) wanders around searching for his missing sister, who disappeared during an earlier Jason rampage. One of the kids (Travis Van Winkle), whose rich dad owns the cabin, is such an elitist and arrogant prick that the audience audibly yearns for his protracted and preferably messy death. It’s such a simple audience-pleasing gambit: set up a profoundly loathsome character, sic Jason on him, and get us all giggling at the resulting fine red mist. And yet the movie fumbles this completely. Not to spoil anything, but all the filmmakers needed to do was have Jason spin the dude upside down before the truck took off, just to mess up that pretty-boy face.
I don’t know Peter M. Bracke, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t bother to add Friday the 13th MegaMix ‘09 to his book. All the elements are there — Jason, the woods, sex and drug use waiting to be sharply punished — but the soul is missing. I’d rather watch any of the old-school Friday flicks, even the weak fifth one that didn’t even have the real Jason in it, than sit through this dreary pretender. I can’t say the previous Jason outings were anything great; they’re junk food, sometimes tasty junk food. Sometimes you just want a pizza. But what if you’re served a pizza with no cheese and half the slices gone? This Friday the 13th fails at being even fun trash. There is no greater sin in movies.