I wasn’t going to say anything. I saw Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th at about the same time as Shep, and, while I didn’t quite loathe the film like he did, his review said it all. I didn’t see any need for another negative review.
But then I got to thinking. There are a few things in the Friday the 13th movie that are worth looking at. Not the acting, or the kills (for the most part). Not the dialogue or the portrayal of Jason. All of those things are terrible. And even though I didn’t enjoy the movie, I have to admit that, structurally, the film gave us something quite different in the horror genre, and it did it without becoming too self-aware.
FAIR WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
I think it all really stems from the fact that this movie crams the first three original movies into an hour and a half. We get Mrs. Voorhees, we get potato-sack Jason, and we get our iconic killer. When I heard this, I was interested in how they were going to pull it off.
The first movie is summed up in about five minutes at the head of the film. We see a (very creepy…I must admit) Mrs. Voorhees track our last survivor down to the edge of the dock. Our survivor chick hacks off the old lady’s head and escapes, leaving a little boy Jason there to pick up his trademark machete.
This segment missteps in a couple of ways. First, it relies on our knowledge of the first films to make sense. What is Mrs. Voorhees mad about? We know it has something to do with Jason, but her motivation is never explained.
And if she is mad about Jason being drowned, why is he lurking in the bushes right behind her? I know, I know, the original has the same problem. Is Jason alive or dead in the second movie? We don’t know…but this is a logic flaw in a series of movies. Each installment, by itself, makes sense (ish). It’s only looking at them together that we scratch our heads.
By putting all this in one movie, though, there are some logic flaws. A little rewrite and exposition could have helped. But I’ll get over it and move on.
This little sequence acts as a backstory for part two, in which a bunch of weed-obsessed campers go marching into Crystal Lake and meet potato-sack Jason. They are dispensed with fairly quickly (within 15 to 20 minutes), and we have the end of movie two.
And then the title. It was a stroke of genius to hold the title for this long. It’s like saying, “Okay, parts one and two were prequels. This is a Jason movie, and here it is.”
Which is kind of true with the original movies. What everyone thinks of as “Friday the 13th” was actually an evolving set of genre conventions that didn’t really solidify until part three. And even after that they kept growing and changing based on the times.
But back to Nispel’s 20-minute part 2. In it, we have a campfire story told about Mrs. Voorhees killing all those campers, and urban-legend-like stories of her son, back from the dead, killing people. Since we have seen this a few minutes before, it’s a cool way to show the legend of Jason growing and to be able to get to iconic Jason quickly (had they chose not to replace him with an impostor, that is).
Again, though, it points out the flaw of the series…was Jason a kid come back from the dead, or was he really dead, and at what point did he grow into a man. I’ll leave it alone.
Then we move into the meat of the movie. At this point in watching, I was already annoyed. Jason does not set bear traps and hang girls over fires to slowly roast. He just wants to kill ya. That’s the point of these movies. Freddy played tricks and joked around, Michael stalked for days, and Jason dispensed with the bullshit and just killed ya. That’s what made Jason Jason, and not Leatherface.
Check out Shep’s review for more unfettered bitching.
Moving on…In the third and final and longest part of the movie, we see another group of teenagers getting killed. Surprise.
But this is connected with the opening teen slayings in that the brother of one of the part 2 girls is now searching for his sister. We all laugh. She’s dead. Jason killed her. That’s what he does.
Only he didn’t, and that is a Jason problem and makes the movie even worse. Our main male and female lead manage to rescue the sister from the bowels of Jason’s batcave where she has been kept captive because Jason thinks she might be his mother. Why he chained her up, we’ll never know. This is terribly dumb and convenient…but structurally it is interesting.
Because now we have two survivor girls and a main character who is a man. When we move into the final chase scene with the three of them, anything goes. Who will survive? I’m going to assume if you’ve read this far that you have seen the movie. If not, turn back now.
So our “main heroine” of the third movie is killed with little fanfare, the we get two survivors. Who are brother and sister.
This is interesting. We’ve seen the brother and sister thing before, and it’s something I love about Jeepers Creepers. But in Jason movies, if a dude survives it’s usually as the love interest of the survivor chick. Nice little twist.
Unfortunately, it is sullied by the obligatory pop-out-of-the-water shot. I wouldn’t mind that in any other Jason movie, but in this it is silly. It’s pandering to an audience.
In the original Friday it was cool because we got a badass kid Jason. In the second, it was a cheeky and fun twist.
In this it is just expected and obligatory.
So the movie is terrible, but it does some fun stuff with the originals and with the genre as far as structure is concerned. Which makes me sad. If the original Jason had shown up and the dialogue had been a little more polished and some of the nonsensical cuts were changed (why do they escape Jason with their lives barely in-tact and then return to his lair?), then this had the overall structure to be a very cool Jason movie.
Alas, it is instead a movie that played its hand poorly and turned out very very bad.