Remake, reboot, reimagining, whatever you want to call it, they’ve all gotten tired. Nearly 30 years after the original Friday the 13th studio execs at New Line Cinema have decided to rework the campy slasher classic and its first three sequels the same way they put their greasy hands all over the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The new film, which is the first on screen appearance of Jason Voorhees since 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, reboots the series in a way so viewers are first met with scenes from 1980, the year the original film was made. Flash forward to present day where a group of young adults are camping in the woods. Flash forward again and you have the brother of one of the now missing girls searching for his sister, Whitney. Enter Voorhees, and you have your plot.
Friday the 13th has almost all the fixings of your typical slasher film. Blood, gore, laughs, sex, nudity, drag the kids into the woods and kill them plot device and so on and so forth. The problem with this film is that it doesn’t do anything new for the tried and true genre of slasher films.
These films have been around in different forms for years now. To separate your film from the other mass amount of formulaic and generic films that clog up the horror genre you have to be different.
Take, for example, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. This 2006 slasher gave a different perspective of your not-so-average serial killer. The film was a mockumentary of sorts that had the viewer on the side of the killer rather than the side of the victims. It showed how Vernon, the killer, picked his victims and planned everything out. This is the kind of freshness that is not found in any of these remakes or reboots, including this one.
It’s no secret that I have absolute distaste for Hollywood’s constant usage of past ideas and brilliance to make a quick buck. That’s a whole different story for a whole different time. That said, this money-maker wasn’t all bland. If the film separated itself from the dreaded remake stigma there’d be more chance of having a fresh feel.
Director Marcus Nispel is one of these reasons. He’s already shown that he has potential for directing genre films as he helped the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre succeed. The film is well composed and shot. Derek Mears stands out as Voorhees. He’s bulky yet athletic, creating a fearsome opponent for the victims. One look at Mears and he appears to be the modern day Michael Berryman.
The main problem was the people Mears was stalking. How many uninteresting, stupid and bland characters can you fit into one film? Ask screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, because they know the answer. There’s your token black guy, your funny Asian, a few dumb blondes and oh, yeah, your absolute key college frat boys.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely satisfying to watch these annoying characters get killed off one by one. I’m not asking for character development that’s off the charts either. I’m just looking for a few memorable, fresh and unique characters. This partners up with the film not being able to separate itself from the rest of the bunch to make for a charmless, formulaic, sometimes boring and all too serious horror film of the slasher variety.
I’m trying hard to be kind to this film. I noticed the effort. The writers paid some nice tributes to the original series of films that are to be appreciated. This film is certainly better than other films in the series and other recent remakes in general.
The question for me is, was it necessary? Probably not. Why can’t these obviously somewhat talented screenwriters and director team up to create something new, something fresh? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the energy? Create your own slasher icon. Wouldn’t that be more fun? I guess it wouldn’t be fun for the men in suits sitting high in their offices as they’d fear that the film wouldn’t bank for sure at the box office.
The new Friday the 13th is the uninspired film we’ve all seen before. These films have lost their charm and as long as the media conglomerates run things it will never change.
Long gone are the days of Mario Bava’s twisting macabre tales set to slasher formula. Ah well, at least I got to see the wife of US Olympic hockey player Mike Modano get hit by a boat.
-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment