Sunday 22 February 2009

Friday the 13th (2009)...and another rant about remakes...

The sheer volume of remakes is genuinely worrying for a movie fan - especially a fan of the horror genre - it seems that every time you have a glance at Bloody Disgusting online, you'll find a handful of new remakes announced. The biggest problem is, aside from the it being devoid of proper creativity, is that the majority of these remakes are of high-profile flicks, which have gained 20 or 30 (or more) years of cultural significance and following. They were also products of their time, and many viewers discovered them in either a simpler time for filmmaking, or long after the movies had already gotten out there.

Case in point - Last House on the Left - original vs remake. The remake is still yet to come out, but it will absolutely not gain the profile of the original movie - it won't/hasn't had the same production, it doesn't have the back story, it won't have the look, nor the feel, and it won't have the release history - nor the cultural significance and long-standing fan support.

Remakes, especially of genre classics, can never gain the notoriety and cultural standing that the originals have - they won't have the back story of how they came to be, they won't have the same textures as the classics, and in the era of the internet and double disc feature-packed DVDs, there's not a lot of mystique floating around.

How did I first see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? On a fudgy third generation copy on VHS, handed on from a friend during my teenage years ... now I have it on special edition re-mastered DVD ... and it's just not the same. It's still great, but it's not got the mystique anymore. So for horror fans, DVD has been both beneficial and a hindrance. You gain background knowledge and memory-lane-fuelled documentaries and commentaries, but you lose all the mystique and grit that came with a handed-off dubbed/well worn VHS.

Friday the 13th is another genre classic that's been given the remake treatment - and while there are arguments for and against the notion that "these remakes will make people watch the originals again", it's all a bit suspect - it's not about that for the companies behind these remakes - they want the cash, and can't be arsed to invest any sliver cash into some risk for coming up with a new idea (unlike television, where creativity has risen sharply in recent years, even in the wake of an explosion is soul-sapping 'reality' TV).

Also - there's plenty of new fans being recruited into the ranks of the existing fans for the original movies. I was born in 1984, and many of my genre favourites came out before I was even born, or at least when I was not more than a toddler. Yet I have discovered all these original movies off my own back via movie magazines, TV documentaries and word-of-mouth, and loved them immediately - and have in turn, splashed out cash on videos, DVDs, books and so on related to them.

As for the sorts of people who would watch the originals and merely scoff at them, well they're the sort of numptified morons who are best suited to watching whatever bullshit 'reality' TV that MTV is peddling these days like the most jaded of smut peddlers ... the sort of people that find Epic Movie, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and all those utterly atrocious pieces of shit to be worthy of spending time and money on. The sort of people who should be kept from breeding essentially. In other words, pay attention to the fans, not the numpties. The numpties should follow the success of the fans, not the everyday (and hardcore) fans suffering the tide of garbage paid for by morons.

It's putting so much credence in the words and actions of the dribbling minority who'd hand out fistfuls of cash to the promise of magic beans, that has left our current movie culture battered and bruised - the sort of culture where you have to struggle harder and shout far louder to be able to produce something of quality - somewhat ironic considering the explosion of the oft-name checked 'YouTube Generation'.

And you know what - when that quality comes along, it frequently does well - or even stupendously well. The Dark Knight for instance; that flick has brains, but it also pushes the blockbuster buttons for the masses. It appeals to a variety of levels - and raked in a preposterous amount of cash.

And as it's the 'season of the Oscars' at the moment, again - look at those flicks - are they remakes? They're almost never remakes. Instead they're original stories (or original adaptations) with almost always something of substance to say. They capture people's imaginations and get them excited.

When was the last time you saw some shit like Epic Movie at the Oscars? How pieces of shit like that, so frequently derided, can still be made so often is beyond me - except that it's definitely due to morons.

The same morons that demand remake after remake after remake...the same morons who don't "get" that these flicks can never be better than the originals, even if they prove financially beneficial. Instead you could take a shit movie, and remake that - and still make plenty of cash to pay for your money-lined producer pants. For instance, in the horror genre, Drive-In Massacre - it's absolute garbage, but there are seeds for a GOOD remake that would be BETTER than the original, while at the same time pushing various box office buttons.

