It’s hard not to feel déj vu while watching the “Friday the 13th” remake. The characters, the plot twists, it all feels as though it’s been done before. Well, that because it has. Ten times.
The “Friday the 13th” remake plays like a Sports Center highlight reel: it takes all of the best moments from the previous films and puts them into one, easy to access place.
The story is nothing new: a group of friends head to a cabin (read: mansion) in the woods for a fun-filled weekend of boozing, illegal drug use and premarital intercourse.
Of course the kids pick the wrong woods to party in because these woods happen to be home to a murderous psychopath named Jason Voorhees, who is seeking to avenge the murder of his mother.
Each character fits nicely in genre stereotypes, as they move along through the film like trains following tracks.
In addition to the usual horror movie bad decisions, like walking _ of a mile into the woods to go the bathroom and deciding to investigate the abandoned summer camp where a whole bunch of people died, “Friday the 13th” also features decisions that are so stupid that they feel insulting to the audience.
At one point in the story a female character decides to spend literally an entire day wandering in the woods with a guy she has never met before. Apparently her parents never told her not to talk to strangers, let alone spend the entire day in the woods with them.
Later on in the film one character decides to cheat on his girlfriend. Never a great decision, but certainly nothing groundbreaking by horror film standards.
That is until his girlfriend shows up and knocks on the bedroom door in a panic, trying to warn him that there is a masked murderer running loose.
He proceeds to tell her to “get lost” and resumes cheating on her.
It’s impossible to imagine real people behaving in such a brain dead fashion.
Director Marcus Nispel was charged with a fairly easy assignment: improve on “Friday the 13th.” Despite the fact that the franchise has been romanticized somewhat over the years, none of the films are all that great or all that scary.
In fact, the series really doesn’t get going until part 6. By that time Jason is not only the hero of the films, but he is also a zombie.
Needless to say, Nispel didn’t need to hit a home run to top the old films.
Really, a well-placed bunt would have put him ahead of parts III, IV, IX, and X.
Nispel seemed like the perfect choice for the job too, as he is the man who bought us the surprisingly excellent “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake in 2003.
Unfortunately, he never finds his stride here. In addition to mostly piggybacking off of the old films, Nispel does find time to make a few changes, though none of these succeed.
He imports a lot of the grittiness, violence and imagery that worked so well in “Chainsaw,” but all of that feels alien in “Friday the 13th.”
It’s not to say that the old “Friday” films were family-friendly, but at times this one seems to have more in common with the “Hostel” movies.
The kills range from bloody to brutal for the sake of brutal. One of the first in the film falls into this second category.
It involves an unlucky female camper and a roaring camp fire.
Part of the fun of the old films was seeing what clever ways the filmmakers would come up with to dispatch of their attractive, young casts. Here, Nispel and company simply amp up the brutality for no reason other then to perhaps compete with the “Hostel” and “Saw” franchises.
That’s not to say that Nispel’s improvements are all bad, however.
Jason used to be the great white shark of the woods, mowing down campers like so many guppies. No longer.
In the new film he actually acts like a person. sort of. He sets traps, he runs after his victims, he even teleports. Wait, that last one is one of the bad parts.
Jason is everywhere in this movie. Maybe it’s a result of the MTV-style, fast-paced editing but Jason seems like he could give Usain Bolt a run for his money.
He offs some teenagers outside of his house and then seconds later can be seen offing teenagers on the other side of the lake.
At one point Jason ends up on top of a house, no explanation given, he’s just suddenly seen standing on the roof of a house.
How he got there is up to the audience to decide. It seems amazing that no one inside it heard the hulking, 7-foot tall, 350 pound guy climbing up the side of the house and then walking across the roof.
Then again these are the same characters that go off wandering in the woods with strangers, so maybe it actually makes perfect sense.
The cast of “Friday the 13th” is overall pretty weak, though there are some exceptions. Jared Padalecki, of TV’s “Supernatural,” does a good job, despite his one-dimensional character. Some of his natural charisma manages to shine through, making him one of the film’s bright spots.
Aaron Yoo and Arlen Escarpeta provide some sound comedic relief, though their parts are too small to make much of a difference.
“Friday the 13th” is a missed lay-up.
Of the recent crop of horror remakes this is the one that was most deserving, with the biggest built-in audience. Unfortunately bad writing, lazy execution, and an abundance of misplaced, overly graphic violence makes “Friday the 13th” the latest in a series of remake missteps, a trend that shows no sign of letting up.
Fans of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” beware! That remake is due out next year.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.