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Entertainment / movies / February 22, 2009
By Rick Rucker

Movie Review: "<i>Friday the 13th</i>" Explained

If you haven’t seen a slasher film lately, Marcus Nisbett’s reboot of Friday the 13th feels paradoxically fresh. That’s probably because the genre is delivering a very specific product, so well-tested in eleven sequels that the only real challenge is not to ruin the formula. “I don’t know if it’s the tits or the murder,” my father once remarked, noticing I was renting a new Friday film every day. I’m still not sure, though I’m developing a hypothesis—but more on that later.

This is clearly the best Friday the 13th film yet. Though it lacks the cool gimmicks from previous installments (telekinetic girl, Manhattan, Freddy vs. Jason), more sequels will rectify that. You watch this movie, you want a sequel. It’s weird but palpable. You can feel in your gut why Friday the 13th is second only to James Bond in sheer sequel-numbers, though almost every individual Bond and Friday picture is middling-to-bad.

This just happens to be the Casino Royale of Friday the 13ths, on its own merits better than everything that came before. The filmmakers actually improve the formula, mainly through making the killed kids bearable. Freddy vs. Jason was nearly ruined by its unwatchable “protagonist” teens. Here they’re not self-aware like Scream, they’re simply fulfilling their basic functions, competently written and acted. One of the actresses was obviously cast because she had breasts that would make angels weep. Godspeed, Friday rebooters!

If Jason himself has changed, he’s newly Native American. He lives off the land, hunts with a bow and arrow, and hurls axes like that guy from Last of the Mohicans. He injures kids, sniper-style, to draw out their friends. He runs, collects bodies (you better use every last part of that teen, Jason!), sets traps and fashions crude alarm systems. To give you an idea of how genre-savvy the filmmakers are, somebody put an Indian “Calumet” brand logo in Jason’s cabin’s, harkening back to the “Indian Genocide”/”We are trespassing” motifs from The Shining. While it’s a stretch to liken trespassing on Jason’s land to the Native American genocide, it’s indisputable evidence of neurons firing, one of the rarest phenomena in America. When your production designer has read an obscure essay on The Shining from fifteen years ago, you’re in decent hands.

The previous movies made Jason an unstoppable zombie out of necessity, as he was inconveniently “killed” at the end of every film-eventually making “unstoppable zombie” Jason’s default designation, as there was simply nothing else to call a guy like that. Here Jason dies in such a way so as not to die, but it’ll be interesting-if ultimately irrelevant-to see how they handle his mortality. After twelve Friday films and a ton of other slasher movies, does Jason even need to “die?” Couldn’t a few teens just escape and consider themselves lucky? Are we gonna see Jason patching up that gaping wound in Part 2? Maybe you filmmakers should take the truism “The Audience Roots for Jason” a little more seriously and just have our hero kill ‘em all.

The kills in this installment are decent, if not terribly inventive. They’re machete-centric to a fault (although the one on the dock: nice). It was interesting to see Jason human again, and able to tussle with the kiddies. Considering Jason’s iconic nature and his new but not unwelcome characteristics, tweaking the kill-styles could be interesting. Who doesn’t want to see Jason go all Bourne Ultimatum on some little punk who does that mixed martial arts fighting? How about Jason slaughtering four camp counselors in four different ways in four seconds? “The Jason Bourne of teen-murder” is fresher than “unstoppable zombie.”

Why not give each teenager a characteristic (track star, chess grandmaster, karate, baseball, gun nut) and then have them face off with Jason? The track star could get into a running match, the chess player could have to engage Jason in a battle of wits, the karate guy could fight hand-to-hand, the baseball guy could get into a throwing match, or attack Jason with a bat, the gun nut could shoot and miss. That way it’d be like doubly tragic, in that “wasted potential of youth” way; no matter what your meager talents, you fail, you lose. That would further develop the appeal of these films to older audiences, who aren’t coming back to them again and again just out of nostalgia.

Conventional wisdom says slasher movies are mainly for teenagers, and the plots externalize adolescent anxieties. But conventional wisdom completely ignores the relationship between bright, promising adolescence and wretched adulthood, generally defined in modern Western societies as futilely attempting to prolong adolescence. (Like Doug Stanhope says, “I haven’t learned one thing in the last ten years that hasn’t just depressed me more.”)

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Add your own

  • 1. mechagodzilla  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Hmm. As a young person, does this mean I should not be watching this movie when I could be out doing drugs and having sex?

  • 2. Nightmarer  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I also hated the Dreamers despite Eva Green’s full frontal nudity.

    Now I understand why. Burn Paris Burn!

    What’s your take on Into The Wild?

  • 3. captain america  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    my western life pretty much rules. i’m from the denver area and get it on with the help of this: i am never lonely, never want to kill people. because i’m always a happy go lucky bottom! it must suck to be an exiled staffer. you guys all sound so straight & miserable. 🙁

  • 4. Homer Erotic  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    [Pinhead from Hellraiser]Amen.[/PFH]

  • 5. Jason  |  February 23rd, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Mechagodzilla –
    To answer your question: Yes.

