Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th (2009) movie poster

(2009) director Marcus Nispel
viewed: 03/12/11

Once upon a time, there was a kid named Jason who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake while his camp counselors were busy getting it on and not minding the child.  In the original Friday the 13th (1980), horny young camp counselors were finding themselves slashed and skewered as a vengeful mysterious figure doled out the punishment for their sinful ways, accompanied by that weird “ch-ch-ch” soundtrack element, indicating the killer is near.  And in that original film, it turned out to be Jason’s mother who was killing the naughty generation and eventually is killed for her efforts.  But at the end of that film, a hand bursts from the lake, suggesting that Jason would pick up his mother’s mantle.

And for the next nine to ten installments (indeed, it spawned that many sequels), Jason did just that.  Donning a hockey mask and moving into 3-D, New York City, outer space, and eventually into a confrontation with another popular horror figure of the 1980’s, Freddy Kreuger in Freddy vs. Jason (2003).

Now, I’d really have to say that a hockey mask-wearing fiend who never speaks a word, just appears ominously, with the accompanying “ch-ch-ch” isn’t so much of an iconic “character” as he is an iconic image.  He’s got an origin story, meant to evoke some sympathy, and really, in the first film, in which he’s not even the killer, the narrative has more of a pronounced twist…and a narrative.

While a number of 1980’s slasher films have been re-made of late, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Halloween (2007), Dawn of the Dead (2004) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), an increasingly popular approach to movie franchises is not simply to re-make them, but to “re-boot” them.

Director Marcus Nispel directed the re-make of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but here with the Friday the 13th film, the film is neither a pure re-make or a pure sequel, adapting the narrative that evolved over the first four of the 1980’s series and setting the events in action in the present day.  So, the film opens with the “once upon a time”, Jason drowns, horny counselors, vengeful mom, skewering, slicing, cutting, and a hockey mask and now we have a new group of ethnically diverse young adults, horny and pot-smoking, or perhaps more “good”, getting chopped, sliced, eviscerated by the giant lump named Jason.

I liked the reversioning of the story (it’s hardly a sacred text), but what we’re left with is more modern slasher film in which the characters are all quickly drawn “types”, so generic film to film, you could possibly intercut them in any of the other re-makes and have a hard time telling which character got killed in which movie.  And with a villain who never speaks, merely menaces and then kills, you find yourself looking for something more substantial to hang the reasoning on.

The slasher films of the late 1970’s – 1980’s were an interesting study in fears and violence, but also depicted often a very puritanical vengeance on the nubile young people.  The naughty ones always got killed.  The goody-goodies, virginal heroine was the usual survivor.  There have been analyses about the subconscious messages about punishments.  And from those earlier films, the modern bogyman was crystalized.  I have questioned what the significance of this wave of re-makes could come to represent, but it seems mostly that it’s mere cashing in on name brands, modernizing films that might seem too “antique” perhaps to a young contemporary audience, and perhaps at the least cynical, somewhat of homage.  But these films have been so corporate, so uninspired, I don’t think that there has been a single one that has really risen to any true level of merit.

And that is true for this one as well.  It’s neither utterly dire nor reasonably decent.  More than anything it just makes me say, “Why?”  And when it comes down to it, that it’s just cynical moviemaking aiming at the marketing buck rather than half a notion of an idea, I just have to say, “Bleah”.

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