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Friday the 13th

(2009)  1/2 R
95 min. Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution. Director: Marcus Nispel. Cast: Julianna Guill, America Olivo, Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Danielle Panabaker.

/content/films/3347/3.jpgRepetition and parody have effectively killed the slasher flick: it's been done to death. And brought back to life. And redone to death. The post-modern slasher movie Scream did such a thorough (and creative) job of identifying and satirizing the slasher formula that it's hard to tell anymore if a formula slasher picture is meant to be taken at face value or as a postmodern joke. And so Friday the 13th—the eleventh follow-up to 1980's Friday the 13th—adds traditional slasher horror to splatstick comedy for the sum of a slick zero.

Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company has seemingly cornered the market on horror remakes. Here, Bay reteams with director Marcus Nispel, who helmed the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. That picture worked better than the new Friday the 13th, but then its source was...meatier. The Jason pictures have never offered much more than set-'em-up-knock'em-down slashing, and there's nothing witty about the approach taken by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason) for the reboot. The opening credits—set circa the first film's release—recapitulate the maternal motivation of Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears). The story is summarized by Mrs. Voorhees' echoing command "They must be punished. For what they did to you, what they did to me. Kill for mother!" And so the hulking, machete-wielding serial killer stalks on, the details a mere formality: in the first round of young-adult slashings at Camp Crystal Lake, Jason's story returns to its roots as a sketchy campfire tale about a kid who was "deformed or retarded or something." Exactly.

Six weeks later, Clay (Jared Padalecki of Supernatural) arrives at Crystal Lake in search of one of the campfire girls, his sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti). Also arriving in town is an Escalade full up with seven college students: Trent (Travis Van Winkle), Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), Bree (Julianna Guill), Chewie (Aaron Yoo of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), Chelsea (Willa Ford), Lawrence (Arlen Escarpta), and Nolan (Ryan Hansen). Rich S.O.B. Trent is hosting the group at his father's cabin, and pot, beer, scotch, and champagne are the orders of the day. As everyone but the characters in horror movies knows, substance abuse and premarital sex ensure gory deaths, "Hell House"-style. The formula has become so lazy that one character actually grabs his girlfriend's hand and tugs her toward a tent in the woods with these famous last words: "C'mon, have sex with your boyfriend." He might as well blow his killer call whistle. (The half-ass moralism is the film-pot calling the viewer-kettle black: it's hard to imagine a more immoral cash-grab than Friday the 13th, Mark XII.)

The reboot adds exactly one plot point to the original picture: Clay's search for his victimized sister. The humor is multiplied and a bit more refined, but there's nothing original enough going on to mask the smell of trash. It's the same old lousy storytelling, with an absurdly skilled killer able to be everywhere at once, and whose footsteps alternate between being ballerina-light and monstrously clomping: it's nightmare logic without the scares. At this late date, a movie like Friday the 13th is less a horror movie than a night at the Coliseum, letting moviegoers cheer as the filmmakers throw sinners to the lion.

Nispel specializes in dirt, dust and rot, which had a certain artfulness to their nightmare extremity in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here, in Jason's camp cabin turned clubhouse, the squalor seems like self-parody rather than a story point. Whenever there's an opportunity, Nispel breaks out rednecks (here, one sweet-talks a mannequin) or anachronistic old folks (like an old bat with '60s horn-rims and Jesus-freak trinkets). In Jason's cabin, an innocent muses, "Look how old this stuff is—it's like it was dragged here from another century." So was this movie. Someone get Michael Bay a Netflix membership—or maybe it needs to be suspended.

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Aspect ratios: 2.4:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 6/16/2009

Distributor: Warner Home Video

In another faultless hi-def transfer, Warner sends the Friday the 13th remake home on Blu-Ray in a two-disc set with the Killer Cut (which adds about eight minutes) and the Theatrical Cut, both R-rated. Much of the film takes place at night, but this transfer handles those scenes surprisingly well, with sturdy shadow definition and no apparent digital artifacts; it goes without saying, then, that the daylight scenes look spectacular. No complaints, either, about the definitive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround soundtrack, which packs all the punch of the film's theatrical presentation.

In bonus features, a Picture-in-Picture with Trivia Track tests knowledge of the entire franchise and includes "exclusive behind-the-scenes footage."

The making-of "The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees" (11:24, HD) delves into the redevelopment of the killer character with producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, Derek Mears, Jonathan Sadowski, director Marcus Nispel, Willa Ford, Danielle Panabaker, Nick Mennell, special make-up effects artist Scott Stoddard, Amanda Righetti, Julianna Guill, Travis Van Winkle, and Kyle Davis.

"Hacking Back/Slashing Forward" (11:41, HD) pays tribute to the original film while suggesting how the new film compares. Participants include Nispel, Swift and Shannon, Righetti, Jared Padalecki, Van Winkle, Guill, Arlen Escarpeta, Sadowski, Mears, Fuller, Ford, Form, and Stoddard.

"The Seven Best Kills" (22:33, HD) is sure to be a fan favorite, breaking down as it does each of the "kills" in significant "how'd they do that?" detail. Interviewed are Panabaker, Van Winkle, Padalecki, Aaron Yoo, Stoddard, Form, Mears, Sadowski, Nispel, Swift and Shannon, Ben Feldman, America Olivo, Ford, Guill, Ryan Hansen, Fuller, Mennell, and Righetti.

Lastly, you get three "Additional Scenes" (8:19, HD) and a Digital Copy on a second disc.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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