Friday the 13th (2009): Killer Cut
It was a tough couple decades being a Jason fan. Jason set sail away from Crystal Lake with the lowest grossing entry in the series, Jason Takes Manhattan, and was sufficiently declared shipwrecked by Paramount. New Line picked up the property shortly after, but things hardly got better. Four years passed before they finally did something with the property, and what did they do? They tried to kill of Jason. Not only did Jason Goes to Hell dub itself “The Final Friday”, but it also gave the guy his least amount of screen time since becoming the killer in Part 2. Making matters even worse, he was basically turned into a black beating heart that possessed any who inadvertently bit into it. Is that the kind of fate a guy who only ever did what his mama told him deserves?
Realizing they made a mistake, New Line decided to bring Jason, body and soul, back as the killer we all know and love for their next sequel a long eight years later. Good news, right? It was until they decided to go all Friday the Apollo 13th on the franchise. Yeah, they sent him into space. Not only that, but they sent him way into the future, effectively killing off any chance of picking up the series continuity afterwards. Ask Critters 4…you don’t recover when you get sent to space. Jason X proved another tank for the guy who was once the undisputed boogeyman of the eighties. Regarding Jason X for the tangent that it was, Freddy vs. Jason helped restore a bit of luster to the man behind the mask, letting him do what he does best. Still, he was Freddy’s bitch, and hardly the main attraction he once was. In the twenty years since he left for Manhattan, Jason was only in three movies, compared to the eight he’d headlined in nine years from 1980 to 1989. One as a spirit, the other in space, and the last one as a dream puppet. What just happened to wearing a mask and killing campers?
Well, fans begged and begged for the better part of this century for Jason to humbly return to Crystal Lake to find new ways to kill the same old teenagers. Finally, in 2009, Platinum Dunes, who had revived other defunct franchises like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, took up the task and promised fans a faithful revival of our favorite machete man. With the remake on February 13th came special editions of the first three films, the television series and now the next three films in the franchise. Suddenly, those 20 years of pain seemed almost worth the wait. How was the actual film, though? The reboot to dial back the kitsch and make Jason the scary, uncompromising beast that’s tarnished the dreams of teenagers for almost three decades now. It did some killer business on its opening Friday the 13th, but now on DVD and Blu-ray, does it have the longevity to survive?
There is nothing like a flashback to previous events to start off any good Friday the 13th entry. This one’s a reboot, and they don’t have the rights to the old Paramount footage, but god bless’em, they do it anyway. We get an opening sequence interspersed with credits, where, on a rainy, high contrast, black and white night, some young chick hacks the head off this older lady spouting something about not watching her little boy. The head falls to the ground, and who’s there to pick it up? Little mongoloid Jason. Flash forward several years, and we get a bunch of young teenagers backpacking in the woods. Oh yeah, that’s right, they’re probably on their way to the cabins for summer camp, right? No, that was so 1980. These days, kids like to go searching in the woods for giant cannabis plantations. That’s edgier. Cell phones and GPSes let these little turds down, and they end up camping out overnight in what looks like deserted wilderness. They forgot that where there’s pot, there’s Jason, and hack hack hack, they’re dead.
Further time has passed, and Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki from House of Wax and Cry_Wolf) is riding through the countryside trying to find his sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti, Return to the House on Haunted Hill), one of the pot hunter victims. While posting flyers at a convenience store not far from the killings, he runs into another batch of horny teens looking to let loose in frat boy Trent’s (Travis Van Winkle) parents’ cabin. We get
No, not Jason, but Clay, who suffered Some Plot Contrivance With His Bike To Make Him Stranded With The Rest Of The Group He Doesn’t Get Along With. Jason’s out there, though, and he revs up the attack shortly after. First he does away with the sack over his head by scoring a hockey mask from a hillbilly masturbating in a barn (yep) and then tunnels through his underground catacombs (…yep) to do away with these horny teenagers once again. It turns out Whitney’s actually still alive and being held captive, so the big question becomes – who’ll end up the final girl? Will it be the goodhearted love interest for Clay, the sex tape making blonde or Clay’s own sister? Just how phallic is that knife of Jason’s?
