Review: Friday the 13th (2009)

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Why in the hell would anyone want to see a reboot of Friday the 13th? Well, the killings, of course. Jason has such a physics-defying command of the machete that he can stab the top of a woman’s skull through the floorboards of a dock, pull the woman up with the machete so that the camera can conveniently film her tits, and then plunge her back into Crystal Lake. I’m surprised that Jason never made an appearance on Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks or Playboy After Dark.

Over nearly three decades, the people who have made the Friday the 13th movies have transplanted Jason into Manhattan, shot the undead psychotic into space, and pitted him against Freddy Krueger. But the silent and murderous hockey-mask-wearing killer is such a bore that even these “high-concept” storylines have revealed just how utterly hopeless this horror series is. Jason has spent too many years lumbering like a dopey hulk with a chip on his shoulder. He’s the kind of mindless zombie who could probably use some therapy, but he never seems to talk back. Although he does stop sometimes if you’re a woman who looks like his mother with the talent to shout “Jason!” in an obvious and peremptory tone. Which is too bad, because even Michael Myers — the character who Sean S. Cunningham ripped off — had Sam Loomis. And unlike Freddy Krueger, you don’t even get the benefit of the wisecrack when the blood gurgles from your throat. Which seems impolite at best and a missed opportunity for full-scale vengeance at worst.

It doesn’t help that the people killed are just as vapid as our intrepid murderer. Jason’s victims, by and large, are dopey teens who like to fuck each other’s brains out. Jason — that great American Puritanical impulse — is always there to redefine the terms of afterglow. His victims have included Crispin Glover and Erin Gray. But Corey Feldman was recast between films before he could be eviscerated for popular audiences. At least there’s some more explicit sensuality in this film. Characters jack off to Hustler (and a winter catalog, of which more anon) and, put their noses close to bottles of alcohol and marijuana crop. Presumably, this permits them a last fix of living in lieu of the Krueger bon mot. Oddly enough, nobody in this film smokes cigarettes. I can really see Jason making a mortal statement on behalf of the Surgeon General.

So what do director Marcus Nispel (who also remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift bring to the formula? One of the most deafening sound mixes I’ve ever had the misfortune of being subjected to. Nispel is so incompetent at executing a proper shock that he’s had the sound designer on this show crank up the volume at the highest fucking decibel level. And this is perhaps a worse crime than the feds blasting heavy metal to ferret out Manuel Noriega. He’s even added in inexplicable whooshes of the flashlight. So be sure to bring your earplugs. That is, if you haven’t lost your hearing already. (And perhaps that’s the demographic this film has been designed for.) There’s also been an effort to incorporate present technology into this movie. You’ve got your GPS systems, iPods, and the cell phones that malfunction at convenient moments. Jason now has a mine beneath the dilapidated camp, where a victim has been held for six weeks and still manages to have impeccable hair and makeup. I presume that Jason has offered full continental breakfast service between murders. Or maybe she was fed and kept hydrated by the random rats running around.

We also meet some of the people who live around Crystal Lake, which include a redneck stereotype fond of smoking and dealing weed and permitted to live until Jason feels the need to kill him to obtain his hockey mask. (That great Puritanical impulse again. The redneck stole the weed from Camp Crystal Lake.) And I’d hate to be employed as the poor cop, who doesn’t seem to be fully aware that there’s been a major spike in disappearances and murders. There’s product placement for Pabst Blue Ribbon and Aquafina, explicit in the dialogue, which I believe may be a first for the Friday the 13th series. The murky photography is perhaps the grainiest of any of the Friday the 13th films. The dunces who shot this movie don’t seem to understand that low light, high speed stock, and silver halides aren’t the best combo.

Perhaps the film’s greatest innovation is the introduction of racism to the Friday the 13th series. We’ve come to expect sexism. But here, we get a token Black Guy and a token Asian Guy (and I hope that Angry Asian Man will be on the case with the latter). There’s initially some promise with the former, as he confronts a white woman who assumes that his music career involves rap. “Because I’m black, I can’t listen to Green Day,” says the Black Guy. And there was a brief moment in which I thought to myself that the filmmakers might actually subvert the formula. Alas, Caucasians are the only ones who get down to business in this movie. Our Black Guy, hearing all the white people getting lucky upstairs, is forced to sift through a winter catalog so that he can masturbate to a rich-looking white woman. And he doesn’t even get the consolation of ejaculating. For the door is opened, the Black Guy zips up his pants, he rushes out to look after his friend, and is then axed (asked?) in the back by Jason, wailing at the top of his lungs for his friends to save them. Well, they never do. He’s bait, you see. And Jason turns him around and punctures the axe through the front of his chest. The brother always gets it.

