New Line Cinema’s Friday the 13th reboot is now in theaters everywhere and we’ve got not one, but two reviews to kick off the weekend’s festivities. If you click here, you can read BC’s positive review, while beyond the break you’ll find Tex’s brutal look at Jason’s massive return to the big screen. Don’t forget to return here after you’ve seen the film to write your own review and tell all of B-D what YOU think (your review will show on the main page)!
On the off chance that you don’t know the legend of Camp Blood or the backstory of one of filmdom’s more enduring icons–Jason Voorhees–the crew behind the latest Hollywood remake takes the opportunity, not once, but twice in the first 20 minutes of their latest cash cow, to tell it to you again…and then again. If that’s not proof positive that this is a beginner Friday the 13th film then nothing else I can say will convince you otherwise.
Not made for the seasoned veteran of the original 11 film versions that have come before it (Yes I included FREDDY VS. JASON in there), this film is made for those born after May 9, 1980. So, since it’s not a continuation of the original film or a sequel to a franchise that jumped the shark two decades ago when it sent a psychic to do battle with Jason, let’s begin by taking a look at the “new” FRIDAY THE 13TH without the inevitable comparisons to the original series.
Director Marcus Nispel stepped out of the music video world that he called home for about 10 years to helm the 2003 reimagining of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. In that film, Nispel managed to take what was originally a very dirty, grainy and desaturated film and enhance those elements by adding that gritty SAVING PRIVATE RYAN vérité to the mix. He took all the nihilism of the original film and concentrated it into a post SAW world of pain for the sake of pain. By all accounts that worked wonderfully and Nispel’s TCM remake stands a very clearly realized feature. It explains a few things that probably don’t need explaining but, for the most part, it just allows its storied killer to do his job. And, it takes that job very seriously. Amazingly, everything that Nispel did right in that film, he manages to undo in this one–which has to beg one question. How much of the success of that film was due to the screenplay by Scott Kosar (THE MACHINIST) and how much of the failure of FRIDAY THE 13TH is due to the musings of Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (FREDDY VS. JASON).
In the prologue of the film, we discover that 28-years ago a child–“His name was Jason”–drowned in Crystal Lake, his mother then went nuts and began killing the counselors that were responsible for Jason’s death. Just as she is about to kill the (ahem) final girl, she literally loses her head to a machete blade. Watching all this from the woods was a young Jason–who apparently did not drown at all. Flash forward to the present day (or rather 6-weeks earlier than the present day) and we meet a group of horny backpackers who are in search of a hidden cache of marijuana plants purported to be growing in the area. One by one, they are felled by a hulking murderer with a burlap sack over his head. OK, now we`ve actually reached the present day. We are introduced to a new group of twenty-somethings that are headed to the rich one’s cabin for a weekend of drinking and debauchery. Along the way they meet Clay (Jared Padalecki) who’s searching for his sister–she vanished about 6 weeks ago. Guess who they find instead?
From the outset, it’s hard to get a gauge on what Shannon, Swift and Nispel are aiming for. The film has a lot of light dialogue and it seems like the whole thing is a bit of a lark. In interviews the filmmakers have promised that this FRIDAY THE 13TH would be a hard “R” film full of the blood and breasts that tried and true genre fans seem to be clambering for. But I would contend that those were words of appeasement by men who never intended to make a movie for fans of the original films. Nispel keeps the grain and grime that he did so well in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE but transported to the dark woods at night the film looks muddled. Then they have populated this film with an assortment of some of the dumbest characters to ever grace a horror film. To begin with we have Trent (Travis Van Winkle, ASYLUM) a kind of Spencer Pratt character who is very concerned with Mommy and Daddy’s cottage and not so concerned that his girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker, MR. BROOKS) has just rode off into the woods on a motorcycle with Clay (whom she’s only known for about 5 minutes). We’ve got the token (and tokin’) Asian and Black characters (DISTURBIA’s Aaron Yoo and Arlen Escarpeta) who mostly just sit around, get drunk, get high and then die. But, my personal favorite is Ryan Hansen’s character Nolan who looks like Wooderson from DAZED AND CONFUSED and only has about a page and a half of dialogue before getting the business end of an arrow shot through the back of his bulletproof blond haircut.
It’s hard to imagine that sitting through this film, the intention was to play the production straight. But, all evidence points to that very conclusion. The film tries to be mean spirited in its kills, but its characters are too cartoonish to make their deaths more than notches in the killer’s playbook. Derek Mears performance as Jason is hulking for sure, but menacing and terrifying? Perhaps if he was framed a bit better and the editing was a bit more deliberate. Jason is never on screen for more than a few frames–popping up in the most obvious places (due to camera angles that absolutely telescope the scare before it ever occurs). Just once I wanted to see a loving shot of Jason just standing there–not blurred out in the background or bobbing up and down from the water, flashing his machete. I wanted Jason to scare me a little. But he never did. I wanted the film to be about the characters the way the Chainsaw remake was about the characters. But it wasn’t. I guess all that was left was for it to be a showpiece for the blood and boobs that they promised us. Did they deliver on even that base pacification? Well…we got the boobs. Both from the girls (in the form of actual female breasts) and from the guys (in the form of doltish morons parading across the screen), but the gore hardly delivered anything like what we’ve come to expect over the years since HOSTEL started blowtorching eyeballs out. A few nips and tucks here (and the girls certainly had a few pairs of those) and this would have been a PG-13 horror film without blinking a (non blowtorched) eye.
You can point the fingers wherever you want when all is said and done but it took a village to raise a deformed child like Jason Voorhees into the maniacal mess that is this interpretation of the FRIDAY THE 13TH saga. It’s clearly not a film made for me, or for fans of the original who will debate the merits and motivations of this latest flick alongside lighting strikes, vats of toxic waste and trips to Manhattan. It might wink and nudge to the original film in order to make you think this one is for you too, but it’s not, even if the final moments offer a minor redemption. Nope, none of that matters, this one is for the YouTube generation, the one that purveyors of this film think need everything explained out in the opening credits so that they can just get on with the gut slinging. I wonder if they will ever realize what a disservice they are doing in dumbing down everything. I don’t think audiences today want to see movies that are stupid, or slasher films that aren’t scary, only gory. Some of the reason SAW works (at least initially) is because it is a smart series with a serious storyline. MY BLOODY VALENTINE already offered an easy to swallow homage to the 1980’s and THE UNINVITED was a well crafted film that reeked of old Hollywood haunting. FRIDAY THE 13TH is nothing more than a karo syrup coated confection of fake blood, fake boobs and fake hope that the Slasher Film would rise again. I guess next time we need to call in the psychics! – Tex Massacre
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