Friday The 13th

Director    Marcus Nispel
Starring    Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Willa Ford
Release    13 FEB (US) 13 FEB (UK)    Certificate 18
2 stars


14th February 2009

"Remakes? Pah!" Before you spit with indignation, remember it's kind of hard to besmirch the legacy of a slasher series that boasts ten awful sequels thus far. In fact, a Friday The 13th remake is one of the safest bets imaginable, and paired with a release date nobody's likely to forget - the day before Valentine's, no less - this is practically a licence to print money. But while it sticks religiously to the genre rules and generally gives the audience what they're lusting after, that's hardly a mark of quality; Friday The 13th 2009 is neither a black mark on Jason's copybook nor a particularly memorable entry in his canon.

Think of this as a requel - half-remake, half-sequel. The last-reel twist in the 1980 original is shoe-horned into the two-minute opening credits sequence, giving director Marcus Nispel - the man behind the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot - the excuse to use Jason Voorhees himself as the killer, a plot point which has stuck in the craw of loyal fans ever since the first sequel. Straight away we're in familiar territory, with a group of campers being terrorised in the woods near Camp Crystal Lake and after a neat false start, the tried and tested stalk 'n' stab routine begins in earnest.

Sadly, you may find yourself stifling the odd yawn as Jason cuts down the prerequisite promiscuous teens down to size - there's little new of value here. Sure, Nispel has a great eye for a scene and the movie is coated in a thick layer of polished grime, but it's style covering up a complete lack of substance. Limbs are hacked off, heads are split, asses are shaken, tits are flashed... it's all the director can do to keep you conscious. Death scenes might raise an eyebrow here and there - the simplest are the best - but there's nothing here you haven't seen before at least a dozen times.

Replace Jason's hockey mask with a Shatner face and you've got Rob Zombie's Halloween; switch out his machete with a hedge-trimmer and you've got Nispel's own Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Slick, stylish, but soulless. Jason has a ridiculous habit of sneaking up behind his prey when they least expect it, despite the fact he's a seven foot-tall brick shit-house dressed like it's October 31st. You'll never believe there's a man behind the mask, so you'll never really feel like the poor meatbags he's stalking have any chance of survival - it's a campaign of bloody, pointless violence.

Obviously there's no point in wasting time on characterisation as you're playing to an audience baying for blood - but that doesn't mean you can slot them so easily into the horror genre archetypes. Slut? Check. Douche? Check. Stoner? Check. Black guy? Check. Chiselled male lead with pecs quite literally to die for? Check. Our job as seat-fillers is to want these organ sacks to die, but that doesn't mean they should be such unpleasant company before they shuffle off this mortal coil.

But, as previously mentioned, Friday The 13th is essentially critic-proof - it's been cynically designed from the ground up as a fun but forgettable slasher flick with a one-week expiry date. There are too many filmmakers use the unflexible genre boundaries as an excuse to make inferior products; yes, this is everything you might expect from a Jason flick, but take a look at the franchise's history and ask yourself if that's actually a good thing.

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