Firday the 13th
Last month, when I was reviewing My Bloody Valentine 3D, I was faced with wether I should recommend it or not. I admitted in my own review that the acting was largely wooden, the characters written haphazardly, and the plot was nothing more than an excuse to throw globs of gore at the screen. And yet, I could not deny that I had fun watching it. It had some inventive and gruesome death scenes (the true test of any slasher film), and was better made than the norm for the genre. I ended up giving the film a mostly positive review, but only to those who would appreciate going to a movie about a homicidal miner killing numerous people and ripping out their hearts.
Now that I have seen the new Friday the 13th, I think I made the right choice recommending that film, because Valentine is the better film of the two. Yes, its plot was just an excuse to throw globs of gore on the screen (and if you saw it in 3D, off the screen as well), but hey, at least it attempted to have a plot. Despite being billed as a re-imagining of the franchise, Friday the 13th is really the same old song and dance that teens have been screaming at since 1980. Sure, the bigger budget makes for a better looking movie than the original (as if that wouldn't be a given), but when you get right down to it, things haven't changed much. Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears) is still prowling the woods around abandoned Camp Crystal Lake, taking out anyone who should dare enter, or try to have sex or maybe smoke a little weed. The cast in this movie isn't made up of any real discernable characters. They're simply sheep being led by screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason) to be slaughtered by the masked psycho.
Our group of victims this time around are led by the stuck up rich kid, Trent (Travis Van Winkle), who's brought his girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) and his friends to his parents' cottage mansion home for a weekend of drugs, sex, and alcohol. The group includes sexy bimbos Bree (Julianna Guill) and Chelsea (Willa Ford), Chelsea's boyfriend Nolan (Ryan Hansen), black guy Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta), and Asian guy Chewie (Aaron Yoo). These characters are literally only distinguishable by skin and hair color, except for Chewie, who at least gets to spout off a couple one liners during the scenes he's alive. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying all of these characters are doomed, since they're here to party and have wild, unhinged sex. As everyone knows, that's pretty much an invitation to the grave in one of these movies. Jenna's the "nice girl" of the group, so she's safe. Instead of partying with the others, she decides to help a guy named Clay (Jared Padalecki), who is searching for his sister (Amanda Righetti) after she went missing while partying with her own group of sex and drug-obsessed friends in these same woods. We witness the sister's encounter with Jason before the film's main titles, and eventually learn that she's being held captive in a series of underground caverns below an abandoned cabin where Jason calls home.
It would be futile to criticize Friday the 13th for its lack of characterization and plotting. After 10+ movies, I think the formula's pretty much been set in stone, and it's not concerned with deep characters or dialogue. That right there is the biggest problem. The movie stays so close to tradition, we feel like we've seen it all before. While it doesn't take away anything the fans expect, it also doesn't add anything. Jason still has the ability to pop up seemingly out of nowhere to stab his victims, he's still a master of teleportation - able to kill a cop at the front door, then be up on the second story roof seemingly three seconds later, and he still has a passion for knives when it comes to killing his victims. I was actually surprised when he used an arrow in one scene, and thought maybe he'd be spicing up his act a little with a few more creative kills. It's not to be, sadly. Jason's main method of attack is to rush and stab, or maybe pop up out of nowhere and stab. The added intensity of the gore this movie has over the earlier films doesn't hide the fact that we're watching the same method of killing over and over.
It's a shame the movie runs out of steam so quickly, because the opening 15 minutes or so are surprisingly tense and successful. These are the scenes concerning Clay's sister and her friends. (There's also a brief prologue before that concerning Jason's equally psychotic mother.) It's during these moments that the movie is fast paced and really pretty fun. Then the main cast takes center stage, and all the energy seems to exit from the movie. Sure, the cast is game, but they seem to know they're here to be killed off, and so most of them stand around waiting for Jason to come along. There's so little creativity on display here. Director Marcus Nispel (2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) tries to distract us with some stylish and atmospheric shots (the abandoned cabin where Jason lives is actually pretty creepy), but it never builds to anything. There's next to no tension, and very little suspense, since identifying who's going to live to see the final scene is so easy, everyone might as well have been wearing a name tag reading "Victim #1, Victim #2, etc..."
So, what are we left with if the movie doesn't try to stand out from its numerous previous entries? Very little, I'm afraid. This is a joyless and soulless exercise designed to make a fortune opening weekend, then pretty much be forgotten. The filmmakers had a golden opportunity here to take an iconic movie monster, and do something extraordinary with him. Instead, all Friday the 13th gives us is a warmed-over rehash of something that wasn't that great to begin with.
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