jon and i wrote the following short opinions this past weekend after seeing friday the 13th (2009) without consulting each other. i’m glad to see that, at least when it comes to jason voorhees, we seem to be on exactly the same page. (don’t forget to email us your thoughts on the new film, your earliest memory of the series, your favorite jason costume photo or anything else friday the 13th related for our his name was jason dvd give-away. send it in or it’s the part 7 sleeping bag/tree treatment for you, i’m afraid.)
writing a review of this film would be kind of pointless, so i’ll take a different approach. however, if forced to summarize the review i might have written in two sentences, it would go like this — “friday the 13th (2009) slammed the start button on the whoop-ass machine. go see it.”
traditional critical reviews of the film are, predictably, not great. but that’s par for the course — no slasher film is ever going to win an academy award. that said though, i’m a little puzzled by the negative reactions the film is getting from people who love the friday the 13th series (see final girl’s mixed feelings on the film for an example). while i enjoyed many aspects of rob zombie’s halloween, i can easily understand why michael myers fans might not like the modern re-envisioning. in many ways, that film is not true to the series it is based on. however, i can’t really see how a jason voorhees fan couldn’t love this new version of friday the 13th. this film is a 97 minute love-letter to the franchise. it’s a great big party with no cover charge and an open bar thrown in honor of jason voorhees, and all fans of the series are invited. not all horror fans are treating it that way though.
i’m not saying this is a perfect film — it’s remarkably easy to find faults in it. the characterization is shallow at best, there are ginormous plot holes at every turn, and logic plays little part in the plot or the decisions of the characters. but since when did any of that matter in this series? jason’s very existence as a living adult has always been based on the biggest plot hole in film history — if he drowned, how’s he running around killing people? if he didn’t drown, what’d he do for the 25 years in the woods, besides not run back to the mother that was his entire world? it makes no sense… and maybe it doesn’t have to. in fact, i think i prefer that it doesn’t. if you had a time machine and could go back and tell sean cunningham in 1979 that jason would be the star of the series so they needed to write in some scenes of jason hiding in the woods and explain how he could see his mom beheaded into the first film — would that really make you enjoy the series more? isn’t part of loving friday the 13th embracing nonsensical plot devices, jason’s apparent ability to teleport and teenagers with little to no survival instinct? yeah, i know it makes no sense that there’s an underground mine underneath a camp, 20 yards from a lake. yeah, i know that no real survivor of a spree murderer would feel the need to drag jason’s body to a lake and dump it instead of leaving it for the cops. but isn’t that part of the charm of going to see a new friday? unlike most films, i don’t see plot holes and inconsistencies as flaws in this series — hell, they’re almost necessary ingredients.
the new friday is dark, gritty, and treats the original material with respect. most importantly though… it’s fun. at my showing, the audience reacted as one giant organism in a way i haven’t seen in a long time. jason was mean, fast and ferocious in a way i don’t think he’s ever been before. you can say this or that kill weren’t incredibly effective, but i think most lived up to the hype (the sleeping bag over the fire and the girl under the dock stand out in my mind). there hasn’t been a friday whose tone was this dark or a killer this scary since at least part four, and perhaps even as far back as part two or the original. i am incredibly appreciative as a fan of the series to see jason brought to life in a way that, really, he’d only existed in my childhood nightmares (which were always scarier than the campy late-series sequels that usually gave birth to them). i’ve been waiting twenty years to see a vision of jason voorhees that wasn’t treated as a joke, and for the cost of a sandwich and a soda i just got to see 90 minutes of a mean, kick-ass, “back-to-basics” version of him slaughter thirteen attractive, out-of-their-element, less than academically gifted teenagers at crystal lake. at least for me, it’s impossible to be disappointed in that.
Marcus Nispel’s remake of Friday the 13th is far from perfect, but let’s get a couple of things straight. First, this is not Jason goes to Hollywood, Jason on the moon, or Jason vs. the Wolfman. This is what slasher fans have been wanting for twenty years—a badass Jason doing what he does best, and doing it at Crystal Lake where he belongs. Second, if at least some part of you didn’t love the first 20 minutes of this film then I demand you hand in your official slasher-fan membership card. I’d argue that the first 20 minutes are the best in the film. Jason is relentless and terrifyingly efficient in killing the first wave of ne’er-do-well teenagers, and he does so before we even see the film’s title screen.
Of course, the film has its share of problems. The plot doesn’t make much sense. Why in the world, for example, would Clay and Whitney decide to dump Jason’s body in the lake? When the cops eventually show up, those kids are gonna have some ‘splaining to do, and having the body of the killer on hand would probably be a good idea. And why did Nispel put a mine in the middle of Crystal Lake? Who knows? But, really, who cares? This isn’t a franchise that’s ever stood on its tightly crafted story-arc. I’ve never cared at all that Jason is skinny lad with long hair in part 2, but a bald, beefy, he-man in part 3.
And then there’s the problem with Jason’s mom. I think most fans of the franchise will agree that writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift handled it strangely, reducing all of the original part 1 to about 90 seconds. But I’m not sure they could have done it any other way. I’m glad they didn’t go the route of Rob Zombie and give Jason an elaborate origin story. That would have been silly. And they couldn’t simply ignore Mrs. Voorhees. So they really didn’t have many options.
I’ve read a lot of descriptions about the way Nispel has made Jason more human, which is true, but he’s still the same vengeful spirit that punishes anyone who, as the token crazy lady at Crystal Lake puts it, steps out of bounds. I don’t think this really counts as a ‘re-boot’ or ‘re-invention’ of the franchise—not in the way that Zombie re-invented Michael Myers, or in the way that Nispel re-booted Chainsaw. But, all in all, I think the new Friday the 13th is lots of fun, and a serious tribute to one of horror’s best slasher icons.
edit: I found this at the horror section and thought it was fitting…