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 Hills Have Eyes II

hills_have_eyes_2If you wanna see a bunch of National Guardsmen in peril, go watch Walter Hill’s outstanding Southern Comfort where warriors come out to play-ee-yay with your emotions in a sinister, underappreciated horror you’ll definitely appreciate more than The Hills Have Eyes II.

The first Hills remake had its detractors (not here), but Alexandre Aja (High Tension director, Maniac writer) crafted a capable film — as the Washington Post put it, “even as he reinvents, Aja invents…”

That one was way better than it had any business being, given the woebegone state of horror movie re-dos.

Here, we have Martin Weisz on the directorial stool, a man whose experience derives predominantly from music video shoots for Sisqo (maybe he does know a thing or too about horror? “Thong, thong, thong, thong, thong” is pretty darn horrifying).

What he brings us in The Hills Have Eyes sequel though, is all the annoying quick cuts from his day job as well as a bunch of truly terrible CG blood (for a movie featuring some terrific viscera from Greg Nicotero, why’d they even go there?)

hills_have_eyes_2_movieWe’re back in the unforgiving desert, in New Mexico’s Sector 16 rather than the Simpsonian Sector 7-G, and a bunch of carbon blob, er, National Guard soldiers are being put through their paces in a training mission replicating the rugged geography of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The setup involves standard military movie-issue intra-ethnic tensions, cussing, dim banter, a hard-nosed sarge and the inevitable ball-busting: “One good thing about being dead. Wouldn’t have to listen to all your bullshit!”

All of a sudden a distress call comes through, and the team has to rescue some researchers. An easy-breezy training exercise becomes deadly serious.

Emphasis on deadly.

That’s when “you know who” pounces – those cannibalistic A-Bomb mutants lurking in desert caves.

Who knew Wes Craven’s incomparable creation would be reduced to this overly slick, jump scared-filled mess? (Craven shares the blame for co-writing this fiasco, one of the more poorly written horrors you’ll ever see.)

One thing that can be said about The Hills Have Eyes 2 (or II): You’ll never look at a porta-potty the same way. Guess it is an accomplishment to make them even MORE disgusting…

** (out of 5)