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)



CrawlerIs this cover art ever deceptive? A piece of heavy machinery with Kraken tank treads and a penchant for human blood? Crawler, a movie about a killer bulldozer, covers new ground (literally) and isn’t nearly as terrible as it should be. In fact, it’s kinda loveable, like a mom loves her reprobate criminal son.

The demise of video stores (and associated eye-capturing cover art) means, to quote the late BB King, the thrill is gone when it comes to happening upon something so ludicrous, so god-awful looking and yet at the same time an absolute must-rent.

Crawler is just that. The poster is an absolute riot and Fifty Tons of Terror is a tagline to beat. But is the flick tons of fun?

Evil developers are callously constructing a golf course with complete disregard of a murder victim having been previously found there. Or something. And the deceased’s mother is picketing the project. Nonetheless, instead of erecting a plaque or planting a tree to honor the  victim, things proceed as holes are dug and land is cleared.

The project’s foreman,  who thinks one of his workers died under his watch, is away trying to dry out and drowning his sorrows in self-pity and blame.

But the show must go on.

The foreman’s replacement needs some added machinery to elevate greens and tees and to excavate mounds and to dig some bunkers. He goes to the local rental place to procure a “crawler” (bulldozer). But things are not as they seem. For starters, there’s something ominous about the machine. It’s all alone, stuck in a far-flung back corner of the facility. No matter.

crawler_promoOnce the job begins, the machine suddenly burns the forearms of some of the workers, despite it being cold to the touch. It’s come alive, running over people’s feet, injecting them with goo and sprouting tentacled dozer tracks.

Soon, the original foreman returns to do battle against the machinery.

Keir Cutler is dynamite as Karl, the machine’s unlikely love interest, as is Robert Renyolds as Dover, the sagely rental guy who opines on the nature of evil.

Loads of fun on a minuscule budget.

*** (out of 5)