Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #103
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: February 13, 2009
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $91,379,051
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Marcus Nispel
Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Screenplay: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Story: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Mark Wheaton
Based on Characters by Victor Miller
Special Effects: Scott Stoddard, Chris Gallaher
Visual Effects: Des Carey, Mitchell S. Drain, Nathan McGuiness
Cinematography: Daniel Pearl
Score: Steve Jablonsky
Editing: Ken Blackwell
Studios: Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes
Distributors: New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures
Stars: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Jonathan Sadowski, Julianna Guill, Ben Feldman, Arlen Escarpeta, Ryan Hansen, Willa Ford, Nick Mennell, America Olivo, Kyle Davis, Richard Burgi, Nana Visitor, Stephanie Rhodes, Caleb Guss and Derek Mears as Jason Voorhees
Suggested Audio Candy
Steve Jablonsky “Friday the 13th Soundtrack Suite”
I miss eighties slashers. Perhaps I am culpable of looking at them through rose-tinted spectacles, but I’ve never been more content during my four decade filmic pilgrimage than when America churned one of these babies out on pretty much a bi-weekly basis. Naturally, the quality fluctuated wildly from one to the next and there are few genres so littered with duds than slasher. However, while a fair share sank without trace, the cream came rising to the top and one such frothy delight was Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday The 13th. While claims that it started it all are somewhat inaccurate, there can be no denying that it opened the doors for these small independent movies to gain a slice of the most lucrative pie of all. Other movies may have done it better but none can claim to have been in precisely the right place at precisely the right time. $60m in box-office receipts attests to this and, for a film that cost less than 1% of that to produce, that’s not bad going.
Suddenly the dollar signs were flashing in the eyes of every independent horror filmmaker in the United States and, while they all attempted to get in while the going was good, Paramount Pictures held the monopoly and weren’t about to let the grass grow under their feet. A year later, the inevitable sequel arrived, and performed well enough theatrically to keep the fires burning. Next up was a crack at 3D and, while standards were starting to slip a little, this shameless gimmick paid off once again. A new Friday The 13th movie was becoming an annual event and, while takings were on a steady downward slide, profit was still a given. The initial goal was to reach thirteen and it appeared on course to meet these projections until it all started turning dreadfully awry and Jason Voorhees was no longer considered such a safe pair of hands.
One of the worst atrocities a long-running series can commit is to become mediocre. In some ways, it is preferable for an entry to suck ass than do the bare minimum to keep the ship afloat but that is exactly what happened by the time Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood strolled onto the scene with its hands in its pockets. Granted, the censors tore the heart right out of John Carl Buechler’s film and this robbed it of much of its game. However, it was clear that the man behind the mask was entering ominous territory and it was only about to get worse for everyone’s favorite momma’s boy. Into the canal of banal he slid and, by the time Jason decided to take Manhattan, we were enjoying his exploits for all the wrong reasons. With the franchise now on a one-way path to hell, that was precisely his next destination. James Isaac’s Jason X completed the rout and, while not without merit, space was to be the final frontier and all that was left for the hulking juggernaut was Tuesday night poker with the Critters.
After the fanboys were granted their wish with the long-hinted match up between Voorhees and fellow waster Freddy Krueger, there appeared only one direction the weary series could take and that was back to the drawing board. This meant providing Jason with a blank canvas and returning him to his once fertile stomping ground which is where he really should have remained if truth be known. The late noughties were providing a centennial lifeline to the likes of Leatherface, Harry Warden and even the dream master himself and it was time for Marcus Nispel (who had already taken us back to Texas) to add a fresh lick of paint to proceedings. However, despite the fact that cash registers were ringing in unison, teaching an old dog new tricks was proving decidedly tricky. Of all the glut of reboots, only Phillip Lussier’s My Bloody Valentine 3D seemed to take the correct approach, while insipid fare such as Prom Night and When a Stranger Calls insulted our intelligence and compromised any hope of a slasher resurgence. All eyes were on Nispel to up his game this time.
For Jason Voorhees, it should be the most effortless transition right? I mean, given the gift of hindsight, Nispel should be able to pinpoint the exact spot where the wheels came off the wagon and avoid such pitfalls. Tom McLoughlin’s Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives may not have been perfect but it was unmistakably the last truly notable offering so his job should be made a darn sight easier. Paramount and New Line Cinema revisiting their one of their biggest money spinners? Count me in. I harbored my doubts quietly but, when Friday The 13th landed in 2009, I queued in line with all the other hopefuls, expectant of a rock-solid entry at the very least. So when I vacated the auditorium and shuffled off forlornly with any vague hopes in tatters, it rankled with me particularly heftily. Was it dreadful? Not at all, its crimes were even more heinous. Nispel’s film committed the cardinal sin of settling for unanimous mediocrity and that sickened me to my very core.
Of course, expectation is a bitch on heat and I owed Friday The 13th the professional courtesy of revisitation at a later point as it’s all too easy forming one’s judgement against former glories and missing tricks as a result. The problem was that My Bloody Valentine 3D arrived hot on its heels and I left that screening with a shit-eating grin. I trust my gut and it is seldom proved wrong so this would need to be some turnaround in fortunes to undo the bitterness it provoked previously. It doesn’t help when you know you can back up every last one of your gripes but there is still a faint glimmer of hope when you reenter the fray on a film such as this. Steve Miner’s Day of The Dead is the perfect example of the point I am making. While it never should have had the gall to show its face and claim to be a remake, taken on its own merits, there is a vague dash of pleasure to be had, albeit guilty as sin. I’d had a lot of fun with Jason over the years (progressively laced with infuriation admittedly) so I owed him this one last stab, if only to stop his mother from coming after me.
