Graye Kingston's Movie Review of Friday the 13th (2009)

Rating of

Friday the 13th (2009)

There is absolutely no excuse for this movie.
Graye Kingston - wrote on 03/15/09

This review will contain spoilers for this film, the original Friday the 13th, and Friday the 13th Part 2. It will also make you shake with rage and frustration, and cry out to the heavens in anguish.

Let me paint you a picture. Imagine if you will, a boy raised on all of the cheesy, schlocky horror films of the 80’s, a boy who grew to love all horror films equally, but who found a special love in his heart for the slasher films. And imagine that boy’s sadness and despair when, in the wake of Wes Craven’s Scream, he saw his beloved slashers, once R rated spectacles of violence, sex, and illicit drug use descend into stale, watered down, PG-13 shadows of their former glory. And one of the greatest heroes of the original slasher movement, the Man Behind the Mask himself, Jason Voorhees, was powerless to rescue that boy because he had been sent to Manhattan, Hell, Outer Space, and Elm Street. That boy watched sadly as each Halloween, hockey masks were gradually replaced by “ghostface” masks. The filmmakers of the horror genre, forever on the cutting edge of bland imitation, replace the watered down slasher films with watered down Japanese remakes. The watered down Japanese remake fad died out, only to be supplanted by the American horror film remake fad. The boy cringed as he watched some of his most beloved favorites receive flashy new updates. But then, one day in mid 2008, the boy heard that a remake of Friday the 13th was on the horizon. He dared to hope. At last, a horror film that could actually benefit from being remade was being remade. The beauty of the original film, the boy thought, was in its simplicity. Unlike most of the horror movies that had been remade up to that point, Friday the 13th had very few essential elements to it, elements that would absolutely need to be in the remake in order to make it a Friday the 13th film. All that was really needed was the woods, a summer camp, a bunch of teenagers having sex and smoking pot, and a maniacal and nearly unstoppable killer to slice through them like a weed whacker. How, the boy wondered, could anybody screw up a formula that simple?
What follows is an itemized list of all the different ways that the filmmakers managed to screw up a formula that simple. Be forewarned: Some of these will hurt. A lot.

1. The filmmakers chose to condense the entire plotline and back story of the original Friday the 13th into the first 2 minutes of the movie, completely glossing over the importance of Mrs. Voorhees in the process. Her killing spree is an important part of the bloody folklore surrounding Crystal Lake in the original series. In this movie, it comes across as tacked on at the last minute. It seems like they only bothered to include it because somebody realized they needed a reason for Jason to stop trying to kill the annoying kid from Supernatural when the sister told him to. More on this later. And really, doing it at the very beginning, before anything else happens in the movie at all, was a dumb idea. It would have come across more effectively if it was intercut with the stoner kid telling the story by the campfire. Instead, what we got was the stoner kid telling the audience a story we just saw for ourselves a few minutes ago, and it loses any shred of impact it might have had. For a lesson on how to do a “campfire story” scene correctly, please refer to Friday the 13th Part 2.

2. The filmmakers chose to use two groups of teenagers in the film, with the first group getting completely slaughtered in the first twenty minutes. This first group had much better chemistry with one another than the next group, and the filmmakers would have just been better off developing these characters and using them for the main plot. But instead, the filmmakers decided to introduce a completely different group of kids. That wouldn’t have been a problem if there was even one remotely compelling character in the second group. But there wasn’t, and it became a struggle to even find one character you didn’t hate. Or a character you didn’t find so annoying that you couldn’t wait for them to die. Or a character that inspired any other kind of reaction stronger than a general sense of apathy. This is what killed the movie for me in the end. If you don’t care what happens to any of the characters, then there is absolutely no way to build suspense.

3. The annoying kid from Supernatural, looking to find his sister. Okay, I can buy that. The problem I had was that she was actually still alive. Since when does Jason Voorhees keep prisoners? But hey, it’s a “re- boot”, so we can go ahead and “re-boot” some of the rules while we’re at it, right? And besides, if he didn’t keep her as a prisoner, then how could they have done a cheap, half-hearted imitation of the ending of Friday the 13th Part 2? The end of Part 2 was one of the most brilliant scenes in the entire series, with the Ginny character putting on the ratty old sweater and trying to convince Jason that she’s his mother. In this one, the filmmakers sacrificed a major aspect of the Jason character, his complete ruthlessness, in order to make room for a knock off of what might just be the best climax in the entire series. And they didn’t have to. If they really wanted to use the “survivor girl imitates mother” trick, they could have just had that other girl, the one with the asshole boyfriend, do it instead. There’s no possible way it could have come off any cheaper than the way it actually ended up playing out.

4. The asshole boyfriend ends up sleeping with one of the other girls while his girlfriend is out with the annoying kid from Supernatural. Ok, no problem. After all, he’s an asshole. That’s what the asshole’s supposed to do, act like an asshole so you can cheer when he finally gets butchered. I had no problem with that at all. What I couldn’t understand, and what completely broke my suspension of disbelief, was the way the girlfriend reacted when she found out about it. Yep, that’s right. In a movie about an unstoppable killer who drowned as a young boy and somehow came back from the dead just in time to watch his mother get decapitated, the thing that finally made me call bullshit was the girlfriend’s reaction. Allow me to explain. Now, after being chased through the woods by a mass murderer in a hockey mask, only to get back to her vacation house to find the power cut and her boyfriend doing the horizontal mambo with one of her best friends, she could have reacted in any number of different ways. Emotions would understandably be running high, what with all the bloodshed and pheromones in the air. So almost any reaction at all could be excused. Anger. Shock. Sadness. Hell, even delirious laughter would be acceptable. So how did our heroine react? She didn’t. At all. I blame everyone in the entire cast and crew. Bad acting. Bad writing. Bad directing. Even the lighting in this scene was bad.

5. I might be incorrect about this, since I’m not a geologist or anything. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a really bad place to put a mine would be right next to a forest lake. It seems to me that if you dug down more than a few feet, you’d hit water because the ground is so saturated. That’s one of the reasons that there’s a lake there in the first place, right? And unless I hallucinated it or something, that was the half assed explanation given for the tunnel system that Jason lived in. Either that, or in his spare time Jason digs tunnels. They’re both about equally stupid, so you can just pick whichever one you like, I guess.

6. Remember way back when I said something about “essential elements” from the first series? Well, I forgot one. And so did the filmmakers. I got about halfway through the movie before I realized that the “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” theme wasn’t in it. The only word I can think of for this is “sacrilege”.

7. The kill scenes themselves were flat and boring. The Friday series’ main claim to fame is the innovative murder scenes. Taking that away from this movie was as worse than removing the summer camp setting.

8. They removed the summer camp setting. Yeah, the dilapidated remains of Camp Crystal Lake are still there, but only as a background. And they didn’t even do that right, because they decided to put a whole bunch of tunnels underneath it. What the filmmakers of this one failed to realize, is that the “Counselors at Camp” premise of the original was there for a reason. It threw the killings into context. The murders were carried out as revenge against the irresponsible counselors who allowed Jason to drown. The killings were punishment, and the sentence was death. Completely ignoring this idea in what’s supposed to be a “re-boot” of the series robs the Jason character of something important.

The bottom line? This movie suffered because it tried to cram all of the best parts of the first four Friday the 13th movies into an hour and a half. Plot points that slowly developed over the course of an entire film in the original series were just sort of thrown together here. It worked in the originals. It failed here. If you have been waiting for the return of Jason Voorhees, in all of his murderous glory, for the past twenty-something years, I suggest that you keep waiting.

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