SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't seen the newest Friday the 13th, DO NOT read any further.
I'm not a film critic. I enjoy all kinds of movies and entertainment. When I go to see a film like Friday the 13th, I don't expect Shakespeare. I don't even expect low-grade Michael Douglas quality. I understand that the film studios bringing horror films to the big screen think the the movie-going public is there for a few cheap thrills or to be made so uncomfortable by the gore, they emulate scared, all at the cost of ten dollars a ticket. The horror genre has been besieged by a startling lack of new ideas and when word came that Michael Bay (really) was interested in a "reboot" of the Friday the 13th series, I admit, I was curious what direction it would take.
In recent years, reboot has meant overly-complex origin story or a gore fest starring actors most likely to appear on MTV's The Hills (see the recent versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween). To their credit, the re-creators of Friday the 13th decided against an origin story while staying somewhat loyal to the original series. That series was never predicated on believability (at least, not beyond the second film) and this leaves a lot of room for the film to work. (After all, we are talking about the horror figure who terrorized a cruise ship and a space vessel once.) On a lot of levels, Friday the 13th works, but there are so many things not right about it and therefore, I present thirteen things wrong with the new Friday the 13th:
1. Three Movies Into One Is A Cool Idea – On Paper!
This was the premise set forth by the creative team behind the film. Rather than retell one story at a time, they stated they wanted to take elements from the first three films and roll them into one. Here's what they really did: the first 10-15 minutes is a remake of the first two films (with 60 or so seconds dedicated to the first film) and is used as a the title sequence. The rest of the film is a retelling of part three of the series with a few added twists to make it different enough not to be a direct Bogart of the story. That doesn't leave a lot of room for the story to breathe.
2. Too Many Plot Holes to Cover in 95 Minutes
The problem is the film only lasts 95 minutes, meaning a ton of things are taken for granted — mostly any sort of character development. This creates a gaping lack of sympathy for anyone but the maniacal killer. The retelling of Jason's back story is totally fair to the original concept. However, the use of the back story's crux (the connection between Jason and his mother) as a part of the climax is weakly set up and executed. More on this later in the list. It is worth noting that Rob Zombie encountered this issue in 2007's Halloween reboot. So he broke the mold and pushed the running time to a robust 109 minutes (robust for a horror film, that is). That would have been useful to the makers of this film as well.
3. Unsympathetic Victims
It's one thing to divide the victims into the standard issue horror movie stereotypes – the druggies, the jerk boyfriend, the slutty girls, the girl next door, the mysterious heroine with a shady past, etc. – and it is another thing to make them all so unlikable that their deaths pass off more like three point shots from a Final Four game than loss of characters or even human life.
4. You Know Who's Going to Die Inside of 15 Seconds of Meeting the Character
Friday the 13th movies are built to be a bit transparent – we all know Jason is the star like Jaws the shark in the later sequels. However, this film telegraphs all but one of the deaths so badly, there is little time or need to develop any relationship with these characters. That is the criticism of most horror films in the third or further sequels. It shouldn't be such a huge issue in the first film even if it is a reboot.
5. The "Sin Formula" Is Still In Play — Really?
San Diego Union Tribune writer Zachary Woodruff has a great article on one of the oldest formulas in horror films. Here's the short of it: he/she who drinks, does drugs, or engages in the physical libations will be on the short end of the machete – always. This is as tired as the last Motley Crüe album, Saints of Los Angeles. Horror fans expect (or accept) a certain amount of this in films like Friday the 13th, but this film's use of the old sin = death formula seems like the easy way out for writers painted in a corner.
6. Pointless, Gratuitous Nudity and Dialogue
I'll keep this short. It's one thing to have a rather extended sex scene. It's another thing to have two characters talking each other through the act while the killer watches on from the window. Maybe the actors didn't know the camera was rolling or maybe they just wanted to go home and cash the checks from this. Either way, this may go down as the most poorly executed "love scene" since Gigli or Basic Instinct 2.
7. It Must Be Hard to Dream Up Creative Kills
There was a great deal of hype around the death sequences for this film. I will say this, most of them are completely ridiculous. The one used on the character played by Willa Ford (I don't even remember the name) is built as much for laughs as anything else and that is the problem. When the kills are as much humorous as they are scary, then they aren't really frightening at all.
8. Jason Is Boring As A Member of the Last Dance With Mary Jane Club
I get the idea that horror villains set victims up all the time. At times in the Friday the 13th series, Jason usually just waited in the dark for stupid people to walk by and that worked. A dastardly creature lurking in the forest plays to an instinctive fear of a largely urbanized movie-going audience. This film's developers decided it wasn't enough for a group of people to just want to go out to the country for the weekend. No, they needed to seek something. Marijuana. That's right. Jason plants a nice crop of the chronic not to sell or even for his own recreational use, but to lure young people to their deaths. If Jason is that smart, he'd own real estate and stocks, not chop people in half.
This most unnecessary plot device actually would have people believe that the local yokel police force wouldn't notice this. Problem is anyone with half a brain knows the drug cops don't look for pot farms on 32nd Street in New York City; they fly over the rural parts of the country and they are good at spotting it. If this were even close to "real," Jason would be doing 10-15 next to Michael Vick in Leavenworth. It would have been fine to just have people say they wanted to get out of town to escape the angst and stress of their teenage/20-something lives (which they do for a couple of people).
9. Jason Still Moves at Rates That Defy Known Laws of Physics
I admit, this may be a problem of poor film editing as it is anything else. At one point, Jason is several feet behind a victim throwing an axe. He catches up and finishes his kill. People inside look outside to see what the matter is and he is on the roof of a house at least 200 feet away from where he was five seconds before. Again, if Jason has conquered the laws of time and space, he should get a shower, shave, and go work with Stephen Hawking. I admit this may be an homage to these endless occurrences in the previous films, but if it is, they could have worked an actual decent joke in the shoddy dialogue. There's plenty of throwaway lines in there to fit it in the mix.
10. The Whole Mother Made Me Do It Angle
I get that this is the driving force behind Jason. It works because in the previous installments it was defined and explained. How the one survivor convinced or confused him enough to allow her to stay alive is never explained. Don’t tell me it was that locket either. That’s as weak as rune stones shutting down Michael Myers. Again, this is probably the fault of keeping it so simple that it makes no sense.
11. The Pseudo-Ending
In other words, just when you think the evil is dead, it rises again. This is a staple of the genre that needs desperately to be retired. This leaves the door open for the the even more useless…
12. Non-Ending Ending
This leaves the door open for — you guessed it — a sequel. I'm okay with reboots of horror films if the intention is to make one really good film to resell it to a younger generation. Rob Zombie tried this with the aforementioned Halloween and it worked well as a one-stop, brutally violent and intense film. As with anything else in Hollywood, if it sells a lot once, it can sort of sell again and again and again. All of these sequels mound up and eventually the story must be retold in order to get a fresh start. The cycle is endless and as boring as American Idol reruns.
13. A Film Trying to Please Two Groups Is Bound to Fail
This film is built as an homage to fans of the original series and as a restart of a franchise attempting to attract the modern movie goer. While attempting to balance these two demands, it falls into its own traps and shortcomings and left me feeling like I had waited in line for a thrill ride that wasn't all that thrilling. I get this feeling often with most of what it marketed as entertainment. So, it will be no surprise to me when this film falls off the marquee at as fast a rate as Jason moves from victim to victim.
If you were going see it, rent it, or buy it before reading this, you still will. If you were skeptical, I've given you a myriad of reasons to head to a library and read for a while.