Friday the 13th (2009)

You’ve gotta hand it to Marcus Nispel. He managed to make two horrible reboots of beloved horror franchises, first, the grungy, awful Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-imaging (if you’ll permit the phrase for something that involved so little in the way of imagination) and then, a few years later, Friday the 13th.

While the source material here doesn’t soar as high as Tobe Hooper’s inestimable one-for-the-ages classic, Nispel manages to sink Friday lower. Which is an achievement of sorts.

There are several things which made the original Friday the 13th series great, none of which are present in 2009:

1) The Crystal Lake mystique. It’s at once everywhere and nowhere. It’s an important place, which might not even be a place. A killer lurking in the woods, gave Mr. Voorhees a terrific around-the-campfire, no-fixed-address urban legend appeal. Here, Jason gets more than just a makeshift shack, he gets a permanent lair. The Sawyer family had a Texas compound,  but Jason just roamed. That’s the Jason way.

2). The lack of fixed reference points. It’d be a stretch to call Victor Miller/Sean Cunningham’s creation “timeless,” but what immediately dates any film is an over-reliance on du jour references, whether it’s tech (GPS! GPS!) or pop culture cringe (“what, because I’m black, I can’t listen to Green Day?”). Also, the product placement added a particularly unsavory element. Jesus, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

3) The fun kills. The original series gave us a solid helping of gallows humor in the form of Jason’s unique kills (a few of which we reference in our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons). He may be a serial killer, but at least he didn’t kidnap/torture his vics!

And finally,

4) A loss of innocence. Jason’s victims maybe hormone-driven campers but for all their nudity, fornicating and partying, they’re relatable young adults, not vulgar exhibitionists wake-boarding topless and flashing their friends while they’re engaged in conversation.

Friday the 13th (2009), essentially, strips bear everything associated with the series, the then adopts some of the worst excesses of the Saw franchise (a bear trap, really?). This is established right off the bat, with a truly ugly cold opening that’s probably the longest in horror history, where we first get a poorly-shot black & white demise of Pamela Voorhees, and then a brutal dispatching of a bunch of campers (one of whom is burned to death in a sleeping bag, establishing a sadistic element of Voorhees reprised later).

Thereafter, a bunch of central casting interchangables and a brother (played by Jared Padalecki, sticking out like a sore thumb for having acting chops) descend on Crystal Lake. And they happen upon a “cabin in the woods,” where there’s requisite flies, rotting meat…and…wait, is this Friday or Texas?

*3/4 (out of 5)


The Nest

Jaws with bugs? Another in a long line of “substitute a shark with your favorite killer critter here” movies, The Nest (1988) is a creature feature that puts the bête noire of apartment-dwellers at the forefront: the ever-icky cockroach. 

Set in an ostensible “New England village,” a la the Spielberg chomper, this low budget affair comes complete with palm trees, not exactly indigenous to the State of Massachusetts, and other delightful geographical goofs (opposing car windows showcasing a sunny coastline on either side…Either this is the world’s narrowest island, or maybe it was a leisurely drive down an isthmus?)

And the Jaws similarities don’t end there.

Like other nature-run-amok movies, there are entrepreneurial schemers, looking to make a quick buck, and at the expense of public safety. Here, it’s Intec, an evil corporation in cahoots with a corrupt public official, a mayor desperate to increase tax revenue on the island. His economic development plan includes allowing a biotech firm to set up shop, a start-up with an interesting business model: they’re testing a cockroach in a lab, that’ll feast on other cockroaches! What could possibly go wrong with that?

Cockroaches are inherently nasty. And perfect horror film fodder. But for creatures that can apparently go a month without feeding, you’d never know it here. In The Nest, they make short work of islanders and pets, in it has to be said, rather revolting fashion.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

And it’s up to the macho town sheriff, and his ex-paramour and high-school sweetheart (who happens to be the mayor’s daughter) to save the day.

Genre fans will get a kick out of love interest Lisa Langlois, who starred in some 80s cheeseball classics like Happy Birthday to Me and Deadly Eyes.

There’s even an evil scientist who gets aroused by the order, Blattodea (a group that includes termites, another indestructible insect).

As audacious as Slugs, this buggy horror delivers.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of The Nest on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]