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That familiar Friday feeling
Friday The 13th  (DVD)
Member Name: BlackSwan
Friday The 13th  (DVD)
Date: 09/05/10, updated on 13/08/10 (34 review reads)
Advantages: Some reasonable attempts to re-make and even make sense of the franchise
Disadvantages: The words silk purse and sow's ear come to mind
Friday the 13th (remake)
Film Only Review:
Deformed child, Jason Vorhees, who has been presumed drowned, watches in seclusion as his mother's murderous rampage at Camp Crystal Lake is brought to an end when the last surviving counsellor fights back and decapitates the killer. 30 years later and a group vacationing friends are slaughtered around their camp fire at Camp Crystal Lake. One girl, who reminds Jason of his mother, is spared and held hostage. Six weeks later and the girl's brother visits Crystal Lake on a mission to find his sister. Meanwhile another group of friends also decide to vacation at Crystal Lake, where one of the group has secured his father's summer cabin. Little do any of them realize the horror that awaits them...
The "Friday the 13th" franchise was a shameless yet beloved series of cash-in horror pictures. Even the film's most virulent fans would have to admit that little sacrilege could be done with a remake/reboot of the whole franchise. The result is a picture that delivers no more or less than what is to be expected. It is a picture that is not as bad as final three desperate sequels, each of which went to ridiculous lengths to freshen up the franchise, but not as good as the stronger middle entries, all of which brought the franchise to a tongue-in-cheek level of horror respectability.
Remakes are most certainly nothing new in the movie world, but it does feel the past decade has seen studios hammering their back catalogue of enduring franchises. It feels like virtually everything is getting a remake or a reboot, whether it really justifies it or not. In the horror world we have seen two pretty decent remakes of old classics, "Hills Have Eyes" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", but little else that seems encouraging. The latter film was directed by Marcus Nispel who also directs this film. Nispel hit the right notes with TCM by balancing the otherwise rather wearisome yet popular "torture porn" subgenre of horror with well-executed suspense and cruel flavour of Tobe Hooper's original low budget classic. With Friday he seems to have less material to work with and it was more a case of trying to hit more superficial expectations rather than to re-invent the principles driving the film. The original TCM was nothing like the gore-fest it was promoted as, but rather disappointing audiences once it got their attention it tore deeper into their collective psyche, using human characteristics like spite, pack-mentality and maliciousness as tools to illicit fear. Nispel was able to use this again and couple it not with the over-the-top gore of Hooper's sequel to the original, but with the tools of a "torture porn" horror. It wasn't as good as the original, but it delivered in scares and I couldn't imagine anyone else improving on it. With Friday, however, there is little beyond its basic premise and despite a genuine attempt to make a scary film, Nispel clearly acknowledges the power of the parody.
Interestingly, and I feel this says something for Nispel as a director, "Friday the 13th" does not venture into "torture porn" territory. This says something for the director's integrity and his desire to keep to the very limited formula of the original films. He may come across as being a big kid fanboy of the series in interviews, but there is something to be said for his desire not to go all out on the gore or even the sex for that matter. We get some topless skinny dipping and an extended sex scene, but it's really nothing more than what the original series offered in less liberal and more heavily censored times. You don't get any particularly disgusting or bloodthirsty death scenes either. Again, this all seems to be down to Nispel's desire to update the franchise, but yet keep a type of nostalgic familiarity going. The "Friday the 13th" series were famous for, if nothing else, the huge variety of ways Jason Vorhees dispatched his victims. Nispel and his huge board of writers do this, but have the scenes run in line with his depiction of Jason being a type of hunter who had grown up as a hermit living off the land. This leaves little reasoning for the deaths to be overly sadistic. The only time you get a tortured victim is in a scene lifted directly out of "Full Metal Jacket", where Jason displays his intelligence by leaving a half dead victim outside in order to lure his other victims over. It's an effective device marred by the rather shameless bad joke of having the tortured victim being the only black member of the group lying on a woodpile! I kid you not! It's the sort of scene you would expect in a Russ Meyer film.
It's moments like the above unfortunate humour that actually allow us to pick into some of the inherent problems with "Friday the 13th". Despite not being a period piece like the remake of TCM, the film's whole feeling seems rooted in a bygone time. Aside from obvious improvements with the whole filmmaking process and the fact that the storyline starts again from the beginning, this does not feel like a reimagining. Instead it just feels like another "Friday the 13th" sequel.
On the homage front fans should be pleased by Nispel's careful acknowledgement of all the hallmarks of the franchise, nicely tidied up and made to flow to a soundtrack that retains elements of the trademark "Kill, Kill" score. We get the whole plot of the first film condensed into a prologue, with a slight twist. Now it serves as direct inspiration for the infant Jason to do what he does. There is also Jason wearing a modified bag over his head, as he did in the first "Friday the 13th" sequel, which he exchanges for the iconic hockey mask. Updates to the character can be found in his leaner form, which coincided with Nispel's "more realistic" back-story of Jason living as a hunter in the wilderness. However, there is little more departure for this lead antagonist. He remains mute, is hideously deformed and still tends to kill mainly young adult victims who have engaged in sex, drink or drugs recently; these disposable characters in the film illicit little sympathy. The original series was known for having audiences cheer when a victim was dispatched and I can imagine a similar situation will occur this time, once beer and curry has been consumed in the prescribed quantity.
So, in the end what we get is a film that pays undue amount of respect to a series that cared little for anything other than bums on seats using whatever cheap trip or gimmick they could think of at the time to achieve this objective. The humour is dated, the horror is dated and the concept is dated. Nostalgia can only stretch so far and Nispel's own take on the story is not enough to cut it any slack.
Summary: Dated update