This time out, the team behind the latest installment in the venerable Friday the 13th horror franchise has decided to reboot the series while still respecting some of the built-up mythology of its iconic villain, the unspeaking, marauding killer Jason Voorhees. In previous installments, he has worn a gunnysack and a hockey mask, killed many fornicating young people, not run and been sent to outer space, hell and/or New York City. Having drawn the series into something of a narrative corner, it seems sensible to start over.
Directed by Marcus Nispel (responsible for the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), this new Friday the 13th is something of a bouillabaisse of story points and killing concepts from the first handful of installments in the series - a hatchet to the head here, a mother issue there, a poked-out eyeball for good measure. Spoiler alert: Jason runs.
After opening with a prelude that re-enacts the climax of the first film, a group of horny kids looks for a secret stash of weed near the legendary Camp Crystal Lake. Some weeks after Jason does his thing, the brother of one of the campers comes looking for his sister. He stumbles first across a gruesome-looking wood chipper (guaranteed to reappear later) and then upon a group of college kids partying for the weekend at an upscale lake house. Jason ensues. The film is not "torture porn," but it is unnecessarily grim. Nispel grasped the slaughterhouse despair that was at the core of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but he entirely misses the goofball giddiness that was always gilding the edges of the best stalker/slasher films.
Those original Friday the 13th films were practically prototype American Apparel ads for their celebration of teenage lust, lowered inhibitions and a playfully sleazy fashion sense. The kids in Nispel's updated 13th are mostly distasteful cretins, with a disturbingly clinical attitude toward sex. Even a topless speedboat scene misses the actual sun-kissed carefree spirit it aims to capture.
Not fun, more loud than scary, not even all that gory, this new Friday the 13th has Jason all right, but otherwise misses nearly everything that made the original films work.
Friday the 13th * (1 STAR)
(Warner Bros.) Starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Willa Ford. Directed by Marcus Nispel. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material. Time 95 minutes.