Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
March 2009

Blast from the too-recent past

Jason is back - again - and you'll never guess what he's up to this time. . . . What's that? 'Killing people,' you say? Well then I stand corrected. You did guess.

Friday the 13 th
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Marcus Nispel
Screenplay: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, based on characters created by Victor Miller
Starring: Derek Mears, Jared Padelecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Julianna Guill and Arlen Escarpeta
Rated R / 1 hour, 37 minutes
(out of four)

The craze came mostly before my time - the Unstoppable Killing Machines who became movie icons throughout the '80s and early '90s. I have no personal fidelity to Freddy, Jason or Michael. (Well, maybe Michael just a wee bit - but only because the original Halloween is a great movie no matter what generation you're a part of.)

But I'm allowed to be bothered by the fact that they're already re-making them - especially since they all had so many sequels that we've had more than enough. It was inevitable, though, that these horror-movie icons would be reborn as their respective studios pillage all their old properties at the expense of creating new ones. (Whatever will they do 20 years from now?)

I may not be the most thorough Jason or Freddy connoisseur, but I can see their modern incarnations for what they are as easily as anyone else - as bloodless exercises in shopworn territory. Their predecessors, by and large, knew there was a fun way to make a trashy movie. If their production values were lacking, well, that was part of the fun, wasn't it?

There was a gleeful absurdity about it all back then. The movies at least knew what they were.

These new ones, though - they haven't the sophistication to be cheesy. They only know how to be stupid, and they do so while trying as desperately as they can to be hip (i.e. all the frank, casual sex jokes in the dialogue that come across like it's written by a pathetic thirtysomething trying to emulate "how the kids talk these days").

Friday the 13th remake is yet another batch of droll carnage, with breasts thrown in for good measure. The enhanced technical capabilities compared to 29 years ago are certainly apparent, but they don't help.

Part of the problem is that we spend most of our time with a series of intensely contemptible characters (unintentionally so in all but one case) who walk out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog and into Camp Crystal Lake for 97 minutes of cheap scares that are embarrassingly telegraphed by director Marcus Nispel.

But as repulsive as every character is, it's impossible even to secretly enjoy their on-screen deaths because the proceedings are so flatly misogynistic and sadistic. The same was true of Rob Zombie's awful Halloween remake and Nispel's own The Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot. Hey, it's always been there under the surface, but rarely has it been this unpleasant and, frankly, boring.

Nothing in Friday the 13th is ever menacing - no shot, no chase, no death. And if it's not going to be menacing, the least it could do is be funny, but it's not that, either. (Well, except for a couple of kills on the lake - those are funny, but they strike a different chord than pretty much every other scene in the movie.)

What we're left with is monotonous pseudo-terror that, even with its brisk running time, feels interminably long. We know Jason cannot die and that nearly everyone else will - the only possible salvation is if it at least passes the time well. It does not. Note to self: Avoid all nine inevitable sequels.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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