The Asian Guy appears inspired from the Long Duk Dong stereotype in Sixteen Candles. He drinks from a shoe and is mocked for purchasing condoms at a store. He knows how to fix things. And even the Black Guy persuades all that he knows how to fix things. (Presumably, the Asian Guy operates a rickshaw business too.) He expresses sexual interest in one of the white girls and, as he’s about to down a flaming shot, he’s too clumsy and falls over. He is mocked further. And then he goes out, drinking directly from a bottle of scotch, and is found chopped up in a meat locker.

So if you’re white, you’ll get laid. In the view of Nispel and company, you are the bacchanalian master race. And you have to hand it to Nispel and his collaborators for making Crystal Lake a world where the whites win. Where douchebags named Trent may whimper like a coward when faced with death, but inevitably get cowgirls bouncing up and down on their cocks.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Friday the 13th becomes a big hit among Ku Klux Klan members. It does succeed at upping the stakes in the Friday the 13th series, but then the stakes were atavistic in the first place.

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20 Comments

  1. Marcus Nispel is a real filmmaker dealing with salient pop cultures issues, unlike the wannabes and frauds that make up the current canon for hipster critics who feel more comfortable mocking core everyday values than engaging with populist rhetoric. Not only can Nispel run rings around the visually tone deaf (Cronenberg, The Coens, Paul Thomas Anderson), but he has an ear for how real people talk and think, and understands that mise-en-scene should rely on bodily action, not just stasis, which is what some critics, by championing the middling efforts of Carlos Reygadas, would have you believe is the height of artistic honesty. In fact, static camera placement is nothing more than a mea culpa for the current bankrupt culture of cinema that passes for “independent” cinema these days. Nispel shares with Spielberg the need to not only thrill his audiences, but to point out that pop iconography is just as important as quasi-religious posturing. Nispel is the real deal. That some critics don’t want to admit that shows a hatred for not only the best that American film has to offer, but for America itself.

  2. Armond: Good to see you here. Salient pop cultural issues like the racism cited above? Visuals like the poorly lit, grainy footage in the mineshaft? Having an ear for the way that real people talk and think with such sample dialogue as

    A: Your tits are stupendous.
    B: You know, you really know how to make a girl feel special.
    A: That’s what I do.

    I notice that you’re nowhere on the record on FRIDAY THE 13TH. I also know that you singled Nispel out in THE RESISTANCE. But a good music video director does not necessarily translate into a good feature film director. Please enlighten the “hipster critics” as to why the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake is the BREATHLESS of our time. Or are you so blinded by your partisanship that you can’t possibly confess that a director who you’ve championed has whipped up a middling effort? The auteur theory doesn’t provide a guarantee against a lousy and moronic script written for the lowest common denominator.

  3. First off, Nispel is responsible for not one iota of pop iconography in either F13 or “Texas Chainsaw”. These are both series in which the iconic characters were created by other people thirty years ago (Sean Cunningham is most responsible for Jason, Tobe Hooper for Leatherface). Nispel is simply using other peoples’ visions and updating them with larger budgets and actors who have better access to personal trainers and padded bras. And the dialogue? Come on. You show me one real person who talks like these people do and I’ll show you an indestructible serial killer in a hockey mask. It’s basically the same cast in the new F13 that was in TCM. Take young, attractive, actors who have no problem getting nude and working cheap, add one semi-recognizable name (Jessica Biel in TCM, Jared Padalecki and Amanda Righetti in F13) and have them run and scream a lot. Yes, the remakes of F13 and TCM are ‘prettier’ than their predecessors, but part of what made the original TCM so damn scary was the feeling that you could have been watching a home movie or documentary, not a Michael Bay-produced piece of celluloid. And let’s be honest, none of the F13 movies have been much good (the original really was meant to ride the coattails of “Halloween” and got lucky), so in Nispel’s case the production values actually might add a little bit. These movies are not art and are not meant to be art, and discussing them and praising their directors as the ‘real deal’ is plain silly. Watch a George Romero movie and you’ll get the same squeamish, gory thrills, but with actual dialogue and relevant social context. Or one of the “Evil Dead” movies which have true artistic vision, and a director who is ‘the real deal.’

