By Frank Tobin
Jason, the hockey mask, the machete, that ominous theme that sounds a lot like “Kill, Kill, Kill,” anyone with any knowledge of the horror genre has undoubtedly come across this villainous icon. This monster of the silver-screen, that practically coated the inside of every theater with blood throughout the 1980s.
Although he basically became a parody of himself in “Jason X,” and then was essentially (and wrongly) turned into a psychologically tormented Frankenstein’s monsteresquire creature in “Freddy vs. Jason,” the beast was always remembered for who he originally was.
That is what makes the new remake/reimagining of “Friday the 13th” such a success (for the most part).
Despite being written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the same hacks who brutalized the characters of Freddy and Jason in their fabled match-up, they wisely went back to the basics that made the character so popular. Sure he runs like Usain Bolt now, but he’s a hulking beast again.
There is a bit of added development in the relationship between Jason and his mother, but the story remains the same. He’s still the vengeful bane of any group of sexcrazed teenagers stupid enough to camp out in Crystal Lake.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Halloween” and, to an extent, “The Hills Have Eyes,” established parental issues for our lovely lot of deranged killers, in order to solidify their motives as adults. Perhaps attempting to appeal to a wider audience, the filmmakers felt it necessary to provide more of an emotional backdrop for these iconic psychos to brutally indulge in their deranged eccentricities.
Apparently, they couldn’t exist as simply being demented, and absolutely bonkers. Thankfully, by and large, “Friday the 13th” doesn’t bother with any of that. Sure, there’s a plot twist that will make any devotee squirm with inner fan-boy repulsion, but it still makes sense in the grand scheme of who Jason was and is now.
The character has no added dimension completely taking away from how terrifying he is, and making him into a misunderstood infant. For that alone, the movie is more than worth the price of admission.
Another wise choice was to stick to the traditional, R-rated horror movie formula. None of this ripping off Japanese horror flicks, none of this Paris Hilton inspired garbage, no more “Saw” movies, just sticking to what made classic slasher flicks so great in the 80s and 90s.
The filmmakers here (including director Marcus Nispel of ‘Texas Chainsaw’ remake fame) have made what equates to an homage to the series, a gooey letter to the fans of the character.
Instead of trying to completely redo and re-brand Jason for a 2009 audience, the film amalgamates everything everyone loved about the series that made them come back for ten sequels.
Remember the gratuitous amount of breasts and graphic sex scenes? They’re here, and just as tantalizing as ever (in a Cinemax, soft-core, sort of way).
Remember the goofy dialogue, and total lack of any knowledge shown by the characters in trying to combat them against this machete-wielding maniac? You get that in spades. And remember all those ridiculously violent, over-the-top bloody, kills? Let’s just say, the horror movie gods are smiling upon this movie.
The film knows its genre, and it knows its audience. It throws plenty of cheap scares at a moment’s notice, and offers just enough laughs (both intentional and unintentional) to keep the audience invested in the movie.
And when the actual scares come, the film manages to keep the audience transfixed at those moments too (whether they’re screaming in fear or laughing from how ridiculous the scene is). Rather tastefully, the deaths are gruesome, but not to the point of overkill like in the awful “Saw” series, or even within “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Honestly, they just know which buttons they want to push.
But for all the praising, the film is obviously imperfect. Leaving aside the ridiculous twist in the middle of the film and the total lack of character development, (albeit, totally expected, but upsetting nonetheless) the film drags its heels getting to the finale.
There’s a particularly dry spot as the film nears its third act that borders on painfully boring, and seems more like a forced narrative device to stretch the running time out. Some scenes seem marred by a failed attempt at building tension. But of course, it’s pretty hard for a scene to be tense when you’re cheering for the killer as opposed to the victim (you do that a lot in this movie).
The film also suffers from the same slapdash editing that plagues modern horror and action films. In some instances, it’s almost impossible to be scared because our view is obstructed by MTV inspired smash-cuts, and overly abused shaky-cam nonsense.
Some scenes linger on the aftermath, but some happen and disappear quicker than Michael Phelps spraying Lysol in his buddy’s room just as the cops show up. In the end, “Friday the 13th” is a whole lot of fun. Granted, if you know what to expect from a film featuring Jason Voorhees as the main character, then you shouldn’t go home disappointed. And coming from a remake, that’s saying quite a lot.