February 20, 2009

In the Mood for … Blood!

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Boy, are they remaking every horror movie classic or what? First The Hills Have Eyes and its pointless sequel, then Rob Zombie’s (re)take on Halloween, then Prom Night (ugh), and Black Christmas (blarf) and now the unholy goalie Jason Voorhees gets the treatment. What next? Elm Street again? Last House on the Left? Wait they are remaking those? Really? Why? Why?!
Actually, the answer is quite succinct, almost verging on formula, just like the formula attributed to Japanese horror remakes. Take an ’80s franchise, update with modern studio production value, shake the camera like a Bourne fight scene, show gratuitous female nudity with the occasional obvious cameo appearance or wink-at-the-audience reference, and maybe, just maybe throw in just one little twist that momentarily throws off the scene-by-scene rehash and angers the diehard fans of the original even more. It’s like the studios are trying to inspire fans of the original movies to take after their favorite movie serial killers and start mowing down Hollywood execs.
After all the good washes away, all the bad remains. So, we are more comfortable with sexual exploitation and foul language, right? Check. Replace cheesy synth soundtracks with crunk beats and “epic” scores that contain the original motifs so we can relate? Sure. Cast straight-to-video actors that we hope are not just playing dying characters, but dying in real life? Please. Thank you.
Well, not so fast. 2009’s remake of the 1980 Halloween-rip-off Friday the 13th does exactly what we expect … it’s more entertaining than the original. What? That’s right. The original movie was a bizarre conceit: The premise of Halloween was of an unseen and unstoppable psychopath rampaging after lusty teens, transported to an odd locale, Camp Crystal Lake. Odd, because the fears that Halloween instilled, that “pure evil” could waltz into your safe suburban home and ruthlessly, without reason, murder you in your sleep, on the one night of the year when everyone is outside wearing masks … is real creepy. Dumb teenagers masquerading as camp counselors out in the woods, alone? Really? This remake wastes no time. The opening reels summarize the first two Friday the 13th movies, and Jason is on his psycho stalker rampage through the woods of Crystal Lake nice and early. We don’t get much on the characters. They like smoking weed. They like graphic sex. They heard about a huge score of naturally-growing herb in the middle of the woods and decided their limited camping experience was worth the trip. Shall we ponder their fate?
Except, six weeks later, another group of dumb goofy teenagers is on their way to a rich shore house right down the street from the slayings. They don’t know five kids disappeared near the site of an abandoned, supposedly haunted camp. When Clay (Jared Padalecki, TV’s Supernatural) runs into them at the local town gas station with flyers searching for his missing sister Whitney, only one of them even notices or sympathizes.
Clay’s hunt for his somewhat estranged sister adds a slight level of characterization, an anchor for the audience, someone to sympathize with. The rest of the time, the audience envies the money burning, reckless abandon of the annoying teenage brats populating the movie in various stages of inebriation, influence, or undress. The “characters” excessiveness and idiocy are only matched by the audience and director’s contempt for them. When Jason starts killing them off one by one in increasingly creative and gruesomely depicted manners, the audience cheers.
Does Clay survive? Is his sister dead or merely missing? Does he find his sister? Does the movie successfully reference every possible scenario in all the Friday the 13th movies? Is Jason really smart enough to dig a complex lair of underground tunnels complete with trip wire alarms? Is it a coincidence that he is also an Olympic grade archer/bow-hunter? Do bananas chew gum? What?
If you’re looking for a dumb slasher flick filled with gore and goodies that manages to outdo the original, or romantic comedies just aren’t your cup of tea for date movies, you could do worse. Speaking of romantic comedies, this almost works as one. Remember, if he bursts from the woods in the dead of night only to decapitate and haul your naked body underground, he’s just not that into you.