Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friday the 13th Take Two (this one's verbose)

Full disclosure: For all of my love of horror, I'm not a big fan of the slasher subgenre in general. I find them to be puerile and unimaginative, again, generally. That said, I do like the original Friday the 13th and a couple of the sequels that follow, but my heart belongs to A Nightmare on Elm Street which is actually a huge reason why I decided to go ahead and watch the Friday the 13th remake. Platinum Dunes and Warner Bros / New Line, the people behind this flick, will be tackling one of the main reasons I write and direct horror. They already remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I rather liked in spite of quite a few issues with their plot additions. Marcus Nispel, the director of both of the TCM and F13 remakes, will not be directing the Nightmare redux; music video director Samuel Bayer will be making his feature directing debut with ANoES...and if you think I'm rough on the Friday the 13th redux, you haven't seen anything yet.

Also, while I have strong opinions about these movies, I'm not a "Freddy's better than Jason!" type person. It's all about personal preference. I prefer the Nightmare series to Friday the 13th, but I do like a couple of the F13 movies.

Friday the 13th was helmed by Marcus Nispel, director of other such fare as Pathfinder, the teevee movie Frankenstein, and lots of music videos. That might sound dismissive, but while I haven't seen Pathfinder (and I strain to admit to the "yet") or his Franenstein, he's really quite good in the action and tension departments which is good for a horror flick.

In this pre-sequel, no one's trying to reopen Camp Blood; all of the victims are just out looking for a good time and all that sex and all those drugs make Jason a sad boy. He goes from the burlap sack of Part 2 right into a well-aged hockey mask whilst wielding the family heirloom, a machete. While I know that the machete is inextricably linked to Jason as His Weapon, from what I remember of the sequels (and it's been a while since I saw them), he rarely used one. He's the type of slasher who'll use whatever's at hand, and he does so here, but the first group of horny teens specifically point out the machete in a painful bit of exposition telling exactly what the viewer saw not even ten minutes previous.

This film was written by the guys who wrote the mostly abysmal Freddy vs. Jason, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift. That, right there, explains everything that's wrong with the Friday redux. It's obvious that these guys are fanboys. It's also obvious that they barely have an original bone in their bodies. They stole at least three plot devices / kills / sequences from Friday sequels, stole the ending of the original film for the initial hook and the final scare and stole the ending of another sequel for the initial part of the ending. The worst part is that what was original in the script was painfully predictable. Not to mention all of the predictable jump scares.

In another irritating script issue, there was an awful lot of talking in this flick and I mean useless, wasted dialogue. Sheep separated from the flock talking to themselves about what they were doing or were going to do and a lot of repetitious exposition as previously mentioned.

The score. Oh dear God, the score. Not good. Jarring, brought me right out of the flick several times.

Most of the actors were really there to be pretty and die in "inventive" ways which is typical of slasher flicks. Some of them could have been good if the writers had maybe pulled back on the tropes a little. However, high marks have to be given to leads Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker. They were much better than the majority of their co-stars, and were believable in every way that counts, a breath of fresh air in the flick.

Other highlights include the cinematography and lighting (although, I'm not aware of a light bulb that can continue to burn when broken; the filament burns itself out once the glass is breached and CFLs are just gas-filled glass tubes) and the editing was ace. When I have to pick something I normally don't notice unless it's bad in order to say something positive about a flick, you know that I was pretty annoyed.

But, let's look at it another way. As I wrote in the booth log that I'd previewed it, I asked myself, "If I were a Jason fan, would I be satisfied?" and "If I were just looking for a rollicking good time at the horror show, would I be satisfied?" The short answer is yes. Generally, Jason fans aren't watching for the story, they want to see pretty people get killed for having premarital sex and smoking pot then the villain get his or her comeuppance. The first film, at least, had a semblance of a plot.

Now, before you point out the shortcomings of the Nightmare series, let me say that I know them. I know them very, very well. Part 2 sucked, I never watch it (though I have to say that the effects and the score were excellent), and while it's dramatic, Nancy should never have been killed in part 3. From there, it's all downhill, but at least they had really great actors throughout from Heather Langenkamp on down. Wise-cracking Freddy, while funny, isn't scary in the least. I often wonder if Freddy fans have forgotten that their "hero" is a paedophiliac child murderer who wouldn't care that they thought he was awesome. See? This is part of the reason why I'm so dubious about the Nightmare remake...

In summary: This remake feels just like any other sequel in the F13 pantheon offering nothing new or unique to the series. If you don't mind that, you'll like it. If you're me and would like to see something more in a horror flick, even a remake, you're going to be disappointed, or indifferent at the very least. I can't be too disappointed, though. I knew what I was watching when I decided to preview it.

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