[review by J Kerswell]
Whilst Freddy was my first love (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) was the first slasher flick I ever saw on the big screen) my heart has always belonged to Jason. There's just something about that big old hulking psycho: silent, menacing and bursting with murderous intent. Still, only one man can truly strike fear into the hearts of any self respecting horror fan, and that man is ... Michael Bay. So, could the remake, reimagining or whatever they're calling these days be worth the price of a movie ticket these days? Well, thankfully whilst this 2009 update is lacking in some departments it's certainly not the disaster it could have been.
In a brief 1980 prologue, a female camp counselor battles mad Ma Voorhees; ending with the rabid lady loosing her head to the sharp end of a machete. Stumbling into the aftermath comes Jason, taking his mother's pendant and then sulking back into the woods (no, sadly this doesn't the answer the age old question as to why the killings were happening if Jason was still alive).
Fast forward to the present day, a group of teens head off for a camping trip next to Crystal Lake. The only thing they're worried about is mountain lions (if only they knew!). Unbeknownst to all but two of them they are on the hunt for a weed plantation. This reefer madness leads them into the homeland of the Sultan of Slaughter. After much beer drinking, boob flashing and frantic screwing, Jason (looking menacing in his burlap sack - a look difficult to pull off at the best of times, I'm sure you'll agree) makes a b-line for the horny teens. Cue machete action and some sleeping bag roasting; making short shrift of those pesky campers.
6 weeks later, another van load of teens are heading to Camp Crystal Lake for some r&r and t&a (natch) at a lakeside house. Before they get there, they have a minor run in with Clay (Jared Padalecki), a man looking for his sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti) (who vanished during the recent massacre). Nice girl, Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), feels sorry for him; but her boyfriend gives him evils and they leave him in the dust. Eventually, Padalecki and Panabaker make an agreeable Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy as they try to unravel the mysteries of Camp Crystal Lake.
Later, Jason gives a country bumpkin a nasty razor nick with a machete after he messes up his natty burlap sack. Thankfully, there wasn't a Sarah Palin mask lurking in that attic, and Jason knows it was meant to be when he spies a hockey mask lying in the dust. A legend is born. Still, Mr Voorhees doesn't waste too much time admiring his new sartorial elegance. No time for that when there's teens misbehaving down by the lake ...
Put it this way, it could have been a whole lot worse. Bay has already massacred THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, and the redux of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE wasn't really that much cop. Thankfully, director Nispel is at least respectful to the source material. The remake doesn't really play it for laughs, and - like this year's MY BLOODY VALENTINE redux - it does it admirably straight. What's perhaps a little strange is that whilst this remake successfully borrows much of what made the formula work so well before (stalking in the woods, blood and gore and endless naked teen flesh), it doesn't go as far as you might have thought. Part of the reason that the original scored so big at the box office was Tom Savini's gore effects, which were genuinely shocking and impressive at the time. Whilst the remake dishes up plenty of the red stuff, few of the gore effects have that wow factor. Even worse, the film still hedges its bets and tries to court a diminishing audience by throwing in some torture porn style maulings (soooo 2005!). I mean, would the Jason of old spend the time hanging some girl above a fire in her sleeping bag? Hell no! He'd whack her into tomorrow by bashing her against a tree (and did just that in one of the earlier films). However, if bouncing silicon enhanced breasts are your thing then you're in for a treat. The film even throws in a topless water skiing scene in for good measure. They pack in enough drug taking, drinking and bonking for three films, but it does mean that it takes its while to build up a head of fear steam. Once the film hits its stride there's some scares to be had and some hackneyed (but always effective) suspense, ably enhanced by the skilful soundtrack.
Perhaps surprisingly, Derek Mears does an admirable job as Jason. Nispel and Mears successfully imbue our favourite Mamma's boy with a real sense of menace. Maybe in another nod to MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Padalecki appears in TV's SUPERNATURAL with that film's star, Jensen Ackles), Jason's lair is abandoned networks of mines under Camp Crystal Lake. Who knew?
Ultimately, Nispel and Bay try and cram too much into this remake. Ostensibly a redux of not only the first film, but also the two immediate sequels, it could never do justice to all of them. The footage set in 1980 is over in a blink of an eye (and the famous decapitation of Mrs Voorhees is hardly a showstopper - and Nana Visitor is certainly no Betsy Palmer). Perhaps a recap of the original murders might have given the film some added gory pizzazz.
Without giving anything away, if you were wondering how they try and top the shock endings of the first three films (especially Jason emerging from the lake at the end of the original), well - during a bit of stupid non logic that'd fit in well with some of the earlier films - it dumbly sets it up nicely for a sequel.
Better than I hoped but not quite the reinvention it could have been. Still, I doubt this is the last we've seen of Jason Voorhees.
female:4 / male:9
1) Female decapitated with a machete
2) Male has ear cut off (!)
3) Female burned alive in sleeping bag
4) Male gets machete to the head
5) Male hacked with machete
6) Male has throat cut with machete
7) Male gets arrow through his head
8) Female gets machete through her head
9) Male has screwdriver forced through his neck
10) Male gets an axe in his back
11) Male get poker shoved through his eye
12) Male gets a machete through his chest and is then impaled
13) Female impaled on rapier