FRIDAY THE 13TH (Marcus Nispel, 2009)
The latest FRIDAY THE 13TH is not a remake of the original 1980 film but a reboot of a franchise that refuses to die just like its hockey-masked, machete-wielding killer. Since it begins with a reminder of the killer's fate at the end of the first movie, this FRIDAY THE 13TH might be thought of as a direct sequel.
The return to a present day Camp Crystal Lake introduces a new bumper crop of horny young people partying in the wilderness. The intervening years have not mellowed Jason Vorhees (Derek Mears), so he turns to a combination of brute strength and sadistic inventiveness to begin weeding the landscape of these buff campers.
Six weeks later Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) comes to the area looking for his sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who disappeared along with her friends. The local citizens are no help, and the police have given up their search. The libidinous college students he encounters aren't terribly concerned about his story until Jason starts picking them off one by one.
The first FRIDAY THE 13TH is not a masterwork by any stretch of the imagination, but it has one crucial thing the 2009 edition lacks completely: the element of surprise. This version tries to drum up scares through cranked up, unanticipated noises on the soundtrack but rarely utilizes Jason's presence in such unexpected ways. Instead Jason is often seen before he goes about the business of killing his prey as though it's another routine day at the workplace.
Not only does director Marcus Nispel's strategy drain the moments of any tension, but it also reverses the scenarios from ones of dread to scenes that read as though there's pleasure to be derived from the impending butcherings. Audience identification is with the killer, not the victims. Certainly this bloodlust is nothing new in modern horror film. It's probably the biggest shift from the victim-sympathetic 80s slasher movies to the current wave. Moral implications aside, the tactic eliminates the potential for terror from the equation.
No one goes to a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie expecting great acting or screenwriting, but the pitiful performances, paltry story, and formulaic execution reinforce the lack of effort put into this scare-less twelfth installment. Thirteen years ago SCREAM delivered what seemed like a comedic death blow to slasher film clichés produced in the wake of the first FRIDAY THE 13TH and its slew of sequels and competitors. Unfortunately this latest entry demonstrates that, like Jason, lazy and ineffective cinematic clichés are hard to kill.