I've been waiting a long time to see Jason go on a proper rampage again and thankfully, the new reboot of Friday the 13th courtesy of Platinum Dunes and director Marcus Nispel did not disappoint. By the time the title Friday the 13th came on screen after a lengthy opening and an already robust body count, I felt satisfied that I had seen everything I had come to see - the rest of the film after that was just gravy. Call me a satisfied customer.
Of course, because this is a remake there's inevitably been a few gripes over the internet concerning the inherent wrongness of this film and the many ways in which it's ruined lives. Reading some of the online criticism, I wish that these complaints were meant to be tongue-in-cheek but clearly some people are upset. Maybe if these people were more familiar with the Friday the 13th series, they would calm down. I know they claim to be fans, but I wonder how that's possible.
For instance, would a fan try to complain about the one-dimensional characters in this movie? I'd think they'd know better than that. To slam Friday '09 on the grounds that its characters were ciphers who didn't really engender the proper amount of interest or sympathy is a curious thing to bitch about. Are the kids in this new movie so much less riveting than the likes of Paul Krata, Lawrence Monoson or Tiffany Helm? To my eyes, no. In fact, I think this sports a more winning cast than most of the films in the series. I particularly liked Travis Van Winkle as the movie's major asshole, Trent (at one point he gives a bitch scream for the ages). I also liked Aaron Yoo as Chewie, who fills his obligatory minority spot in the film with humorous aplomb. And Jared Padalecki (already an old hand at genre fare thanks to roles in Cry_Wolf, House of Wax and TV's Supernatural) makes an appealing lead as the concerned character of Clay. In a Friday first, I actually felt a glimmer of wanting Clay to succeed against Jason, which I count as an accomplishment on Padalecki's part. As for the ladies here, they're fine. I wish there'd been an actress as vivid as Part 2's Amy Steel here but I've been waiting twenty-eight years to be as taken with a Final Girl in a Friday movie as I was with Steel so I can't hold that against this film.
Something else I can't hold against it is the fact that its story isn't all that profound. To my surprise, I've read complaints that the story concocted by writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (of Freddy vs. Jason fame) is 'nonsensical'. I wouldn't think that anyone familiar with the previous eleven films (ten, if you don't count Freddy vs. Jason) would consider it an issue that a Friday the 13th was nonsensical but apparently I'd be wrong. Personally, I thought it was understood that Friday the 13th has never made sense (something that hasn't stopped it from being enjoyable). Tom Savini opted not to do Part 2 because he rightfully thought it was stupid that Jason, a figure that was only supposed to be a figment of Alice's nightmare, was now the main killer. So to single out this reboot as being 'nonsensical' is laughable - as though no one's intelligence had ever been insulted by a Friday the 13th film until the folks at Platinum Dunes got a hold of the property! Seriously, Jason is killing kids in the woods here. Like the other movies where Jason is killing kids in the woods. And just slightly different than the ones where he kills them on a cruise ship, in Manhattan, and in space. Sorry to anyone who's let themselves be misled as to what to expect. In fairness to the filmmakers, the title Friday the 13th was a pretty fair heads-up. No one's ever acted confused about this shit until now.
I'm also stunned that anyone would bitch that the new kills aren't up to Friday standards. Is every single one an iconic Friday kill? No, but going back to the first movie, in every Friday there's always a couple of kills that are outstanding (the arrow-through-the-neck, the decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees) and the rest are just all right (Ned, Brenda, Steve Christy and Bill all die off-camera). I mean, Mark getting the machete to the face and then having his wheelchair tumble backwards down a flight of stairs in Part 2 was classic but then in the same film there's the hot skinny-dipper who just sees a dude hanging upside down with his throat slit, then turns to the camera and screams. End of scene. If the remake pulled a punk move like that, everyone would be crying foul about how the filmmakers had botched an opportunity. And what about the last we see of Tommy and Trish's mother in The Final Chapter? She gasps at something off-camera and that's it. I could go down the line through every Friday and point to examples of where the filmmakers didn't go the extra mile but if I did, I worry that it might make me look at little nutty. Suffice it to say, anyone who complains about the kills in this movie is suffering from false memories about what the other films are actually like. At least every character dies on camera here, which is a rarity in the series (possibly a historic first).
With kills that run the gamut from shockingly sadistic, to morbidly funny, to kills that are more hands-on (where Derek Mears' ferocious portrayal of Jason really stands out - this guy's already a front-runner as Best Jason Ever), Friday the 13th '09 acquits itself just fine in the mayhem department.
Further down the line of complaints, some say that Jason's iconic hockey mask is given too casual of an introduction. But as one of my fears for this movie was that the producers would feel they had to come up with some dipshit backstory to 'explain' the mask, I feel relieved at how they handled it. I was dreading we'd have to learn about how hockey was Jason's favorite sport and that he used to skate on Crystal Lake in the winter or some epic lameness like that. I mean, unless you're going to go that route (and thank God that didn't happen here), the only other way to bring the hockey mask in is just to do it. In Part 3 he gets it with no special fanfare so why look for something bigger here? At least the remake has him come across it in a barn, which is a nod to the fact that he originally got the mask after killing Shelly in a barn so for what it's worth there's some acknowledgement of the series' history there.
As for the other controversies this film has incurred among fans - like why did they make Jason into a pot farmer, how can Jason be an expert marksman with a bow and arrow, why does he utilize a network of tunnels, and since when does he keeps prisoners in his basement - all of that seems pretty easy to deal with. First, Jason isn't a pot farmer. There's just weed growing on his land. And he likes to kill anyone who trespasses. I like to think of the weed as nature's way of bringing a certain type into Jason's domain. Jason's handiness with a bow and arrow isn't an issue, either. After all, someone who lives off the land and hunts for their food would have to be accomplished as a marksman (as Ginny said in Part 2: "Let's think beyond the legend and put it in real terms.") and it's not as though Jason hasn't always shown an aptitude for weapons. Jason having tunnels to travel through is also fine with me. It doesn't seem any more outrageous than other elements the series has asked us to go along with. I mean, really. If he had installed some kind of subway system or rocket sled, that'd be worth calling bullshit over but tunnels on their own is acceptable. And while keeping a girl alive in his basement may not be something we've seen Jason do before, as this girl reminds him of his mother I don't feel like it violates his character to not kill her. Jason has always shown a weakness for his mother. The slightest hint of her image is the one thing that can transfix him. And ultimately, we have to keep in mind that this is a reboot of Jason rather than a continuation of the original series so if he handles things a little differently, that's why.
I'd never try to call this a great film but I'd be a hypocrite if I called it out for having the same flaws as every other Friday. From the beginning, these films have always been aimed at a crowd who is largely undiscriminating when it comes to horror. Like many Gen-Xers, I love the series because I started watching it at the right age but as I've gotten older and my tastes have broadened, I still appreciate the Friday the 13th movies for what they are and for having encouraged my interest in the genre. To criticize this as representing a 'dumbing down' of horror is to ignore the fact that the original films were accused of the exact same crime. Friday the 13th '09 isn't a work that'll elevate the Art of Horror like, say, Let The Right One In. It's about watching Jason bury his machete in a few skulls - but that's a valid part of the genre experience, too.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.