While Hollywood as a whole is known for an abundance of remakes, the horror genre stands out as having an incredibly high amount of popular films remade. Remakes amongst horror fans are a controversial topic, and many horror fans are purists and don’t want to see films they love re-envisioned. Then there are other horror fans who do encourage a new creative outlook on material they’ve known for years because they simply want new horror to enjoy. While some horror remakes are universally loved (think 2004’s Dawn of the Dead), most have mixed reviews within the horror community. When I first heard that Friday the 13th was being remade, I was less than enthusiastic. When I first saw the remake, I was less than impressed. To celebrate the film’s 10-year anniversary, I agreed to take on the task of writing about it, which meant that I needed to watch it again and see if I could be more objective than I was back in 2009. What I found this time around was that while I enjoyed the film more now than I did 10 years ago, it certainly wasn’t without its flaws. Let’s get into it…
The film made a creative choice to play with nostalgia, taking slasher genre tropes to a high level, while also trying not to be a carbon copy of any previous film in the franchise. The decision to essentially make this remake a collective reimagining of Parts 1-4 from the original series was a bold choice. It instantly separated itself from other remakes with this choice and gave the film the ability to play with nostalgia more. We get to see a modern version of the ending of the original Friday the 13th as the opening scene of the film—choosing to have a young Jason witness the death of his mother this time around, and almost telepathically receive a request for revenge from his dying mother. Besides being able to hear his mother’s dying wish, only Jason’s deformed face—which we would briefly see later in the film—alluded to anything supernatural with the character. Other than that, Jason was a revenge-seeking killer with serious Mommy issues in the woods (another interesting creative choice). In other callbacks to previous films, we got to see Jason’s shrine to his mother (taken from Part 2), the discovery of the hockey mask (taken from Part 3), and the character of Clay seemed to be a callback to the character of Rob from Part 4, with Rob being the brother of one of Jason’s victims and Clay searching for his sister who, as it turned out, was being held captive by Jason due to her resemblance to his mother.
The most striking difference between this film and the original series is Jason himself. In the remake, Jason is faster, more brutal but less menacing, and his kills seem to be for a purpose: he’s protecting his territory and getting revenge. Jason has a full compound setup complete with traps, which is vastly different than the silent killing machine of the original series. While I can appreciate that the writers and director of the remake wanted to give Jason more of a purpose, it was hard for me to completely get on-board with such a different character. While Jason certainly had creative kills in the original series, here his kills were much more rage-filled, instead of the Jason of years past who simply wanted everyone with whom he crossed paths dead. We were used to Jason with no emotion and now, here in the remake, Jason is full of hatred. The characters are completely different, which I could respect but never totally embraced.
The remake went out of its way to wink at the audience a lot. Slasher films from the 1980s were known for sex, lots of topless women, partying with drugs and alcohol, and if you had sex, you were going to die. Over the years, slashers and horror as a whole began to step away from a lot of those tropes in hopes for a PG-13 rating and fans were vocal about it. Yes, it’s formulaic, but horror fans enjoyed the “sex, drugs, and rock n roll” aspect of slashers. 2009’s Friday the 13th decided to bring those elements back and did so in an almost over-the-top “Hey, look at what we’re doing” kind of way. There are probably late night Cinemax films that have less waist up female nudity than this film. It’s almost absurd: close to a full minute of watching a woman jet ski without a top, a woman flashing her boyfriend while rubbing oil all over herself behind another man’s back, and a sex scene (complete with dialogue) dedicated to a woman’s large, bouncing breasts. It felt like the film was trying too hard to acknowledge the sex and drugs culture, and it became a joke in a film that didn’t really need it.
One major point the film deserves credit for is its cast of teenagers. All too often, slasher films bring in a large cast of underdeveloped characters simply to be added to the body count. The writers of Friday the 13th absolutely deserve credit for writing decent roles for almost all of their cast, which is no easy task with a cast of 13 teenagers. Many slasher stereotypes were done well here with the jerk, the funny stoners, the token odd guy that is so weird that you know he has to die, the bitchy hot girl, the strong male lead and, in this film’s case, two “final girls”—or at least two female characters that were written as if they could be.
Friday the 13th’s final act, where you know the body count is about to pile up, was a highlight of the film. Being invested in the characters certainly helped, but Friday the 13th also managed to create a lot more suspense in its final moments than I previously gave it credit for. Despite my reluctance to fully embrace this reimagining of Jason Voorhees, I did find myself completely captivated as the number of victims increased and Jason began stalking the final few. The decision to kill Jenna and leave the brother and sister pairing of Clay and Whitney for the final showdown was not a surprise but, still, I had become invested enough in Jenna’s character to be disappointed by her death. Our reunited brother and sister pairing took the fight to a hockey mask, machete-wielding madman and despite a few “false finishes”, finally killed Jason, pushing his lifeless body into the lake…until in a twist straight out of the original, Jason emerged from the water, dragging Whitney down with him as the credits rolled, setting us up for what had to be a sequel, right?
10 years later and that sequel never came. The film was a success at the box office and to date is the second highest-grossing film in franchise history. Sure it was panned by critics, but name a Friday the 13th film that wasn’t? What seemed to be a surefire follow-up film never happened. It was long-rumored that the writers of this film highly considered making Tommy Jarvis a character in this remake but ultimately opted not to. Using Tommy for the sequel to 2009’s Friday the 13th seemed like a logical way to continue the story but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Today, rumors are flying about possibly another film in the franchise being in the works, but those rumors don’t seem to indicate that it would be a sequel to the remake. Perhaps it’s just as simple as Friday the 13th getting caught-up by the same remake bug that many famous horror franchises did and once they got it out of their system, they could move on. While this film has its flaws and I never totally embraced their concept of Jason as a character, this film was still fun and was certainly better than other entries—like Jason X—in the series. If you’ve never seen the film or were like me and saw it when it first came out and didn’t like it, give it a shot. It’s better than a lot of remakes and a fun way to spend an evening with the lights low.
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