I realize it's not easy to get anyone to feel sorry for movie critics. We work from home in our pajamas, see all the movies early and for free, and spend most of our free time bitching to you about what terrible taste you have in cinema. But keep in mind we often get stuck seeing movies we would never, ever see on our own-- and I don't just mean bad stuff like Confessions of a Shopaholic, or tawdry genre stuff like Underworld.
I mean stuff like Friday the 13th, a movie I hated, moment for moment, more than any I've seen this year. I scare easily, and have no fond childhood memories of Freddy or Jason or any supernatural killer targeting teens. I have no idea what appeal anyone can find in this tired formula, especially when it's used so poorly here, 13 years after Scream parodied it so brilliantly.
But the people in the theater with me screamed at all the right moments, and even got in a few unintended laughs, so Friday the 13th seems to have a few things going for it. Even so, there are enough needless musical cues, fake scares, and suspense-free moments for even gigantic horror wimps like me to see through it for the trash it is. Whether or not it's good, entertaining trash probably depends on how much you grew up fearing Jason's hockey mask, but fans looking for that same horror jolt they got from the first film 19 years ago will probably find themselves too old for this shit.
It's not much that the movie traffics gleefully in the genre cliches-- hot dumb teenagers trapped by a killer in the woods-- but that it doles it all out so haphazardly. The movie opens powerfully by recreating the end of the first movie, the final surviving camp counselor (attractive female, of course) chopping off Mrs. Vorhees' head. Then there's a second prologue that theoretically distills everything you're looking for into 10 minutes, but drags on even longer than you'd think possible for something so content-free. There's sex and drugs, but when it comes time for the gore, director Marcus Nispel has no idea how to pace things to create any kind of suspense. By the time they bite it you're ready, not so much for entertainment but just to finally move on to the real story.
When we do, we're "rewarded" with the most obnoxious group of teens this side of The Hills, a handful of bleached blond dudes complemented by some girls in tight T-shirts and the token minorities, an Asian guy (Aaron Yoo) and a black guy (Arlen Escarpeta) who obviously aren't allowed their own love interests. The gang has piled into the summer home belonging to Trent (Travis Van Winkle) and his parents, and we learn that we're supposed to hate Trent both because he's a jerk to his girlfriend and to kindly strangers, and because he's obsessed with keeping the house clean. Meanwhile his pretty, virginal girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) is sympathetic when they run into Clay (Jared Padalecki), a soulful guy looking for his missing sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who just happens to be one of the victims we saw Jason slice and dice at the beginning of the film.
Or did we? As soon as we meet Clay it's pretty obvious that Whitney is alive somewhere, just as it's obvious in which order the stupid teens will die, and how. Jason shows up to dispatch them all in various creative ways, including a truly surprising arrow to the head in one scene and later, a disappointingly generic tire-gauge-to-the-throat. Since this is a franchise reboot, rather than a sequel, Jason doesn't feel the pressure to top his previous antics, and the screenplay follows suit by failing, at every turn, to add anything new to the formula. The flawless production values and rock and roll songs are great, sure, but a reason to care about the characters or even a hint of wit could have gone a long way toward validating this movie's reason to exist.
But as I said at the beginning, I'm an automatic hater-- it takes a lot for me to enjoy any slasher movie, which I admit makes me a less-than-objective critic. Whatever you loved about the original movies, be it the blood and guts or the blatantly obvious sound cues that SOMETHING SCARY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!, you'll find it here in full force. But mostly Friday the 13th is proof that horror movies haven't progressed at all since Jason first emerged from Crystal Lake, and bothering with the new stuff is mostly going to be exercise in gruesome disappointment.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich