FRIDAY THE 13TH: File 13!

Starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Paramount Pictures
Review by Louis Fowler

How do you screw up a Jason movie? How do you screw up a character that has been been killed, zombified, sent to New York, blown up, sent to Hell, frozen for centuries, sent to space and turned into a cyborg? How do you mess this formula up? The things that the makers of the FRIDAY THE 13TH films have done to iconic slasher Jason Voorhees would be laughable on any other cinematic legend, but we accept it when it happens to Jason. “Suspension of disbelief” might as well be his middle name, and because we accept that suspension, we can take anything that the filmmakers want to give us. We can accept anything as long as it moves the character forward.

That's the problem with Platinum Dunes remake/re-imagining of FRIDAY THE 13TH; it's the biggest step back for any horror character since, well, ever. As you watch this flashy flick roll on-screen, it feels as if you're watching thirty years of your love for those films brutally eviscerated right before your eyes. Everything you love about the films and the character is systematically dismantled, without a care for anything but money; this FRIDAY is a tedious, soulless, barely entertaining movie that is so completely lacking in the “fun” of what you expect a FRIDAY film to be, that it might as well have been any other teen horror film of the past five years.

Yeah, that's why I didn't like the movie, and, in my mind, is it's greatest sin: it was just plain NO FUN. It wasn't a good time. Not once did I have a smile on my face, not once did I feel any “joy”. It was bleak, and dark, and, well, boring. It was just some killer, walkin' around the woods and killing. Nothing to make it different, nothing to make it stand out, nothing to give it an identity. Just stalk, hack, splat, cue the screamo, repeat, yawn.

And the ironic thing about FRIDAY THE 13TH is that, while yes, those original Jason films followed a basic formula that was constantly improved upon, it appears as though Platinum Dunes also has a formula—one that is apparently, if nothing, consistent—and said formula trumps everything that has gone before it. FRIDAY might as well have been THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3: LEATHERFACE GOES TO CAMP.

Forget that both films use the plot device of teens planning to sell a huge drug stash, taking a wrong turn and being chased by a mask-changing, vegetation cutting-tool wielding villain that lives under a house and has a collection of creepy dolls, while all the locals are all toothless rednecks, the city folk Abercrombie and Fitch models and the sheriff inept. Forget all that. Instead, replay the movie in your head with this idea: Jason is so unlike the Jason we know, that you could have easily replaced him with Leatherface and no one would have been the wiser; can't you picture Leatherface sneaking up behind any of the naked teens, smacking them on the noggin with a tenderizer and dragging them to his underground lair, prepping them for dinner? Only, instead of wearing the face of his latest victim, he found a hockey mask in the barn. (Couldn't they at least have gone one step further and hired R. Lee Ermey as Crazy Ralph, at least? I mean, if you're gonna go, go all the way, Mr. Bay!)

The plot is standard, of course: teens go in the woods, teens get killed. That's fine. That's great. The teens are all horny jerk-offs who want to party, get high and speak in a JUNO-esque teen-speak that only exists in the mind of 40-year-old screenwriters. I can deal with that. That's what I expect. After all, I don't like my teens to be likable, I like them to be dead.

So, keeping that in mind, director Marcus Nispel has one job, and one job only: kill teens off in various cute and clever ways. It's very easy to do, yet he manages to massively fail even at that by filming many of the killings as darkly as possible, with the camera shaking the action out of frame. I have no idea what's going on during the action sequences, but I guess that's the Platinum Dunes stylistic trademark. When will this trend of shaky camera-work finally end? Remember when filmmakers put the camera on a tripod and pushed “record” and filmed the action in a clear, concise manner? Was Nispel absent that day in his community college videography class?

(Funny enough, there was really only one killing that was clearly shot and edited: when the topless ski-chick gets a machete through the head while she's hiding under the dock. And, if you read many reviews of FRIDAY, you'll see this is the one everyone brings up. Why? BECAUSE IT'S THE ONLY MURDER YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE!)

When the film ended, I was just encased in this state of depression. I realized that because this is a huge hit, that means that this is the new way Jason is going to go from now on. This is the NEW Jason! Just think: you'll never see another Jason film like you remember. You'll never see a FREDDY VS. JASON 2. You'll never see a JASON X 2. You know, it's actually kinda cynically clever, when you think about it: after eleven movies where so many have tried to kill Jason forever, the one thing that finally got him for good were some suits gathered around a long oak table in a big studio who have probably never even seen a FRIDAY film.

Sure, many people griped and moaned about HALLOWEEN, but hey, at least the Akkad organization hired Rob Zombie, a real horror-fan with a grasp and actual love of the character of Michael Myers. Are you feeling kind of sorry know? Are feeling like you took it for granted just how good you really had it?

You see, when you hire a director to do a remake, you want someone who can not only inject their own personality into the franchise start-up, but also someone who knows the right way to make a glowing homage to the SPIRIT of the character. It's obvious that Michael Bay is all business when he buys the rights to these films and former commercial and music video director Nispel (you might have enjoyed his work for the Amy Grant's “House of Love” like I did) is just a hired hand who is just doing a workmanlike job. He has no personality, and, as it shows on-screen, no love whatsoever for the character. The only thing this guy loves is his paycheck. The only thing Michael Bay loves are his profits. Happy Valentine's, guys!

FRIDAY THE 13TH was not a film. It was an ATM machine that was quickly made to make the novelty of a Friday the 13th street date. It's the loss of innocence and the end of the childhood for all of us who grew up with Jason and his antics. Funtime is over. It's time to put those childish things behind us and face the cold, hard reality of adulthood. The cold, hard reality that the cliché is true: you can't go home again, even if that home is a shack where you keep the severed head of your beloved mother.

Goodbye, Jason. It was nice knowing you. Leatherface is waiting, and don't worry, Mr. Bay will be sending Freddy down to see you in a couple of months.



Louis Fowler is a pop culture critic who is a frequent contributor to Bookgasm, Exploitation Retrospect, Bloody Good Horror, Paracinema Magazine, Carbon 14, Pop Syndicate and The Hungover Gourmet. He's also had pieces featured in mags like Hitch, Scars, Okay Magazine, Eyeball and Microcinema Scene. He has written for such newspapers as the Fort Collins NOW, Rocky Mountain Chronicle, Rocky Mountain Bullhorn and the Colorado Springs Independent.

He's also the award-winning host of DAMAGED Hearing, Tuesdays at 1 PM, MST, on 88.9 KRFC-FM in Fort Collins, CO.

He wears husky jeans.

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