STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $28.98
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
• Behind-the-scenes featurette
• Deleted scenes

The Pitch

“It’s Friday the 13th meets Friday the 13th Part 2 with a little dash of Friday the 13th Part 3!”

The Humans

Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), Danielle Panabaker, Derek Mears, Amanda Righetti.

The Nutshell

Jason Voorhees holes up at Camp Crystal Lake, the only home he has ever known, and guards the territory jealously from promiscuous teenagers, trespassers, and innocent bystanders alike.

Innocent Bystanders #1 and #2.

The Lowdown

There’s no formula for the perfect remake of a beloved property, It’s not about preserving a magic number of old-school references, combining them with modern techniques, and serving cold. I hate it when directors and producers behave as if there were such a formula; it’s even worse when the original property was pretty damn formulaic in its own right.

All things considered in the boomtown business of remakes, though, I think Marcus Nispel has a good instinct for what works, what doesn’t, where to make the film his own, and where to submit to the established mythology. (For the record, Rob Zombie is blissfully unaware of any of this.)

Does pot trigger anyone else’s arachnophobia?

Nispel’s other high profile remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, had its share of fans around here. I thought it was a fine, grungy, bloody bit of horror. Jessica Biel put butts in the seats, and Leatherface worked his magic from that point on. Devin has been writing lately about how the remake train has gone quite a ways toward cementing our generation’s slasher villains as iconic movie monsters, and I think he has a point. In TCM, Leatherface behaved not as a character but as an archetype. He behaved like you would expect someone named Leatherface to behave, had you been given just a one-sentence summary of his character.

Similarly, Jason Voorhees benefits from the cinematic shorthand which relies on the audience to provide the meat of the monster right out of their imaginations. Jason is just a face — a mask, rather — slapped on a beast of such common recognition that it might as well be a part of the collective unconscious.

All of which makes it kind of a surprise when Nispel changes up Jason’s behavior in this Friday the 13th. Gone is the Jason who stands in mute, unconscious moral judgment over promiscuous teenagers; replacing him is a Jason that acts like a wounded beast, holing up in his territory and — though given time to heal and scab over — defending it viciously until he’s all done breathing.

“Shh! I think I hear a rival rowing team.”

While not a dramatic shift in motivation, especially as far as location and methods are concerned, this change still overturns a fair amount of Jason mythology. The events of the original are preserved, insofar as Mrs. Voorhees runs roughshod over a bunch of perky counselors in the opening couple of minutes. But where the sequels followed Jason as he, at first, connected with his mother by re-enacting her bloody passion, Nispel’s version casts him as more of a child, protecting all that he has left of dear, departed mum.

In this case, that means slaughtering anyone who dares trespass near Camp Crystal Lake. Jason’s concept of his domain reaches pretty far, but it’s plain that a few denizens of the area manage to live with him in relative peace — unless, say, they happen to venture onto his land in search of a weed crop. Instead of shining a murky, moral light on the behavior of its protagonists, Friday the 13th opts for this more straightforward, murderous reasoning.

Tch tch tch, ah ah ah.

I think the film is occasionally weaker, and occasionally stronger, for it. I like that Padalecki’s character seems an honest, Jason-proof character right from the get-go, under the mythology of the old Jason. But, as the audience comes to realize, Jason’s lack of explicit or implicit moralizing means that Padalecki is no more safe than the hopped-up teens executed in the opening minutes. I like that the new Jason’s past is allowed to occupy a full subplot. I like the playful tension that grows as Jason’s reach expands.

However, the commitment to the new Jason is only half-hearted, at best. Despite all the opportunities to make a trapped, figuratively claustrophobic horror flick, there’s plenty of open space given to the characters. Sure, Jason turns up everywhere, but the need to escape never drives the action. There are narrative reasons for this, and, for me, those reasons are the other weak point of the new Jason. I like how his mythology has changed, but I’m not too convinced by the way that it has changed. Similarly, I like that Jason was given a historical subplot involving his mother, but I don’t like at all how it was executed, and how it involved Padalecki and Panabaker’s characters.

Lusting after models? Guess what Jason has to say about that!

Minor gripes aside, I had a tremendous amount of fun with Friday the 13th, as did many of my friends. Jason crosses generations, now; he’s an icon. You can fuck with him all you want, but the space he occupies in cinema history — while certainly open to interpretation — always returns to the same general, resonant shape.

The Package

For a “Killer Cut,” this is a pretty weak disc. The extended cut doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the film, as far as I can tell. As for bonuses, well, you’ll have to be satisfied with a fairly rote movie history of Jason from then ’til now, and a couple of deleted scenes that weren’t even up to the standards of inclusion on this DVD “extended” cut.

7 out of 10