Monday, February 16, 2009

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th just had the biggest gross for a slasher film opening…in history! That’s right, Jared’s movie is a record breaker. I, for one, think he had something to do with this feat, because, really, the hockey-masked killer has been going downhill ever since part eight, Jason Takes Manhattan. And although some fun was had with Freddy vs. Jason and Jason X (aka Jason in space) the second best thing about this new Friday the 13th is that the creators got back to the basics.

For those of you unfamiliar with the 1980 original, Jason wasn’t actually the killer. Mrs. Voorhees, deliciously played by the toothy Betsy Palmer, was taking her revenge on camp counselors because she felt their negligence was responsible for her son’s drowning death. In truth, Jason didn’t start killing until part deux and, believe it or not, he officially donned the red-marked hockey mask in part three. What this updated version of the franchise--called a “reboot” by producers--did best was condense the mythology of the first three films and bring this new starter up to wham-bam modern standards while still paying tribute to its history and diligent fans. In actuality, this is number TWELVE in the Voorhees filmography. However, storywise it’s starting a new chapter, and if the current box office boom is any indication, the series not only has fresh blood, but a long future of slasher success.

As reviews go, I’ll keep it simple. Friday the 13th 2009 follows every slasher film’s formula of sex, drugs, drinking, breasts and blood. The story opens with a quick black and white recap. It’s June 13, 1980 and Mama Voorhees is in a life or death battle with the lone surviving counselor at Camp Crystal Lake, but she loses her head (literally) and Jason (Derek Mears) is none too pleased. Twenty-some years later, five backpackers are hiking through the Crystal Lake area looking for a treasure trove of pot plants. Among the young and the restless is Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti), a woman who feels guilty for leaving her cancer stricken mother for a short weekend away with her boyfriend. Amidst laughter and lewdness the group is quickly and brutally dispatched by a killer sporting a sac mask. “And that’s just the intro” one moviegoer gasped.

Six weeks later, Clay Miller (our boy Jared) shows up in town looking shaggy and sexy, with some serious sideburns. He’s there to find his missing sister Whitney. They’ve been on the outs for years, but when she didn’t show up for their mom’s funeral he knew something was gravely wrong. Conscience-stricken for leaving his family when he was seventeen, Clay wants desperately to discover what happened to his kid sister, but a local tells him she’s most likely dead. People don’t disappear, they die. During his search, Clay crosses paths with a group of young adults who’ve arrived in Crystal Lake to party hardy. Rich bitch Travis (Travis Van Winkle) is showing off his daddy’s cabin and his “friends” are all too happy to lap up the luxury, but girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) is quickly seeing him for the douche he really is. One-by-one they all start dying--many of the deaths reminiscent of the first three films--and Jenna and Clay fight to survive. I’ll not detail the body count or spoil who lives and dies, but I will say this…biggest fright…Jared’s gorgeous face…wood chipper blades.

Now that I’ve left you with that haunting thought, let me just say I know critics are harshing on this reimagining, but I personally enjoyed it. I found it humorous, creative, scary and I especially liked that it gave homage to its predecessors. My only criticism is that the tension didn’t really build to squirm-in-your-seat intensity, opening withstanding, and they didn’t utilize the classic ki-ki-ki- ma-ma-ma soundtrack well enough.

Obviously, my favorite thing was Jared. In addition to being ridiculously easy on the eyes, his acting experience on Supernatural made him seem much more credible, he elevated the cast and he was a strong adversary for Jason. Had Jared been wimpy or whiny I would’ve taken serious issue, but the powers-that-be were smart enough to recognize and utilize his heroism. I happily look forward to watching him as the leading man in other films because I think the success of Friday the 13th will give him more opportunities.