Friday the 13th” (2009) is a slick and competent remake directed by Marcus Nispel, who also did the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003) and “Conan the Barbarian” (2011) remakes. But it leaves a viewer questioning if it was artistically necessary. Of course, the reason for its existence is to cash in on the title some more. But while this is the saga’s second-highest-grossing film — behind 2003’s “Freddy vs. Jason,” the last of the 11-film original series – it ultimately marks the end of the series (for now). The 2010s came and went without a 13th “Friday” film.
Armed with a screenplay by the “Freddy vs. Jason” duo of Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, Nispel’s movie mixes homages with a slightly tweaked approach. First we learn that in 1980, in an alternate-universe path from the original film, Jason’s mom went on a killing spree at Camp Crystal Lake before she was killed by the lone counselor who survives. The question of “Who is this lone survivor?” hangs over the rest of the proceedings.
In the film’s present day, we get a 23-minute short film of five young-adult campers being picked off by Jason (Derek Mears) — his head wrapped in a cloth shroud, as per the early part of the original series. The mini-movie ends with Whitney (Amanda Righetti) in that situation where we cut away from Jason in mid-machete-swing, like Giles in Season 7 of “Buffy.” “Did she survive?” is Question No. 2.
Then it’s on to the main characters. I like how Whitney’s brother, Clay (Jared Padalecki), is searching the area for her, rather than being part of this next group of young partiers at a lakeside cabin. Clay and Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) are the presumptive Final Guy and Final Girl mainly because we associate them with likable people already, Padalecki from “Gilmore Girls” and “Supernatural,” and Panabaker from various Disney products.
Indeed, Clay and Jenna basically bond over being the two non-assholes. When we get to know Jenna’s boyfriend Trent (Travis Van Winkle) – who is a total Trent – it raises a huge plot hole of “What in the world did Jenna like about Trent?”
Otherwise we have a bunch of unlikable guys and gals who look more like models than average young people, plus a couple of stoners who fit the middle range on our give-a-crap level of whether they live or die. Ryan Hansen is among this bunch, basically reprising his role as Dick from “Veronica Mars,” but obviously without the layers a TV series makes room for.
Watched from a purely puerile perspective, there are attractive women to look at in this “Friday the 13th.” The location decoration is also appealing, as it’s neat to see a rundown camp 20 years after it closed, with cabins left to rot and boats to rust. In recent years, “Dead of Summer” and “American Horror Story: 1984” also riffed on returning to a Camp Crystal Lake equivalent decades later.
The movie has enough jump scares to be annoying at first, but ultimately Nispel wants to move things along, so basically whenever someone’s in a situation where we expect Jason will pop out of the shadows, he does. And there are plenty of shadows courtesy of cinematographer Daniel Pearl. Most of the movie takes place at night, but there’s no genuine tension.
Nispel’s team clearly wanted to make a sequel, as they leave at least one major unanswered question. We don’t feel anything for Jason since we don’t know his background beyond that brief backstory about his mom and the fact that he’s deformed and probably mentally challenged. By the end, I cared less about this timeline’s Jason than I did at the beginning. You might say that, unlike one of Jason’s victims, I wasn’t “hooked” by the story.
That said, you probably came in liking Padalecki and Panabaker, and they’ll get you through this “Friday the 13th” painlessly enough.
“Friday the 13th” reviews:
“Friday the 13th” (1980)
“Friday the 13th: Part 2” (1981)
“Friday the 13th: Part III” (1982)
“Jason X” (2002)
“Freddy vs. Jason” (2003)
“Friday the 13th” (2009)