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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

Here we go again...

It's funny, but just by existing this reboot of the quintessential slasher movie series is automatically far superior to its predecessors, but that's not really saying much.

The never-ending FRIDAY THE 13TH series had its occasional moments, but overall the lot of them were amateurishly made, substituted mostly-tepid gore for actual scares, starred no one of note — unless you count Corey Feldman, so that alone speaks for itself — and repeated almost the exact same "story" in each of its installments, so there was no reason to expect a series relaunch to vary the tried-and-true formula in any significant way. Not surprisingly, the filmmakers did not alter the template that much, but the film does offer a greater degree of cinematic competence than any previous FRIDAY THE 13TH flick, so at least that's a start. But even with that in mind, a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie is more or less review-proof since those who dig them will see them anyway, no matter how much the critics may warn them off, but any film reviewer (or fan, for that matter) who goes to one of these expecting Kurosawa is a fucking idiot.

Since its inception in the summer of 1980, the FRIDAY THE 13TH template has gone a little something like this: a pack of horny/drunk teenagers go to the secluded woodland site of Camp Crystal Lake for a number of perfunctory reasons, always resulting in their gory deaths at the hands of unkillable, silent and murderous juggernaut in a hockey mask Jason Voorhees (or in the case of the first movie, his insane mother). Other than the possible involvement of local yokels, hick cops, cheesy 3-D effects, an outer space setting or Freddy Kreuger, that's all you need to know. It's the classic campfire story about a mad slasher and his escalating body count brought to the screen ad infinitum, so here are the pertinent facts about the new version:
  • If you've seen even one FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, you've pretty much seen 'em all, and that goes for the new one too.
  • Shockingly, filmmakers who are capable of more than merely aiming the lens at some actors are behind the camera, so this counts as the best-made and best-looking FRIDAY entry by a landslide.
  • The cast of unknowns acquit themselves quite well for this kind of thing, especially Travis Van Winkle as Trent, a rich-kid asshole of incredible magnitude. It's not a hard role to pull off, but Van Winkle renders Trent an asshole's asshole and I salute him for it.
Travis Van Winkle, delivering a tour de assholism performance as the loathsome Trent.
  • A couple of the obligatory topless girls in the film sport what are among the most incredibly fake tits I've ever seen, but luckily there's the stunning Julianna Guill as Bree on hand, who rocks a set of the most mouth-watering all-natural dairies I've ever seen. Needless to say, she gets horribly murdered.
Julinna Guill loses that annoying top. I know her jubblies might look slightly too gravity-defying here, but when she leans over there is no doubt in my mind as to their all-natural status.
  • The screenwriters took the disparate elements of the first three FRIDAY THE 13TH films and fused the aspects of the Jason legend found in those into a coherent whole, the first time that's been done in the whole run of the series. The shit ain't James Joyce or anything, but it's nice to see Jason's origin solidly codified.
  • In the film's opening flashback that kinda/sorta re-stages the ending of the 1980 original film, Jason's mother is firmly convinced that Jason had drowned thanks to counselor negligence, hence her murderous rampage in his name. That's all well and good, but once she's decapitated by the sole surviving camp counselor, we see a young and clearly living Jason living feral on the campgrounds. Whaaa???
  • When we see Jason again as an adult, he's a hulking and silent grownup who resides on the long-abandoned Crystal Lake campgrounds, living off the land and wearing a bag over his head (a la FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2). The locals all know to leave well enough alone when it comes to Jason's territory, but for some reason there's a hick who lives right next door to Jason and operates some kind of wood-chipping barn where he sells and smokes weed while reading issues of HUSTLER. The weed this guy sells is apparently growing wild in great and potent abundance and not, as some earlier reviewers have noted, because Jason is now a pot-farmer.
  • Legends of that fabulous pot windfall attract five horny teens during the film's first twenty-four minutes, thus providing an excuse for what would have been the events of an entire old school Jason movie to happen before even a half-hour in, so if you choose to give up on it after that you miss nothing (other than Julianna Guill's truly spectacular breasts).
  • The main plot — Ha! — kicks in six months after the massacre of the aforementioned teens and finds the brother of one of them looking for his missing sister. The paths of that guy and another batch of horny teens intersect first at a local general store and later at the rich asshole kid's folks' luxury cabin near Camp Crystal Lake. You do the math.
  • Jason himself remains the implacable killing-machine he always was, but now his abilities as a hunter make sense (there's an impressive kill made in broad daylight involving Jason's apparently Olympic-level archery skills), although he still comes off as rather superhuman at times. After being quite decisively killed, he of course returns at the end to wreak havoc on the story's survivors (like you didn't know that was coming), so I guess he's still some sort of monster. Who knows?
  • The gore is occasionally creative, but sometimes shot in such a way as to render the action visually confusing. And when compared to the film that started it all twenty-nine years ago, the bloodletting in this one is quite tame. Fuck those pussies at the MPAA!!!
  • There is not one single actual scare or an iota of suspense to be found in the entire film, and since this is supposedly a horror film that's a big problem. While a great deal of attention was paid to actually making a well-crafted and briskly-paced FRIDAY THE 13TH MOVIE, they somehow forgot to bring the fright, and no amount of shameless cribbing from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE can make one overlook that alarming aspect.
  • The version of the film that I saw was the extended "killer cut" on DVD and it's nine minutes longer than its theatrical incarnation, so at a running time of 106 minutes it's almost twenty minutes over-long by my estimation. It's paced well, but there's just not enough going on here to warrant nearly two hours of any viewer's time, not even that of a die-hard Jason groupie.
The DVD's extras are nothing to write home about but the "making of" documentary proves the entire cast and crew were game and totally aware of exactly what movie they were making, treating it as a lark and not taking themselves too seriously. The deleted scenes are best given a miss since they were deleted for a reason, and as a whole I'd say the DVD was merely passable if not for the novelty of actually seeing one of these movies made by people who genuinely set out to make something good and not just another cash-in/"re-imagining." Not that it turned out all that much different from what came before and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and all that, but they certainly get points for not turning out a piece of outright shit.

The last point I'd like to make about this and damned near every other FRIDAY THE 13TH flick is that they are best enjoyed with an audience. Even if the film itself is kinda lame, it can still be enjoyed when seen with people who are easily scared or with moviegoers who are into "audience participation" (aka most inner-city audiences), so in the case of this particular entry I suggest watching it with a roomful of friends and a handy abundance of liquor or illegal pharmaceuticals.

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