Movie News & Reviews

'Friday the 13th' adds humor, human side to Jason

I'm far too cowardly to have tested this out myself, but theoreticallyspeaking, I think horror movie slashers might just be misunderstoodsuperheroes.

Think of it this way. They pretty much only kill the young, so at thevery worst they're just doing what we're all thinking. At that, theirteen victims are almost always getting drunk, fornicating orotherwise having fun. Remember that referendum we held a couple yearsago where we illegalized fun? Yeah, well you probably overslept, youdegenerate. Have fun in prison -- if you want to go to doubleprison.

Most critically of all, slashers get along with their neighbors.Granted, people get a lot more neighborly under threat of being hackedup and entombed in a wall, but there's nothing more heroic andpatriotic than helping out your neighbors, as evidenced by CaptainAmerica's original name, "Takes the Old Lady Next Door's Trash to theCurb Every Sunday-Man." Hell, even Jason in the new Friday the13th has neighbors. Think they guy across the street secretlywants to wear your skin for a cape? Go on over and offer to lend himsome power tools. I think you may be surprised at the result.

Twenty years ago at Camp Crystal Lake, the mother of a young boy namedJason went crazy, murdering the campers she believed were responsiblefor the death of her son. Unknown to her, Jason was still alive -- andwatched her die.

The camp's since been abandoned. But Jason remains (played inadulthood by Derek Mears), and when five youths stumble into histerritory searching for a trove of wild weed, they go missing.

Six weeks later, local cops have given up the search. Jared Padalecki,the brother of one of the missing girls, takes up where they left off.But Jason's been stirred, and he is looking to vent his wrath on a houseof hard-partying college kids across the lake.

In a ploy that can be described as either "clever" or "deliberatelymisleading," depending on whether you're into the whole truth thing,Friday the 13th was advertised as being directed by the man whodid The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While technically correct (thebest kind of correct), what they really mean is it was directed byMarcus Nispel, that visionary genius who made the inspired move ofbeing paid garbage sacks full of cash to direct the TCM remake.

Nispel brings that same can-do spirit to the Friday the 13threboot, a movie just dying to be made. It's the Hollywood motto: "NoOne Wants to Watch Something Older Than They Are. Jesus, Can YouBelieve We Used to Wear Our Hair Like That?"

Writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, authors of theshould-have-been-way-way-better Freddy vs. Jason, happily jointhe unoriginality parade by putting together a script that steadfastlyrefuses to deviate from the Jason + Campers = Murder formula of thelast billion films in the franchise.

While the tissue-thin plot offers absolutely nothing new, it doesovercome the series' greatest weakness by providing forms ofentertainment that aren't wholly reliant on Jason carving teens intohead cheese. In those long, wasteful sequences where the non-Jasoncast is sitting around not getting slaughtered, they're actuallyfunny! Charming! It's kind of a bummer knowing that, within minutes,they're going to make some great joke, then turn around to findthemselves rewarded with a harpoon through the eye socket.

For Jason may be older, but the years have only heightened his thirstfor blood. As sophisticated peoples of the 21st Century, we demandthat our fake violence be so gritty and real that we can almost feelthe arterial spray on our faces. Nispel's death scenes are savage andplentiful -- points on that.

In those terms -- routine violence and a crummy plot wrapping up in afoolish ending -- you could say Friday the 13th is the same oldshit. Well, yeah. But with its newfound sense of humor and believablyhuman Jason, it's at least fleetingly entertaining.

Grade: B-