Movie Review: Friday the 13th (2009)

Jason attacks in Friday the 13th

Photo: New Line Cinema

Jason Voorhees is back and he has brought with him two-thirds of a decent film with a final act that proves the filmmakers concerned themselves more with trying to appeal to the nostalgic fan base than trying to finish what they had started.

This latest installment in the 29-year-old franchise begins with a 20 minute opening sequence that almost serves as a film itself by summing up what happened in the original Friday the 13th from 1980 with a recreation of the death of Mrs. Voorhees followed by a campsite slaughter by grown-up Jason who is still wearing a bag over his head instead of the iconic hockey mask. This segment really energized the crowd and it is admittedly solid for a horror film and harkens back to old school horror with a desire for teenage hacking and less of a yearning to gross out with endless gore. As a matter of fact, this entire film plays as an old school horror, which is a much needed breath of fresh air.

Following the opening segment the audience is jazzed for more, but we are meant to endure a routine build-up as spoiled rich kids head into the woods to vacation at a posh lakeside cabin while Jason waits in the woods with a mind to kill anyone that comes near his territory. The fact the story doesn’t involve people trying to reopen Camp Crystal Lake was sort of a bummer as Jason’s vengeance feels even less reasoned, something typically reserved for sequels in a genre such as this, and it really lets the air out of it all.

Among the group of kids you have all the typical brats you’d expect even up to the token black kid, but to the film’s credit I am convinced he was added as a nod to the idea the black guy always dies as opposed to unknowingly servicing the cliché. You get a varied group of topless young twenty-somethings including the always expected don’t have sex if you want to live in a horror rule as this film follows Randy Meeks’s rules for surviving a horror film to the utmost degree. The fact it realizes it is acceptable, but it doesn’t make it any more entertaining.

By the time the film finds itself in its third act you are simply waiting to find out who will survive to tell the story and no longer interested in how those that are going to die will be slaughtered. Early on Jason had a few creative kills including an impressive top-of-the-head skewering and apparently he is quite the archer as he takes one unsuspecting gentleman out from about a hundred yards away with a bow-and-arrow (don’t worry, they show an archery trophy later on to explain this talent). But as the film wears on the kills become less interesting, startling or entertaining despite a tow truck shish-ka-bob that for some reason didn’t satisfy as much as it should, but they were at least trying. The best moment of the film, though, is undoubtedly the high-pitched scream from an unlikely source… it’s almost worth seeing the film just for this one second alone.

The film’s finale certainly had the original in mind, but absence of proper timing really hurts its impact. Marcus Nispel’s remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre back in 2003 was something I enjoyed, but this time around it started to feel as if the film became more intent in satisfying the perception of the iconic Jason Voorhees as opposed to capitalizing on a strong start. Friday the 13th is still a fun film with some fun kills and a fantastic first act, but it just doesn’t have enough steam to carry it out all the way to the end.

GRADE: C

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