What I'm saying is, surely remaking all these genre classics - and never making anything better than before - is simply futile. Instead, shit genre movies should be getting remade ... and I'm rather bloody sick of hearing "Batman Begins" being used as an excuse by yet another creatively-dim executive producer of music video director to justify yet another remake/sequel/follow-up/so-called-reboot that they're aborting into the world.

Have you seen the snippets of the Last House on the Left remake? 'They' just simply DON'T get it, do they? They just don't get it.


Now, after that rather long-winded pre-amble, it's probably about time I talked about the Friday 13th remake - which is, you've guessed it, about sex & drug crazed youths getting hacked and/or slashed in the woods by everybody's favourite hockey-mask endorsing nutjob, Jason Vorhees.

For a change though, I figured I'd break this flick down into good points, and bad points - so up first...


Some of the music used - "Sister Christian" makes it feel too much like a movie with a decent budget, rather than a low budget slash-fest like the original - the rap music used in connection to the black guy (after a rather ham-fisted calling up of his skin colour, before returning to pretty stereotypical territory) - Steve Jablonsky's score, while effective for the most part, just sounds like Steve Jablonsky's other scores, particularly those for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and its follow up - not enough "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" for my liking either ... I do miss Harry Manfredini's scores from the original franchise, especially in the first four movies.

It feels like too much like a movie, and one with a large production and comparatively high budget to the source material. The slasher genre classics all felt somewhat discovered, they had an air of mystery about them, and they felt like they'd been crafted by a small band of dedicated filmmakers (even if many of them were all cashing-in on a popular, and lucrative, trend).

While not known for their character development (or any development, in some of the slashers further down the food chain), the protagonists here feel too under-developed. Yes we want to see attractive young rapscallions who like sex and drugs getting hacked to bits, but particularly the first batch of teens feel far too superfluous to really bother with them at all ... almost.

As is commonly used in this day and age (and a rather lazy technique), there's far too much focus on LOUD NOISES, than genuine creepiness. John Carpenter's The Thing still creeps me out to this day, even after seeing it many times ... just thinking about it wigs me out ... it's about the ideas that back up the gore and the jumps that really makes a horror movie scary. Leap out and yell "boo!" and you're gonna get a scare, but it's cheap, and it wears thin very fast...and nor is it creative.

A key complaint about Friday 13th 2009 is this - it feels far too much like the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the same director, DP, composer and producers. The shadow of TCM2003 looms large over the entire movie, making it feel like a watered down imitation of an imitation.

In general - are all these remakes actually necessary?! It's clearly just a case of "because we can" rather than "because we should" - again relating to the lack of creativity, fresh blood and risk-taking within the film industry at the moment - take note from television right now, take some fucking risks, and come up with some fresh ideas!

Surprisingly (considering the source material), more gore would have been nice - if you're going to have lurid use of sex and drugs, particularly sex, why not go all-out on the violence? The Friday 13th franchise was well known (and loved) for fantastic gore, and inventive - often improvisational - kills by Jason (and his mother, in the first flick). Here there is a distinct lack of improvisational hardcore mayhem from Jason.

The opening 1980-set Friday 13th Part 1 redux is insanely rushed, and the scripting is pretty poor here - especially the dialogue - which is far too blunt in delivering the background information related to Jason's mother (the killer in the first Friday 13th movie). Despite being over-used in only TCM-2003 and Amityville-2005, the faux-newsreel angle would have worked better I think.

Jason keeping a girl alive and chained up doesn't make much sense, nor is it explained - it's probably because she's wearing his mother's necklace though...but still, it's under-written.

The old lady who grumbles her way through telling 'dude who is looking for his sister' that she's dead, because of 'him out there', and 'everybody in the community just ignoring it all' - again, this feels far too TCM2003, and doesn't fit the vibe of the Friday 13th franchise, which never had a "you ain't from 'round 'ere" vibe - it just had the crazy guy on the bike (for two movies anyway).

I'd have liked to have seen a bit more of Camp Crystal Lake, enough to get my bearings anyway.


Right, enough of the downsides (some of which are 'more down' than others), so how about some upsides?