I really wanted to see this movie done right. I mean, really, really, wanted to see it done right. Jason deserved better than he’d been getting the last twenty years, and taking the series back to basics seemed like the perfect thing to do. They even reunited Marcus Nispel with the original Texas Chainsaw cinematographer, Daniel Pearl, in hopes of striking up the same (relative) magic they achieved with the remake for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They didn’t just recreate the same magic, they recreated the same damn film. Contrary to what Pieces will tell you, you go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre and you go to New Jersey for a summer camp slaughter. Gone is that colorful, leafy east coast forest, instead replaced by viny southern marsh. The whole thing that made the original Friday stand out back in the day was that it was this wilderness that no filmmakers ever dared shoot in, but everyone collectively remembered. In the remake, it’s the same ol’ Texas backdrops that have come to define hick horror since the first Texas Chainsaw. They should have just called the film The Texas Machete Massacre.
Dwelling further on the Texas Chainsaw connection, Daniel Pearl’s cinematography is equally as out of place in a Friday film as vines and crops of cannabis. The original Fridays had a no frills simplicity to the visuals, drawing on the direct cinema aesthetic that would define arthouse cinema from Montreal to New York throughout the sixties and seventies. Even if steadicam shots or dynamic compositions may have been tough to orchestrate, the films always had a deceptive simplicity behind them, which made the chaos ensuing in the frame that much more unnerving. Here, Pearl is doing everything he can to draw attention to the aesthetic, running around and never leaving his camera at a standstill. Just in case you really didn’t know he was the DP on the Texas Chainsaw remake, he virtually recreates the dolly through the van shot right from the get go. The cuts are just as fast and kinetic, forcing intensity and unrest through technical tricks rather than planned storytelling like the original films. That kind of thing worked for the homegrown feel of the original Texas Chainsaw, but here it feels like a total cheat.
Now, considering it is all the same crew from the previous Texas Chainsaw remake, they can almost be forgiven for not being able to stray far enough from their original template. The scripting mistakes though, are another matter completely. Honestly, the Friday the 13th template is about as simple as they come. Guy in a mask, cabins in the woods, legends from the locals and inventive deaths a plenty. Well, okay, they got the mask thing right, and having the potato sack was admittedly a nice touch. Getting it from a masturbating hillbilly…ehh, I’ll stick with Shelly. That’s about it, though. You see the “Welcome to Crystal Lake” sign, and even if it’s Texas you think “oh, how I’ve missed thee.” Then it turns out to be a thick jungle with a couple dilapidated totems, a giant cryptic house (I’d imagine it was the last one on the left, too) and a turned over school bus. Where the fuck are the cabins? Where are the awesome recantations of Jason’s legend by the townsfolk? How did a bus drive through a jungle fit for Predator? In this remake, the Voorhees family lived in the woods in an old creepy house. No no no. The whole tragedy of the original story is that Jason is just a regular city kid at camp unable to swim. Having the whole mythology unfold in that creepy old house in the woods removes any pathos, since anyone weird enough to live off by themselves in the scariest of old houses is practically preordained a serial killer. Here Jason isn’t thrown into the role of killer out of sad tragedy, he’s inherited like Dracula before him by living in a creepy old mansion.
The biggest tragedy with this remake is that Jason is no longer the victim. It would be customary to root for him, deep down, because he really did nothing wrong. He drowned out of negligence and saw his mother die out of love. He was a slow, simple boy that only wanted to do what his mama told him. The filmmakers made a huge mistake here, not only in making his home the clichéd scary house in the woods, but in making the guy so smart it’s impossible to just see him as a devout mama’s boy. He hunts like Rambo, builds traps like MacGuyver and digs underground tunnels like Al Capone. He may be mute, he may be retarded, but the guy is a fucking genius in this movie. And I’m sorry, but when you are that smart, you are accountable for your actions. In the originals again you get the sense that Jason doesn’t understand the severity of his actions, but that he’s just doing it to make his mama proud. Here, everything is so orchestrated and premeditated by critical thought, that it goes far beyond heated revenge and ends up being downright malicious, contemptible manslaughter.
