Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Friday the 13th" - spoiler movie review

I don't generally watch a lot of horror movies. OK, well, I don't anymore. I used to rent and watch quite a few of them. I've seen most of the films in each of the "Friday the 13th", "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Halloween" series. At some point, though, they got to be too much for me. My imagination tends to run away sometimes, so I'd end up having nightmares from the movies I watched. Also, I'm not big on bloody movies, and that tends to be more the trend now (like the "Saw" series) than just being scary, but really scary doesn't work for me either. So, while I do enjoy them, I can't really handle them.

There have been a number of remakes of horror movies in recent years, so when I first heard about "Friday the 13th", it didn't really interest me. Then I heard a little more about it, and it seemed like it really was just a modern version of the story, rather than the weird "re-imaginings" that seem to be happening with many re-made films. Then I saw a couple of trailers, and yep, it did really look interesting. So, even though I had my concerns about whether or not I was making a huge mistake, I decided to accompany the husband, who did want to see the film. (We had gone to see "Freddy vs. Jason" when that was released, mostly at the wish of myself and a friend, because combining the two franchises sounded really interesting, and they actually did a really good job. For my review of that film, click here.)

Generally, I thought they did a good job with this film. Instead of being a remake, it really was more of a sequel. The original story of Jason, who drowned in a lake while his camp counselors were off cavorting and not paying attention to him, and Jason's mother, who was the actual one doing all the killings (well, except for the very end), was told amongst the people in the movie. They had recreated flashbacks of Jason's mom as well.

And then that first batch of teenagers was systematically killed. Most of the killings made sense, except for one that was iffy and one that was downright wrong.

It had occurred to me some time ago that many of the teen horror movies were actually morality tales sugar-coated in a way that made them appealing to teenagers. If you just present a morality tale to a teen, they're going to be uninterested, bored, resentful and will not pay attention. But, couch it in a horror movie with sex and murder and mayhem and screaming - they'll come back time and again for more. If you look at the original stories involving Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers and I believe Freddy Krueger as well, the people who die are teens involved in bad activities. The camp counselors are more interested in getting into each other's pants than they are the kids themselves, and the kids in Michael Myers' hometown are the same way. In "Halloween", the lone survivor is the virginal one. All the other ones who get killed are promiscuous and irresponsible and reckless and engage in bad behaviours. So the subconscious lesson that viewers are learning is that bad behaviour leads to death - so don't do it! OK, well, it's not quite that blunt.

That tradition is upheld in the new film. Of the first batch of teens, they were swearing like sailors, they were preoccupied with sex and marijuana. Bad kids. Must die. The only ones that didn't really make sense were Whitney and her boyfriend. Whitney had been tending to her sick mother for quite some time, and her adventures with her friends that weekend was the first time she'd been away from her mother in a long time. And she felt guilty. Her boyfriend assured her that her mom asked him to take her away for the weekend. They didn't particularly seem interested in finding the batch of marijuana that the others did. They didn't sneak off into the woods to have sex - they really did just go on a walk together. If it had turned out that the boyfriend had lied about her mother asking him to take her away, that would have made his death make more sense, but otherwise, it wasn't cut and dried like the others. The husband says that the fatal error he made was that he was the one to find and mess with Jason's mom's head. Hmmm, ok.

But Whitney? Her death made no sense at all. So when her brother Clay showed up weeks later looking for her, I was still preoccupied with how little sense her death made. So, when it was eventually revealed that Jason had not in fact killed her but was instead holding her prisoner in a dungeon of sorts, it all made much more sense. The explanation seemed to be that she looks a lot like his mother did.

So then there's the next batch of teens who were frolicking about, who Clay happened to run into. And the first guy he met had zero sympathy for the fact that Clay was looking for his missing sister, the guy was an asshole all around, he was rich and flaunted it and used it to buy friends, he got possessive about sort-of-girlfriend Jenna and then had sex with one of the other girls. Yeah, he was a goner. It was funny, though, later in the film, when the girl he'd had sex with was dropped on top of the car he was sitting in while attempting to get away, and he just screamed like a girl.

There was the aforementioned sexpot. Targeted. There was the guy who brought his bong and was smoking weed. Targeted. There was the guy who coveted rich boy's stuff and position and was kind of an ass as well. Targeted. However, he did have a couple of the funniest lines, especially the one he muttered to himself when rich boy made him go to the toolshed to get tools to fix the chair he broke. And then when he was confronted by Jason, he happened to be holding a hockey stick and offered it to Jason because it would go really well with Jason's outfit, since Jason had donned the now-infamous hockey mask.

There was the death of the cop/sheriff who came to investigate that didn't really make a lot of sense - I don't recall collateral damage per se in the original movies. But the final death that didn't make sense was Jenna's, the girl Clay befriended. It might just be a case of guilty by association, but she supported Clay from the first time they met, so I really thought she would be the third survivor. Not to be.

As is customary with these kinds of movies, Jason is not in fact dead at the end. It's not over.

If they were to continue the series, I doubt that I'd see any more. My curiosity was satisfied in seeing this one, which does a good job of pulling off the hallmarks of the series. And yeah, there were a lot of parts I didn't actually watch because I knew there was going to be a lot of blood. It didn't turn out to be too bad for me, but that was because I was mostly trying to focus on the "did this person die for the right reason" game, partly as an attempt to distract myself and look at the movie more clinically rather than being drawn in so I wouldn't be terrified.

There were people playing the first batch of teens and the second batch who looked familiar to me from movies and/or other television shows, and I didn't realize until I read the credits that the recreated flashback scene starred Nana Visitor as Jason's homicidal mother.

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