  • 6. captain america  |  February 23rd, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    i would not have suspected nagging doubts as to your heterosexuality as one of the sources of your misery, but there it is.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  February 23rd, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    My sex and drugs fantasies often take place in mansions and luxury condos, and in warehouse raves, and even in cheap punk rocker apartments, but only rarely outdoors. Maybe that’s just me. I’m also perfectly comfortable in tight spaces like elevators and submarine bunks, and a bit uncomfortable in big open areas outdoors, which is unusual.

    Cap’n, you’ll eventually be 50 or 60, and few tops will want you. Sometime before then, you may decide you’ve had enough wild sex for a lifetime, or that it’s time to die. But as long as you live, art, knowledge, and time spent with good friends should all still hold their allure, and they are the traditional pastimes of old queens everywhere. Politics and charity too, if you can accept how hard they are and how much they can’t do.

    As for me, I learn things all the time that make me happier and less depressed. Mostly from history about artists and builders and rebels and fighters who tried to make the world better and managed to score some hits here and there. And about fascinating and glorious wonders in biology and astronomy and geology.

    Rucker’s right that teenage lust, and righteous wrath, and ignorant fearlessness all fade over time, and it’s a shame. Even food stops tasting as good, and hot tubs and massages and fine fabrics don’t feel as good. So you have to seize what you can while you can, and then let go.

    But I expect my love of knowledge, art, and the company of good friends to last as long as my life does, and that I’ll get to enjoy a lot of those things.

  • 8. aleke  |  February 24th, 2009 at 3:25 am

    If learning about the machinations of the world, its bloody history and darwinist stink, makes you happier, you are a moron. The pithy saying rings true: ignorance is bliss.

  • 9. Spanky  |  February 24th, 2009 at 6:23 am

    Such insight, aleke!

    Feeling blissful yourself, are you?

    If you believe what you wrote, you’re an ignorant douchebag with all the depth of an angry ‘cynical’ teen.

    If your chocolate box aphorism was true, the majority of the world (and 98% of the US) would be blissfully happy. They ain’t.

  • 10. captain america  |  February 24th, 2009 at 6:38 am

    actually, being 50 or 60 and being hot (and having a great sex life) are not mutually exclusive. can’t speak for the rest of you, but i’m planning on continuing to have loads of great sex when i hit the big five oh.

    in fact, i was going to suggest hitting the gym hard four or five times a week as one thing that might help the exile guys get over their misery and self pity. that, and ditching the drugs.

    but then i realized that i’d probably be in for more kneejerk, middle-school homophobia if i did that…

  • 11. Homer Erotic  |  February 24th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    captain america:

    I think the main thrust of Anonymous’s point was that there is more to life than sex. You may well know that, but one could be forgiven for thinking that you don’t based on your posts in this thread.

    It is also worth noting that not all of us have the privelege of being highly attractive in the manner most of society favors (yes, this would include yours truly). On that same note, even if you do take care of yourself and age well (and good on you for not being seduced by the cult of substance abuse in which too much of the gay community is trapped), you do lose something as you get older. So I really hope for your sake (not to mention the people who have to personally deal with you every working day) that your sense of self-worth is not solely on your exterior person.

  • 12. aleke  |  February 24th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    hahaha categorizing your little moral outrage along the predictable lines of ‘typical angree teeenaaager’??? hahah, maybe you’ll be spouting homophobic slurs against `the emos` too? or are you just going to go with the time-tested routine of silly ad hom ad hom parry ad hom parry ad hom stop-hit. boring, beigist sod. nosh off with your asymmetrical, dumb face before you really get all huffed up in a hurry.

    it’s horrible how the dregs most oppressed by life defend its cruelty with their last, rancid, boring breath

  • 13. rick  |  February 24th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I was just looking through a family scrapbook. It’s not true sex is all there is in life. There were other things once, like families and clans. They still have them places like the materially-impoverished third world. Some consolation. Families are totally screwed up too–people are disgusting morons everywhere–but at least you feel like a valid human being, emotionally.

    It’s just that adolescent sexuality is all there is for us. Extended families are dead.

  • 14. captain america  |  February 25th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    you’re deeply, deeply sad people, exile staffers. just as i said, this is what happens to straight men. i suppose there’s little the modern leftist cynic prizes more than his misery, and little he resents more then having someone point it out.

    i’d say, do something about it, but then you’re not gay like me. so what coulld you do?

    you are damn talented and entertaining writers though, for what it’s worth.

  • 15. captain america  |  February 25th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    i have some good things to say, really!! but it’s hard to do because the exile censor continues to alter my posts with correct references to my sexuality that heavily distract from the rather salient points i’m making. gosh! i’m so mad right now! but not THAT mad, if you know what i mean. wink wink. 😉

    wrestling with several dicks tied behind my back,

    captain america

  • 16. captain america  |  February 26th, 2009 at 6:06 am

    ha! got in the phrase “the” at least. now, anyone following my posts could probably tell that I’m (rather pathetically) obsessing. they could likely also infer that i’m struggling in my own private hell of barely repressed homosexuality, not to mention the helplessness and impotence common to the western liberal.

    of course, my delusions of grandeur have attained a level almost approaching that of my sad repression and general misery.

  • 17. captain america  |  December 5th, 2011 at 1:00 am

    i let bucky die

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