Almost 40 years later, Jason is still a rip-off

Friday the 13th
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Rated: R
Cast: Julianna Guill, America Olivo, Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Danielle Panabakzzz
Director: Marcus Nispel
WorkNameSort: Friday the 13th
Our Rating: 2.00

Maybe it's all in my head. In this age of postmodernism, a character like Jason Voorhees should be ripe for deconstruction. How does the world deal with such an honest nihilist? What makes escape from this silent but enormous killing machine so impossible? What would he say if he could speak?

With the relaunches of â?¦ well, just about every slasher flick ever made, this do-over of the 1980 original ' actually more a do-over of Friday the 13th Part III, to be technical ' was only a matter of time. For this go-round, director Marcus 'The Remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacreâ?� Nispel ignores the current trend of delving into the psychology of the knife-wielder. Unlike Batman Begins or Rob Zombie's Halloween, which addressed new qualities of their icons, Nispel and his writers are content to let Jason remain what he began life as: a rip-off of Halloween's Michael Myers and an offensive representation of the mentally challenged.

The movie dispenses quickly with the plot of the original film: Jason's vengeful, murderous mother, Mrs. Voorhees, loses her head by way of her would-be next victim, a young girl. Flash forward 28 years, wherein five teens arrive looking for a mythical crop of weed. Here, the filmmakers have miraculously managed to assemble an interesting group of realistic characters. Even the smartass is a believable dork, and how fascinating an experiment it could have been to watch these level-headed, grounded personalities cope with evil. But alas, the old Reaganite morals return without commentary ' sex, drugs and snooping on private property all warrant the death penalty ' and they're all dispatched.

The next assemblage of anathematized youngsters heading to a cabin for drink and doom sadly lies at the opposite end of the spectrum, and the film ceases to offer anything original. Their stereotypes practically come with title cards: The black guy's first line refers to him being the black guy; there's the funny Asian, the worthless beefcake, girls who more than satisfy the nipple quotient, the sensitive girl and, most importantly, Trent, the total dick. They meet Clay (Jared Padalecki, Supernatural), who was part of that first bunch of teens, now the hero by default looking for his sister.

Jason comes across his celebrated mask, there's a brief use of the 'ch-ch-châ?� score, and people get various tools and rustic accoutrements shoved bloodily into whatever. The dialogue often takes self-aware swipes at classic horror, which is ground already established and disposed of by the Scream movies. For a film to point out that it's clichéd makes it no less clichéd.

Nispel doesn't seem to have any means of inspiring tension except to frame a body part here or there to make the audience think, 'Ooh, that's getting stabbed.â?� The only chance he takes is with Jason, whom he makes tough, but more Myers-like than ever in the way he thinks.

Of course, the problem with this remake is that it's a remake in the first place. Friday the 13th is a franchise with revolving directors and an evolving and contradictory mythology, so why not simply add another chapter, or at least explore the possibility of originality?

Or maybe I'm imagining that there's anything original to say about Jason.


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