Midnight Masked Maniac Movies: “Friday the 13th” (2009)

A classier poster than the film deserves…

Who ordered a glossy “Friday the 13th” movie?

The 2009 re-make of the classic 1980 slasher flick has production values roughly 224% higher than the just-above-grind house standards of Sean S. Cunningham‘s original movie, a development which we can presumably attribute to the presence behind the cameras of Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes production outfit.

If the producing presence of the “Transformers” director doesn’t fill you with foreboding, the actual bloke calling the shots should do just that – Marcus Nispel is the guy that you can hold responsible for making the least scary, most annoying and generally most pointless slasher flick rehash that I’ve seen since “Prom Night“.  You may remember him from such earlier, equally useless time-wasters as “Pathfinder” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and his IMDB listing indicates that he proposes to film Tim Seeley‘s superior comic “Hack/Slash” in the near future.  I can’t confess to being happy at the prospect, although it would be delightful if he could erase my cynicism by directing a film which doesn’t make me want to head to the nearest memory erasure parlour, a-la “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“.

When it comes down to it, I hated this remake for the same reason that most people gravitate towards the slasher genre – the disposable teen killer fodder.  It would be an act of profound eccentricity to suppose that any movie of this ilk will do more than the bare minimum to distinguish whatever interchangeable  ex-CW/Disney Channel replicants are headlining the film from the other gaggles of identikit cuties doing hard time in mid-budget, jump-scare laden schlock, but one lives in hope.

Right from the get-go this remake rubbed me up the wrong way, chiefly by contriving to introduce a cast of machete-ready kids so obnoxious that its difficult to imagine any context in which their survival is acceptable – archetypes all, and barely possessed of a distinguishing characteristic worthy of the term.  What’s more galling is that their manner of dispatch is wholly at odds with the spirit of the series – the creative, lunatic gore and hilariously elaborate kills that you know and fear Jason Voorhees for are completely missing from this remake, which has decided to push the button marked ‘torture-porn pseudo-realism’ and make every character dispatch a fumbled, ‘blink and miss it’ farrago.

And that shower of inanity merely covers the pre-titles sequence.  The movie proper doesn’t start until ANOTHER gaggle of eminently despicable, upper middle class college kids show up near Crystal Lake for a weekend of nit-wit fumbling and Jason-baiting at Daddy’s house.  It’s saying something when you would forego the stalk-and-slash staging which the hallmark of this horror sub-genre so that the teen protagonists could be wiped out in one fell swoop by simply handing Mr Voorhees a 50 cal machine gun and letting him go all “Rambo” on their butts.

Showing up in Crystal Lake at the same time as the soon-t0-be-deceased kids is “Supernatural” heart-throb Jared Padalecki, whose likeable presence allows you to hope at least one person survives the teenage apocalypse unscathed – he’s fetched up to track down his sister, who disappeared during the pre-credits sort-of-bloodbath (you remember – the one that was staged badly and edited in such a way as to obscure how/if/when the characters were bumped off) and his efforts to track her down are met with police shoulder shrugging and side-long glances from the hick locals.

Cute, non-threatening people in trouble – Jared Padalecki and Amanda Righetti in “Friday the 13” (2009).

There are no real positives to take away from this remake.  The changes to the series formula that “Friday the 13th” does manage to make nudges it closer to the “Saw”/”Hostel” school of CG-assisted injury porn and bone-headed torture than the (by comparison) almost nostalgic practical effects and gross effects make-up of the 80’s slasher genre.  And as I’d sooner see my breakfast again than watch a “Saw” movie, that’s not a recommendation to me.

It’s probably absurd to hope for an end product that’s any better than this movie ends up being given the talent behind the camera, but this totally scare-free, visually incoherent, narratively inert slab of latter-day horror still manages to bore more than slasher flick should ever do.   If this slice of neo-slasher filmic flatulence actually scares its target audience, I despair for today’s nascent horror audience – I’ve been more scared by what I would find when flipping the cushions on my sofa than I was during this piss-poor slice of hack-work.

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