Happy Friday the 13th everyone! We are lucky enough to get three of these glorious days in 2015, and this is the third and final one. After all of the feedback from our Halloween Vs. Halloween post a few weeks ago, we thought we would pit two of the franchise greats against each other and take a look back at the original 1980 Friday the 13th and its 2009 remake. For an alternate perspective on this debate, check out check out episode 49 of our Double Murder podcast with Danny and Tim right here.
***MAJOR SPOILERS for both films to follow***
Original: Friday the 13th doesn’t exactly have a unique directing style. Sean S. Cunningham’s direction is very straightforward, but the POV shots of the killer are nice. There aren’t any special camera tricks or cool shots in the film, but Friday the 13th doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t Made on a budget of $550,000, the money went straight to the gore effects (more on that later). It was also the first movie of its kind to secure distribution in the USA by a major studio, Paramount Pictures.
Cunningham directs the POV shots with aplomb, but what I love about what he does is that there are moments when you think you are in Mrs. Voorhees’ point of view, only to realize you are not. It’s a nice little trick that Cunningham pulls and it’s quite effective.
He also uses shadows effectively, specifically with the axe in Marcie’s death scene and Mrs. Voorhees’ shadow in her final confrontation with Alice. It’s not masterful by any means, but it’s a cool technique. It is interesting to note that Friday the 13th feels different than all of the films that feature Jason (so….all of the sequels). It doesn’t really matter in relation to this post, since I’m discussing the movie on its own merits, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I think the fact that it wasn’t intended to be a franchise-starter helps the viewing experience. Still, the fact remains that the original Friday the 13th is a very plainly shot film. There’s absolutely nothing special about it. There’s a reason you don’t hear Sean S. Cunningham’s name mentioned along with the likes of John Carpenter and Wes Craven.
The remake, on the other hand has a very stylish look to it. Marcus Nispel is no stranger to stylized shoots. After directing a ton of music videos in the 90s, he was hired to direct the remake of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 2003. That film was a very pretty gritty film (and arguably the best of the horror remakes of the 2000s), but Nispel didn’t bring that same sense of grittiness to Friday the 13th, which is disappointing. Rather than make a dark, scary film, Nispel spends most of the middle chunk of the film in the daylight, which is par for the course in a Friday the 13th film. As weird as it may sound, it feels light-hearted. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different.
The best way to describe the remake is “slick.” That isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when it comes to Friday the 13th, but it is what it is. The film certainly looks great, and while it doesn’t have Cunningham’s POV shots, it is a much better-made film.
I may get a lot of shit for this, but between Sean S. Cunningham and Marcus Nispel, the latter is the better director. He’s no auteur, but he produced a solidly directed film.