Friday the 13th: TGIF amirite?

September 13, 2009

 

Friday the 13th
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Travis Van Winkle, etc.
2009, Platinum Dunes/New Line Cinema, 97 minutes.

 

***

where's Ice Cube?

It’s been years since I last saw a movie in this franchise, but I still find the sad, sinister character of Jason Vorhees and what he represents to be interesting. Like in Halloween, the classic slasher flick slinging messages of male sexual repression, Jason’s violent expressions ring of cathartic urges, and immediately befall all characters partaking of lustful behavior. The original 1980 Friday the 13th took place at the fictional Camp Crystal Lake, and the aesthetic, not unlike a summer camp experience, was grimy and budget. Camp counselors are a good symbolic target for a distressed social pariah’s rage, as American summer camp is well-known in the states as the place where all teens (nerds and jocks alike) get a good piece of tail for the first time. Jason’s onslaught is the cumulative rage of all outcasts who share his ostracized position of being without a partner to swap mucus-membranes for the summer (or a lifetime).

This rendition (directed by Marcus Nispel, who did the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is a reinterpretation of certain elements of the slasher franchise, but is set in present day (it isn’t a throwback period piece like several recent horror remakes). Portions of Jason’s background are explored — just enough to make the audience feel slight twinges of sympathy. Interestingly enough, marijuana, as a blatant symbol of the repressed elements of modern American society, is featured heavily as a set-piece within the storyline. There’s fresh crop of illegal pot growing right in Jason’s backyard, which attracts a lot of spoiled yuppie/college types to his macabre corner of the woods. It is amusing here that the ultimate catatonic psychopath lives on a weed grove and then carves up numerous party animals trying to get high. Weed is for thieving nihilists who deserve to be killed!… or something (uh, also, horror fans are often potheads, right?).

21st century Hollywood cliches here are played so hard, they become humorously self-deprecating (the nerdy Asian kid who can’t get girls; the cool, aloof, athletic black guy; the bullying, blonde, spoiled, rich asshole). In that sense it’s treating the cliches of the genre as bare-bones as possible within the ultra-crisp, high-budget framing of this remake. It’s not impressive as cinema goes, but the archetypes of the genre are still entertaining when played correctly.

As I alluded to before, the character of Jason still makes me think of the increasing number of sexually frustrated, economically powerless males that exist in the world today, and how the powerful try to sweep them under the greater social rug instead of embracing their issues, thus socially alienating them absolutely. But in trying to cut off this “problem” that lazily, it comes back again and again, because it’s part-and-parcel to the irresponsible, over-privileged behaviors that spurned it in the first place. And like unresolved problems tend to do, Jason comes back to haunt later generations.

But none of this is new to the horror/slasher genre, and it isn’t very important to anyone watching this on a lazy evening. It’s gory, with some real nasty deaths, and the introduction piece is done in a tasteful manner, foreshadowing while also riding on the prior established monotony of the Friday movies. The settings have a touch of that grimy, greenish-brown “Hostel” vibe to it — which I could do without, but the pacing is tight, the film is crisp and the characters are hollow, shallow and pretty. It’s also pleasantly devoid of direct one-liners, though there are a lot of hilarious moments that don’t require heavy cynicism on the viewer’s behalf. The movie is not original by any stretch, but it has a very quiet sense of humor that actually makes the darker, lonelier portions of the movie resonate a little more, without devolving into Tarantino/Roth-style douchey camp.

And this one’s actually a product of the Michael Bay universe of magic and wonder! Now if he would only get around to making a Super Mario Bros. movie, I’d get off his megalomaniacal case.

***

 

@ Amazon
@ IMDb

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