Be warned fair reader, this post will be chock full o' spoilers! If that makes you feel funny, then turn back now lest ye be doomed. Doomed! You hear me? You kids are all doomed! This post has a death curse!
So, the new Friday the 13th. What follows will probably be the most inconsequential review I've ever written, in that people are completely predisposed to seeing or not seeing this film, and I don't think anything is going to change anyone's mind about it one way or the other. I mean, it's Jason. It's Friday the 13th. Calling it the most craptacular piece of crap that ever crapped a crap won't make people avoid it, and claiming that this film healed the lame won't make people seek it out. It is what it is, and either it's your bag or it ain't.
Similarly, it seems the bar is set rather low for this movie; attending the screening and subsequent press day, I heard variations on "Well, it's just Friday the 13th" more than a few times, as if that alone means the film is exempt from anything that makes a movie worthwhile. I'm bothered by this attitude. Sure, it's "just" a slasher movie and as such, folks don't expect much from it. I think, however, that it's alright to expect that a slasher movie should mostly make sense, and that- above all else- it'll be a bit scary. How did Friday the 13th fare on those counts?
The film quickly makes haste telling the backstory about Mrs Voorhees's homicidal rampage over her son Jason's death; the 90 minutes in the original film are condensed to about 90 seconds of freeze frame flashbacks. Essentially..."You let him drown!" *chop*...out of the woods strolls young Jason to collect his mom's head, his mom's locket, and the machete used to kill her. Take note, Part 2 fans, he does not collect her sweater. Feel the sadness.
Twenty years later, a bunch of douchebags set out to find a giant marijuana crop hidden somewhere in the woods. How do they know about it? Eh, who cares. Just know that two couples and the obligatory nerd set out to find mass quantities of drugs in the hope of reselling it later to reap a profit...it gets dark and they need to set up camp for the night. They do so in Jason's territory. Yes, the Mary Jane MacGuffin here is the same one used in that other Platinum Dunes production, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Let's hear it for...err, consistency.
One couple breaks off to explore the environs; they stumble across Jason's house, complete with mom's head, mom's locket, and a bed helpfully labeled "JASON". Upon finding the locket and seeing the photos inside, it's noted that Whitney (Amanda Righetti) bears a passing resemblance to the late Mrs Voorhees. Hmm.
When Jason finds all these kids stumbling around his domain, he quickly sets about doing his thing: by "his thing", of course, I mean "serving tea and petit-fours to his guests".
Okay, I don't actually mean that. But wouldn't that be kind of awesome? What really happens is, he kills them more than just a little bit, even working in a loose homage to Part VII. Whitney's fate, however, hangs in the air.
A month has passed and a new group of douchebags (this group is, like, douchebags with jerk sprinkles on top) head on up to Crystal Lake for a weekend of partying. Also cruising around Crystal Lake is Whitney's brother Clay (Jared Padalecki), convinced that his sister is still alive even though police searches have turned up nada. As he hands out fliers to the "locals", however, we're led to believe that something's wrong at Crystal Lake; one old weirdo lady (perhaps meant to be a more subtle, subdued Crazy Ralph) informs Clay, "Somebody go missin' round here, they gone for good." Again, I say: hmm.
So, the douchebags set about partaking in "teen activities", ie copious amounts of drugs, booze, and sex. Jason upgrades from a sack to the hockey mask after he finds it on the floor of a barn- a scene which has far less eerie impact than his simply standing on a dock being mistaken for someone else in Part 3. Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) finds Clay dreamy, however, and decides to help him search for his sister instead of hanging out with the doucheys. Eventually they find Jason's...underground lair...somewhere.... around the lake, where Jason has been keeping Whitney chained up.
In related majorly spoileriffic news, Jason kills everyone but the sibling combo. They chain him to a wood chipper, which apparently just grazes his head enough to smart real bad.
Then they unchain him, haul him to Crystal Lake, and dump him in. Then he pops out, the end.
Right off the bat, let me say: I really loved this incarnation of Jason. He's mean, he's fast, he's relentless, and he's definitely human- albeit a hulking human who apparently spends his days in the woods working out...and by "human" I don't mean he has a life story, necessarily- I just mean that he's not an unstoppable supernatural monster. Derek Mears really did a fantastic job with the character, and I'd rank it up there in my ultra-cool, extreme list of "Best Jasons Evarrrr".
Pretty much everything else in the movie, though...I just about hated. Please, don't bust out the "But it's a slasher movie, a Friday the 13th!, what did you expect?", because that just doesn't fly. Even in its own shallow, ridiculous universe, the film has to make sense.
