When I finished taking a look at the original ‘Friday the 13th’ last week, I hoped that the 2009 remake would offer a new twist or angle on the story, or perhaps a new idea that would add to the Jason mythos. And at first glance, it sounded like the movie had everything going for it: a bigger budget, a bigger scope, and including elements from the first few films. Thus, with the disappointment of the original still fresh in my mind, I started the remake, hopeful that I’d get a more exciting version of Jason’s origins.
After a very quick recap of Pamela’s attempt to kill horny teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, ’13th’ wastes no time in getting to the basics: young adults head out to a remote lake, get drunk, get high, get naked, have premarital sex, and die at Jason’s hands. A familiar formula, but it isn’t a bad thing. I was impressed at how quickly the film got to the killing, and it was quickly made clear that Jason doesn’t mess around: in the span of a few minutes, he wipes out everyone in the small group of horny, drug-seeking young adults in gruesome fashion, including bear traps, machetes, and a particularly horrible, drawn-out death for an unfortunate young woman in a sleeping bag.
And then the opening title appeared; I had been so sucked into the opening act that I was shocked to realize that the film hadn’t even started yet! Now excited, I watched as the movie started up, glad to see that things were going well.
An hour and a half later, I watched the end credits, crushed at being disappointed once again.
As a modern remake and reboot for the Friday the 13th series, ‘Friday’ is a return to the classic elements of the franchise: Camp Crystal Lake, Jason killing with his machete, and his eventual defeat at the hands of a lone, young woman, all in an attempt to leave behind the over-the-top silliness that the franchise became known for, culminating in Jason’s trip to outer space, and facing off against Freddy Kruger. A little housecleaning isn’t a bad move in and of itself: When a series heads back to its roots, it’s a chance for a clean start, and to introduce the series to new fans while honoring what came before and keeping series traditions for the returning fans.
Sadly, however, ‘Friday’s attempts to strip away the over-the-top elements of the franchise also takes away much of what made Jason memorable. Yes, he may have become ridiculous in his later outings, but a demonically-possessed, cyborg zombie Jason is far more interesting to watch, especially when he uses his superhuman durability and strength to perform wildly inventive kills. But by removing the silliness and Jason’s enhanced abilities, ‘Friday’ unfortunately turns itself into a routine slasher movie. As with the original, if we were to take away Jason and Camp Crystal Lake, there would be little left to distinguish itself from its peers: Most of the kills – which revolve around being stabbed, slashed, and impaled with a machete, shot with an arrow, or being stabbed with various items – feel routine and unimaginative (with the exception of the aforementioned sleeping bag kill). The story feels routine, and aside from his new ability to run, Jason himself feels like almost any other slasher villain in hundreds of other horror movies: Just a normal man in a mask who’s strong and tough to kill.
When the credits were rolling, I was struck by how I had to focus to recall any memorable moments that stuck with me, those, ‘that was so cool!’ scenes that we love sharing with our friends later on. To my surprise, the only thing that stuck with me was that I like how the main character, Clay, is a person with a strong, believable reason to go to the hunting grounds of a serial killer (he’s looking for his missing sister), and that, even better, he manages to find and rescue her… until Jason bursts out of the lake at the end of the movie, presumably killing her, and making his whole quest pointless.
While I was hopeful that the 2009 remake of ‘Friday’ would correct the mistakes of its predecessor, I was disappointed to find that it was little more than your typical horror flick, one that happened to have Jason Voorhees in it. It did have a faster pace, more action, more kills, and more of everything to keep our attention (I didn’t fast-forward through it), but there was nothing particularly memorable about it.
But not all is lost; there exists one more version of Friday the 13th, a fan-made version that, in my opinion, tells the best version of Jason’s origin story. Come back next week, where we’ll take a look at this adaptation, which isn’t what you’d expect.