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FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) ** ½

I know people get their panties in a bunch once they hear a new remake of a horror classic is coming out.  I used to be that way.  Now I just generally accept it as standard Hollywood operating procedure.  I got miffed when Rob Zombie molested the Michael Myers legend for his ‘07 version of Halloween, but in hindsight if you just think about it as less a remake and more as Part 9, it works much better.  Same goes for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.  I think if they had just called the goldurn thing Texas Chainsaw Massacre 5, everybody would’ve been falling all over themselves to praise it as being, “A lot better than that Matthew McConaughey crap!”


But… whereas the original Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies are not only landmarks in the horror genre but classic FILMS in their own right, the original Friday the 13th is just one Helluva fun horror movie.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-oiled scare machine; it’s just that Sean S. Cunningham is no John Carpenter.  Let me put it to you this way:  Halloween is the classy broad you marry.  Friday the 13th is the slut who lets you hit it in the pooper. 


In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that the new Friday the 13th isn’t really a remake.  It’s more akin to Casino Royale in that we get to see the origins of Jason Vorhees.  Sure, some stuff is repeated like the death of his mother and him obtaining the hockey mask; but it felt to me like less of a remake and more of a way to make the old masked maniac seem fresh again.  This Friday the 13th represents a true “New” beginning for Jason.  For too many sequels Jason has been doing that indestructible zombie thing.  By doing a remake, Jason can start from scratch and return to his “scary” roots as a hulking, fast-moving, mongoloid murderer.


The fact that Friday the 13th was remade by Michael Bay and Co. isn’t really all that surprising.  I mean each flick since Part 3 has been based on some sort of gimmick in one way or another.  Part 3 was filmed in 3-D, Part 4 promised us “The Final Chapter”, then 5 turned around and gave us “A New Beginning”.  6 boasted the return of the REAL Jason, while 7 promoted Jason vs. Carrie.  The next three installments saw Jason leaving Camp Crystal Lake in hopes that a change of scenery would keep things fresh.  In Part 8 he went to Manhattan, 9 took him to Hell, and in 10 he went into outer space.  Part 11 was the ultimate gimmick movie in which Jason fought his biggest rival Freddy Krueger. 


And Jason's death shouldn't prevent him from making a comeback.  In the previous films, Jason’s been killed by drowning, axes to the skull, machetes to the eye, toxic waste, being dragged down to Hell, sexy cyborgs, and Freddy himself.  He’s even survived poor box office returns, so if he came back from that, he can come back from anything.


Okay, enough of my long-winded stalling.  You all are dying to know how it is.  The answer:  It’s no better and no worse than Michael Bay’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.


I won’t lie to you; the first half of this movie is extremely shitty and had me more than a bit worried.  Jason’s origins were clumsily handled (Mama Vorhees gets decapitated two minutes into the flick) and the campfire tale that introduces the Jason mythology seemed rushed; lacking the mystery and resonance of the similar scene from Part 2.  Also, the first couple of kills were mostly bloodless and seemed out of step with Jason’s persona (Jason never had to trap his victims before). 


There’s also an odd new touch to the Jason mystique that just seems plain bizarre.  Apparently Camp Crystal Lake is one big ganja farm.  That’s why everybody comes to the lake… to steal Jason’s weed.  (I’m not making this up.)  Remember in the old trailer for Part 3 when the announcer said that old Hockey Face would kill anybody who trespassed into the camp because “THESE ARE JASON’S WOODS!”  Well, in this one, Jason will kill you because “THESE ARE JASON’S BUDS!”  Also the Token Black Guy is made to be the Tokin’ Black Guy.  Don’t ask.


The flick actually gets better as it goes along though.  Once the second set of teens started to get butchered in mildly inventive and gory ways, I had to admit I was sorta having fun.  We get:  Ear hacking (Ipod headphone still intact), sleeping bag barbequing, machete to the head, throat slashing, arrow through the head, machete through the pier and into the top of the skull (the best kill of the movie), screwdriver through the throat, axe into the back and out the other side, impalement on deer antlers (not up to snuff with Silent Night, Deadly Night; still the pinnacle of antler impalement scenes), spear through the eye, tow truck impalement, and machete through the stomach.  That’s a kill sheet that any Jason fan can be proud of, despite the movie’s many flaws.


Derek (The Hills Have Eyes 2) Mears does a fine job behind the mask as Jason.  Not as good as Hodder, Brooker, or White, but he comes pretty close.  Mears really books when he has to and the scene in which he flung the axe lumberjack style won me over.  Let’s hope he reprises the role if there’s a sequel. 


The rest of the performances?  Well, the teens are idiotic, unlikable, and are all thoroughly biodegradable.  All I’m going to say is thank God Jason recycles.


In short, this new Friday is one half of a great Jason movie.  There were definitely a few things that stuck in my craw but at the end of the day, the movie is all about dumb teens showing off their titties and getting killed and that’s what you really want in a Friday flick.  I think by the time Part 13 comes out, Michael Bay and Co. will have the formula down pat and deliver a flick that’s TRULY worthy of the hockey mask.

Random Thought:  This is actually the twelfth Friday the 13th movie, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just wait for the thirteenth film to do a remake; that way it would’ve been literally Friday the 13th.  (Or the 13th Friday, take your pick.)


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