    BTW, for whatever reason I’m a fan of the F13 series (mainly because I was a Jason born in 1979 and Jason Voorhees film debut was in 1980, and I like that a big horror icon and I shared the same name). So this comment is posted semi-lovingly to the series.

  4. Why would Armond White slight the Coen Brothers (who he has repeatedly praised)? Also, he probably wouldn’t use the phrase “visually tone deaf.” At least I hope he wouldn’t. That was just childish and rather ill-informed parody.

  5. That was not Armond White. The IP address matches up with a frequent commenter who has left comments under several identities here for many years.

  6. Oh Joel. Lighten up, would you? The only thing childish is the fact that you’re jealous you didn’t pull it off yourself.

  7. Plenty of people can do a better Armond–years ago, I had actually wrote a letter to the Press about a Seitz review that was Armond-esqu enough that the headline above the letter read, “Armond, Is That You?”–but I accept that it was a good attempt. The word “nihilism” needed to pop up somewhere. Comparing Nisquel to Godard would have been less obvious than the Spielberg remark. And maybe “childish” was the wrong word. It just seemed to miss its target as widely as that Colson Whitehead’s parody of James Wood, in this month’s Harper’s, missed its target.

  8. Yeah, that did seem kind of jealous. After two glasses of wine, I now concede your point. Happy President’s Day!

  9. Ya relax bro, Jason is a legend, and they did a good job making the film…

    Everybody has their opinions and my mine is that Jason is the best film based murder hands down!

    Movies are ment for entertainment, and entertaining it was….

    I seen all the older movies and yes we all know directors always fuck shit it!

    The Friday the 13th series had many different directors so that’s to be expected
    Like they did Street Fighter and now the Terminator movie series…

    The movie was scary entertaining and I seen it twice in two different locations…

    Long Live the rebirth of the Friday the 13th movie series…

    And relax bro and have fun…

  10. Entertaining ?? Yes, they took a legendary Horror movie and made it a COMEDY !! whatever !!

    a word of advice for Mr. Derek Mears, if they offer you a sequel … SAY NO !! You are a horrible Jason !! no offense but come on, watch and study a couple Friday the 13ths, and figure out what you did wrong !! (First of all Jason doesn’t run !! Thats what makes him so scary!)

    it really pisses me off that Hollywood had become so unorigianl that they take such classics as Jason turn them into horrid miserable failed atempts at a decent movie and get good reviews from mindless idiots who wouldn’t recognize a good movie if it ran up, introduced itself, and did the can-can !! You know what else pisses me off ?? How people think that putting in bad acting whores is going to make your movie better !! Yes, Jason is known for its “boob shots” however they are usually done tastefully .. thats another thing you all SUCK at !! Maybe Hollywood should start casting by talent and not cup size considering these whore royally F****** you movie !!

    When you put a Disney Channel star in a HORROR movie, you know something is wrong. Dont get me wrong i am a HUGE Danielle Panabaker Film, But you dont mess with Jason !! The Friday the 13th series is my favorite thing in the whole world and these losers done went and F***** it royally !! i have no respect for anyone who wrote, directed, or casted this movie, (considering the only two in the whole movie that could act were Danielle Panabaker, and Jered Pedalecki)

    This movie sucked and if there is a part 23 im boycotting !! It should be against the law to screw up and amazing movie they way these idiots did !! Congrats guys, no wonder Kane Hodder wouldn’t do this movie .. who in there right mind would ??

    I HATED IT !! IF I COULD HAVE GOTTEN A REFUND I WOULD HAVE BUT NOOOOO, I WASTED 15 BUCKS ON THIS WHEN I WOULD HAVE RATHER GOUGED OUT MY EYES !!

  11. i hate you,everything about you, you suck…

    oh.. and Asian dude didn’t trip and fall down because he was clumsy, he did because he burnt his lip on the shot glass because he let it stay lit too long… and… black people can’t jack off???… and… who gives a fuck about anything you said, the movie distracted me for about 2 hours, good enough for me, fuck off

  12. Oh…my…god. Armond spat forth some of the dumbest commentary I’ve seen in a long time.

    I haven’t seen F13, but Nispel’s TCM was horrible. And the dialogue sucked hard. Nispel does have genuine talent for music videos and commercials, but he can’t construct a story that makes you FEEL anything.

    Calling Cronenberg “visually tone deaf” is quite ignorant.

  13. what u on about…jared padalecki is an awesome actor no matter what film he’s in, so in my opinion this film is mint coz he’s in it đŸ˜‰

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