Over the past 30 years, Jason Voorhees has been drowned, macheted through the shoulder, axed in the head, macheted through the head, drowned again, drowned yet again, disintegrated by toxic waste, dragged into Hell and shot into space.
But can he survive being remade?
One could argue that 1980’s seminal slasher “Friday the 13th” has already been remade roughly 10 times, with each successive sequel, but that’s untrue and unfair. Six years after duking it out with razor-fingered child molester Freddy Krueger in “Freddy vs. Jason,” the hockey-masked homicide machine with a face only his mother could love is going camping again in Marcus Nispel’s franchise-rebooting “Friday the 13th.”
After an awful, extended prologue in which five obnoxious young people go hunting for a marijuana crop, only to find themselves cropped by Jason (Derek Mears, “The Hills Have Eyes II”), this “Friday” finds its nasty groove. One of the initial quintet of unfortunates was Whitney (Amanda Righetti, TV’s “The Mentalist”), and six weeks after the fact, her brother, Clay (Jared Padalecki, TV’s “Supernatural”), has come to Camp Crystal Lake to look for her.
His search coincides with a group of seven collegians arriving for a weekend of debauchery at the lakeside parental pad of rich douche bag Trent (Travis Van Winkle, “Meet the Spartans”), who treats Clay like dirt at the local general store. Karma, of course, is a bitch.
In this “Friday,” Jason doesn’t even wait for night to fall to begin his killing spree. It’s as if he’s antsy, and to prove it, he moves awfully fast, no longer settling for zombie-like shuffling. To fans, the good news is that R-rated behavior among the characters still results in them being on the business end of Jason’s machete. The rules remain the same: You toke, you poke, you choke.
The bad news is that Nispel shoots the forest follies in the same coat of grime that uglied up his nihilistic 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Proceedings are dark and muddy, made all the more difficult for the eyes to decipher with quick cuts and an overcaffeinated cameraman.
It makes one long for the sequels’ simplicity under the helm of no-name, for-hire directors. Those guys may not have had much in the way of style, but their workmanlike nature made for uncomplicated setups and shots, so you could actually see what was going on at all times.
Speaking of sequels (and expect this to have one), the screenplay by “Freddy vs. Jason” scribes Damian Shannon and Mark Swift essentially crams elements and events from the first four “Friday” films into this one, with Jason’s entire motive for murder being dispatched during the opening credits. They deserve credit for giving this one more of a plot than the Voorhees canon usually sports.
Scares come mostly from loud bursts of the soundtrack, but the “final” confrontation is intense, and overall, despite its drawbacks, “Friday the 13th” is fun. For those who can stomach the screwdriver through the larynx, that should be enough. —Rod Lott