Friday the 13th | Horror | rated R (L,N,S,V,G) | starring Jared Padaleki, Amanda Righetti, Ryan Hansen | directed by Marcus Nispel | 1:37 mins
During one of apparently many late-night backwoods camping massacres at Camp Crystal Lake, Clay’s (Jared Padaleki) sister disappears. His search for her leads him to crash a weekend retreat for a group of obnoxious partying beautiful teenagers intent on spending their time in the woods indulging in sex, drugs and alcohol much to the disapproval of the machete wielding madman stomping around in the woods picking them off one by one.
What do you think of the original 1980 slasher Friday the 13th? I, for one, have always thought it was garbage, an derivative slasher with the 80s most unimaginative villain that paved the way for a genre full of hack work. But it’s become something of an anti-classic because of many of it’s more shamelessly exploitative elements. Which is probably why Platinum Dunes’ latest horror icon re-imagining really agreed with me. For once, we’re seeing a remake of a bad movie and the opportunity to improve upon it. While Friday the 13th is far from a masterful horror film it is a fiendishly entertaining good time, much more-so than the original series ever was.
Platinum Dunes reenlisted Texas Chainsaw Massacre remaker Marcus Nispel to do the honors this time with a not-so-sacrilegious property. The remake’s surprises start right off the bat, instead of the very strictly reimagined story of Chainsaw, Friday diverts wildly from the original in a thrilling opening credit sequence, shepherds in our obnoxious soon-to-be dead teenagers and shakes up that formula before the opening title appears 25 minutes in. It’s even later when Jason dons his trademark hockey mask. Jason Voorhees himself has been given a facelift. He’s stronger, faster and a surprisingly good archer. The kills aren’t the most creative, but do have a sense of style. Jason is an efficient and resourceful killer.
Dare I say the teenagers themselves are an improvement over the usual machete fodder. The spoiled brats and sex-desperate geeks are played for laughs and some of the one liners are actually funny in a shameless sort of way. These characters are a bit more colorful than they have any right to be. For his part Padaleki just plays the dull shaggy-haired nice guy. While this is a better movie it’s a far less interesting or demanding role than that taken by his Supernatural co-star, Jensen Ackles in My Bloody Valentine 3D. But then on a weekly basis Supernatural is a better horror series than 90% of horror movies. So it’s forgivable.
Friday consistently benefits from the low expectations and cliche formula of the original series. Nipsel and the screenwriters do a good job of twisting those expectations around and using them to its favor. Friday the 13th is hardly a scary film, but again, therein lies truth to it’s origins. Nispel does take the series’ license for teensploitaton and runs with it, trafficking in plenty of T and A for teenagers. Strangely Hollywood so often forgets people want to see that instead, seemingly thinking we want to see brand name products or “hilarious” screw-ups that keep people from having sex. Yeah. Visually, the movie looks fine, up until the climax when it becomes too low lit for it’s own good.
Friday the 13th is a good old slasher movie time. A spirited call-back to when slasher flicks were trashy, even cartoonish, fun and not about traps and torture porn under the guise of a morality lesson. It gleefully romps through the cliches of the genre, but does nothing to elevate or reinvent them. There is only so far you can take it and continue to be a Friday the 13th movie after all.