Having been, over the course of no less than eleven movies, hacked, slashed, zombified, melted, reanimated, shot into space, and bitch-slapped by Freddy Krueger, it was inevitable that the only place left to take Jason Voorhees was the remake mill. So, nearly 30 years after the original 'Friday the 13th,' we have this 2009 retool, which is not so much a "reimagining" as a regurgitation of the first film and its three sequels. It takes most of the best bits and pieces of each, and cobbles them together like some sort of slasher mash-up remix. But despite glossy production values, plenty of gore and boobs, and enough pot jokes for ten Cheech & Chong movies, sometimes bigger isn't always better. The new 'Friday the 13th' lacks the charm of even the schlockiest of the original series, and is surprisingly devoid of scares and atmosphere.
The story is template 'Friday the 13th,' if a bit overstuffed. Jettisoning the "counselors return to reopen Camp Crystal Lake" plots of the original flick, as well as its matriarchal villain (it was Jason's mother who was the killer in 'Friday the 13th,' in case you forgot), the remake instead recaps the entire first film in its first three minutes. After the backstory of loony Mrs. Voorhees is so disappointingly dispatched, we jump right into a a group of indistinguishable pot-smoking, horny teens looking for hash near the legendary Camp Crystal Lake, who fail to heed the legend of Jason and are offed in gruesome fashion. Among them is Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who Jason captures and confines to his underground lair of tunnels(?), confusing her for his dead mommy. Cut to a couple of months later, when Amanda's brother Trent (Jared Padalecki) comes looking for her, coincidentally just when a group of visiting college idiots decides to enjoy a weekend of frolicking at a nearby cabin...
So far, so good. All of this pre-title butchery is fairly entertaining. Unfortunately, once the main plot kicks in, the new 'Friday the 13th' gets more wrong than right. The remake takes a seemingly-foolproof basic premise -- counselors stalked at a dark, scary camp, punctuated by cool kills and a kick-ass final chase sequence -- and mucks it up with too many subplots, forgettable characters, and boring chase sequences. Like so many of the inferior, gimmicky 'Friday the 13th' sequels, the remake forgets what was so much fun about the early flicks, and fails to inspire an iota of empathy for its protagonists.
There are many choices made in the new 'Friday the 13th' that disappoint. You know you're in trouble when the film's director, Marcus Nispel, states in the making-of materials that he "doesn't find campgrounds scary." Why would you want to make a 'Friday the 13th' film, then, if you don't like its indispensable milieu? Instead, we get an underground lair out of a 'Saw' movie, and so much time is spent trying to figure of the geography of the camp and the cabin and the outlying town, that there is never the sense of confinement and claustrophobia that highlighted the early 'Friday' films. Jason, too, is overtorqued. He screams "Icon!" from frame one -- the lighting, his costumes, and his movements -- that he's far from the feral boogeyman of the first 'Fridays.' To me, slasher superstars aren't scary -- he's so busy being the cool hero-villain, it's impossible to be afraid of him.
The script, by 'Freddy vs. Jason' scribes Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, also tries to do too much. Instead of a single Final Girl, Righetti is abandoned to the mine shafts to do nothing but cower and wait for Padalecki to save her. I liked Righetti, but she's wasted -- she's a reactive character who does little to affect the story. (To be fair, she does get to escape for a brief couple of scenes in this extended "Killer Cut," but the additions still amount to little.) Ditto the rest of the cast, who are either so obnoxious or utterly cardboard it's impossible to root for them. Granted, the 'Friday the 13th' films have never been known for their depth of characterization, but at least the early films attempted to elicit empathy instead of derision. I could care less who died, or how, in the remake.
'Friday the 13th' is the latest redo from Platinum Dunes, the team behind the 2003 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' update which started this whole horror remake craze in the first place. Aside from Nispel, also returning are producers Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, and Michael Bay. Director of photography Daniel Pearl gives the whole production a gloss the early 'Friday the 13th' flicks could never have hoped for. Unfortunately, any true passion and energy appear absent. This all feels surprisingly workmanlike (Nispel in particular looks absolutely bored in the making-of materials), and the necessity to transform Jason immediately into some sort of instant slasher phenomenon overwhelms the story. It's like Platinum Dunes has a checklist -- another horror classic scratched off the board. What could have been a fun, streamlined remake, instead feels bloated and unnecessary. 'Friday the 13th' is admirably referential to its source material, but fails to convinces us as to why the movies mattered so much in the first place.
Warner/New Line presents 'Friday the 13th' in 1080p/VC-1 video, framed at 2.39:1. This is certainly the best-looking entry of the 'Friday' series, and this transfer does not disappoint. (Both the original R-rated and unrated "Killer Cut" versions are available via seamless branching.)
Cinematographer Daniel Pearl again proves himself to be the secret weapon in the Platinum Dunes remake arsenal. Slick, dark, and moody, 'Friday the 13th' boasts deep blacks, a rich color palette that's not too glossy, and excellent depth. The film is a tad softer than I expected, but I welcomed the lack of edge enhancement and a too-sharp look. 'Friday the 13th' feels film-like, with a superb, clean source to boot. My only complaint may be that fleshtones appear a bit too saturated and fake -- daylight scenes in particular felt overly-processed. Otherwise, the encode is sharp. Nitpicks aside, this transfer is sure to please.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround audio track (48kHz/16-bit) for 'Friday the 13th' is also pretty killer. Much better than the lame Dolby Digital mix on the standard DVD, it's suitably immersive and atmospheric.
A far cry from the '80s cheap-o slashers, 'Friday the 13th' is typical of the latest horror remakes in that's its well-produced. Surrounds are alive and active, flush with minor ambiance as well as the usual loud "boo!" noises. While I was underwhelmed by the score, it's nicely dispersed around the soundfield and supplemented with deep low bass. Polished all-around, dynamic range is wide and bright. Dialogue, however idiotic, sounds great -- supple, well-modulated and perfectly balanced. As with the video, the audio delivers.
Quite frankly, the extras on the DVD for 'Friday the 13th' suck. There is little there aside from the "Killer Cut." Luckily, there are some exclusives on this Blu-ray (see below), but don't expect much of anything from the standard suite of shared goodies. (All video extras are in high-definition.)
'Friday the 13th,' the remake, is a disappointment. I wasn't expecting greatness from Hollywood's latest horror redo, but this isn't even a fun movie on its own terms. The characters are entirely forgettable, the plotting completely conventional and -- most shocking of all -- Jason isn't scary. This Blu-ray shines, however, with great video and audio, and thanks to a number of exclusives, a decent package of extras. But "Killer Cut" or not, the re-imagined 'Friday the 13th' just doesn't cut it.