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Friday the 13th Review – Killing What’s Sick for Something Slick

Friday the 13th Review – Killing What’s Sick for Something Slick” width=”560″/>

The company behind the new Friday the 13th is Platinum Dunes, which Michael Bay started in 2003 to produce a Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Since then, the company has quickly found its house style with an Amityville Horror remake and a remake of The Hitcher as well as a sequel to their own Texas Chainsaw remake. That style can be summed up as: Underground lair + rain + midriffs + young people being killed + short shorts + loud noises on the soundtrack. Platinum Dunes movies are no less schlocky than the originals they’re based on, but the difference is that when the original films were made they were, well, original. The company assumes that most people buying tickets today won’t bother to watch a 30-year-old slasher flick, so why not repackage it and sell it all over again? This isn’t a bad business model, although it does leave fans who remember the original out in the cold. 

After two prologues, one that dispenses with the original Friday the 13th in a clunky, exposition heavy credits sequence (in the rain, of course) and another that introduces Jason and pays homage to Friday the 13th Part 2 ,
the movie proper begins. There’s a hot guy who’s looking for his hot
sister who has gone missing, and there are rich kids going to party at
a bud’s house on Crystal Lake. They’re hot, too, although they’re
“Platinum Dunes hot” which means the dudes look like ’70s porn actors
(long feathered hair, sideburns and moustaches) and the chicks look
like strippers (caked-on make-up, bad hair, hard bodies). In the group,
there’s a range of character types — Long Duk Dong, a stoner, a jerk, a slut, a good girl, a bad boy and a tramp. Then they get killed. As expected, the remake does offer up blood, boobs, midriffs, short shorts, rain, underground
lairs, and some gore (Stabbed in the skull! Burned alive! Arrow through the
face!). But if you’re looking for a real movie with plot, characters
and creativity then you’re advised to look elsewhere.

The original Friday the 13th
is hardly a monument to good filmmaking, but with its central mystery,
its surprise reveal and its effective use of music and silence it looks
like Citizen Kane
compared to the remake. And that’s the problem with Platinum Dunes’
movies — they’re not necessarily worse than the originals, but they
come off feeling like brand extensions of familiar trademarks — Jason,
Leatherface — instead of genuine entertainment. The audience is
insulated from feeling much terror by the patina of slick production
values but the idiosyncratic, ragged, raw original Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies are far more likely to cause nightmares because they feel too cheap and dirty to be safe.

I could go on and on about the self-referential cameos by character actors from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre
remake, or the complete lack of narrative drive (except for one
15-minute-segment staged inside the main house) but what’s the point?
Reviewing a Platinum Dunes remake defeats you before you even start:
It’s not aimed at people who remember the originals, and it’s not aimed
at people who demand originality from their movies. They’re aimed at
the people who’ll give it a big opening weekend and make it a success
on DVD. There’s nothing wrong with motion picture commerce, but
sometimes the tension between art and commerce is what gives a movie a
certain frission. In this case, art is just one more victim lying
bleeding on the cabin floor, and commerce is holding the knife.

Grady Hendrix is one of the founders and programmers of the New York Asian Film Festival. He writes about Asian film for Variety at Kaiju Shakedown and should have found something better to do with his life by now.

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