Friday the 13th marks a return to that carefree, halcyon era when the killer in a horror movie just whacked you in the head with his machete and moved on to his next victim instead of prolonging your suffering as long as your body held out. Weren't those the days!?
A surprisingly straightforward romp in slasher-flick cliches, Friday the 13th is replete with gee-whiz gore, gratuitous sex and nudity and party-loving teens with a penchant for ending up on the wrong end of a pick ax. Like the recent My Bloody Valentine remake, the movie pretends the post-Scream ironic era never happened, and kids never learned not to tread the turf of a psycho who makes no secret about his intent to kill them.
In marked contrast to recent horror hits such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Saw franchise, Friday the 13th is refreshingly light on sadism and lingering shots of gory mayhem. The violence is brutal and bloody, but it is also swift and to the point, designed to make you shriek through your popcorn instead of upchuck into it.
It also helps that the masked killer happens to be Jason Voorhees (played by Derek Mears), arguably the most iconic of the villains who slashed their way through the horror genre in the 1980s. Working from a reverential script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (who previously penned the surprisingly effective Freddy Vs. Jason), director Marcus Nispel makes few changes to the proven Friday the 13th formula: Anyone who dares venture into Camp Crystal Lake will still probably not live to tell about it - especially the knuckleheads who insist on waterskiing topless.
As is typical of this sort of picture, the cast is made up of generic, good-looking, mostly unknown actors, although fans of the WB series Supernatural will recognize Jared Padalecki as the young man searching for his sister who disappeared while vacationing at - you guessed it - Camp Crystal Lake. His quest gives the movie a semblance of a plotline, something that is new to the series, but the result is pretty much identical to every Friday the 13th before it (or at least Parts II-IV, before Jason left the woods).
About the only unpredictable element in Friday the 13th is the question of who will live to see the end credits,although a degree in microphysics is definitely not required. Even the jumps and scares are easy to predict, but there are only so many times you can go camping with a crazed killer before you start anticipating his habits.
This is certainly the best-looking Friday the 13th movie ever made, and teens who weren't around the first time now have their chance to experience the series in a crowded theater. But there is no way the new version can register as strongly as the original did. This is awfully tired stuff, right down to the last-minute gotcha. But at least it isn't Saw VI.