When his younger sister becomes the latest person to go missing during a camping trip to Crystal Lake, Clay Miller sets out to find her, with or without the help of the local police. Falling in with a crowd of teens staying in a holiday chalet on Crystal Lake, he is joined by sympathetic Jenna in his search of the local area, while her friends remain at the house to party. Before long it becomes apparent the area is stalked by a hulking psychopath who abducts and murders anyone who encroaches on the grounds of an old summer camp… It would seem those old campfire tales of a hermetic psycho named Jason Voorhees may have had more of a grounding in reality than anyone ever dared dream of… Let the blood run free!
When it was originally conceived, the remake of Friday the 13th was intended to be an origin story, detailing the genesis of mass murderer Jason Voorhees. Writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who had previously worked on Freddy vs. Jason for New Line, were brought in again to pen a screenplay. They eventually fashioned a script that was envisioned as a reboot of the series. Amalgamating elements from the first four movies, this reboot manages to provide a fitting sense of history and actually exhibits more plot than most of the prior Friday the 13th movies combined! Though naturally, that isn’t saying much.
Aside from talk of cell phones and GPS gadgets etc, the rest of the film and its script could have been made back in the slasher heydays of the early Eighties. It certainly exudes that mentality and outlook. Characters still smoke pot, drink beer and indulge in copious amounts of sex. The screenplay is adorned with a nostalgic sheen as the writers fondly recall and recreate slasher scenarios from the subgenre’s glory days. The amount of breastage on display also recalls the golden era of slasherdom. Even a few of the Friday the 13th movies’ recurring motifs are added to the mix. It seems no Friday the 13th flick is quite complete without someone’s slashed-up body being chucked through a window. A number of inventive deaths also manage to shock - none more so than that of the unfortunate girl hung over a campfire in her sleeping bag. While not directly lifted from past movies, these moments at least feel like they could have been. Indeed, much of the film unfolds as a loving homage to its predecessors - the majority of the running time is given over to the building of suspense as annoying teens drink, smoke and fuck their way around a creepy location as they’re picked off one by one in increasingly grisly ways - completely oblivious to the danger they are in. In keeping with the usual tradition of slasher movie teens, this lot also seem to hate each other - bickering and goading ensue when they are together. Alpha male Trent is a particularly unsympathetic and egotistical prick, played with smug aplomb by Travis Van Winkle.
Severely unfunny pot-shots are taken at the roles played by ethnic minorities in horror, the result of which render the ‘token’ ethnic characters amongst the most annoying of the bunch: “Why you gotta go racial? Don't put me in a box, all right? What, because I'm black I can't listen to Green Day? *Groans* Indeed, the only characters even remotely fleshed out are the ones who survive longest. Shocker. Even they aren’t remotely three dimensional just because they are at least ‘nice’ and less annoying than the others; we root for them on a purely human level. Having said that, writers Shannon and Swift know that we don’t watch these movies for delicately nuanced characterisation or insightful deconstruction of the human condition. We watch ‘em to indulge in the carnage of annoying, attractive teens - smug (and safe) in the knowledge that we would never be as stupid or make the same fatal errors as them.
Part II - whose mortality makes him all the more menacing. He’s just a calculating psychopath skulking about the woods. We glimpse him as a disfigured boy, the 'baghead' version from the second instalment of the original series and eventually as the iconic hockey mask-wearing killer he will always be remembered as. The location is effectively realised and the labyrinth of tunnels under the old summer camp go some way to explain how it is that Jason is able to stalk his prey and seemingly pop up behind them from out of nowhere. The old cabins and the usual sort of imagery associated with the series is recreated lovingly, with Daniel Pearl’s now tell-tale atmospheric cinematography in all its mist-shrouded creepiness ensuring events play out in a fitting no-man’s-land where the teens are totally at the mercy of nature. Primal fears and back to basics survival never looked so slick.
One small (personal) gripe is the distinct lack of Mrs Voorhees. While her memory faded as the series progressed, it was hoped that her presence would make itself known again in a reboot of the franchise. As the wronged and vengeful matriarch, Nana Visitor graces the screen for too short a time during a brief prologue that plays out under the opening credits. However the impact of her blood-stained actions resonates long after, as it is made explicitly clear her son witnessed her murder and picked up where she left off. Teens = BAD! Must. Be. Punished. The usual sex equals death mantra of the series is also splayed across the screen during a particularly wrung out scene where two blonde and obnoxious teens are having sex in the holiday chalet. We cut ever rapidly between them and Whitney (Amanda Righetti) making a break for it with Jason stalking after her as she runs toward the chalet for help. Just as it seems she’s about to pound on the window for help, Jason roughly apprehends her. The scene plays out in the heady cornucopia of exploitation, titillation and sleazy suspense that made the first movie so dubiously compelling.
The reboot also works well as a companion piece to the Platinum Dunes remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and is just as slick, with the same stylised grittiness that pales in comparison to the original’s stifling carnal-house atmospherics. Both films though, while shadows of their originals, manage to be entertaining and well enough made in their own right. Most wouldn’t doubt Nispel’s ability to wrack up tension or spin a good yarn - even if the yarn was told in a much more compelling and effective way many years before.
A well made and fairly solid outing which manages to bring a much needed air of menace back to the series and even though it is just a glossy take on a tried and tested formula, it is still enjoyable - and retains the same familiar (and popular) sensibilities of the original flicks.
From a geeky point of view, it was also kinda cool to see the film begin with the Paramount logo and Jason’s unmistakable motif echo across it: Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma…