Friday the 13th (2009) - Revisited
Arnie C, February 13, 2019
by Arnie Carvalho
“No matter how much you love the original films in the Friday the 13th series,
“Can we now admit ‘Friday the 13th’ 2009 was damn good?”
“It is one of the best film franchise reboots put out in theaters in the past 15 years.”
“I’ve always been of the mind (and it’s a hill I’ll die on), that it kinda just
“Stay away from this movie. It really is one of the bad ones…
“In three years no one, absolutely no one, will remember that they saw it, that
Still Now Playing 10 Years Later…
Today is a momentous day in my life. It’s a birthday of sorts.
While Now Playing Podcast started in 2007 it (like many shows, TV, radio, podcast, and otherwise) went through some growing pains. Cast changes, an irregular release schedule, and format changes all marred the first two years.
That began to change on January 9, 2009 — the date we released the first episode in our first retrospective series: a review of 1980’s Friday the 13th leading up to the 2009 reboot. The show went from two hosts to three (that would begin rotating later that same year). The “Recommend/Not Recommend” finale was solidified, as were patterns of series-specific opening credits, art, and titles for each film series.
Yet it’s arguably today, Friday, February 13th, that could be seen as Now Playing’s true 10th anniversary. It was the day we recorded our final Friday the 13th review. By that point we knew the retrospective was a big hit. Despite initial misgivings, we decided to immediately continue the format and review Star Trek leading up to its reboot. Stuart even went out and bought a microphone and literally stopped “phoning it in.”
I’ll never forget the night of Friday, February 13th, 2009. I was in New York City covering Toy Fair International. I went to see the Friday the 13th reboot in a Times Square movie theater, accompanied by my wife Marjorie. The excitement that caused me to begin the retrospective series was reaching its peak as the lights went down and the movie started.
Flash forward to five hours later. I’m in our hotel room (small, as most all NYC rooms are). I’m pacing. My iPhone 3G is hot against my face from being on a call for so long. I’m on a telephone recording my disappointment with the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot. Brock is in Chicago recording the call, and he would edit the show released to our listeners the following Monday.
All three of us had very similar reactions, and the reboot became the fourth Friday the 13th, out of 12, to get three red arrows on our website.
I honestly never looked back.
“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity” — Robert Morgan
As the 10th anniversary of the Friday the 13th reboot approached I came upon an interesting and unexpected turn of events: a number of think pieces were published celebrating the film. Even those who had reacted poorly to the movie initially had come around and not only enjoyed but celebrated director Marcus Nispel’s fresh take on iconic slasher Jason Voorhees (played by Derek Mears).
I started to question my own memory. Could they be right? Could that movie have aged well?
Having been a movie critic for over a decade I know from experience one of the hardest things to do when reviewing a film is to separate expectations from the final product. Movies are marketed to create expectations–to get you into a theater seat and spending money expecting delivery on what trailers, interviews, and even posters have sold.
Going into Friday the 13th in 2009 my expectations were sky high. I had loved Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake far more than the original Tobe Hooper film. I loved Jason as a killer. Jason’s last appearance on screen in 2003’s Freddy vs Jason was one of his best, and that movie’s writing team of Damian Shannon and Mark Swift were writers for the remake.
Could the movie have been good, or at least recommendable, but simply not met my expectations?
10 years have passed, so I decided to find out. For this re-review of 2009’s Friday the 13th I watched the extended “Killer Cut” released on Blu-Ray and Video on Demand. This cut was nine minutes longer than what I saw in theaters.
I watched the movie having not listened to our 2009 podcast since it was released. I remembered very little going in, only that Stuart thought Jason was a pothead. Then after watching the movie I listened to our old podcast to see what it was that got me so worked up.
SPOILERS BELOW for this 10-year-old movie!
I liked the opening. This is a reboot, and people want Jason as the killer, not old lady Pamela Voorhees. Yet Pamela’s plight from Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 original Friday is integral to the Jason mythos. To have the climax of the original movie done in montage fashion pays homage and checks the boxes. It does create a confusing timeline as to Jason’s supposed drowning, but handled well.
Then we have the second prologue and, not having seen the movie in a decade, I was faked out. I thought this would be the movie and these five characters, Wade (Jonathan Sadowski), Richie (Ben Feldman), Mike (Nick Mennell), Whitney (Amanda Righetti), and Amanda (America Olivo), were going to be our core cast. They actually seem like a fun group and call back to so many earlier Friday the 13th casts where there’s couples hooking up…and the lonely odd man out. That Jason comes in and killed so many so quickly was a shock.
Then comes our new Jason by Derek Mears. One of my big problems in 2009 goes back to expectation: I was used to the Jason played by Kane Hodder. Jason had gone through many iterations, from bag-wearing woodsman to space-zombie, but the walking after people who run, the nearly supernatural way of catching the prey, seemed like a staple.
This Jason was fast and aggressive. He killed brutally. And he used tools and more thought power than earlier Jasons. Hanging one woman over the campfire to burn while setting a bear trap for another victim really wasn’t in Jason’s modus operandi. But then I had to remember, this is a reboot, not a remake. The Friday the 13th series had lost its luster by doing the same things again and again. In 2009 I couldn’t reconcile this Jason with the ones before. Now I realize this reboot gives us an entirely new Jason.
If I just accept this is a new character, perhaps call him “Jimmy Voorhees”, I’d have no trouble with these new killings. Nispel wanted to revitalize the character and return him to his violent, horror roots. Nearly 30 years had passed since Jason first wielded his machete. It may not be the Jason I wanted, but this viewing I can accept this “Jimmy Voorhees.”
The two characters coming upon Jason’s cabin (plus the bag over Jason’s head) took me back to 1981’s Friday the 13th Part II, and I can go with it.
Not only did the prologue surprise me in killing (seemingly) everyone so fast, I also understand the need to have a body count. One of the pressures with each new horror movie installment was to have more kills. Here, we establish Jason as a badass killer, and we got five good kills. And for those who expect topless women in your Friday films, you got that out of the way too.
Plus, the gore! I was watching the unrated cut, but I marveled at how freely the blood flowed.
Then we actually get to the movie. Again, my expectation was, since we had Shannon and Swift writing again, that we would have a group of fun, believable characters like they gave us in Freddy vs. Jason. Instead, we have a group of character types that would never be friends. I had a real problem with that in theaters.
Yet, when watching it at home on a television, I found myself more forgiving. How many groups of totally different people went camping together in the past? Sure, Parts 1 and 2 made them counsellors thrown together, and 8 had them as classmates, but the victims in parts 3 and 4, and especially 7, don’t feel like they’d hang out together either. So, is this bad writing…or is this an intentional homage to the bad writing in previous installments? More, if I can accept these weird groups in earlier films, why not here too? So, I compartmentalized that complaint and, instead, found these seven young adults appealing, flawed characters, most of whom were obviously going to end up impaled on a machete.
Trent (Travis Van Winkle) is a great douche you love to hate (and with a rich boy name like Travis Van Winkle I wonder how much he was acting). Bree (Julianna Guill) is a wonderful seductress, and the attraction Chewie (Aaron Yoo) shows for Bree takes me back to Crispin Glover’s character in The Final Chapter.
Lawrence (Arien Escarpeta) is a stoner that feels like he would hang out with Chewie. The other couple of Chelsea (Willa Ford) and Nolan (Ryan Hansen) aren’t in the film long enough for me to get a bead on them.
Which does raise one flaw–this group is too big to keep track of. They’re here for a body count, but I’m not sure they are disparate enough where I can even assign them tropes of “the smart one” and “the shy one”, etc. Especially Chelsea and Nolan, they are the flattest of characters.
