Friday, February 13, 2015

Triskaidekaphilia: 'Friday the 13th' (2009)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13. 
Having exhausted all the movies in the original Friday the 13th series that have the number 13 in their titles, I've moved on to the 2009 series reboot, which could probably have been branded as yet another sequel without much alteration. It's not a remake of the 1980 original, and it's certainly less of a radical retooling than, say, Jason X, which took Jason into space. Instead it's just the latest iteration of Jason the unstoppable killing machine murdering a bunch of young pretty people, with the requisite gore and nudity. It does open with a black-and-white prologue that sort of recontextualizes the ending of the original movie, with Jason's mother stalking counselors as revenge for their letting her son die, but that seems to exist primarily to get the expected story beats out of the way, so that horror nerds can't accuse the producers of ignoring the original concept of the series.

The thing is, with its impressionistic flashes of black-and-white images, the prologue is probably the strongest, most distinctive part of the movie. It certainly has more style than what follows, which is an uninspired rehash of familiar slasher-movie elements, with some slight adjustments to Jason's approach. For reasons that are not quite clear, he kidnaps rather than kills one of his victims (Amanda Righetti), whose brother (Jared Padalecki) then heads to Crystal Lake to search for her, encountering the standard group of sexy morons ripe for the slaughter (following the previous group of sexy morons slaughtered after the prologue but still before the opening credits). Director Marcus Nispel (also responsible for the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) and writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift run through some of the series' greatest hits, from Jason's mom's rampage to Jason himself discovering his iconic hockey mask (after first wearing a cloth hood) to Jason's expected final surge up from the bottom of Crystal Lake.

They don't add any meaning or context, though, nor do they tell a compelling or original story. The acting from some familiar young faces (in addition to Righetti and Padalecki, the cast includes Danielle Panabaker, Ben Feldman and Ryan Hansen) is passable, but the female characters especially are essentially interchangeable (and deployed mainly for their nude assets, in several instances). Travis Van Winkle gets some amusingly campy moments as the entitled douchebag who doesn't believe in Jason, but even his entertainment value is minimal. (His funniest moment involves dropping his gun in a ravine while running away from Jason and then yelling, "Where the fuck are you, gun?"). Instead of reinvigorating or reinventing the franchise, the reboot is little more than another desultory sequel. Naturally, there's another one planned for next year.