Saturday, November 26, 2011

T&A, Potheads, Lots Of Drinking And Graphic Killings: Friday The 13th Still Sucks.

The Good: One or two lines. . . perhaps
The Bad: Predictable plot, Unlikable characters, Nothing superlative on the acting front, Unsurprising jumpy moments
The Basics: Two groups of idiotic young people are slaughtered by a guy who has nothing better to do in this poor reboot of the Friday The 13th films.

Until tonight, I had never seen a movie in the Friday The 13th franchise and the truth is, I had no real strong desire to. The concept held no interest to me; a psychopath wielding a machete goes around killing teens and twentysomethings . . . for no good reason. However, as part of my sense of professionalism as a reviewer (I loathe reviewers who only go to the films they think they will like instead of taking in anything, especially when they can get in free!), I felt compelled to go see the latest installment, Friday The 13th. With various franchises like James Bond, Batman and the Star Trek rebooting the old with new reimaginings, I suppose my best expectation for Friday The 13th was that it might smartly reconceive the tired premise and provide a few good moments of scare.

Alas, this is not to be had. Friday The 13th is predictably gory and filled with all the T&A I was once promised when I was subjected to the flick Wrong Turn (reviewed here!). Like Wrong Turn, Friday The 13th has actors I had some respect for (Oh, Nana Visitor!) and presents them doing pointless or stupid things until I found myself watching my watch far more than the screen. After all, what interest is there for a viewer in watching a bunch of spoiled, vacuous potheads get naked and slaughtered? This is just punishing the stupid as if they were the wicked. And Friday The 13th is not scary, it is merely slasher gory. For scary, the viewer would have had to been treated to intelligent protagonists making smart decisions and still getting slaughtered and an antagonist who has vulnerabilities that the protagonists are unable to exploit. In this, Jason is just stupidly invincible without explanation.

To be fair, this Friday The 13th is a complete reboot and for people like me who come to it without having seen or truly knowing anything about any of the previous installments, it does begin at the beginning.

On June 13, 1980, the last camp counselor at Camp Crystal Lake that Pamela Voorhees is able to track down is hunted by the deranged mother. She blames the camp counselors for her son, Jason, drowning and prepares to kill the last counselor. Decapitated with a machete by the counselor, she dies and her son - who apparently is very much alive - takes the machete, her head and her locket and heads into the woods. Thirty years later, five campers are hiking around Crystal Lake in search of a pot stash that will make them rich when they are systematically hunted down by the adult Jason. One of those college students was Whitney Miller.

Six weeks later, Clay Miller is searching for Whitney after the police in the Crystal Lake area have given up. Clay encounters an SUV packed with spoiled college students; four boys, three chicks ("chicks" because none are exactly magna cum laude students), of which only Jenna is sympathetic to Clay's search. As Clay hunts for his sister, the others get back to rich Trent's house where they separate for various activities. The carnage begins as Jason hunts two down while doing topless water-skiing. Clay and Jenna find themselves together tracking clues that lead Jason to their house and the slaughter begins in earnest.

Friday The 13th is possibly the archetypal in stupid horror films and after a few moments, it even gives up the pretense of being anything other than what it is. Clay defines his sister's character by revealing that their mother had cancer and Clay was sure something was seriously wrong when caretaker Whitney did not come back for her funeral. This is pretty much the only characterization any of the characters are given that is remotely positive. Outside that, the women (three of the five, actually) appear on screen arguably for the sole purpose of showing off their breasts and butts. For what it is worth - as a person who tends to appreciate the female form - there is something exceptionally disturbing about a society that would find any value in a film that makes a point of raising a corpse so her breasts are fully visible after (or while) there is a machete embedded in her skull. Seriously, what does it say about us as a people when we mix the horrific with even the supposedly (or passing) erotic. There is something sick about the mixing of the t&a and gore in Friday The 13th.

But to return to the characters, the malefolk are no better. Most are out for sex, but all (save the noble Clay!) are out for drugs and drinking copious amounts of beer and whatever else is around. They masturbate, drink and get high until the moment when they (and only they) are shocked by the appearance of Jason who puts them out of their misery. Who survives? Does anyone? Is this the beginning of a franchise? Is there anything after the final credits?

Well, I won't answer those first two questions, but the third is "yes, unfortunately" and the final question's answer is "No, they put the scene that any other movie would have put at the end of the credits before the final credits roll." I suspect they knew no one would want to stick around after the prior ninety-five minutes of stink (it felt more like several hours, the movie plodded on so badly!).

Again, to be fair to Friday The 13th, (panning this film is kind of like kicking a two-legged dog when it finally begins to get some balance) the movie does what it sets out to do, much the way the new James Bond films establishes how 007 comes by his vehicles and license to kill. As a result, the viewer sees the origin of the machete and the mask. Having never seen any other films in this franchise, I'm not sure if the locket was vital to the Jason mythos before now, but the origin of the locket is given as well.

In addition to having characters that are so utterly unlikable that the viewer ends up rooting for some of them to die horribly (actually, through much of the flick, we're just hoping for quick as: 1. there is nothing entertaining about torture, 2. we don't care about them anyway, and 3. the pacing in the movie is so off it feels like it is taking forever for them to get killed anyway), Friday The 13th is completely predictable in when and where Jason will appear. The viewer sees shots of feet, then all of a sudden the machete is coming up through the floorboards, no surprise. An idiot kid reaches into a wall claiming he has found a doll; even with the brief flash to what is in the hole anyone who can legally get into this R-rated film will know it is Jason's mother's head. This is not to say that there are no surprises; how a few of the characters are picked off is actually somewhat surprising, most notably one who suddenly has an arrow in his skull.

Largely, though, this is a predictable film and bloody with quite a high body count. The action is largely telegraphed and the acting consists mostly of college age people running and looking frantic. This is not a great collection of acting moments by any stretch of the imagination. In addition to the bevy of perky (and perky-breasted) blondes, there are the requisite Rich White Guy and two people of color (one black, one Asian!). But largely, the movie is made up of young people acting like idiotic young people. Ryan Hanson, for example, plays essentially the same character he did on the vastly superior Veronica Mars (reviewed here!). This is disappointing in that his character on that show was not terribly likable and he seems to be content to play the dumbest form of man on the planet.

Jared Padelecki, who I knew from his work on Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!) but genre fans would know from his role in Supernatural, plays Clay and he and costar Danielle Panabaker (Jenna) have no real sexual chemistry. The only inspired bit of acting is actually in the casting; Padelecki and Righetti (Whitney) have similar-enough facial details to realistically be siblings. None of these three does anything in their performance to enhance their characters in an interesting way from the bland personas they were written as. As a result, most of the acting is running and looking scared and they do that adequately. Early on one of the actors was smirking during some of his lines during supposedly tense moments and it was all right when his character departed.

Ultimately, Friday The 13th has no empathetic characters and it is so telegraphed that it is not scary, it is merely gross. And that is not entertaining. That statement applies to both my assertion that gross is not entertaining and this movie.

For other horror movie reviews, please check out:
28 Weeks Later


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© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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