There’s more good cinematography in this one shot from the new Friday the 13th than in the first eight Jason movies combined.
As the esteemed film critic Jimmy Page once noted, the song remains the same, and that’s certainly the case with the “new” and slightly improved Friday the 13th. If ever there was a film franchise beholden to formula it’s this one. The rubber-stamped elements of a Jason movie put surefire repeaters like James Bond or Inspector Clouseau or even Rocky Balboa to shame, so ingrained and inevitable are the pieces of the puzzle that slam into place like shoddy clockwork from film to film. The 2009 mix puts a bit more emphasis on the gore than did the last few episodes that I saw, and it takes full advantage of CGI enhancements to purge the money shots of those annoying cutaways to a meat cleaver buried in an obviously rubber brainpan. There seems to be a smidgen more sex in this one, of the post-porn Girls Gone Wild variety, than I recall from the series’ glory days as well. Obnoxious college punks? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check. Exceptionally obnoxious college punk set up for ostentatiously gruesome kill because he’s so exceptionally obnoxious? Check. Not one, but two final girls, so there’s a bit of added “suspense” as to which one will unexpectedly get skewered at the last minute? Check. Relentless, unkillable killer who makes “unexpected” shock reappearance just before awesome shock-cut to end credits? Check. Good night, everybody, and thanks for coming!
The gore is splashy but not particularly imaginative, and only one kill got a laugh from me not so much for audacity but for actually catching me off-guard. (To describe it would sap the one genuine surprise the movie has up its tattered sleeve). But the new Friday the 13th keeps things moving along and adds a bit of cheapjack mommy psychology to spice up the hunt-hunt-hunt-hunt-kill-kill-kill-kill mechanics as the movie lurches to its foregone conclusion. The wonder is that even though every single scare is of the dog/funny stoner/masked psycho-jumping-out-at-you-from-nowhere (accompanied by amplified musical sting, or scream, or stabbing sound effect) variety, the movie is so much more accomplished on a simple technical level than any of its predecessors that, despite its slavish faithfulness to the tired (not a typo) and true Jason formula it ends up, through the sheer magic of competent pacing and high-quality cinematography, seeming like a masterpiece, if not of the horror genre, then at least of the Jason genre.
The opening-night audience I saw it with seemed determined to have a good time, screaming (and faux screaming) in all the right places, so I suspect the movie will satisfy the average Voorhees mythologist and date-movie connoisseur, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this picture spawns another two or three chapters of its own. Director Marcus Nispel does toy with using the frame to gradually reveal Jason and create suspense in his some of his set-ups, but he doesn’t have a lot of patience for coloring outside the lines and almost always retreats to standard “gotcha” gimmickry instead. If the subsequent directors of the probably inevitable sequels followed through on this impulse and explored new ways of generating scares, then the Jason Voorhees line might actually start to get a little more interesting. But the question is, at this late date, by varying the blueprint would the end result still be a Friday the 13th movie?