Thursday, February 19, 2009

His Name Was Jason

Director Marcus Nispel and producer Michael Bay, after remaking THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE to massive box-office returns, do the same with Sean Cunningham's 1980 summer-camp sleeper, presenting moviegoers with a "reimagined" version of FRIDAY THE 13TH. Unfortunately, it's clear they really have no idea how to make a thrilling movie or even what made the first eleven (!) FRIDAY THE 13TH movies so popular, since this admittedly slicker slasher is relatively free of suspense or fun. Nispel is a terrible director, and I'm not kidding when I say he's no better than the eighth best director to make a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. Seems like all the ingredients are here—hot girls, goofy dudes, spooky woods, plenty of sharp instruments—but the movies falls flat.

Writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift retain the basic premise of Cunningham's film, that of mongoloid Jason Voorhees, traumatized as a child after seeing his murderous mother's head chopped off by her next victim (this seminal moment is dispensed with as a throwaway during the opening credits), taking his gory revenge on anybody who enters his personal space, which is primarily attractive young people into drinking and screwing.

Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki of TV's SUPERNATURAL), who is described as an irresponsible, uncaring person, yet is clearly the most level-headed character in the film, arrives in the Crystal Lake area in search of his sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti of TV's THE MENTALIST), whose group of pot-seeking campers mysteriously disappeared some weeks before. What we already know is that Jason wasted them all, except for Whitney, who bears a resemblance to Mama Voorhees and has been taken prisoner to his secret lair for safekeeping. Clay's arrival coincides with that of another group of great-looking obnoxious students, who settle into rich kid Trent's (Travis Van Winkle) country house for a weekend of…um, yeah, drinking and screwing.

Nispel's clumsy handling of such low-rent material demonstrates his belief that he's above such grimy material. I'm questioning whether he has any affinity for horror movies, or is just bad at making them (or both). One potentially spectacular murder, involving a spike through a policeman's eye, is completely botched, as Nispel cuts away from the kill before its "punchline"—that the eye is protruding on the end of the long spike—properly registers with the audience. Daniel Pearl, who shot both versions of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE—films the action too dimly, perhaps in trying to create a "realistic" atmosphere that misses the point of what a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie is about. It's supposed to be a geek show, a rollercoaster ride that lets the audience celebrate Jason's mastery of murder and cheer along with him.

I know this film has earned some measure of respect from the mainstream media that none of the earlier films ever did, but most of the others, as low-rent as they are, are better made than this one. Also with Derek Mears as Jason, Daniella Panabaker (TV's SHARK), Willa Ford, Richard Burgi, Julianna Guill, Aaron Yoo, America Olivo, and Nana Visitor (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) as Mrs. Voorhees. Shame on composer Steve Jablonsky for virtually ignoring Harry Manfredini's classic score—another example of the filmmakers having no idea what made the more crudely accomplished original film such an unprecedented success.

1 comment:

Brewer Bertram said...

The title of your post is also a pretty decent and informative retrospective documentary recently released on DVD. I havent had the chanced to see the remake, I had hoped, having enjoyed, the "chainsaw" remake, it would be well done, but the negative reviews far exceed the positive.