Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th (2009)

Today is Friday the 13th, so what better way to spend the day than catching up with my favorite movie monster, Jason Voorhies?  This is the eleventh movie in the Friday the 13th franchise (twelfth, if you count Freddy vs. Jason, which I do), but it is allegedly a "re-imagining" of the series.  What does that mean?  Well, it's not an official reboot, but the hacks that brought you the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005) remakes --- Michael Bay and co. --- decided to recycle any ideas they liked from the original series of film and pretend that it doesn't matter, because they started a new film continuity.

Personally, I don't care about continuity between horror films most of the time.  The last two Jason movies (Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X) made absolutely no sense in the greater scheme of things, so continuity is not a big problem for this franchise.

With that in mind, the movie opens with a flashback to Friday the 13th, 1980.  On that date, Pamela Voorhies killed a bunch of camp counselors because she blamed them for her son's death, years ago.  The last counselor manages to kill Voorhies and escape, but she doesn't notice the ugly little boy watching in the woods.  This misshapen lump is Jason Voorhies, who didn't die (which makes his mother's rampage even more ill advised) and takes his mother's body into hiding.  As the scene fades, we hear Pamela's voice urging Jason to kill for her...

Fast forward to the "present day."  Five teens are hiking through the woods, looking for a place to camp.  They pick a place nearby the old Camp Crystal Lake.  Two of the gang have led the group to that location because they got a tip that there is a sweet cannabis crop growing in the area.  Why this source never took the pot, I don't know.  So, at least two of the group are wannabe drug dealers.  The entire group drinks alcohol that night and one couple has sex.  As you might know from previous Jason movies, Mr. Voorhies (Derek Mears) is a little old-fashioned when it comes to teen drug use/drinking/sex.  Jason shows up and kills the living crap out of everyone there, making creative use of a bear trap and the campfire.  Well, he kills almost everyone.  It turns out that one girl, Whitney (Amanda Righetti), is the spitting image of the young Pamela Voorhies.  That means that the lucky gal gets to spend more time with Jason!

Six weeks later (so, for those of you keeping score, this movie takes place in the "present time" plus six weeks), Clay (Jared Padalecki) and his chin are combing the Crystal Lake area, looking for his sister, Whitney.  He encounters a truck full of (future Jason fodder) teenagers.  There are four guys (including Aaron Yoo and Travis Van Winkle), who are all complete jackasses, and three girls, at least two of whom are obvious sluts (Julianna Guill and Willa Ford).  The other girl, Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), decides to be nice to Clay because that's what you do when somebody is looking for his lost, presumed dead, sister.  Seriously, movie kids need to be taught some manners nowadays.  Well, the punk-ass kids are spending the weekend at one of their dad's cabins, which is in the neighborhood.  Clay is going door-to-door to talk about his sister, so he ends up knocking on their door and Jenna decides to join him in his search.  Right about now, Jason decides to start killing naughty teens.  That fills up most of the rest of the movie, until Clay and Jenna manage to find Whitney and decide to fight back.

Like I mentioned before, I am a big Friday the 13th fan.  The movies aren't usually good, but there is a certain sense of justice throughout the series: unlikeable kids do naughty things and get killed for it.  This movie stands out a bit because it tries to act as a reboot, but there is very little re-imagining done.  For starters, the origin story is basically identical to that given in Friday the 13th Part 2.  Jason spends about half of this movie with a bag over his face (like Part 2 and most of Part 3D) before finding his signature hockey mask, but if you ignore that, this could easily be Friday the 13th Part 12.  And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

When I learned that Marcus Nispel was going to direct this movie and it was going to be produced by the devil, I mean Michael Bay, I was uneasy.  Bay ruins movies, whether he produces or directs them, and Nispel directed the Bay-produced Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which makes my Most Hated Movies Ever list.  Nevertheless, due to stupidity or obstinacy, I watched this film anyway.

And you know what?  It wasn't bad!  The first twenty-five minutes, when the first group of kids gets mowed down, was actually pretty rad.  Within that time frame, I saw an origin story (always helpful), met five new characters, learned to hate four of those characters, and those characters all died.  Short, sweet, and to the point: me likey.  Sure, the movie slows down when they jump to "six weeks later," but there's a killing at least every twenty minutes (thirteen total, a very respectable horror movie total) to keep things interesting.  Following in Friday tradition, there is also some gratuitous nudity in this movie, including five-ish breasts (one set was obviously fake, so the definite number is uncertain).