The first fifteen minutes were by far my standout first time around as they did a fair job of bringing us up to speed and played out like their own mini Friday. Pleasingly, nothing changed on my subsequent view as we can be mistaken for expecting these affable pot-heads to be our travel companions for the foreseeable before being put to task in record time. It’s an ingenious opening as a healthy dose of carnage cannot help but get the wheels in motion and Nispel pulls this trick from his sleeve like a man desperate to appease the undernourished Friday masses. Alas, said sleeve is bereft of any further tricks to the same high standard and wheels in another fairly uninspired gaggle of geese soon after, each numbered up and ready for the slaying.
Enter Trent (Travis Van Winkle), his girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) and tag along buddies Nolan (Ryan Hansen), Chelsea (Willa Ford), Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta), Bree (Julianna Guill) and Chewie (Aaron Yoo), as they arrive in Crystal Lake for the customary pot-smoking, promiscuous sex, and skinny dipping shenanigans. They are soon joined by Clay (Jared Padalecki), who is searching for his sister (one of our entrée who Jason has sine taken prisoner disconcertingly) and our pawns are firmly in place. Meanwhile, Jason (Derek Mears) has already shown that he is looking to make up for lost time and wastes precious little time in making his former introduction. Within minutes, the numbers are being trimmed, and this time it does pose a problem as we still have another hour to fill and no more teens waiting in the wings this time.
Alas, little has changed on second inspection. It just feels a little too generic and not looking to stray from its blinkered trajectory. Nispel’s film seems disinterested in excelling and happy to settle for uninspiring by-the-numbers fare to my infinite dismay. I do feel duty bound to mention that Friday The 13th was actually received with relative warmth by critics but that only leads me to the conclusion that they hadn’t shared the magnificent memories that I had with Jason over the years. The reasonably nondescript bunch of bozos seem just a little too primed to meet their makers and line up like military cadets in precisely the order forecast. To add piss to the tap water, when the time comes for Voorhees to grant them their sole wish, said reprisals are relatively so-so.
To his credit, Nispel does try to inject a little oomph into proceedings by providing our titan with a warren of sorts, decked out with subversive passageways and crawlspaces. This is where Jason has been hiding out for all these years and he is shown as something of a territorial survivalist akin to John Rambo (which is who Mears bases his portrayal upon). The problem is that we care not for where this hulking beast rests his head after a hard night on the prowl and aren’t looking to fathom him out. That said, the subterranean compound is utilized on numerous occasions throughout, and to reasonable effect, but still it isn’t sufficient to banish that overriding feeling of indifference.
Positives come in the form of Padalecki (Supernatural, House of Wax) and Wannabaker (The Crazies, The Ward) who do their level best with the material provided and have to share the screen with either odious or one dimensional characters (no fault of the actors, just lazy writing). Presumably the intention, once again, is to root for Voorhees like the good old days but these irritants aren’t dispatched with anywhere near the resourcefulness to make it work.
Another plus is Mears who inhabits Jason’s mossy glad rags with all the purpose and swagger required. Meanwhile, Daniel Pearl’s photography is never culpable of squandering atmosphere and the score by Steve Jablonsky is both respectful and dripping with ominous feeling. It must also be noted that Nispel’s direction cannot be held in contempt.
My true beef is with a screenplay that provides little outside of the parameters and not nearly enough within them either. It sits between a rock and a hard place and this deserved to be a truly monumental comeback. Make no odds, I may have been somewhat scathing here, but this is a decent and workmanlike effort that doesn’t outstay its welcome so much as not make the most of its party. Nispel’s film did tidy business at the box-office and almost $100m in receipts is a pretty decent return on an admittedly safe investment by anyone’s standards. However, if Camp Crystal Lake sees yet another return in the coming years, I would expect a little more innovation next time around. I can’t believe I’m actually saying that about a film bearing the Friday The 13th moniker but there I just did. Perhaps innovation isn’t the word I’m searching for here. I do believe grasp says it all.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: To be fair, Jason gets his rocks off many times throughout, and the practical effects by Scott Stoddard and team bring no shame whatsoever to the game. It’s the distinct lack of imagination that ruffles my nest, especially given that the franchise never struggled finding fresh and creative ways to abolish co-eds previously. Some of the dispatches aren’t at all bad, but a little more ingenuity wouldn’t have gone amiss; this old dog is crying out for some new tricks. It almost feels as though the cutting room may have robbed us of some additional splatter. Now are you ready for a massive dose of kudos to end us on a positive? The tops are off Grueheads and I counted six rather dimensional titties which is half a dirty dozen in my estimations. You see, sometimes you really do have to play by the rules. Thank God it’s Friday.
Second Cut By Silent Shadow
Some good points made Mr Quill. As you know I’m a huge Friday fan. The remake had a great opening. Sitting in the cinema watching Jason RUN round killing stereotyped teens was a delight. Took me right back to the 80’s. As for the rest of the film, I was more than satisfied. I feel maybe you were a little harsh on the movie. Overall I enjoyed from start to finish. My main problem was with the summer-house. It was so out-of-place in the woods. It did not fit the setting. Crystal Lake is an iconic landmark in the horror world just like Haddonfield and Elm Street. The clean newly built home had no place in the film. When we visit Crystal Lake we want campers and cabins. Other than that the 90-odd minutes flowed with ease. Fair to say Mr Quill, that the director took no chances. This was a safe effort. I love remakes. I think most if not all are more than suitable for the time. But the best thing about them is that no matter if you like them or not, they shine light on the originals and let’s face it. It’s hard to out stab the blue print.
Silent Shadow’s Judgement: 7/10
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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