Halloween Scene: Friday The 13th (2009) & Jason Goes To Hell (1993)

friday the 13th poster 2009 For the most part, when it comes to remakes of prominent 80s slasher films from the past decade or so, I’m not a fan. I really disliked Rob Zombie’s Halloween and wasn’t a fan of the Platinum Dunes version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though I kind of liked TCM: Beginning, so go figure). It’s not so much that I can’t believe my beloved crazy murderers are getting updated or changed, it’s that there should be certain parameters that get addressed and ideas hit in any given property or franchise otherwise you’re dealing with a completely different thing. I fully understand that that’s exactly what an old fuddy duddy would say, so I guess that’s where I’m at.

Even with all that said, I actually liked the 2009 reboot of Jason Voorheese in Friday The 13th. The movie acted as more of a remake of the first three films from the original series with nods to Mrs. Voorheese being a maniac, Jason killing while wearing some funky headgear and him finally grabbing the hockey mask. The film doesn’t actually involve any campers which is a bit of a bummer, but this holds with reality better than the original films when you think about it. Who’s going to keep opening camps on a lake where a madman has created his own private hunting grounds? Those elements were still in the film, though, in the form of the abandoned camp.

It’s buildings like these where Jason has made his home. He’s basically been living in the woods for 20 years on his own, killing and maiming as he sees fit. His warped mind is reflected in the home he’s made for himself which looks like what you’d expect from a hulking man with the emotional capacity of an 8 year old (who also happens to murder people).

And boy, does he murder a lot of people. There are actually two sets of victims in this film, the first is basically pre-credits fodder who show the audience what Jason is capable of and then the second that’s staying at a rich asshole’s parents’ cabin near Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, Jared Padalecki’s traveling around trying to find his sister who was one of the women from the first batch. As you’d expect, they run afoul of Jason and he starts picking them off one by one, utilizing his trademark machete as well as a bow and arrow and a few other tools he finds nearby.

The movie’s nowhere near perfect, though. It definitely follows that late 80s slasher trend that was continued throughout most of these 00s remakes where the soon-to-be victims are all either complete asshats or, at the very least, unlikeable caricatures of stereotypes. This movie’s got the drug obsessed potheads, the jerky rich guys, the girl who sleeps with the guy as soon as his girlfriend leaves the room and the unfortunate nice girl who gets swept up in all this madness. The general idea behind creating characters like this is that audiences won’t mind seeing jerks get iced. There’s a bit of truth to that, but many horror fans would argue that it’s far more interesting to see characters we like in danger than ones we could care less about.

Still, this is a slick looking horror film with a super-intimidating actor under the Jason mask plus a story that mostly makes sense within its own rules. Some characters make wildly stupid decisions, but that’s to be expected when they’re drunk, post-coital, high or on the run from a maniac the size of a redwood. While the movie doesn’t necessarily add anything but slickness to the Friday the 13th franchise, I also don’t think it detracts like the Halloween remake did.

I would like to pose a question to my fellow Jason fans that gets into spoiler territory for this film as well as the original, so if you haven’t seen them you might want to move on. What did you think of the very end where Jason pops out of the water to grab the survivors? Personally, I’m on the fence. On one hand, I like the homage to the original, but it also felt really forced. We spent this whole time dealing with what seemed like a very human villain and then he comes back with this supernatural craziness? If they wanted to go with this kind of ending, maybe it would have been wise to avoid a wood chipper as a means of stopping him. How does he come back from that with his head intact? If it’s a dream, like some of the other water pop-outs, it’s not my bag.

jason_goes_to_hell In the process of watching all the F13 films, I of course returned to the one I liked the least, Jason Goes To Hell. This is one of those cases where I remembered not liking the film and read my old review which was overly negative, but couldn’t remember any specifics aside from the fact that they got rid of Jason and used a worm-thing to transfer evil from one body to the next.

Maybe I’m in a much different place mentally these days or maybe a complete lack of expectations made for a better viewing experience, but I like this movie more this time around. I mean, it’s not great (or even all the way good), but it’s not as terrible as my memory told me it was. There are three main problems with this film: it shouldn’t be a Jason movie, the directing is wonky and the casting was bad.

If this was simply a supernatural slasher movie about an evil transported from body to body in search of a perfect specimen, it’d actually be pretty cool. But when you take one of the most iconic killers of all time and remove him from all but two big chunks of the film, you’re not really making a new Friday the 13th movie.

As far as the directing goes, I don’t think this needs much explanation. Some elements of this film are just dumb. But, even if they weren’t there are some supremely strange choices. Jessica returns to her house to find her mom’s co-worker (and a childhood friend, possibly) cleaning her dead mom’s blood out of the carpet. This scene isn’t necessarily acted poorly, but it is staged in a supremely strange manner. These two old friends start catching up (not weird) about five yards from the gigantic blood stain (weird). Oh, also, the friend doesn’t know about Jessica’s baby even though she spent a lot of time with the kid’s grandma AND knows the father. That just doesn’t make sense.

