Friday the 13th
Directed by Marcus Nispel
New Line Cinema/Paramount Pictures, 2009
By Sean Kelly
It makes me feel old that one of the most mainstream horror franchises of my childhood is receiving the remake treatment, which is approximately, but not precisely what Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes Productions is doing with this film. Friday the 13th was pretty much THE horror franchise of the ’80s. A film in the series was released every year in that decade with the exception of 1983 and 1987. While I was too young to see the movies at the time, the image of Jason Voorhees became firmly entrenched in pop culture (there was even a Nintendo game based on the films). I think it is impossible for me to ever see that style of hockey mask without thinking of the big scary guy from the films. The only series that matches Friday the 13th in its mainstream appeal is A Nightmare on Elm Street and Platinum Dunes is already on the job for another remake.
However, “remake” doesn’t quite do justice to the approach taken here. The film (directed by Marcus Nispel of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) uses an original story, which uses elements from the first three films. The only reference to the first film is a prologue with Pamela Voorhees during the opening credits, while the film’s opening sequence is filled with references to the second film (such as Jason wearing a sheet and the shrine to his mother). Once Jason gets the hockey mask (an event that happened in the third film), the film goes on a completely original path. So, I guess that “reboot” would be a better term to describe this film. Thank goodness the filmmakers opted for an original story, eliminating the hounding feeling of comparing it to the original, point-by-point (as opposed to Rob Zombie’s uninspired Halloween remake last year).
The story deals with a young man named Clay Miller (played by Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki) who comes to Crystal Lake to search for his missing sister. He joins up with a cottage-bound group of young folks and chaos (and a body count) ensues when Jason shows up. Jason is played by Derek Mears, a stunt man, who in recent years has been showing up (under a lot of prosthetics and make-up) in various horror films such as Cursed and The Hills Have Eyes II. Mears’ take on Jason is probably one of the most brutal to appear on film, as he brings a twisted creativity to his murders. Mears also succeeds at making Jason more agile and cunning than he has ever been.
Even though the film looks to be aiming to introduce Jason to a modern audience, it doesn’t reject the ’80s charm that made the originals so beloved. This includes some cheesy dialogue at points, as well as the fact that Jason seems to choose his victims based on their indulgence of drugs and sex. Those clichés are used to an almost tongue-in-cheek effect. The film’s not asking to be taken too seriously when it’s revealed that there just happens to be a whole grove of cannabis plants growing near Camp Crystal Lake and when pretty much every female who’s not a main character gets naked at one point. In fact, the clichés are so prominent that it is truly shocking when they are not followed (to avoid spoilers I won’t say when or where).
This film is a successful return for Jason Voorhees. With this reboot, Jason has effectively been introduced to a new audience and reintroduced to his old core, holding onto all the elements that made the Friday the 13th films all that they were. The only thing I have left to wonder is whether we should expect Platinum Dunes to do as well with Nightmare on Elm Street as they did with this creative reboot.