Why I Love the Friday the 13th Remake
Prepare for a bold horror statement. I'm not the biggest fan of the original Friday the 13th. I think, for the most part, its a film that relies so heavily on its kills that it forgets to build any real suspense or dread. Where Halloween lightly sketched the formula for a slasher movie a few years prior, Friday the 13th built its house. Its a movie that fully embraces (and in some ways creates) slasher tropes while also birthing, I admit, a few iconic moments of its own. Overall I felt that the film lacked the creative punch of A Nightmare on Elm Street or the atmosphere of Halloween, leaving it lacking.
For me, the Friday franchise is as fascinating for its sequels as it is for the original film and I think most of the sequels outclass the original in many ways. My favourite in the series, Part 4, is a genre mashup that keeps alive the "teens being killed by Jason" plot that fans of the original love while also introducing something new for the franchise at the time: characters we care about.
What made Halloween work was Laurie and our investment in her as the protagonist. Yeah, Michael and the mystique that surrounds him is great but ultimately, he's nothing without Laurie, something the new movie proved. Sans the mythology of Jason, the original film and the two sequels that followed gave us nothing but a parade of useless cannon fodder for Jason to kill in admittedly awesome ways. Part 4 gave us everything we'd come to expect as well as a new set of characters within which we could invest.
Tommy Jarvis and his sister Trish weren't just two more characters we wanted to watch die. Instead we wanted them to best Jason and win. Unlike most slasher films, the Friday films made Jason their hero. Yeah he kills folks but he's the one the audience roots for. Part 4 made Jason the villain again and gave us new characters to root for making something wholly unique within the franchise: a movie that was entertaining AND scary.
This brings me onto the 2009 remake directed by Marcus Nispel (of Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake infamy). The film was made during the late 00's remake boom which saw beloved franchised pushed through the modern meat grinder to mixed results (the My Bloody Valentine remake is still excellent).
Instead of sticking to the formula of the original film, the new crew made the bold choice to remix the first four Friday films to create something new. The end result was something that took the best elements from all four of the franchises first films and blended them together with a Jason so brutal he makes Rob Zombie's Michael Myers look like a kids character.
We open with a fantastically moody sequence that truncates that first films murder mystery plot into a simple cold open complete with a great Pamela decapitation and a horrified young Jason. We then segue into our first group of kids. For the most part they're different, likeable and unique for the franchise. They're suitably horny but they also have personality. Yeah, they still fit into the traditional stereotypes but at least there's something new on the table. They set up camp while on the hunt for a famed weed cornucopia and we're made to believe that these are our protagonists. A nerdy comic relief guy, a horny couple and a couple whose relationship is experiencing a rocky patch.
The dynamic between this opening batch of kids is more fully drawn than the relationships between any of the original cast so when the movie pulls its bait and switch it feels genuinely shocking. As we witness this first batch of teens being slaughtered the film establishes two things. Its not going to be skimping on the gore levels and this new, pre-masked Jason definitely isn't fucking around.
After a sequence where Jason acquires his trademark hockey mask, we're introduced to our second batch of kids. For the most part, this second batch of teens aren't as interesting or well drawn as the first group which is a shame considering how much of the movies run time they take up. One thing the second group does get right is its comedic relief. Both Chewie and Lawrence (played by Aaron Yoo and Arlen Escarpeta respectively) are hilarious, warm and incredibly likable and their untimely demises made me feel genuinely sad that I wouldn't be able to watch them on screen together any more.
In the later stages of the remake it pays homage to some great moments from Part 2 and 4 including a great scene where our final girl Whitney tries to trick Jason by pretending to be his Pamela. Its a great call back that the movie sets up by having her survive the films first batch of slaughtered teens due to her resemblance to Pamela making Jason's reason for buying her trick more believable. It borrows Part 4's missing sister plot as Supernatural's Jared Padalecki (doing his best Jared Padalecki) hunts for his Mrs. Voorhees lookalike sister, the aforementioned final girl, packing some great twists and surprises into its dense 97 minute runtime.
While its not as good as Part 4, the 2009 remake does what most remakes don't. It takes what was good about the original, gnarly kills and an interesting mythology, and changes it enough to make something new, Friday the 13th 2.0 if you will. Its not a perfect film by any stretch and it still relies too much on the 00's style of jump scare horror but the brutality of Jason combined with the genuine attempt to do something new makes this a remake worth revisiting.