friday the 13th

After hacking and slashing his way through ten films, although to be fair his mother did the killing in the first film, Jason Voorhees’ film career looked to be getting more mundane and inept with each passing sequel. With every new installment the killing was getting bloodier and more pointless as each victim became less and less likeable; meanwhile, the stories were becoming even more simplistic and at times downright ridiculous (“Jason X”, need I say more). Even after horror fans flocked to see the masked one go toe-to-toe with Elm Street’s master of our nightmares in “Freddy Vs Jason”, it seemed that getting Jason to go on another solo spree in a new “Friday the 13th” wasn’t something fans were all that anxious to see. However, in the same year the two titans of terror came to blows, producer/director Michael Bay released a successful retooling of an old horror classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. With the success of that reboot, along with the remake of “The Amityville Horror” two years later, it appeared audiences were interested in seeing some of their old favorites dusted off and brought into modern times. This brings us to 2009 and the return of Jason Voorhees in Marcus Nispel’s re-imagining of “Friday the 13th”.

“Friday the 13th” follows the bloody exploits of masked killer Jason Voorhees as he disposes of any and all trespassers who are unfortunate enough to come onto the property of the now defunct Camp Crystal Lake. Six weeks after a group of hikers mysteriously disappeared near the former camp; a brother to one of the hikers (Jared Padalecki) arrives in search of his missing sister. At the same time, a group of friends looking forward to a weekend full of carefree merriment soon find themselves inadvertently wandering off the beaten path and catching the eye of Jason. With the body count rising as Jason mercilessly dispenses his sentence upon all who come near; survival quickly becomes the order of the day. The question is, “How many of these unwitting young adults will make it out of the area alive?”

After ten movies focusing either directly or indirectly on the story of Jason Voorhees, not to mention that after the fourth or fifth sequel the quality of the remainder of the films dropped drastically, one would not be out of place to wonder if yet another “Friday the 13th” was warranted. Personally, I’ve never been all that much of a fan of the “Friday the 13th” series; I was more intrigued by the “Halloween” franchise (at least the first two films and then “H20”). I will admit that “Freddy Vs Jason” was an entertaining horror film that was much smarter than anything either of the series’ had delivered separately to audiences in some time. With that in mind, I didn’t exactly walk away with a desire to see another stand alone sequel in either character’s series of films.

With all that being said, perhaps you may be wondering why then did I choose to watch this reboot of “Friday the 13th”, especially since I wasn’t a fan of the character’s previous films. My answer would be this, based on what I had seen in the various trailers for the film, it appeared that this installment may be a little more realistic and of a slightly higher quality than all of its predecessors (neither of these achievements would be all that hard to accomplish by the way). Written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (“Freddy Vs Jason”), and directed by Marcus Nispel, who is no stranger to the re-imagined horror film after helming the reboot for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, this newest “Friday” film is arguably the best this series has seen in its nearly 30 year history.

The story this time around is much tighter in focus and aimed primarily at returning Jason to his roots, minus (for the most part) the cheesy dialogue and bad acting that plagued the initial series’ run. In general, the plot is fairly believable, or as much as it can be given the type of movie and genre it’s in; however, there are a few instances where we’re asked to suspend our brains a little too much in order to go along with something despite it clearly being impossible. Another complaint was that for a little while early on in the movie I found myself wondering if I was actually going to see much more from the story and its characters besides references and usages of drugs and numerous sexual escapades. Eventually, the story finally got moving, and the sex and drugs became less rampant within the movie. In regards, to the dialogue, for the majority of the film it was full of typical teenage banter, but without it being overly annoying. Yet there were a couple of moments where the dialogue took a nosedive and became far too clichéd or inane for its own good. The plot point involving the search for the missing hikers was a neat way of tying the entire movie together, and provided one of only a few characters you actually hoped would survive through to the end of the movie.

The cast of “Friday the 13th” was surprisingly better than your typical horror film cast. That being said, there were still only a handful of characters that I actually became interested in. Leading the cast of semi-familiar faces is Jared Padalecki (TV’s “Supernatural”) as the estranged brother of one of the missing hikers that ran afoul of Jason six weeks prior. Jared brings a charisma and likeability to the character that allows the viewer to actually root for his survival regardless of the built-in sympathy card the writers have included in the movie for him. Joining him in his search is actress Danielle Panabaker (“Mr. Brooks”) as one member of a group of friends that are spending a fun-filled weekend near the old Camp Crystal Lake site. Danielle imbues her character with warmth and innocence, plus there’s a surprising sincerity in her portrayal that cannot be ignored. By all rights, Danielle put more effort into her character than any horror movie role ever calls for, but it was that dedication that elevated her performance far above those of the other actors playing her vacationing friends. The remainder of the supporting cast ranged from good to slightly irritating, but what else should one expect when watching a horror movie?

Lastly, I wanted to touch briefly upon the main driving force of the movie, the monstrosity that is Jason Voorhees himself. In this movie I finally believe that Jason could actually catch one of his victims as he is more proactive in his approach to “hunting”. A much needed new twist to the character was showcased in the time the writers took in showing Jason as more of a predator stalking his prey rather than just a brainless behemoth. The fact that Jason actually runs in pursuit of his victims is a definite, and much appreciated, boost to how much more fearsome he is this time around. As for the Jason’s killings, they are definitely prevalent throughout the story, and the writers have clearly taken advantage of the opportunity provided them by Jason’s newfound smarts to become a little more creative with how he goes about his business. For the horror junkies out there, don’t worry about your favorite, or perhaps I should say one of your favorite, killers going soft after his thirty year run. This is the most violent and hard-hitting of the Jason movies, at least in my opinion.

At its best “Friday the 13th” is a decently entertaining, fast-paced slasher film that cleverly combines all of the strongest elements of the first three movies in the original series while applying a modern twist. When not at its best, the movie devolves into bouts of irritating arguments and conversations that are pointless from the get-go, moments that stretch believability too far or just relying far too much on an over-abundance of sex and drug related scenes. It’s not the best horror film I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the better ones that have been released here lately.

“Friday the 13th” is rated R for violence, language, gore, and sexuality/nudity.