Monday, February 16, 2009

"Today Is His Birthday" - Review of Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th
Release Date: February 13th, 2009 (how convenient!)
Directed by: Michael Bay, Andrew Form & Brad Fuller
Written by: Damian Shannon & Mark Swift

Warning: Spoilers are not necessarily out of the question!

Friday the 13th has come and gone – along with the rest of this four-day weekend – and the film itself has already raked in well over $40 million, which, according to online sources, is the biggest box-office push for any R-rated slasher flick – ever! Banking off some great promotion and, let’s not forget, a ridiculously-successfully movie legacy, news about a Friday the 13th remake piqued my attention from the get-go – and I’m not even a Jason die-hard. I’ve seen the first few films in the series, but dropped off after it got too absurd (Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan? c’mon now). I did, however, catch the last two go-rounds: Jason X, a jaw-droppingly miserable waste of time, and Freddy vs. Jason, a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Stepping in to catch the new Jason flick, I wasn’t sure which of these two feelings would run through me as I walked out of the theater. Thankfully, I felt the latter.

There’s been some confusion as to whether or not the 2009 Friday the 13th is a sequel or a remake. IMDBers and fanboys might disagree, but I view this film as a bit of the two. From a broad outlook, the ’09 film is a remake, not of the original 1980 film, but rather of the first four films. You could call it a revamped, condensed version of the first film all the way through Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. But then technically it could be considered a sequel of the original anyway, right? Who knows? All that matters is the film’s quality which, thankfully, is quite noteworthy.

Aesthetically, the film was well-shot in a glossy style reminiscent of, say, music videos; and the lighting wasn’t too dark - a pitfall of many a horror film flop. For the uninitiated, the beginning of the film did a decent job of recapping Jason’s origin; and for the fanatics, it offered a well-placed, albeit a tad-bit short, sequence for Pamela Voorhees’ mother to pronounce her role in the series. From this point forward, the film is cut into two portions: the first, only 20 minutes-long, detailing a group of twerpy teenagers’ quest for some Grade-A weed grown alongside Camp Crystal Lake. The second portion, which accounts for the bulk of the film, follows a new bunch of sex-craving, beer-drinking, pot-smoking kids as they lounge around in a vacation home. A connection is fused between the two portions of the film by the female lead Whitney Miller, played by the stunning Amanda Righetti (been a fan since The O.C.; that's right, I used to watch The O.C.).

As far as the writing is concerned, many of the film’s lines were laughable, some for all the wrong reasons. But I’m pretty lax with that kind of stuff, especially for cheesy slasher flicks of this nature. In terms of delivery, I felt that Arlen Escarpeta’s character – the token Black guy – recited his lines with jovial finesse, and Whitney’s surrogate bond with Jason – inadvertent, of course – was eerily reminiscent to the rapport that Ripley developed throughout the Alien series. I liked it.

Given that this is a revamped, rebooted version of a film which was released in 1980, it’s difficult to ignore the distinct influence(s) by contemporary horror films such as the high-grossing, torture-fest series we've grown to love and hate, Saw. Sharing Jigsaw’s knack for carefully planted traps, as well as holding people in captivity, Jason also demonstrates a moral compass of sorts, albeit twisted and brutally violent. Premarital-sex-having, beer-popping, pot-smokers – it’s machete time for you! This film’s got all that you’d expect: a token Black guy, a token Asian guy, a few d-bags who look like they popped out of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, and a handful – pun intended – of chicks with some great, tig ol’ bitties (Julianna Guill can git it).

“Ugh, it’s just another cheap knock-off of a classic. Another one of those horrible Hollywood abominations. They’re gonna kill the franchise!” If you walk into the theater with that mentality – which, admittedly, squeaked at me constantly before I purchased my tickets – you’re gonna nitpick your way through the film without appreciating any of its value. Realistically speaking, you could say this about any movie, but given the sheer number of purists and “hardcore fans” devoted to the Friday the 13th franchise, it’s worth highlighting. Again and again. Let’s remind ourselves once again that slasher flicks aren’t known for their elegant scripts or Oscar-winning cinematic integrity. They’re cheesy, bloody and entertaining thrill-rides created for the sole purpose of raking in the big money. No more no less.

I won’t blame you for opting to wait a bit so you can peep it on NetFlix (or downloading the TeleSync bootleg, cough, cough). It’s a recession, for crying out loud! But I wanted some cheap entertainment, and I got it. I’m a happy camper. It's a shame I can’t say the same for [SPOILER!!!!!!/] Grade: B/B-

P.S. Hip hoppers rejoice: Santogold’s “Shove It” makes the cut during the film – in the middle of a sex scene, no less – and Lyrics Born’s “I Like It, I Love It” gets some love as well!