Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears, Jonathan Sadowski, Julianna Guill, Ben Feldman, Arlen Escarpeta, Ryan Hansen, Willa Ford, Nick Mennell, America Olivo, Kyle Davis
Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Mark Wheaton, based on characters created by Victor Miller
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material
Running Time: 97
Date: 02/09/2009

Friday the 13th (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jason Bait

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new remake of Friday the 13th is certainly not a good movie by any rational, logical standards, but it delivers exactly what it promises. Like its 11 predecessors, it's a primal experience, all sex and jolts and violence and blood, and forget any kind of connecting thread. At some deeper, absurd level, it's all about things like fear of sex and castration anxiety; when the audience laughs at the sex and violence, this is no coincidence. It's a gut reaction to some very real, very physiological stuff. The minute you start to think about it rationally, such as writing a movie review, you discount everything you saw and felt.

As per the current horror trend, it wouldn't have made financial sense to release something called Friday the 13th Part XII, so the producers very typically decided on a remake. It starts with a flashback to the events of the original film, with Jason Voorhees' crazy mom killing off all the promiscuous campers, and then Jason taking up the mantle. In the present day, Jason is full grown and masked -- he switches from a canvas bag to the hockey mask in one audience-pleasing scene -- and continues on his rampage exactly like in all the sequels, though this time the teens don't know who he is. Hardly any of the movie's narrative concepts make any sense; the filmmakers have no idea where the backwoods locations are in relation to each other. Sometimes it's day or night and sometimes it's raining or not, almost randomly. Characters run in certain directions for no reason. (The director, Marcus Nispel, was responsible for one of the worst films of the decade so far, Pathfinder.)

Moreover, the teens here are pretty interchangeable. Lead actor Jared Padalecki was in the House of Wax remake, though I didn't remember him. Aaron Yoo as the goofy token Asian character is probably the most familiar face (21, Disturbia, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, etc.). Some of them are hotties and the others are comic relief. Some of them are jerks and we look forward to their comeuppance, and some of them are nice and we hope they survive to the end. All of the boys have "Brady Bunch" hair. As usual, the ones that have sex die. And thankfully, the filmmakers have ignored the current rule of making PG-13 horror films, and have gone straight for an R-rating, throwing in as much nudity -- gratuitous or otherwise -- as they could get away with. (There's even a topless waterskiing scene.)

My theory about these kinds of movies is that, though they're not exactly art, they serve a purpose; in a very safe, dull world, they allow people to exercise certain emotional muscles that don't get used on a regular basis: a little fear here, a little burst of adrenaline there, some laughter to cover it all up. John Carpetner's Halloween was one of the first to shape the idea into a movie and Sean S. Cunningham's original Friday the 13th (1980) was clearly a direct rip-off of that. But while Carpenter turned in something personal and artistic, Cunningham went straight for the jugular. The idea worked, and Jason has been haunting us ever since. This new entry doesn't re-invent anything, but if you ignore the producers and look at it as Friday the 13th Part XII, you'll get your money's worth.

DVD Details: New Line has released a "killer cut," which runs 106 minutes, or nine minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I only reviewed the theatrical cut, so I'm not sure of the difference, but the new cut emphasizes "nudity" in the rating, so... Otherwise, it contains a 12-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette and eight minutes of deleted scenes. It also comes with optional subtitles.

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