New Line // 2009 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // June 16th, 2009
Welcome to Crystal Lake.
Because it's been almost a month since the last horror movie remake.
Tell me if you've heard this one: a group of horny teens go off into the woods to camp out, get high and have sex. An enormous, masked killer begins murdering them. One of the girls in that group, Whitney (Amanda Rhigetti, Role Models), goes missing. Her brother (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls) comes looking for her. He meets up with a group of horny teens going off to a lake house to hang out, get drunk and have sex. One of the girls (Danielle Panabaker, Sky High) is nice to him, but her boyfriend is an arrogant douche. We aren't told what she sees in him. The masked killer acquires a hockey mask. He begins murdering the teens at the lake house. People die. Sometimes, the girls take their shirts off. Then they usually die. It ends when someone doesn't die.
I'm so sick of horror remakes. More and more, movie studios seem to be subscribing to the cynical idea that audiences can't be bothered to go and seek out a film that could be as much as -- gasp! -- 20 years old. As a result, we get the cynical remake, either glossing up the original with better production design and special effects or watering it down to make it a more accessible PG-13. Either way, the majority of these remakes strip away what makes the originals (which, to be honest, weren't always that great to begin with) worth seeing.
So it is with this mentality that we get the 2009 remake of the slasher classic Friday the 13th, brought to us by producer Michael Bay and the folks over at Platinum Dunes, a company that exists only to remake horror movies that don't need remaking. Why go out and write a new horror film when audiences are already so familiar with legendary hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees? This way, they've already got an iconic image to slap all over a poster. A remake -- or the even bigger copout, the "re-imagining" -- is a much better shortcut to big box office and creative bankruptcy. Friday the 13th succeeded on both counts.
I know I'm coming off grouchy. I guess I am kind of grouch on this subject. I like horror movies a lot. I'll see just about any horror movie that gets released (provided it's a real horror movie, and not just a PG-13 J-horror remake starring a bunch of WB actors). So I'm getting a little tired of seeing fewer and fewer new horror movies being released. There have been a few remakes that I enjoyed: Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead wasn't in the same league as the original, but taken on its own it was a pretty fun horror experience. I had a lot of problems with Alexander Aja's take on The Hills Have Eyes, but in the end I couldn't deny its brutal effectiveness. Overall, though, there are fewer, exciting voices in horror. There are virtually no new iconic characters. There is only remake after remake.
Just seeing the advertisements for this new Friday the 13th ought to clue in fans of the original to the fact that this isn't really a remake of that film, by nature of the fact that Jason Voorhees is the killer (29-YEAR-OLD SPOILER ALERT: Jason's mother was the killer in the original film). It's not really a remake, and it's not really a sequel. It's really just another Friday the 13th film. Actually, this new movie is more of a "greatest hits" compilation -- a mash-up of the first four films in the blood-soaked franchise. In some ways, that actually makes it slightly more interesting for fans, who can play along to "spot the reference" as they watch the new film. Of course, piecing together bits of older movies does not make for a very fulfilling movie experience.
After a fairly cool opening montage (which brings us up to speed on the events of the original film), this Friday quickly settles into a routine slasher film: Jason dispatches one group of teenagers. Another group shows up. He begins killing them. As far as I can tell, the only thing this version of Friday really adds is the notion of Jason Voorhees as a marijuana farmer -- he grows the crop to lure teens there so he can kill them. Either that, or he's fiercely territorial and doesn't want any horny teens doing it in his drug fields. At any rate, it's kind of funny to picture Jason Voorhees putting in the time to cultivate a pot garden. It must free him up of his stalking duties at Camp Crystal Lake, which may help explain why there's barely even a Camp Crystal Lake in the film -- which, you'll remember, was the whole basis of the original series. Here, it's just someone's lake house (a plot device ripped off from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter). If that weren't bad enough, director Marcus Nispel (who also helmed the similarly slick, pointless Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) mistakenly shoots everything like a big-budget, commercial movie. It's a rather nice-looking film, which is all wrong. Friday the 13th needs to feel a little grungy, a little more raw. His aesthetic is way off.
The actors are all very attractive, of course, and certainly better than any of the stars of the original series. Actually, it's the performances and the gore effects that demonstrate any improvement over the first films. Sadly, both are wasted on a story that isn't worth telling and a movie that isn't worth making. Yes, there is much blood shed (some of it actually feels very mean-spirited, which I would never say of the original Friday the 13th films) and many ladies doffing their shirts. If that's a reason to make a movie, so be it. I would argue that if you want to see those things, that's a reason to break out your copies of the original Friday the 13th movies. Let Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay and New Line Cinema spend their money and resources on telling a new horror story. There can be boobs and blood in that one, too.
New Line releases this new version of the film, billed as Friday the 13th: Killer Cut. I'll admit that I absolutely don't understand what makes this a "Killer Cut." It's not a gorier, sexier, "unrated" cut -- as is typically the current fashion when horror films hit DVD. This version of Friday the 13th is still rated R. I know that it runs about 10 minutes longer than the original version, but I saw the theatrical cut of Friday the 13th back when it played in February and I couldn't tell what the differences were. Some digging around the Interwebs tells me that there's some added gore and nudity, but it's obviously still within the bounds of an R rating. If anything, it just pads a movie that doesn't need any padding.
Unfortunately, the package New Line has put together is about disappointing as this "Killer Cut" business. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer looks good -- as most new releases do -- but at times is so dark (more a fault of the photography than the transfer, I suppose) that it gets pretty tough to see what's going on. Even the 5.1 surround track is something of a letdown, as it keeps the majority of the action up front and fails to capitalize on many spooky separation effects or powerful shock stings (the sonic equivalent of someone shouting "Boo!" behind you). And, while in the early days of DVD, New Line helped set the standard for non-Criterion special editions with their "Platinum Series" line, there are hardly any extras contained on this disc. There are three deleted and alternate scenes -- none of which are very interesting -- and a standard promotional featurette about remaking Jason Voorhees. That's it. Gosh, I mean even a commentary track with the young stars might have been fun, if not exactly informative. We don't even get that much.
There will be plenty of people who think I'm just being picky; that I'm clearly the wrong audience for this movie and that it delivers the blood-and-boobs combo that everyone has come to expect from a Friday the 13th film. Like a lot of modern audiences, those people are selling themselves short. Delivering familiar elements isn't really enough justification for remaking a classic; keep settling for less, and that's exactly what the studios will continue to crank out. This new Friday the 13th needed to bring something new to the table -- it should have found something new to say, or a great way of saying the same old stuff. It does neither. There are certainly worse horror movies than Friday the 13th, but this one's guilty of being forgettable and unnecessary.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site