Monday, October 10, 2011

Friday the 13th (2009)

Three quick things about me and the original Friday the 13th series:

1) I definitely watched them all by the time I was thirteen (which meant parts one through eight at the time) as I watched them all as part of a Friday the 13th Marathon I enjoyed with my childhood friends Jason and Ryan.

2) I am also very sure I did not initially watch them in order, as my earliest memories with the series involve a young Corey Feldman in part 4 (who was amazing by the way) as Tommy Jarvis who defeats Jason with some pretty amazing psychological reasoning (which is pretty impressive, considering Jason was basically a zombie).

3) The series was basically about an unstoppable killer stalking teens who hung around a haunted campground and got undressed a lot (hey! I had simple tastes as a young man).

Honestly, out of all of the horror films of my childhood, these are the weakest, and although I did spend a lot of time playing the awful 8-Bit Nintendo game, I can’t really recommend the series to anyone with any better movies to watch. As a kid they were a rite of passage, but honestly, there are better, scarier, and more thought-provoking films you could spend your time with these days.

In 2009 I saw my first trailer for the new reimagining of Friday the 13th, and honestly, the trailer looked pretty good – not good enough to go to the theatres and see the film, but I will admit that it was this film that got me thinking about doing a close look at the phenomenon of reimagining in horror films.

So let’s get into the reimagining. The key differences? Well, there are two: First of all, unlike any of the other films I’ve looked at, this movie actually mushes the first three original films together into one film, Secondly, it attempts to show Jason (the killer) as a deranged mountain man, who has tunnels criss-crossing the old camp, which explain how he can get everywhere so quickly.The movie has the longest opening I’ve ever seen before the title card (27 minutes), and follows two stories, one about a young man (Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki) searching for his missing sister, and the other about a group of kids coming to hang out a summer cabin owned by a rich friend’s family. The rich jerk, Trent Demarco (and yes, in the strangest crossover I’ve ever come across this is supposed to be the same jerk character who menaced the lead in Transformers) brings along a bunch of friends (victims) for the fun including his girlfriend Jenna (played nicely by Danielle Panabaker) who is clearly set up as the film’s Final Girl.

Okay, although there is only a little bit, I’m going to have to get a little educational in my review of the reimaging of Friday the 13th.

Learning with Bookmonkey!

Lesson 1 – The Final Girl

In horror films, specifically slasher films, one of the key characters is known as The Final Girl. This girl tends to be the main character, a little tomboyish (to the point of being a bit of an outcast) and usually stays away from drugs, drink and (usually) the fellows. Her job throughout the film is to notice the strange and creepy things the killer leaves behind, get chased by the killer and discover her friend's bodies in the final act, and finally grab some sort of (usually phallic) weapon and defeat the killer. Examples include Laurie Strode inHalloween, Nancy Thompson is A Nightmare on Elm Street and Sidney Prescott in Scream. The term was coined by Carol J. Clover in her wonderful book Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton University Press, 1992).

Now in any sane production of a horror film, the young man and the final girl will work together (hopefully) rescue the missing sister and escape the horrible killer after he has massacred all of the rich guys friends. This movie however, goes in a slightly different direction – yes all of the friends are killed, as is a local (which is strange as I assume the local populace only puts up with Jason as he limits his killing to outsiders), but after the young man finds his sister, the final girl is killed in an incredibly anti-climactic way.

In my own view, horror films – and especially the slasher sub-genre - have an incredibly simple structure, allowing the audience to get all of its thrills and chills, and playing by the rules. In this film, the girl clearly set up as the protagonist (she stays away from drugs, doesn’t sleep with her jerky boyfriend, and believes the young man about his missing sister when no one else will) is killed out of hand and for no good reason – just a quick shock. Sorry movie, but you have to respect the genre you exist in if you want the audience to respect you.

This movie was pretty awful – it wasn’t the worst of these reimaginings, and even though I’m not a big fan (or even a mild fan) of the source material, I do feel that the originals were really treated shabbily here. The film does stand as a good example of how not to make a slasher film though, so I guess it has some mild educational value.

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