Status: In theaters (opened 2/13/09)
Directed By: Marcus Nispel
Written By: Damian Shannon & Mark Swift
Cinematographer: Daniel Pearl
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Derek Mears
My first college roommate and I shared a fantasy of hosting a Siskel & Ebert-style movie review show, but on HBO or Showtime, where we’d be free to speak our minds on current releases in an uncensored fashion. The highlight of our shared imaginings of this dream was always the thought that perhaps some day we could become known for vulgar catchphrases that we’d repeatedly reuse in our reviews, with the ultimate goal being to have them incorporated into the movies’ marketing. We never grew tired of joking about video box covers quoting our exclamation-riddled take on the films of the day: The Big Lebowski (“You’ll never see this shit coming!”), Pi (“An intriguing indie mindfuck!”), Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho (“Pure balls”), or Shakespeare in Love (“Could probably get you laid!”). It wasn’t exactly a heady aspiration, but it never ceased to keep us amused with ourselves as we sat around our dorm room watching laserdiscs that we’d checked out from the campus library. The persistent punchline, though, was our imagined trademark phrase, our answer to the “Two Thumbs Up!™” of our inspiration: “Sucked Except For the Titties!™”
If ever there was a movie deserving of this would-be one-line review, it’s this year’s “reboot” of Friday the 13th. It’s a whole lot of generic with a whole lot of gratuitous nudity, but the latter is very welcome, especially in light of the former. I’ve not read the screenplay, of course, but I’m pretty sure it must make frequent use of the words “or something.” As in, “Jason Voorhees is mad that he drowned and his mom got beheaded, or something.” “There’s some douchebag college-aged kids who go camping in the woods to, um, find some weed that’s planted there or something.” “She gets naked to… go waterskiing or something.” “Jason kills everybody using, like, a machete or something.” It’s not a film, though, that’s meant to tell a story, or depict realistic characters, or do much of anything other than evoke an emotional response from its audience. At this, it is mildly successful, though its effectiveness wears off rather quickly as a result of extreme repetition. We learn early on that if there’s an empty space behind somebody, that space will more likely than not be occupied by Jason after return from a cutaway.
After a brief introductory scene recapping the thinnest amount of plot (not that it matters) showing how Jason’s mother was killed in the original film, there’s a prologue sequence that I actually think could work well on its own as a short film—although I found a clumsy and totally out of place attempt at a Blue Velvet reference to be pretty annoying. We’re then introduced to a bevy of completely stereotypical characters: a couple of frat boys, a few bimbos, a goofy Asian guy, a stoner black dude. They’re all headed to a lake house that is, of course, close to Jason’s turf, and they’re all going to get killed in surprisingly uninteresting fashion. There’s also Clay (Jared Padalecki), the sensitive moody guy with the wavy permed hair who drives a motorcycle and obviously won’t get killed. He’s looking for his sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who we saw in the prologue (though we’re not sure what happened to her).
The lake house belongs to the father of the alpha frat boy, Trent (Travis Van Winkle). Apparently on all of the previous occasions when they paid visits to it, Jason was in a more mellow mood, because his presence this time comes as a complete shock. (Does Jason sleep? Does he eat? Does he go to the bathroom? Is he alive, or undead, or what? Who knows? More importantly, who cares?) These kids live up to the most tried-and-true of horror movie stereotypes by constantly walking straight into situations where they’ll find themselves alone with a dark empty space behind them for Jason to show up in and start hacking away. As a boisterous fellow audience member shouted out at one point during the showing I attended, while watching one of the girls head upstairs to try to find a place to hide from the murderous invincible guy in the mask, “She ain’t even got no common sense!”
Indeed, every typical horror movie aphorism is alive and well and exhibited here. As previously intimated, this includes the one where attractive women enjoy getting naked for no apparent reason before becoming the next victim. There’s even a gratuitous sex scene that borders on softcore porn—and, of course, immediately precedes a bloodbath. If you’re the type to be startled easily, and get a kick out of the emotional rush of it, there’s probably something here to enjoy. Otherwise, you’re more likely to find yourself just waiting for the next set of tits to pop out, as I did, and wondering if there would actually be the possibility of this film living up to one more horror cliche: the never-ending stream of sequels.