Has it really been a decade? Times flies by fast. Or maybe it’s just knowing that this will be the first decade without a Friday the 13th movie since the original. Indeed, it’s been 10 years since Jason Voorhees slashed his away across a movie screen. And the last time we saw him it was the 2009 remake. After The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween got remakes, it was only a matter of time before Friday the 13th was rebooted for a new generation.
Ultimately, the results were mixed. After a huge opening box office weekend, the remake imploded and finished with just north of $65 million. While that still puts it as the second highest franchise earner, only behind Freddy vs Jason, it didn’t offer studio executives much encouragement. And while critics have never shown much love for the franchise, even series fans were underwhelmed. As a result, a teased sequel never happened. But is the remake that bad? After 10 years, does the failed reboot deserve a re-evaluation?
Friday the 13th Remake’s Prologue Promised Edgier Horror
For its first 20 minutes or so, the Friday the 13th remake is pure slasher gold. Director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) balances franchise staples with a new edge. While the opening flashback is expository-heavy, it nicely reminds audiences of the franchise’s mythology. The subsequent introduction to a new batch of ‘young and dumb’ teens (or pseudo-teens) indulges in the familiar. There’s gratuitous nudity, Amanda Righetti’s potential ‘Final Girl‘, and violent death scenes.
…it felt like the remake had paid tribute to its’80’s predecessors and was ready to stake out new territory.
It’s the death scenes in remake’s extended prologue that promised something new. Nispel delivers not one, but two, cleverly staged kills. Jason hiding under a floor while stabbing his machete upwards mixed genuine suspense with a brutal death. The sleeping bag hoisted over a campfire with a character roasting inside was edgier than what fans had generally watched in the series. Jason was less of a plodding zombie, and a more feral, vicious hunter. With Jason’s final lunge at the camera, followed by the film’s title card, it felt like the remake had paid tribute to its’80’s predecessors and was ready to stake out new territory.
Promise Gives Way To More of the Same
In spite of the prologue’s promise of something new, the Friday the 13th remake quickly settles into familiar beats. The butchered stock characters from the prologue are quickly replaced with … more stock characters. Thus, we get Danielle Panabaker as another potential ‘Final Girl’ and Willa Ford’s “Chelsea’ filling in as the promiscuous ‘bad girl’. Or maybe that’s Julianna Guill’s ‘Bree’. Then there’s the annoying ‘rich kid’ you can’t wait to see get killed. Aaron Yoo’s ‘Chewie’ is the ‘joker’ or ‘fool’.
It’s doesn’t always feel like a Friday the 13th movie.
In addition to the familiar cast of characters, Nispel’s remake closely follows the slasher movie template. To his credit, Nispel still delivers a few fun kills for fans. For instance, the waterboarding scene boasts both one shocking death followed by a truly inventive kill. Moreover, Derek Mears fills in very capably for Kane Hodder as ‘Jason’. But what’s missing are scares and the VHS retro-vibes that the original movies represented. No, most of the sequels weren’t necessarily scary. Nevertheless, the Friday the 13th remake almost feels perfunctory, like it’s going through the motions. While it’s a strange criticism to level at a movie, the remake just looks too ‘clean’ in terms of production values. It’s doesn’t always feel like a Friday the 13th movie.
A Greatest Hits Compilation of Parts I to IV
Where the remake really goes wrong is in its slavish devotion at rehashing prior sequels. In fact, this Friday the 13th is less a remake, and more a ‘dog’s breakfast’ of the first four movies in the series. A few touches in the remake, like Jason initially wearing a sack, are nice callbacks for franchise fans. Yet the screenwriters – all four of them – devote too much of the remake to fitting in elements of early series’ entries. The original movie is distilled into a flashback over the credits sequence. Moreover, significant chunks of Parts I and II, with a dash of The Final Chapter, get liberally spread over the movie’s 90-plus minutes. What we’re left with almost feels like a ‘great hits’ compilation instead of an original movie.
Friday the 13th Remake A Mediocre But Watchable Franchise Entry
Despite upgrading on its cast and production values, the Friday the 13th remake still feels like a mediocre franchise entry. That’s not to say that it’s a bad Friday the 13th movie, or even just a bad horror. Nispel’s remake is certainly a watchable horror movie. Over the last 10 years, I’ve watched this movie several times and it holds up to repeat viewings. It’s actually unfortunate that a planned sequel never happened. The 2009 Friday the 13th feels very much like a table-setter for future installments. A sequel would have been free to go in any possible number of directions. Take a look at fan-made Friday film, Never Hike Alone, for a hint of sequel directions. In the meantime, let’s hope we don’t have to wait 10 more years for a new Friday the 13th movie.