Then we have typical last-girl Jenna (Danielle Panabaker). Like so many Jason survivors in films past, she’s a brunette, she’s smart, she doesn’t smoke weed, and she doesn’t get naked. And when she encounters, and partners with, Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) who is searching for his missing sister Whitney, I’m taken back (in a positive way) to the similar plot in The Final Chapter.
The kills also are varied. I had a problem with Jason using an arrow to kill Nolan, but he used a crossbow in Part II so this wasn’t so far off. And again, this is the new “Jimmy Voorhees.” He’s a survivalist. He has to hunt to survive. It makes sense he’d be good with a bow. (It equally makes sense that this Jason is far more intelligent than the previous incarnations and so he uses Kerosene to power his home). And Chelsea’s machete-in-the-head gave Jason his usual, nearly supernatural sense of where his victims hide.
So halfway in the movie I wonder…was I too harsh on Friday the 13th? Did I allow my expectation to cloud what was delivered?
The answer is….partially, for the movie really does fall apart in the second half.
Nispel was best known (and may still be best known) for his Texas Chainsaw reboot. I don’t know if Nispel rewrote any of Shannon and Swift’s script, but the second half does turn this new Jason into a wannabe Leatherface. Why are there catacombs underneath Camp Crystal Lake? It makes no sense. Why did Jason kidnap Whitney? It makes no sense. Why does Whitney look so good after six weeks of captivity? It makes no sense.
Yet the deaths continue to impress. In this “Killer Cut” Chewie’s slow death in the tool shed was painful to watch as he writhes, groans, and bleeds for a very long time. Lawrence’s kill by Jason throwing an ax goes back to the survivalist skills, and creates a more “realistic” Jason who can’t just walk after every person who runs.
The best death/fake-out may belong to Trent, though. Waving down a tow truck, a silent hand waves Trent to get on. Can this Jason drive a car? No…it’s an old man on oxygen, unable to shout to the young man whose hesitation results in his being impaled on the truck as it drives away.
Yet another decent fake-out is Jenna. She seemed like the perfect “last girl” and, echoing The Final Chapter‘s Trish, I thought it was a given she’d escape. But two brunettes is one to many in a Friday the 13th film so when Whitney is discovered alive Jenna had to die.
The rest is pretty rote action with Jason just dead enough for a climax, yet, of course, always ready to come back for another sequel.
So, was I too harsh on the 2009 Friday the 13th? Yes, I clearly was. My expectation of what the previous Fridays had given clouded my ability to appreciate the changes Nispel tried to bring to make a Jason that could be scary in the 21st century.
Yet, the writing becomes very lazy in the second half. The film is almost a straight downward line, its quality decreasing with every passing frame of film, start to end. At no point does the body of the film reach the highs of its two prologues.
While this is a totally new Jason, much of the film, including the group of victims, is a throwback to the installments released 1980-1984. I wasn’t a fan of many of those early groups, so this is not a success, but it’s not worthy of the damnation I gave on the podcast.
So is it a recommend or not recommend?
It is on the borderline. I think that slasher fans will have a lot to enjoy, while old school Friday the 13th fans will have a lot to swallow.
(the tunnels under the camp, the convenient machinery, the obvious final “jump scare”), make me stand by my red arrow. But it’s a close call, and it’s what I’d call on the podcast “A very weak not recommend”…which is the most positive thing said about this movie in the entire history of Now Playing Podcast.
Yet the film has had a longer lifespan than I had imagined ten years ago today and, had it not been for endless legal wrangling over Friday the 13th’s IP rights, I have no doubt “Jimmy Voorhees” would have returned to slay again.
Yet while lawsuits continue over who has the right to make the next Friday film, I look forward to it. Ten years is the longest Jason has ever gone without a movie since his inception in 1980. He is missed, and hopefully Jason Voorhees, not “Jimmy”, will return to the silver screen again in the near future.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!
Hear Now Playing Podcast’s original retrospective series, 12 reviews of Friday the 13th films (plus a bonus recap episode), all available now at NowPlayingPodcast.com