In June of 1980, Pamela Voorhees (Nana Visitor, TV's "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Swing Vote"), unhinged by the drowning of her handicapped son Jason, slaughtered every Camp Crystal Lake councilor but one for complicity in his death. That last survivor fought back, beheading her. But, as the legend goes, Jason came back, witnessed his mother's decapitation and to this day has been on a deadly rampage on "Friday the 13th."
Producer Michael Bay's horror remake machine moves on. Having defiled the classic "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in 2003, Bay brings back that film's heavy-handed director, Marcus Nispel, to dip into second tier goods. Surprisingly, the first twenty-five minutes of 2009's "Friday the 13th" features five new interesting campers in a pretty classic predicament given tweaky twists. Then the title credit comes up.
Even with Nispel helming, there was some hope for this remake because the writing team behind the not-half-bad "Freddy vs. Jason," Damian Shannon & Mark Swift, were on board and it is probably to their credit that the weed-themed prologue (which follows the 'pre-prologue' recreation of Mama Voorhees' demise) works as well as it does and fires the audience up for more. But everything spicy in that appetizer is doused by the deadening main course, from the insipid cast that replaces the first one to the inevitability and illogic of Jason's increasingly boring attacks. The early appearance of a wood chipper makes the wait for its obvious climatic return exhausting.
The two stories are tied together when the brother, Clay (Jared Padalecki, TV's "Supernatural," "House of Wax"), of the prologue's last victim, Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti, TV's "The Mentalist," "Role Models"), motorcycles his way around Crystal Lake with a pile of missing posters when the local police fail to find a trace of his sister six weeks after her disappearance (the fact that Jason has apparently been on a three decade killing spree but rumors only surround events from the 80's is conveniently never addressed). Clay runs into the new batch of campers, an obnoxious lot led by rich kid Trent (Travis Van Winkle, "Transformers," "Meet the Spartans") and his girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker, "Mr. Brooks"), the only understanding one in the bunch. As Trent and Jenna's friends are picked off (with more than a nod to "Chainsaw," as well as some borrowing from "Masters of Horror's" "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road," "Friday's" genre roots be damned), Jenna hooks up with Clay to search for god knows what in the dark with flashlights.
Jonathan Sadowski ("Live Free or Die Hard"), America Olivio, and Ben Feldman ("Cloverfield") bring some fun to the proceedings while Nick Mennell (2007's "Halloween") gives us a good guy to root for. Unfortunately, they're all gone too soon, replaced by shallow fodder. It's a disappointment to see the usually interesting Aaron Yoo ("Disturbia," "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist") among the likes of Juliana Guill and Van Winkle.
Director of photography Daniel C. Pearl (2003's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") uses the horror shooting trope of keeping the frame tight around its subject, the better to hide the advance of the real or fake-out boogieman (we get a jumping dog instead of the usual cat here) and Nispel blocks Jason's advances with moves that allow him to appear behind a victim from a prior location that would require Star Trek technology to pull off. The genre cliches which Shannon and Swift have fun with initially revert into characters acting stupidly - leaving the group, etc. - with no sense of tongue implanted in cheek about them. When they do break genre law, such as behavior dictating survival, it is not with higher intent, merely sloppy writing. The original film's distinctive sound and 'wha-ha-ha' score have, for the most part, been dispensed with.
"Friday the 13th" has the nerve to end with a double bummer - one of horror's most tired cliches also points towards a sequel - but the filmmakers behind the "Friday the 13th" reboot have left themselves nowhere to go.
Robin did not see this film.
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