Of all the things, I still can’t get past the whole underground tunnel bit. Sure, it was never plausible that Jason could always just turn up at any cabin at any given time, but really, it’s far less plausible that he’s able to develop a virtual subway spanning miles in the Texan desert. The guy is deformed, never even attended school or learned to read, and yet he’s able to develop and power his own generator and setup a booby trap perimeter around his entire wooded area. Really? Is his CPU a neural net processor, too?
As smart as Jason is, he’s also apparently lacking in any sort of originality. You’d think, at the very least, if Jason could devise all these traps and alternate sources of electricity that he’d at least be able to think of some clever ways to off people. Yet, in Friday the 13th, every death is so generic - arrow to the face, axe to the back, spear to the head, machete to whatever body part is in the vicinity. It’s all just simple impalements, and done with such nonchalant confidence by
The one mainstay that should have been an absolute no brainer was the music. Manfredini setup one of the most iconic and original templates in all of horror film lore with his ch ch ch ah ah ah-ing from the rest of the series. We get a taste of this when it plays during the company logos, but then nowhere else is it heard through the rest of the film. Instead it’s all empty orchestral filler by Steve Jablonsky – so devoid of theme or harmony that you couldn’t even find a memorable riff if you tried. Even if Crystal Lake doesn’t look like Crystal Lake, or Jason doesn’t act like Jason, at least – at the very least, it should sound like Jason. Imagine a Halloween film without Carpenter’s theme, or a Rocky without “Gonna Fly Now” – it just wouldn’t be the same. The snafu with sound was yet another notch in the tall totem of folly that plagues this weak, derivative remake.
Friday the 13th is by no means a terrible film, but considering the rich back story and all the common iconography available, it should have been a lot more than just a forgettable one. There is nothing standout about this by the numbers number thirteen, so lacking in distinctive personality that had the hockey mask been replaced with something different it could easily pass as any old two star slasher. This movie brings nothing new to the table, no further insight on what makes the man tick, or no fleshed out story. Seriously, you’ve got one of the most interesting killers in horror history and you make him interchangeable. “Look what you did to him!” You can almost hear Mrs. Voorhees scream, as Jason is forced yet again into early retirement because of a subpar entry. Will anyone get it right?
Friday the 13th looks as you’d expect it to, completely clean of any specs or print damage, sharp and saturated. Yet, at the same time I was surprised to not really feel that “open window” effect that so many old restorations provide on the HD format. The reason being for this, I believe, is because the film is so post-processed, every scene stylishly tinted or darkened with extra contrast, that it becomes too removed from reality. It looks good, but it looks too artificial and as a result just doesn’t have the depth that one would expect in Blu-ray. Still, this progressive scan VC1 encode looks good and faithful to the theatrical presentation, and Pearl’s 2.35:1 scope cinematography makes a good use of the frame, even if it doesn’t look at all like a Friday the 13th film should.
The back of the box advertises English Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1, in addition to a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but the menus are less informative. You pop the disc in, and the only options you get are English and French, with no distinction between TrueHD and Digital tracks. Note to New Line and everyone else making DVD menus – if a person is anal enough to go into the audio menu, chances are they know what they are doing and would need more information than just the language of the track. Furthermore, the menu structure is confused in that you can only access the theatrical version via menu – the Killer Cut plays automatically, and if you chose the theatrical version after, there is no way of getting back. It’s weird. Whichever track I was listening to though, naturally sounded clear and full, with tons of jump scares kicked in by the lower registers. The track isn’t anything overly special though, with modest directionality and a good use of ambience throughout.
