Summer Movie Showdown "Friday the 13th" Review


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Summer Movie Showdown "Friday the 13th" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: February 13, 2009
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Genre: Horror
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, and Amanda Righetti

The original "Friday the 13th" was released in the summer of 1980. Since then, the franchise has been through sequel after sequel, reboots both gritty and otherwise, total makeovers, crossover efforts with the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, a largely unrelated TV show of the same name, and numerous disturbing attempts at fan fiction. In 2009, the time was ripe for a back-to-the-drawing-board remake of the film had started it all. "Friday the 13th" was the original slasher film. It was the reason parents were looking worried in 1980. This movie invented almost every conceit that horror movies were going to be using endlessly over the next three decades (and counting).

Topping the seminal horror film of its generation-and the generation after that-is an impossible task, so the makers of "Friday the 13th" have done a cunning thing. They've chosen to elaborate on the story of Jason Voorhees, rather than rewrite or reshoot it. This way, all the original atmosphere of the original film-or set of films, if its many sequels are to be counted-without seeming to want to compete with old and well-established turf. This way, it is possible to revisit Crystal Lake without the accusation of mere copying or self-plagiarism. The well can thus stay full for another dip.

In 2009's "Friday the 13th," a teen girl visits the lakeside where-according to legend-a psychotic killer went on a rampage thirty years before. She disappears, of course, and when everyone in town, including the police, believes she's simply run off with her boyfriend, it falls to her brother to investigate. Naturally, his quest leads to Crystal Lake, where he meets up with just the kind of preppy, amorous teens Jason likes best.

The pacing and flow of "Friday the 13th" suffer, as much of the film pulls from the modern day to flashbacks in which Jason's hitherto mysterious backstory is revealed. It seems he was an abused child. Eventually, the events of the film bring the action to the lakeshore and the killing can begin. The killing being, of course, the entire attraction of a film such as this to its audience. And oh, what killing it is.

The supporting effects of "Friday the 13th" are done very well, especially for a film that isn't filled with watery CGI. The lighting is dark and moody where it should be and light and peppy when the mood calls for it. The lighting team successfully creates a jarring false note of calm and serenity in the non-killing scenes, which somehow manages to paint the town and its people in an absolutely appalling way. It is to be hoped that this was an intentional effect. Otherwise, it was one of the luckiest accidents to strike the film.

Another lucky stroke was in landing Ken Blackwell as the editor. Editing is one of those Hollywood specialties that can be really unrewarding at times. Not least because it's what is called an "all-negative" job. That is to say, if the editor has done a good job, the audience will never notice the work, but if there's so much as one mistake-a minor continuity error, say- the editor will come in for massive abuse in the reviews. This is all terribly unfair, as a good scene is often good largely through its editing. Think back to the lightsaber fight in the cantina in "Star Wars." When Ben Kenobi neatly sliced off that alien's arm, the swift action and deadly efficiency left the impression that Kenobi was a masterful warrior. Actually, the first cut of that sequence was unusable, owing to the age and physical condition of Alec Guinness. It was only when veteran editor Richard Chew stepped in that the scene was salvaged and usable in the movie after all. It's impossible to be sure, but the editing of certain scenes in this remake of "Friday the 13th" seem to bear the indelible stamp of the man who spliced together the action scenes in "Transformers" and who has worked with Michael Bay on more than one occasion.

In many ways, any remake of an internationally beloved classic is going to suffer in comparison with the original. Movies that once really meant something to a fan will never be remade to the satisfaction of that particular fan, since it will never be quite the same movie. It's probably best to approach a remake as a reimagining, or perhaps reinterpretation is the right word. Viewers who expect a good film, shot well and couched in the universe of the original "Friday the 13th," will doubtless enjoy themselves more than fans who want a scene-by-scene reshoot of the original.

Rating: 3 out of 5