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Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

What a lovely weekend! I don’t know about you, but I have been looking forward to seeing my old friends, the Voorhees’s, for a long time now, and finally the day had arrived. The last time I saw Pamela she completely flipped her wig (and the rest of her head) over a bunch of lazy-ass kids who weren’t doing their jobs at the summer camp where she was working in New Jersey, but that was decades ago. I really missed her too because I remember her from her days as a panelist on "I've Got a Secret" where she first went down that dark path that eventually proved her undoing. If it wasn’t for that damned former Miss America Bess Myerson teaching her the ins-and-outs of shoplifting, I’m sure Mrs. Voorhees would never have picked up her first machete and hacked that counselor to bits. Personally, it still think she could have blamed it on “having a crazy hair day” or on “that time of the month” and some “power bloating” and she’d have gotten no more than 60 days probation. After all, those teenagers should have been watching the children that night instead of screwing around. If they had been, her son Jason never would have drowned.

Of course we all know Jason didn’t exactly drown. He showed up in ten sequels and carried on Pamela’s work by offing at least a hundred or more horny teenagers and more than a few police officers and snoopy adults who wandering into Camp Crystal Lake. Finally, for no particular reason, filmmaker James Isaac (Skinwalkers) and writer Todd Farmer (
My Bloody Valentine) sent Jason into outer space and that sort of turned our masked murderer into a camp Camper Killer. There really wasn’t anyplace left for Jason to go short of chopping up Captain Kirk or Doctor Who, so the Friday the 13th franchise seemed as doomed as the kiddie counselors at Camp Crystal Lake themselves.

Finally writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (
Freddy vs. Jason), along with Mark Wheaton (The Messengers), decided it was time to “reboot” Friday the 13th after an eight year lull and “reimagine” the story from its very beginning. Okay. I am always skeptical of “reimagining” legends I already like just the way they are. I vaguely remember that over at DC comics, long after I stopped reading comic books, the powers that be “reimagined” their whole comic book universe, changing the origin stories of everyone from Superman to Wonder Woman, to the entire Legion of Superheroes. My childhood favorites became completely new people with whole new back stories that I would never know or understand. Oh Bouncing Boy, I hardly knew ye!

Anyway, I worried about what was to become of the Vorheeses. Would Shannon, Swift, and Wheaton “reimagine” Pamela into a
loving and caring woman who would never raise a hand against a child yet alone an axe? Would Jason ~ God Forbid! ~ wear some stylish new outfit with something other than his trademark hockey mask? Fortunately, the answer to both of these questions is no. As a matter of fact, director Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder), who also “reimagined”
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003 seems to have taken the source material and changed very little, at least very little of the characters’ beginning story. Unfortunately, he gives short shrift to Pamela Voorhees, who I thought was the heart and soul of the original Friday the 13th. It is too bad Nispel didn’t ring up original player Betsy Palmer for the role. Granted, it’s been 30 years since she first put on her turtleneck sweater as Pamela, but she is still acting and if special effects can make Brad Pitt look 18 again as in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, then the same technology could wipe three decades off of Betsy. Fans would have rejoiced to see the “real” ‘Mommie Dearest’ who loved Jason more than anyone else. Instead, we barely see Pamela, this time played by “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”’s Nana Visitor, and only in a dark re-creation of her death scene. What a bummer. I would have loved to have gotten a “reimagining” of what exactly drove Mrs. Voorhees to the edge before she went completely bonkers. For that matter, who was Jason’s father and where was he? What happened to him? Did he abuse his wife and son? Did he abandon them? Is that why Pamela ended up cooking for the kiddies at a summer camp to make ends meet? For that matter, what the heck was wrong with Jason anyway? He was obviously deformed somehow in the brief glimpses we saw of him as a child, but I was never clear what exactly his medical condition was. Did he suffer from Neurofibromatosis, the “Elephant Man” disease, or was he Hydrocephalic? Did he have a Cleft Palate? So many things to consider, but instead, we are “reimagined” into what is basically a rehash of the first couple of Friday the 13th movies crammed into one as a way to be true to the history, which included a period (Friday the 13th Part 2) where Jason did not wear his signature hockey mask, but rather opted to go country casual wearing a burlap sack over his head instead.

Truthfully, other than including the totally unnecessary addition of a series of underground tunnels into play, criss-crossing the property at Camp Crystal Lake so that Jason can have fun My Bloody Valentine-style and off a few teenagers in someplace other than a cabin or in the lake, there isn’t much new. The writers do offer some delightfully worthwhile victims for slaughter, but none more worthy than rich boy Trent (Travis Van Winkle; Meet the Spartans), who brings his pals and gals to the family’s plush summer home, conveniently (for Jason anyway) located right next door to the allegedly abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. By the halfway point of the movie I was so sick of Trent and his arrogant behavior I was ready to kill him myself, so his eventual fate is all the more satisfying.

The rest of the bunch on Jason’s menu is fairly standard stuff. There’s the horny girl, Jenna (Danielle Panabaker; tv’s “Shark”), there to service Trent and share her ginormous titt-ays with the audience, the horny (but never going to get any because he’s a minority, sorry but it’s true, stereotype) Asian guy Chewie (Aaron Yoo;
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), the horny (but also never going to get any because he’s a minority, sorry but it’s true, stereotype) black guy Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta; Dough Boys) and the not-so-horny good girl who is supposed to be Trent’s girlfriend but thinks he’s a jerk, Bree (Julianna Guill; Fired Up!).

Naturally, since Bree is the good girl, she’s got to meet a good boy, so along comes Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki; tv’s “Supernatural”), so good in fact he is out on his motorcycle searching for his sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti; Role Models), who disappeared somewhere in the area about a month-and-a-half earlier. Now how sweet is that? When I was a teenager, if I went missing for a couple of months, my older brother would have moved into my bedroom, painted it, thrown out my clothes, and ~ maybe, just maybe ~ if he was in a loving and caring mood, he might have tossed some moldy cheese down the backyard well just in case that’s where I could have fallen. Not that he’d actually look or throw down a rope or tell anyone, but I’m sure the cheese would be something I’d like. A nice sharp cheddar, perhaps? Anyway, I’ll bet you can guess who’s going to survive Jason’s Ginzu knife demonstration by the time this 97 minute slice-and-dice waltz is finished.

The audience I was with cheered out loud when Jason found his trademark mask, applauded when he made his first kill, and laughed and jumped up and down during all the right moments, so clearly this newly repackaged
Friday the 13th has done exactly what it was meant to do. Whether it can revive the franchise for a new generation is yet to be seen since there are ten previous Jason films available on dvd already as well as a hundred poorly executed rip-offs floating around. Personally, I liked this installment of the series, but it didn’t seem all that “reimagined” enough for me to call it a “new” Friday the 13th. To me, it was pretty much business as usual, but with a lot more titt-ays. Apparently that is what “reimagined” is a synonym for in horror-speak: “more titt-ays.” Oh, and for the record, there may be a lot more than in the 1980 version, but I can assure you, there is not a single titt-ay in this Friday the 13th that was made by God’s hand alone. Perhaps that explains the tunnels under Camp Crystal Lake. Somebody’s been mining silicone. And lots of it.

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