There are three separate releases of the new Friday the 13th on home video. There’s the vanilla theatrical cut of the film on DVD, the “Killer Cut” extended edition also on DVD, and the Blu-ray that combines them both and adds extra features. The theatrical cut DVD has no extra features, so you can stop here if that’s the version you want. All the other extras below will be shared between both “Killer Cut” releases, with the Blu-ray exclusives additionally singled out in the reviews. With that out of the way…
The first big extra is of course the “Killer Cut” version of the film. It adds 9-minutes of footage to the original theatrical film. While 9-minutes may seem like a lot, in truth there really isn’t a whole lot added. The Killer Cut starts off with a brief additive shot of Jason’s deformed face as a boy during the black and white prologue. Many death scenes are just a touch longer, but they were so graphic in the first place it’s not like it adds a whole lot. There are a couple extra shots in the one two murder of the sleeping bag girl and her horny boyfriend who gets the bear trap. The Asian guy’s death is even longer, with a lot more footage of the screwdriver actually going into the neck in close-up. Trent’s the last victim to see a longer death, with more machete riding and a bit more of the actual throw onto the truck blade. Later on we see some more added carnage with Lawrence in the hot tub and Chelsea disposed of in a marsh in the woods as Clay and Final Girl #1 run away from Trent’s cabin. The most significant addition, though, is the added sequence of Whitney escaping and making it all the way to Trent’s cabin, only to be grabbed by Jason and put in her place. When she makes it to the house, she watches Trent and Bree have sex for a bit, which means quite a bit more of those floppy breasts and a bit more wise talkin’ from Trent “I’m eight seconds away!” There may be a few more shots here or there, but otherwise, there’s your eight minutes.
The footage we’re always looking for as fans of the original films are added glimpses into the death scenes, from the complete negatives pre-MPAA to the actual behind-the-scenes footage. There isn’t much of the latter given the age of the material, but the one thing the makers of this new Friday got right was the Blu-ray exclusive feature “The 7 Best Kills” (22:32). Each of the seven kills are chronicled in four minute segments, with introductions from the cast and crew and then behind-the-scenes footage of each death along with explanations on how it was achieved. The machete rig they do for Trent’s death is actually quite impressive, and it’s good to see throughout all the extras that there really wasn’t much CG used at all. As far as horror film extras go, it’s everything a horror fan could want. Better than the actual film? You betcha.
Another Blu-ray exclusive is the “Terror Trivia Track” complete with picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes footage. The ad for this track boasts “Test your knowledge of this long-running franchise,” but really it’s just a video box in the corner that either plays interview and behind-the-scenes footage on scenes currently happening, or some on-text “did you know” kind of stuff that fans will already be well accustomed to. The whole thing serves as a pretty entertaining commentary track with the added visual stimulus, and it’s actually pretty well together. Even though video commentaries have been around since the DVD days, it’s rare that they’re done, and here it is done well.
“Hacking Back/Slashing Forward” (11:41) takes a novel approach in having most of the cast and crew recollect their first time seeing a Friday the 13th movie. This then segues into how the writers wrote a better script, the producers made a more exciting movie and how Marcus Nispel, as quoted by an actor, “a cinematic genius”. We also get this gem from the writers, where they say “Our goal was to make this like Batman Begins,” just what you want to hear as a slasher fan! I could have done without all the false hype, but it was nice to, if briefly, see people talk about their own experience with the franchise proper. This is the final exclusive to the big blue format.
The other featurette is “The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees” (11:24) where the cast and crew comment on just how much smarter, scarier, cooler and just downright more awesome the new Jason is compared to the old school critter. The new man behind the mask, Derek Mears, gets genuinely excited talking about bringing the character to life…who wants to be the one to tell him it was all in vain? The whole segment is devoted to Jason, where it’s showing behind the scenes footage of the various stages of masks and effects, or having the actors reflect on how Mears is, another actor quote, “the best Jason by far”. It’s worth sticking through all the naval glazing, though since at the end there’s the original deleted scene of how Jason got his mask, complete with a beheading.
