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FRIDAY THE 13TH - THE PIT OF HORROR REVIEW -- [Posted 13th February 2009]


No point in beating around the bush here. All worries that this "re-boot" of the beloved Jason Voorhees cycle would repudiate the continuity of the old films can be laid to rest. Marcus Nispel's Friday The 13th can easily be slid--well, admittedly with some suspension of disbelief--alongside the old Paramount installments as just one of the crowd. And given that the six-years-ago box office bonanza Freddy Vs. Jason failed to usher in a new run of either character's series, if this will ring the machetes, then so be it.

With the opening credits showing quick flashbacks to Mrs. Voorhees' 1980 rampage and subsequent beheading, the story quickly shifts to present day, with a character named Whitney (Amanda Righetti) and four friends traipsing into the Crystal Lake area, looking for a rumored marijuana field. They quickly get more than they bargained for when a certain sack-headed slasher shows up and rains blood on their parade. At this point, perhaps fifteen minutes into the film, the title card Friday The 13th finally slam-cuts onto the screen.

Segue to six weeks later. Whitney's brother Clay (Jared Padalecki) arrives in Crystal Lake to search for his missing sister. He's got fliers bearing her likeness, several-days beard growth and inexhaustable determination. At a country store, he encounters a group of college kids who have arrived for a weekend of partying at a secluded but ritzy cabin on the lake. One of the entourage, the sweet-natured Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) is sympathetic to his plight and later ends up assisting him, much to the chagrin of Trent (Travis Van Winkle), her pompous rich-boy beau whose father owns the cabin. And as the day draws to a close and the sun sets, Jason (Derek Mears) sets about cleansing his woods from these trespassers. And this is not the lumbering zombie take that Kane Hodder and Ken Kirzinger chose. Mears humanizes Jason and makes him mean, lean and God-help-us fast. And he's big, to boot.

An interesting wrinkle to the mythology is that among the township of Crystal Lake, there are some who seem to know about Jason's presence in the area. "She ain't missing," dispassionately intones one local. "She's dead." Then there is the local police department, which amusingly includes one Officer Bracke, who've gone through the motions in their investigation of Whitney's and have closed the case. Add in the howdja-like-that existence of, in fact, a clandestine dope field near Jason's shack, and there's the impetus that apparently keeps outsiders a-coming. While it's never suggested that out Mr. V. actually harvests or smokes the stuff, he damn sure doesn't like people coming near it, and he has no problem using his machete to convey that sentiment.

Despite what's been written about it, the 2009 Friday The 13th is hardly a literal amalgam of the events of the first three original films. Rather, it's just one more cycle which can occur concurrently with what we've already seen. The Mrs. Voorhees backstory is handled in a way that takes nothing away from Betsy Palmer's memorable turn as the character, and as for Jason's hockey mask "coronation," this wouldn't be the first time he's gotten a replacement for Shelly's original from Part III. Especially considering the continuity lapses in the old films, there is no reason this one should be viewed like a red-headed, hockey-masked stepchild.

Being the first return to form for the series in two decades, in that it's actually set at Crystal Lake, this Friday sports a stylized and visually engaging look and tone. Nispel, who had previously helmed the successful Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, telegraphs his scenes well and elicits genuine tension. The main drawback is Steve Jablonsky's non-descript musical score. The forays into industrial-tinged stingers and percussive noise pieces betray the nuanced, swelling strings, the plaintive piano melodies and foreboding brass of Harry Manfredini's timeless original score. This is a major problem with the film, though it's hardly a death sentence. Another problem--or asset, depending on how you look at it--is the genuine unlikability of some of the hedonistic characters. At least the comic chemistry of Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta) and Chewie (Aaron Yoo) provides characters you know will probably get whacked, but will feel sorry for them when they do. Scripters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, whose pedestrian and embarassingly expository dialogue in Freddy Vs. Jason nearly tanked that film, have clearly grown in their craft, and the interpersonal exchanges here are considerably more effective and logic-driven.

Quibbles notwithstanding, Friday The 13th is a solid and entertaining campfire tale. With Paramount back in the fold and the ever-present series creator Sean S. Cunningham onboard again as executive producer, this is the Friday we've been waiting for. And word around the campfire is, there's already talks of a sequel. Let there be dancing in the nature trails.

'FRIDAY THE 13TH' A Film by MARCUS NISPEL
Starring JARED PADALECKI - AMANDA RIGHETTI - DANIELLE PANABAKER - TRAVIS VAN WINKLE - DEREK MEARS
Written by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift. Source Material by Victor Miller. Directed by Marcus Nispel.

[DISCUSS ON OUR FORUMS] [Review By Petch Lucas]
PITOFHORROR.com

FRIDAY THE 13TH

YEAR: 2009

STUDIO: PARAMOUNT/NEW LINE

COUNTRY USA

RUN TIME 97 mins (US)

CERT: USA, R

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