Alright, so they've essentially done away with the plotline of the original film because people just want to see Jason, not some mom running around. I can deal with that- this is a complete franchise reboot. But...a young child is standing about 5 feet away from his mother as she's killed and he does nothing? I mean, no yelling, no anything. If he didn't drown and he's been lost, wouldn't he run to his mother? How did he find her? If he didn't actually drown, why is Mama V killing everyone?
Crystal Lake. Yes, the douchebag family has built a big beautiful home on the shores of Crystal Lake, where the teens head to party. This is not their first time at the house or frolicking on the water. Yet he comes after them- why didn't Jason kill them before?
The locals seem to know about Jason- and let me say, I kinda dig the idea that the locals know about him, that he's the boogeyman in the woods you don't talk about. But...how many people have gone missing around Crystal Lake? The authorities never find any evidence of missing people or of Jason himself? Kids go missing, and no one investigates the abandoned summer camp? Clay found his sister on the first day he hit the camp. Yes, law enforcement in slasher movies is generally inept, but if enough people go missing in a small area- so many that Kookadook Neighbor Lady Who Never Leaves Her House notices- and the perpetrator has a sprawling house and campus in the midst of it, you'd think the cops might figure it out.
And can we retire the "Hi kids, I'm here to help!" "Sheriff, BEHIND YOU!" *kill* horror movie cliche? Thanks in advance.
Speaking of the Kookadook Neighbor Lady Who Never Leaves Her House, the townsfolk (for lack of a better term) in Friday the 13th are just as "scary" and "gross" as those in Texas Chainsaw Massacre- in fact, they're even portrayed by the same actors. Again, let's hear it for...err, consistency. Yes, yes, we city folk are terrified of country folk, but is it a rule in Platinum Dunes Country that city folk are nothing but supermodels while country folk are nothing but filthy, stinky, toothless weirdos who would eat you as soon as look at you?
Notice I said "abandoned summer camp". As in, it's not being used. Of course, the setting isn't used in the film either. See, the action here takes place largely at Chez de Douchebag or in Jason's underground lair. Which is a disused mine.
Yes, someone built a mine underneath a summer camp. Next to a lake. What kind of mine? We don't know. Isn't it a bit...unsafe to build a camp over a mine? Or a mine next to a lake? Yes, we can assume so. Why is the mine there, and why is Camp Crystal Lake not utilized in a Friday the 13th movie? Well, during those interviews I did with the filmmakers I learned the answers to those questions. There is a mine (a general, all-purpose "mine") because director Marcus Nispel wanted one in the film. The film does not take place at summer camp because Michael Bay doesn't think camps are scary. And that's that.
All right then, is this campless Friday scary? Despite all of Jason's power and menace, I'd still have to say no. There are jump scares a-plenty, but there's no tension- and jump scare after sting after jump scare simply gets irritating. There's no stalking, no question about who might be lurking out there in the darkness. Harry Manfredini's famous score is sorely lacking here. That classic "ki ki ki ma ma ma" is used but once, at a time when it adds nothing to the atmosphere. How can you have a Friday film and not use that sound to its maximum potential? Again, you can thank Nispel- he thinks the sound "telegraphs" the scares and he just wanted Jason to "appear"...and thus "There are jump scares a-plenty, but there's no tension".
It mostly goes down like this: character stands looking at something with a big empty space behind him, Jason pops up, death. A few deaths might stand out as homages for Friday vets- otherwise they're not nearly as outrageous as those in that other recent slasher remake, My Bloody Valentine.
My biggest gripe, I think- even beyond the horrible characters populating this film, beyond the women as blow-up dolls, the guys as jerks- came at the end. I understand suspension of disbelief. I understand the "need" for Jason to pop up out of the water at the end. Though I try, however, I simply can't wrap my head around how they achieved that end. Upon enduring this horrible night, upon watching everyone get slaughtered, upon escaping Jason's lair after being held captive for a month, Whitney and Clay are going to loosen the tangled chains around Jason's neck, freeing his mangled body from a woodchipper...then they're going to haul his 200+ pound body all the way to the lake just to dump him in? This guy- he's just a guy, after all- who killed all those people? They're going to go through all this trouble and destroy the evidence? No...no, they're not. People don't do that. Yes, people do stupid things in horror movies all the time- splitting up, investigating noises, etc- but sometimes, screenwriters need to stop and say "You, know, this is a bit much..." and figure out ways to make the characters' stupidity seem plausible. Even in its own shallow, ridiculous universe, the film has to make sense.
Am I being too hard on it? Maybe. It's just a slasher movie, after all, right? It's Friday the 13th. Jason gets his mask, he kills people. That's what folks want, mission accomplished.