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Unlucky 13 again
Friday The 13th  (DVD)
Member Name: bilbob20
Friday The 13th  (DVD)
Advantages: Good scares, the best entry yet
Disadvantages: Its really more of the same
The newest Jason flick comes quick and fast with layers of gore and screams, and its an altogether better beast than its predecessors. Not least because of steady pacing, a good looking cast, and polished direction. A knowing, yet traditional, script doesn't do it any harm either. Hyped, or maligned rather, as a re-imagining, this is really just a remake of the better ideas in films 1, 2 and 3 from the old batch.
Opening at Crystal Lake in 1980, we get a glimpse of Jason's mother avenging his drowning. It is a quick prologue that fills us in on the events of the original film, leading to the unfortunate beheading of Mrs Vorhees. We fast-track to nearly present day where we are introduced to a batch of teens who are out to score weed from the woods, and quick as you like, another figure is out to kill them in the most grisly and gruesome fashions. Legend has it that Jason didn't really drown, and is now out to avenge his mother's death at the hands of the original teen who is never mentioned again. However, if Jason didn't die, then what was there for his mother to avenge in the first place. This can only lend credence to the notion that Jason is one of the great un-dead. This isn't really a problem with Damien Shannon and Mark Swift's (the duo behind the decent but disappointing Freddy vs. Jason in 2003) script, but rather a confusing plot point carried over from the original batch of films. It does very little to hinder this film though.
Fast forward 6 weeks, and we're introduced to a new host of teenagers who turn up at the lake to stay in spoilt teenager Trent's family cabin. They quickly find themselves in pearl as they are picked off in more imaginative ways. Coinciding with this is the search for one of the earlier missing girls by her brother Clay. In the fashion of these films, his search isn't really met well with the hick town chief of police, but when he engages the help of Jenna, trouble cant be far away.
Much has been made of Jason's newfound stamina, as he runs and stomps across the woods, more the thinking man's predator than a walking zombie. Its also been claimed that this film adds nothing new to the series. Can we remind the critics who are slating this film for precisely those reasons that this film is in fact a re-imagining and NOT a sequel, therefore owing nothing to continuity of the series. It isn't part of the series, it's a whole new start. The writers have license to re-invent Jason in anyway they see fit. And they do. Collaborating the bulk of Kane Hodder's mammoth killer in the later entry's with the odd humanity of the earlier Jason and adding speed and thought process, Jason is a terrifying beast who stalks down his victims and see's them off in horrendous fashion.
The film, whilst not always getting it bang on, also makes the unfathomable events that take place mildly believable. In the old flicks Jason would turn up in places without any reasoning or transportation to get him there. Here, we see how he lurks beneath the woods in a horrifying underworld, able to watch and monitor his prey. The underworld is integral to the film, despite most of the horror taking place above ground. However, we are never left bewildered by his movements, as its all subtly explained.
The deaths are gruesome from start to finish, and with a body count of a dozen, little is left to the imagination. Rather than relying on tension and the imagination of the audience, Friday the 13th is full on gory with much emphasis put on the bloodletting. The blatancy of the film doesn't detract from the thrills though. This is the scariest of the Friday the 13th films, re-inventing Jason as a real threat, rather than the weakened lump from 2003's match-up. Whilst it may fall on many a horror cliché, they are good cliché's that bring alive the best of the old school slasher film. It wont convert nay-sayers, and it wont win awards, but it's a flashy looking glossed up version of a low budget horror that was really just a rip-off of better films. This one doesn't steal from other crowns, but makes a little dent all of its own.
The script genuinely gears from amusing to terrifying in the best possible way. Characters are allowed to poke fun at themselves and each other, making the ensuing horror all the more frightening. The last batch of teens to arrive on the lake are smart gutsy characters. Again critics are having a field day at their apparent stupidity, but to my mind these characters behave nearly as most people would if they were trapped by a fearsome killer inside a remote house. Head for the closet and grab the gun. Its not their fault that Jason is always one step ahead.
The performances from the largely unknown cast are decent as well. There's not a lot for them to do but run, panic and scream. However, we're allowed a little insight into their back stories which gives them enough to play with. Supernatural's Jarad Padalecki is unsurprisingly the best of the bunch, playing a guilt-ridden brother who is in search of his sister. He is given able support from Danielle Panabaker who is on the ball with a wide-eyed, knowing performance that allows you to warm to her and therefore route for both of their survival. The rest of the cast get less to play with, and are really just there to provide a canvas for Jason's bloodletting, but a couple of them get some cool lines to work with, making it just a little less threadbare and a little more sympathetic to the clichéd characters of the film.
It makes sense to reboot the series, given that decaying ideas and bad scripts drove Jason to a watery grave. Some would suggest that the 11 existing films is far more than sufficient. However, on viewing this ill-received slasher film, it would seem that with the right director (Marcus Nispel) and right backing (horror re-make kings Michael Bay) the Jason franchise can get off to a whole new start. It'll be no surprise to most that the film is open-ended enough to suggest a sequel, and on the merits of this one, this might not be that bad a thing. Keep an open mind, and give it a chance.
Summary: Friday 13 franchise gets a reboot and its really not that bad.