Producer Michael Bay joins forces with director Marcus Nispel, yet again, to reboot another iconic slasher film character with a slick and respectable remake of Friday the 13th. Nispel, working for Bay’s Platinum Dunes, did a so-so job of remaking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003, but he fares much better with his take on Jason Voorhees, the woeful drowned boy with mommy issues from Camp Crystal Lake.
One of the reasons this remake feels successful is that the original films on which it’s based sucked ass, and there was much room for improvement. I’ve always liked the premise for the Friday the 13th franchise but have never been a big fan of its execution by the filmmakers. I did like Freddy vs. Jason, but that was almost a satire of the two series.
Nispel, with cinematographer Daniel Pearl—who shot the original Texas Chainsaw, as well as the remake—are capable at framing scary shots. I can honestly say that this film did a good job of making me supremely uncomfortable at times. The mayhem supplies some good jolts, many moments of unease, and solid gore. Hats off to whoever thought of the sequence where a woman burns in a sleeping bag while suspended over a campfire as her boyfriend helplessly observes because his leg is caught in a bear trap. This pretty much encompasses all of my basic fears of camping out.
The setup for the film is fun, with Jason’s back story and a modern-day slaughter all taking place before the Friday the 13th credit even hits the screen. The rest of the movie involves a sibling of one of the initial victims looking for his missing sister. The missing sister subplot is nothing but an excuse to get another crop of young, nubile folk into the vicinity of Jason’s stomping ground, where he will most assuredly wield his machete again.
Jason is a little more on the athletic side this time out, boasting some pretty good agility and climbing skills. He’s always been a lumbering fool in the past, but now he’s quick with stealth-like abilities, enabling him to sneak up on victims and scare the piss out of them—and the audience. Noteworthy kills include an ax-throwing sequence, an arrow through an eye socket, and a topless woman dying in a truly unique way while swimming.
I’m not one of those horror movie fans who cry foul when the supposed classics are remade. I enjoyed the new Dawn of the Dead, and I thought the remake of The Hills Have Eyes was much better than the original. I did, however, think the new Halloween was a little weak. There’s talk of a Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, with Jackie Earle Haley (Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears) rumored to take over as Freddy Krueger. I say go for it. Freddy, much like Jason, has become a joke character over the years. Time to return him to his creepy roots, something Nispel has managed quite nicely with Jason.
Now that the series has been restarted, I’d like to cast my vote for a new 3-D Jason movie. Even better, why not remake Jason Takes Manhattan? The original featured Jason spending far too much time on a stupid cruise ship, and a surprising lack of time around Manhattan landmarks. I want to see Jason throwing people off the Statue of Liberty, or impaling teenagers on the Empire State Building’s antenna!
This film has a good shot at converting those who adore the original series of films and those who saw the appeal but were never won over. To those of you out there who think slasher films are nothing but garbage, Friday the 13th will do nothing to change your mind. For those of you who missed the man behind the mask, you can rejoice, because the success of this film on its opening weekend virtually guarantees future installments.