I really don't understand what some horror fans find so fascinating about Jason, the unkillable boogeyman in the hockey mask who every couple of years shows up in a movie for the purpose of plunging sharp objects into the skulls of bratty teenagers.
The "Friday the 13th" franchise, with Jason as its star, exploits our most basic shock-seeking urges. I confess that in the early scenes of the charmless new installment -- simply titled "Friday the 13th" -- I could feel my pulse racing, as if on cue with the tremors of the soundtrack. These superficial thrills could not sustain me for long, because the movie is really nothing more than a series of mindless and sadistic pranks played to the same effect over and over again.
"Friday the 13th" is not a remake of the original as much as a reimagining of the early parts of the franchise. Here's a refresher: Years ago, a boy named Jason drowned at summer camp, sending the boy's mother into a frenzy in which she killed the camp's counselors, whom she blamed for her son's death. At the end of the original "Friday the 13th," the mother is decapitated. Turns out, Jason never drowned in the lake, and has been hiding in the woods of Crystal Lake, waiting to avenge whoever killed his mother.
This is where the new movie picks up. College kids go camping at Crystal Lake. Jason doesn't like that they are there, I guess, and so he kills them. That's about it.
Some victims are horrible people who enjoy worldly vices such as alcohol, drugs and sex. The rest are virtuous people who demonstrate terrible judgment. Every character lacks an individual personality, and instead fits an archetype of slasher horror (the bawdy jokester, the virginal heroine). We are not supposed to care about any of them, and we don't.
As with other empty-headed slasher movies, this one enjoys miraculous conveniences: cell phones can't pick up a signal at Crystal Lake; the town's police department and forensics team -- which, together, are one stupid cop -- apparently fail to spot pieces of evidence of murder lying all over the forest floor; and though people appear to have been living in or around this lake for decades, Jason chooses to kill only for the duration of the movie's 97 minutes.
Audiences tend to be raucous during this kind of movie, and my experience watching "Friday the 13th" began like the other times I have been to slasher movies. The lights dimmed, people cheered. They applauded at the end of the bloody pretitle sequence. Whenever one of the beauties began removing her shirt, a few catcalls went up. The audience wanted to feel scared: A girl screamed, and her friends teased her for being jumpy; when someone gasped at the sight of a severed ear, others laughed.
Halfway through the movie, though, as the pace of the killings accelerated, the audience became less vocal. I guess there are only so many ways in which a movie can show a teenager getting stabbed before the audience becomes numb to the movie's sadistic worldview.
Or maybe this material is just too dumb to thrill most moviegoers.
FRIDAY THE 13TH
1 star (Out of 4)STARRING: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo and Amanda Righetti
DIRECTOR: Marcus Nispel
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
RATING: R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug use.
THE LOWDOWN: A new generation of college kids heads to the infamous Crystal Lake for a weekend of terror.