If you don’t want to stick it through for the deleted scenes, you can get the original acquisition of the mask, and two more deleted scenes individually from the menu. The second scene is more with the police officers and is essentially one long deconstruction of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. The final scene is quite a bit longer, and is an extended scene of Clay and Whitney hiding out in the barn from Heir Hockey Mask. It contains all the bits with Jason busting through the window and the almost death by lawn mower blades, but really doesn’t offer much more other than slower pacing. Together all three scenes run 8:17.
There are supposedly some BD-Live features on the Blu-ray, too, but after taking forever to sign up and log in using my remote to type everything out, I managed only to accidentally download the trailer for 17 Again after intending to get Freddy vs. Jason. Keep in mind I also had to spend close to an hour updating the firmware on my player just to get the disc and then later the BD-Live content to show properly. Remember when DVDs would just play when you put them in?
There’s a digital copy on a second disc in the Blu-ray, for those who just have to watch a horror movie on the transit.
Aside from all that nonsense in making the Final Girl a mommy, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake is a stylish, if hollow, updating of Hooper’s original, with returning cinematographer Daniel Pearl proving he can still put on a show. The Texas backdrop is refreshing in a time of – oh, wait, sorry, wrong movie. I seem to have things confused. The Friday the 13th remake feels hardly like one, unforgivably shot in an obvious Texas and with a hardly modified approach from Pearl and director Marcus Nispel. The screenwriting is equally as lazy, making trite one of horror’s richest cinematic legacies. It’s pretty tough to descend further than Jason Goes to Hell or Jason X, but Platinum Dunes somehow found a way. As a horror film it’s passable, but as reboot of horror’s best bad guy, it ranks up there as one of horror’s major missed opportunities. The video and audio are good but almost seem underwhelming compared to the Blu-ray transfers Paramount’s been doing with the original series. If there is any reason to get this disc, though, it’s for the Blu-ray exclusive behind-the-scenes looks into the seven best kills in the series. A rental at best, Friday the 13th should be seen by all budding screenwriters in hopes that when they write the sequel to the remake (requel?), they don’t make the same mistakes Michael Bay and co. made here. What next, The Burning set in Sarah Palin Alaska?
A cheaper, and more realistic, given the quality, avenue for seeing the film is through download at the PlayStation Store, Amazon Video On Demand and iTunes.
*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.
Ouch, but well said. Nice review.
Yeah, I definitely agree with this. I waqs disappointed with it, and felt it was no different than any other horror remake out there.
I think you guys are being a little harsh, but whatevs. Remakes traditionally are stinky imo, but I thought this one was above average comparatively. I will be adding the Blu to my library when the price is right. Nice review nonetheless rhett.
Oh no, they extended this beast by nearly 10 minutes?! Whose bright idea was that?!
I liked this version of F13 a million times better than I did Nispel's version of TCM. Good review, but I think the film was better than most of what the horror genre in Hollywood is giving us recently.
I'm curious if there are any old-school Friday fans that enjoyed the remake. I'm sure there are; I'm just not sure why.
Hated it. HATED. And you're talking to someone that does like remakes. Loved the Dawn remake.
Still, nothing is as bad as the Halloween remake. Rhett must review it to set the record straight. Only his love for the franchise can properly explain why it was such utter trash.
meh, it ranged from pretty good to okay for me, it was enjoyable, i will probably get the DVD version. Hopefully the sequel could be a little bit more faithful to the original series
I felt that the movie was really bland, it wasn't as bad as i thought it would be....but, just a big MEH.
Bleh, pretty much sums up the way i feel about the remake.
I'm definitely an old school Friday fan, and I mildly enjoyed it. I wasn't jumping out of my seat with excitement or anything, but I don't think it was as terrible as many make it out to be. I thought it was kinda fun to try and piece things together from Parts 1 thru 4. I saw it with some friends that are not nearly as F13 educated as me, and they had fun watching it so that was nice to witness as well. However, I thought the gore would have been a little bit better. After seeing the My Bloody Valentine remake I think I was spoiled with splatter :D
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