Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Friday the 13th-- the Remake


So tonight I went to see FRIDAY THE 13TH, the 2009 remake, at the Fun-Lan Drive-in in Tampa, Florida.

First, the drive-in was the absolute, dead-solid perfect place to see this movie. In your car, listening to the movie through your radio, watching it through the windshield, you feel more vulnerable, so no matter how lame the movie might be, it has a more forceful effect. As in, you cringe and shout, "Holy crap! Move!"

The FRIDAY movies have always been more an exercise in potentiality to me, with the occasional swell moment slotted in clumsily between minutes and hours of workmanlike editing and reasonable but unimpressive acting. By which I mean, the Friday movies are never amateurish, they're just two-dimensional. The idea of Jason, the monstrous, unkillable berzerker in the woods, is a powerful idea, and you can string any number of slasher flicks behind it.

The 2009 Friday the 13th is a surprisingly effective reboot. For one thing, it's slick, with astoundingly creepy lighting and set design. This has a strange effect, though, because whereas Jason's crumbling abode is more believable than ever before, the sheer perfection of its presentation tells you that you're safely in Hollywoodland.

The plot involves a young man in search of his sister, who went missing at Camp Crystal Lake. The hero falls in with a bunch of whiny college students, each of whom has a shtick by which we may know them: the comedian, the stoner, the rich prick, the slut, and the responsible girl. Suffice it to say that these young people have never seen any movie like FRIDAY THE 13TH, and despite their wit, have apparently never seen SCREAM, either, because these people cannot. stay. together.

Jason here is re-imagined as faster and stronger than I remember him. He doesn't teleport around and then move slowly again, as I remember him doing in the older movies. Here he walks with a heavy thud, coming up fast and swinging.

But wait, I said it was effective-- and maybe it's because I was sitting in a darkened car, but the moments when the heroes go deep into Jason's domain (on what we must understand as a likely suicide mission) are taut and dangerous. It's scary-- and after all, what more could you ask?

Final note, though. I find myself torn these days about slasher flicks-- in the real world, murder destroys much more than its victims; one murder lays waste to families for generations and reverberates for decades. Movies like this -- in which scores of people scream and then die-- present a sort of cartoon murder of people with no past or future, no people beyond the edges. I suppose that's what the funhouse is for. But the lingering awareness of that pain is what drives me to see less and less of these movies as time goes on.

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