Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Friday the 13th

As the latest in the line of one of the icons of the horror genre, the 2009 remake/re-imagining of Friday the 13th does its due diligence. Heart rate accelerated, eyes wide, waiting for the next gruesome end; audiences expecting a slasher film that does Jason Voorhees justice will not be disappointed. Exactly what viewers expect; Friday the 13th is ninety minutes of hip young people getting creatively butchered.

Relying on the tried and true slasher trifectas, director Marcus Nispel’s take on the machete wielding, hockey mask wearing, unstoppable killing machine hunts his erstwhile victims as they partake of copious amounts of sex, drugs and Rock & Roll.

In a teleconference interview, lead actor Jared Padalecki said Jason had lost the lumbering gait of previous films in favor a “fit, capable” portrayal by actor Derek Mears that Padalecki likened to a “pit-bull with a machete chasing you down,” he said. Padalecki plays Clay Miller, a man who runs into college students looking for a good time as he searches for his sister. Sound familiar?

As such movies do, this Friday the 13th appears to be acutely aware that its screams and heart stopping moments are not enough to carry the film. To try and maintain viewers’ attentions in-between bloodbaths, male audiences get their fill of topless, nubile women and female audiences get both the geeky sidekicks as well as the deep voiced, big eyed boy toys to dream about. Like virtually every slasher ever, the hot and the horny get it on and are unceremoniously macheted, bear trapped, impaled and burned alive.

According to Padalecki, the new version is “new and sexy and hip and scary but they still pay homage to the originals,” he said. New, sexy and hip all preceding scary, this is a Friday the 13th that is “made it for a new generation.”

Supplementing the sex and violence is the modest humor of a movie that realizes it is not a bastion of horror. The comic relief characters are likeable, their jokes elicit laughs and their deaths are lamented. Then the pretty people start running for their lives and the likeable ones are summarily forgotten.

Perhaps the film’s strongest asset is its total lack of camp. Instead, the movie is as predictable a slasher as they come, while the death scenes are mildly shocking they never manage to catch you by surprise and never is the suspense enough to elicit more than a slight motion towards the front of your seat. Moderately creative in its death scenes, I imagine audiences who encounter hulking figures covered in shadow will think twice, but not a third time.

If you’re looking for an excuse to wrap your arms around your very easily scared date while maintaining calm, this is the flick. True horror fans expecting the living daylights scared out of them will find the film wanting but those who can handle modest fear will do well in a movie that almost seems designed to promote them as fearless protectors of the quickly frightened.

It's hard to be disappointed in a movie that fits a very specific niche. In its defense, Friday the 13th doesn't drop the ball. It also doesn't carry it to a touchdown, just a respectable first down. For its ability to make me revert to football metaphors and its decent frights, I'd have to say the film reaffirms my faith in Hollywood if for no other reason than I respect the role such films play.

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