Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: Friday the 13th (2009)

The horror remake trend isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. When relative obscurities like “My Bloody Valentine” get a polished do-over, things are out of control. We mostly have Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company to blame for this. I’m hardly a fan. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” re-do wasn’t a complete abomination but was, at best, competently mediocre. Everything else the studio has had its fingers in range from boring (“The Amityville Horror”) to god awful. (“The Hitcher,” the “Chainsaw” prequel.) So when I heard they got their hands on my beloved “Friday the 13th,” I was cautious, to say the least.

Now that the movie is out, what can I say? First off, this one doesn’t shake off the annoying Platinum Dunes trademarks. All the teens look like they were plucked from underwear commercials. (Even the nerd looks ready to do a GAP ad.) There are far too many cheap jump-scares, in which the music and sound effects blast way up in order to get a response from the audience. (I’ll admit, one of these got me. Damn dog.) Even some shaky-cam direction is thrown in, though not enough to ruin the movie. And a personal gripe of mine: The location of Crystal Lake has always been ambiguous. The Ohio plates in the first movie say one thing while the closeness of Manhattan in the eighth movie says another. I guess it’s been moved way south for this one, because we have another case of Beautiful City People being hassled by ugly, sweaty, redneck southerners. Does everybody in Hollywood think people south of the Mason Dixon line look and act like that?

Anyway, if you can ignore all of that bullshit, you’ll have a good time. “Friday the 13th 09” gets a lot of stuff right. This is mostly thanks to Derek Mears performance as Jason. He’s smarter, faster, and nastier then previous incarnations but it doesn’t mess with the established concept of the character. Personality wise, it’s the same Jason we know and love. The mythologies of the previous films are respected, as well. Yes, I would have liked to have seen more of the camp and Mrs. Voorhees but the fact that they’re present means a lot. (That whole mine-shaft thing doesn’t make sense though. Jason having an underground lair is cool but there were more logical ways to explain it.) Marcus Nispel isn’t a bad director and he knows how to create atmosphere. With the teens at the summer home and the brother looking for his missing sister, the story mostly plays like a combination of three and four, with elements of two and one thrown in for flavor. (Yea for Baghead Jason!) The teens are clichés, with some of them not even being that distinct, but none of the acting is distractingly bad. (I do have a problem with one line of dialouge: "Say hi to Mommy for me!" Ugh.)

But when has that ever mattered much? It’s the ways that Jason terminates them that counts. The movie seems unusually centered on machete deaths but there is variety and most of the kills show creativity. (The machete is comically huge, by the way, and looks ridiculous in the hands of anybody but the Sultan.) The dock sequence is the best in the movie and actually creates some minor suspense. Ultimately, it’s “Friday the 13th.” We’ve got Jason, we’ve got Crystal Lake, we’ve got teens getting naked, having sex, doing drugs, making stupid decisions, and getting gorily killed off. We even have something exploding out of the water at the end of the movie. On top of all that, it’s all competently put together. Welcome back to Crystal Lake. Sure feels good to be home. [Grade: B+]

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