Despite the body and boobie count, this movie still has some flaws.  Shocking, I know!  This movie tries to serve as a reboot for the series, but the local police and townies know all about Jason: if your friend was last seen near Crystal Lake, they're not missing...they're dead.  And Jason has become part of urban legends, too.  So how much of a reboot can this be, if Jason has obviously been active for quite a while?

Okay, let's pretend that makes sense and move on.  I understand Jason killing the first group of kids.  They were lame and naughty near his turf, so he killed 'em dead.  I have no problem with that, which probably makes me a sociopath.  However, he later kills a local stoner and a cop in addition to going after all the tools hanging out at daddy's cabin.  If Jason hated everyone, why do the locals ignore him?  If he hates all visitors, how did daddy build his cabin and survive?  All I ask for is a modicum of consistency, Mr. Voorhies.

Pop quiz, hot shot: Jason is able to pop up behind unsuspecting victims because A) he is the size of a linebacker B) he built tunnels under all of Camp Crystal Lake C) he's wearing sneakers.  For Sneaking.  The answers are B and or C.  My question is how Jason gets electricity to his tunnels and the camp, even though it has clearly been closed for 20+ years.  And what about those tunnels?  They look handmade, but some have grates on them, but are clearly not sewer drains.  I'm no city planner, but that doesn't make much sense to me.  Of course, Jason collects some of his victims (he only cleans up after himself sometimes) and tosses them into one of his tunnels, but that tunnel has no gross maggots or rats in it.  I guess Jason killed them all, too.

Jason doesn't reavel by tunnel alone in this film.  The man has some crazy teleportation skills on diplay in this movie.  That's okay; that ability was first established (by me) in Friday the 13th Part XIII: Jason Takes Manahttan.  Still, Whitney escapes from her tunnel prison and gets all the way to daddy's cabin, when Jason catches her.  Immediately before and after catching her (and returning her), Jason is murdering the annoying teens at the cabin.  I suppose that teleportation is a little farfetched, but the only other solution I can surmise is that Jason Voorhies has perfected Jetsons-level tube technology and sends Whitney back to the tunnels like a bank deposit.

Phew.  Now that I have all that out of my system, let's look at this movie as a film.  Ha!  I just read that sentence out loud.  Good times.  Well, despite all odds, I am pretty okay with a lot of this movie.  I think the casting was fine.  Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker did a pretty good job carrying this movie, Aaron Yoo was somewhat amusing and Travis Van Winkle deserved to have an awful death, which he received.  The direction is hard to gauge.  I don't want to say that the actors were poorly directed, because they all served their purpose.  However, the film kind of goes through mini-cycles.  The first half hour was pretty awesome.  The next half hour set up the rest of the film, and the last third was pretty stereotypical slasher stuff.  If this movie ended after half an hour, I would say this is the greatest Jason movie ever.  Unfortunately, it kept going.  It's never awful, though it doesn't veer from the traditional Friday formula of most everyone dying, until plucky youngsters finally kill Jason.

I wasn't expecting much from this movie.  Remakes almost always disappoint, but this one definitely had its moments.  Is it great?  Not even close.  Still, it provides gratuitous nudity, a body count with some creative kills, and mostly makes sense.  And I learned things from it!

Somethings I learned from this remake:
  • If you are having sex in a tent, but don't want your pervert friend to ogle your silhouettes, just turn off the light in your tent instead of wandering about in the woods, looking for trouble.  That gets you the gift of death via Voorhies.
  • There is a huge untended crop of marijuana near Camp Crystal Lake.  Who lives there?  Jason Voorhies.  I guess that makes Jason a pothead.  So what's the lesson?  Don't do drugs, kids.
  • The best compliment you can give a girl during sex is to tell her that her breasts "are fucking juicy, dude."  Women love being called "dude."
  • When you're in the woods and park your car, take your keys with you.
  • Judging from the not-quite-final shots, the filmmakers mourn Jason's passing, showing all the mayhem he caused and didn't have time to clean up after himself.  Why do the good always die so young?
  • If you kill Jason, don't remove his mask and toss him into Crystal Lake.  He will jump out of the water (with his mask mysteriously back on) and kill you.

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