It's hard to fuck up Jason - which is why Friday 13th 7 and 8, Jason Goes To Hell, and Jason X are worth a slasher-fan's time - fortunately the Platinum Dunes remake factory doesn't balls-up one of horror cinema's most loved icons (and indeed my own personal favourite movie serial killer). They even use shots of him running quite sparingly (thankfully) - so there's a nice balance between slow, creepy, silent stalking, and terror-train-on-your-heels charging. To be honest, there were times in the original franchise that Jason's slow pace felt highly unlikely to yield a kill ... ... but running zombies are still fucking stupid. This all said, a slightly longer look at his face would have been nice for the fans - remember Part 7's fantastic mask-off make-up? Exactly, it was awesome - we needed a bit more of that vibe (minus the 'zombie Jason' element of course).

The Asian dude - whose race is thankfully almost entirely ignored as a matter of any importance (unlike with the black guy, in certain ham-fisted dialogue scenes) - is a properly entertaining character, and reminded me of a number of the colourful (no pun intended) protagonists from the original movies.

The dude who is looking for his sister is also a likeable character, and fills out the alpha male hero role well.

Some other characters are serviceable in the entertainment department at least. For example - the dude whose father owns the featured party house is at times a total prick, but at other times quite funny, and occasionally rather well written (in terms of dialogue). Although why his girlfriend doesn't care at all that he cheats on her is beyond me.

There is some top-totty on show (even if some of the bewbage on offer is evidently rather fake), which was always one of the key checklist items from the original franchise.

It pushes simple, cheap-thrill buttons throughout (it's a tight-rope act of course, hence some of my bitchings about other cheap thrills that didn't/don't work). Over-the-piece I was entertained for the evening, with the company of friends, in a dark cinema staring at the silver it is worth the price of admission, and good for a night out.

It kicks the arse of the chunk-blowing festival that was called Freddy VS Jason, which was just dreadful (it's only saving grace was enjoying the sight of Jason lumbering about, and Monica Keena running arout in tight-fitting clothes).

I'd say it's better than Jason X, it's better than Jason Goes To Hell, and it's better than most of Part 8, and quite a bit of Part 7.

It is surprisingly enjoyable, as a Friday 13th franchise fan, to play a game of spotting all the elements which were cherry-picked from the first four movies (some have said first three, but it's definitely the first four - for the most part).


Some examples of that last point, off the top of my head, are as follows:

* The 1980-set portion - obviously that's servicing part one.
* Jason's 'final scare' at the waterside pier/quay after they ditch his body in the lake, which references part one, but also is reminiscent of part six and seven.
* Jason's mother's head - part two.
* Using basic psychology against Jason to stop him in his tracks - part two.
* Sack-head Jason, before he got his famous hockey mask - part two.
* The red barn - part three.
* Gaining his hockey mask - part three.
* Being strung up by the neck in the barn - part three.
* Bunch of kids go to a house in the woods to party, and get slaughtered by a quite crafty Jason - part four primarily I'd say, but indeed also part three and seven.
* Dude looking for his sister - part four.
* Killed in a sleeping bag - part seven, as well as Jason Goes To Hell (if memory serves) and Jason X.
* Crazy old person essentially saying "doomed" - part one and two.


Do I think we need a follow-up? Probably not. Do I think they'll make one? Probably yes.

Now, while TCM2003 was surprisingly quite strong (but nowhere near the same league as TCM1974), TCM: The Beginning was almost entirely unnecessary and didn't even live up to the moderate level of TCM2003. It was 'more of the same, but not done as well' ... ... so this does make me think, because Friday 13th 2009 wasn't on par with TCM2003, would a F13-2009 follow-up be a step up, rather than a step down (like TCM:TB was)?


Obviously, the original Friday 13th pwns the remake...but like I said much earlier, these remakes of genre classics never live up to, let alone beat, the originals.

And the big example of John Carpenters The Thing doesn't quite work as a come-back, because that wasn't a remake of the black and white movie, it was an adaptation of the original source material (the book), much like Batman Begins isn't a remake of Batman 1989 ... but then, The Thing isn't like Batman Begins ... and I'm still sick of people like McG (Terminator 4) using Batman Begins as a one-size-fits-all excuse for exploiting a beloved fan-favourite franchise.


Okay, rant over...and there was chat about Friday 13th 2009 in amongst it all, I swear!

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