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Lack of Originality, Actual Scares Render Marcus Nispel’s ‘Friday the 13th’ Ineffective

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Average: 3.3 (4 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Your reaction to Marcus Nispel’s “Friday the 13th” is likely to depend on how nostalgically you remember the original and how you reacted to producer Michael Bay’s “remakes” of “The Amityville Horror,” “The Hitcher,” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

Like “TCM” or Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” (although without nearly as far to fall in terms of quality from original to big-budget carbon copy), the remake/reboot/re-whatever of “Friday the 13th” is essentially just another entry in a franchise, delivering more of the same except louder and with a bigger budget.

Jason (Derek Mears, right) crashes through a window and grabs Clay (Jared Padalecki, left).
Photo credit: John P. Johnson/Warner Bros. Pictures

Screenwriters Damien Shannon & Mark Swift waste an opportunity to upgrade Jason Voorhees for a new generation, choosing instead to make just another slasher flick that will ultimately be as influential or memorable as the mediocre sequels that followed one of the most influential horror movies of all time.

The plot of “Friday the 13th” is essentially divided into two groups of beautiful people waiting to meet the sharp end of Jason’s machete. A prologue serves as the remake of the original, detailing the beheading of Jason’s mom from the end of the first movie and the undead Jason’s return to take her place as a serial killer at Camp Crystal Lake.

Decades later, the awkward Wade (Jonathan Sawoski) has brought some of his horny friends into the woods in search of a legendary crop of marijuana. Yes, Jason Voorhees has essentially been turned into the angriest pot dealer in movie history, killing anyone who might touch his stash.

Wade is joined by the horny Richie (Ben Feldman), the hornette Amanda (America Olivo), and the couple, Whitney (Amanda Righetti) and Mike (Nick Mennell). After one of the five gets a hatchet to the head, another gets his ear sliced off (which, when joined by a PBR shout-out feels like a very odd “Blue Velvet” reference), a girl gets burned alive in a sleeping bag, and Jason (Derek Mears) ruins his own floor to get to a final victim, Whitney is the last beautiful person standing.

Flash forward six weeks and Whitney’s hunky brother Clay (Jared Padalecki) appears on the scene to find his sister, running across the film’s second group of half-naked co-eds looking to fill Jason’s compost heap.

(L-R) Julianna Guill as Bree, Danielle Panabaker as Jenna and Jared Padalecki as Clay.
Photo credit: John P. Johnson/Warner Bros. Pictures

The second group of dumb, horny teens who have never seen a horror movie is led by the sweet Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) and her moronic tool of a boyfriend named Trent (Travis Van Winkle). The latter has a family home near Camp Crystal Lake and has invited some friends up for the weekend. How a home ever gets built near Jason’s pot stash without all the construction workers getting machetes to the face is never explained.

Trent and Jenna’s friends, who all are developed so thinly that they might as just be named “Victim #4,” “Victim #5”,” etc., include rambunctious Nolan (Ryan Hansen), topless water-skiing Chelsea (Willa Ford), slutty Bree (Julianna Guill), pothead Chewie (Aaron Yoo), and perverted Lawrence (Arlen Escarpta).

It’s giving away NOTHING to say that they will all die in various, oddly uninspired ways. Even gorehounds looking for “quality kills” will be disappointed by all but maybe one or two of the thirteen deaths in Friday the 13th. Yes, there are thirteen, not counting Jason’s mom in the prologue. I counted. It kept me awake.

My response to Nispel’s “Friday the 13th” isn’t nearly as angry as his “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” because of two reasons - I’ve been burned by this remake trend too many times to get my hopes up and the original series was never a model of screenwriting horror that anyone should try to copy in the first place.

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The fact is that not much has changed in the world of Jason Voorhees and the new film fits right beside the lackluster sequels to Sean Cunningham’s original slasher classic. It’s more slice ‘n’ dice. Creepy music plus hockey mask plus machete plus naked chicks. It practically writes itself.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the new Friday the 13th isn’t a wasted opportunity. Derek Mears has a strong physical presence, but he’s misused by a director who doesn’t know how to build tension. The most disappointing thing about the new “Friday the 13th” is that it’s arguably the least scary of the entire series, unsure if it should be an ode to the ’80s flicks, a satire of them, or, and I know this is an original idea, an actual horror movie.

‘Friday the 13th’ stars Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Danielle Panabaker, Derek Mears, Jared Padalecki, Travis van Winkle, Julianna Guill, and Willa Ford. ‘Friday the 13th,’ which was written by Damien Shannon & Mark Swift and directed by Marcus Nispel, opens on February 13th, 2009. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Maureen's picture

Friday the 13th review

I could not agree with this review more. I’ve been a big fan of the original Friday the 13th series since I was a kid and have been awaiting this update for quite awhile, especially since the trailers began running a few months ago. That being said, the trailers were far more exciting than the film itself and pretty much gave away the best parts of the movie.

This Friday is basically a more polished version of the original, though would been better as a tag on to the old series.

In my opinion, this Friday “reboot” suffers from the same issues as Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Both the original Friday and Halloween series provided balanced storytelling, or as much storytelling as you can get from a slasher flick, giving the audience reason to root for the villians and their victims. Viewers learned the mythology behind the killer and the reasons for their actions, but at the same time had the chance to build some sympathy for the helpless teenagers being picked off. There were certain characters fans didn’t want to see meet the wrong end of a machete.

These updated/ reworked versions were solely created for the audience to gain new insight into how these madmen actually came to be - it’s that simple. The writers/ directors have totally eliminated character development giving viewers no sense of pathos for any of the perspective victims. Each character is given 10 minutes of screen time, at best, before being murdered. I think it’s taken a lot of the fun out the movies.

I was also expecting some more innovative death scenes. There were a couple of fun ones, but with the advances made in special effects since the last Friday film in the early 90’s, these should have been better.

One positive aspect of this film is that it didn’t go the same shock gore route of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake or the Hostel series because that would have been overkill - no pun intended. They stayed true to the original series with quick, campy kills. The downfall is the jumpy camera work doesn’t allow the audience to see as much as one would hope at all times. And the kills come fast and furious - almost too fast, killing the pace of the whole movie.

This is not to say I totally disliked the new Friday. I was just hoping for more. All in all, if you were a fan of the original series, I would suggest checking this out. But don’t expect it to be some amazing work of genius because it is far from it. It is just a slasher fick that happens to have an old 80’s horror icon we used to know.

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