Saturday, October 30, 2010

30 Days of Fright - 29: Friday the 13th (2009)

The wonderful world of computing gave us the term "reboot" which has become a part of regular language even if you're not a big computer geek. It's a term increasingly used in cinema and TV production, where someone wants to tell an established story but give it a different slant or style. Famous examples of successful reboots include Batman, Superman, and Battlestar Galactica. I've noticed recently that reboots are different from pure remakes. When something is remade the original story remains largely intact and the fact that it's a remake is never acknowledged. In reboots, the past often gets a look in - just think of the old Cylons (the "by your command" type) featuring in the new Battlestar series and the references to Superman's past with Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

The latest Friday the 13th (2009) is definitely more of a reboot than a remake, but to be completely accurate it’s really a sequel. Set roughly twenty nine years after the 1980 original, Friday the 13th begins with a slightly different version of events that occurred at the end of the ’80 movie, where the last of the councillors still alive at Camp Crystal Lake is fighting for her life.

The action then spins all the way forward to the summer of 2009 where a group of teens are hiking in the area around Crystal Lake. The five kids are made up of two couples and a singleton who’d heard a rumour of a large crop of Cannabis growing near the lake which they intend to harvest and sell. The kids make camp for the night and tell a few stories around the fire – including the story of the camp and the murders. Later that night, predictably, the group splits up. One couple, Mike and Whitney, go exploring and find the remains of long abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. The other couple get down to business in their tent (i.e. riding), and their remaining friend goes for a bit of a walk and discovers the cannabis plants. Suddenly, out of the darkness emerges a monster of a bloke with a machete which he uses to carve up the hapless young lad.

The monster is Jason Vorhees, and he makes short work of the rest of the kids, some swiftly with his machete, though he tortures one girl quite badly by tying her upside down in her sleeping bag over the camp fire. The last one still alive, Whitney, makes a run for it but trips in the woods and the last we see of her is Jason looming with the machete ready to drop.

Six weeks later, another group of kids are travelling up to a holiday home overlooking Crystal Lake. They stop for supplies and gas (i.e. petrol) and meet a man called Clay who is looking for his sister Whitney who had disappeared with her friends six weeks prior. He’s travelling the area on his motorbike handing out leaflets and sticking up posters about his missing sister. Clay runs into the group again later on when he inadvertently calls to their house with his posters. He and one of the girls, Jenna, go to the far side of the lake to search that area for clues relating to Whitney’s disappearance. There they discover an abandoned summer camp and encounter it’s only resident, the man called Jason.

With Jason relieving himself from the shore for nearly 30 years the lake isn't quite so crystal anymore

The 2009 version of Friday the 13th is a film with one or two interesting ideas. I liked how it embraced the possibilities inherent in a reboot so whole heartedly but remained not only loyal to the original but dependant on it by continuing the story in the way it did. The first group of kids get killed off with quite a bit of haste, in a move reminiscent of the pre-credits sequence in Scream. This works to get the audience into the action straight away, no dicking around with character, plot, or tension development here, this is a slasher flick for those with attention deficit disorder – it should come as no surprise that the lowest sack of shit in Hollywood (Michael Bay) was an executive producer.

Getting into the killing early on also allowed the film makers to capitalise on the number thirteen in the same way as the original did by having thirteen victims. The problem with so many deaths though is that you’re so desensitised so early on that only the most spectacular violence could hold your attention, and seeing people getting stabbed and split open with a big knife so many times actually gets boring. The irony of Friday the 13th ’09 is that in trying to make a film for ADD sufferers they actually made quite a boring movie.

Most of the names and “characters” (I use that term loosely) blend into each other and are purely there as machete fodder, which is fine as this is a slasher flick after all, but it’s all so dull. The victims are in place, killer turns up, chop, chop, chop, bit of screaming, chop, done. With all the writers out there begging for work it’s a shame that unoriginal movies like this get trotted out with such abundance. This is all commercially motivated of course, but it’s giving horror a bad name!

 Dude, where's my car?

The character of Jason Vorhees (the big bad baddie) should have been the shining light in this film as he is at the heart of the Friday the 13th franchise, but in this outing he doesn’t come across as a potentially supernatural unstoppable monster, he seems more like a weird hermit who’s territory keeps getting invaded by groups of pesky kids. He’s a lunatic to be sure, but not so much as unstoppable as just lucky none of the kids thought to fight back in any meaningful way.

Friday the 13th ’09 isn’t bad, it’s just really, really, not great. But for all its failings it’s still a lot better than the film that inspired it.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Friday the 13th (2009)

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