The Franchise Files – Friday the 13th (2009)
The secret to creating a successful Friday the 13th movie is actually not so much of a secret. It’s an incredibly simple formula that too many screenwriters and directors over the years has chosen to ignore in attempt to keep things fresh. The “secret” principle is this: put Jason in the woods and have him kill horny teenagers. That’s all. That’s it!
As we’ve seen, after the early 1980’s, things started to get unnecessarily complicated and convoluted for the Big Man in the Hockey Mask. Poor Jason was sent to space, Hell, and was even had to face a young girl with psychic powers. While all of these ideas could have been entertaining, the fundamental aspect of the series was too often overlooked.
Just put him in the woods and have him kill people. How many times does this need to be hammered into everyone’s heads until they start complying?
Apparently, the answer to this seems to be a great number of years. Arguably from 1984 until 2009, things got so bloated for the franchise that it became humorous (to some). While I think that almost all entries in the franchise have something good to offer (the key word is “almost”), not all share the same sentiment. There are legions of fans who adore the first four Friday the 13th films and yet think everything past that is just a waste of time. Just ask Tom Savini – call it pride, call it what you will, but he has been known to say that he did kill Jason off, and the rest of the movies in the series were just silly.
What the horror world needed was a reboot. It may have been one of the only times I could list in recent memory in which a reboot was necessary. As much as I enjoyed most of these films, continuing with this story in 2009 really would be pushing it. A reimagining would be infinitely more interesting than sending him to California or putting him in a snowstorm; the character is too fascinating for him just to lay down and die, but it’s also important to know when to take a knee.
And so, in 2009, the Friday the 13th reboot was released, with a leaner, smarter Jason. Get this: in this movie, he’s in the woods. Killing horny teenagers. Finally.
The movie, since its release, has gotten a lot of flak; but what Friday the 13th hasn’t? This one is just a breath of fresh air. It’s barebones. It ignores the events that had happened in the previous eleven (ELEVEN!!!) films and takes the best parts of each to create something that encapsulates the spirit of the original films. Here, we are given a bit of insight as to how Jason survives in this environment. He’s a hunter, and he’s crafty as hell. He’s not a child, and Pamela Voorhees isn’t the killer – we don’t need to wait for another two movies until we get to see the hockey mask. We get a quick tribute to the films that have come before, even getting some shots of Jason acquiring the mask; before that, he wears a burlap sack, just like in Part II. And it makes me as giddy as a schoolgirl.
Jason, played by Derek Mears here, is a territorial creature. He kills not so much out of revenge but instead seems to kill anyone who is unlucky to trespass on his stomping grounds – which here, is Camp Crystal Lake, thankfully.
While the supporting cast of teenagers doesn’t add much to the story, no one is asking them or expecting them too. What’s more important here is that Jason is doing what Jason does best, where he does it best, and to who he does it best. That sounds incredibly sexual. It’s not.
Director Marcus Nispel acts as a real fan of the series and just gives us an hour and a half of fun, turning up the blood flow and letting Jason run wild. The dialog is a bit corny; okay, really corny sometimes. But who cares? During the first watch, I was much too excited to care or nitpick. It’s like Jason has finally come home, and he’d been gone for way too long. The reboot is awesome. If you can’t see that, you must not know what exactly made the series so great in the first place – and I really feel bad about that.
I love the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s hard to think of another horror series that had so many good movies after twelve of them. They’re fun, and they are not to be taken too seriously. Am I a bit sick for enjoying watching teenagers get killed so often? Maybe. But if I am, so are a lot of you. And that’s okay.
There’s something inherently fascinating about the character of Jason Voorhees, and it’s something I hope never goes away. Give me twenty more sequels; I won’t mind. Make them as ridiculous or as simple as you want them to be. Each new installment has something different and unique about them, which not many franchises can boast.
I can’t wait to see what Jason gets into next.
This concludes the Friday the 13th Franchise Files – all twelve films in the series. We’ll miss you, Jason! Don’t stay away for too long!