It’s not easy separating the acting choices with the directing ones in this film. Everyone related to Ma, the diner owner, is awful. They’re poorly constructed characters performed in this ridiculous, over-the-top manner that made me bristle. On the other hand, you’ve got Steven Williams as the bounty hunter who somehow knows EVERYTHING about Jason and yet has never killed the maniac himself. This guy thinks he’s so Eastwood it’s annoying. You don’t need to growl everything to let us know you’re a badass.

And yet, I can’t completely write this movie off. Like I said, it’s an interesting story. Plus, the special effects are pretty great at times. The part where that guy basically melts was pretty gross and that little Jason monster made me cringe.  At the end of the day, this could have been a better movie with a few changes or maybe another pass or two in the editing/writing phase.

We Want Action: Predators (2010)

I don’t read a lot of movie reviews because I have a pretty good idea of what I do and don’t like. The only real reviews I pay attention to are the ones done on the Totally Rad Show podcast because I usually sync up with at least one of those dudes. When they reviewed Predators when it came off, I don’t think they were very happy with the movie. I remember Jeff Cannata being disappointed and noting that the setting used in the film wasn’t really used as well as it could have been. I also had some friends who saw it and weren’t all that enthusiastic, but I was still hopeful. Not hopeful enough to actually go see the movie in theaters, but hopeful enough to move it to the top of my Netflix Queue when it came out on DVD. I finally got around to watching the movie and I’ve got to say, I kind of loved it.

I think it helped that I haven’t watched another Predator movie in a while. I love the first one and even the second one, but was woefully disappointed by the two Alien Vs. Predator movies like many fellow fans. So, while I could appreciate a lot of the notes that this movie picked up from the previous ones (giant Gatling gun, woman surviving, traps, etc.) I wasn’t constantly distracted with thoughts of “they lifted that whole thing from FILL IN THE BLANK PREDATOR MOVIE.”

However, I did agree with Cannata’s assessment for at least the first 30 minutes of the movie, basically until the horned hound-pig things showed up. See, the basis of the film is that some Predators, instead of heading to a species’ home planet to hunt, will grab some prey and bring it back to a jungle world and hunt them there, like a game preserve. Our heroes who are actually all villains in the real world (predators themselves as one character points out) got abducted and then parachuted onto the planet. This time around they banded together to try and figure what the heck was going on. It takes almost exactly a half hour for them to guess what we already know, but that time is spent getting to know the characters to some extent and also hitting a few classic notes that I found really appealing like when they accidentally spring a dead soldier’s traps. I liked that scene because it basically tells the audience, “Hey, that’s not how this one is going to end.” After that there’s a lot of fights with Predators and even between Predators and a few twists and turns along the way to keep things interesting but without getting too bogged down including the appearance of Laurence Fishburne as a character who had been surviving on the planet for many seasons and who had lost his damn mind.

I liked the movie overall even though it’s clearly not perfect. The jungle could have been a lot more alien, maybe not Avatar-levels of weirdness, but maybe a few more indigenous dangers. I also was unclear on a few of the alien relationships like the non-Predator thing that chased Topher Grace, which was apparently based on the original design for the Predators (nice touch, by the way). One of the characters thought they were in cages or something. I also wasn’t clear on why the one Predator was tied up. I’m sure some of this information was given but I missed it because I was working.

Aside from a few small quibbles though, I thought the movie was a ton of fun and delivered everything I wanted: several Predators hunting humans with different destructive skill sets and same rad stand-offs between them. I really dug the casting. Adrien Brody surprised me as the hero even if his gruff voice got a little annoying after a while (this from a guy who didn’t even notice how ridiculous Christian Bale’s Batman voice was), but he does a good job of being cunning and caring just enough about his fellow castaways. I love Danny Trejo so it was fun to see him. Fishburne did a good job in his scenes. I liked Topher Grace a lot, mostly because I’m a big That 70s Show fan and the character he plays in this might as well have been a time traveling version of that Eric Forman (well, until the end). I didn’t really recognize the rest of the cast, but I thought they all played their roles well.

And now, a potentially spoilery list of moments in the movie that I loved. When the girl almost shoots herself in the head instead of letting a monster eat her. The intensity of the dead soldier’s trap. The sword fight between the Yakuza dude and the Predator. The reveal that Grace’s character is actually a serial killer, which makes all kinds of sense because why would the Predators snatch a doctor? Brody’s character using fire to camouflage himself when fighting the Predator at the end. That same Predator’s mask and face were both awesome. The projectile Predator blade. A Predator vs. Predator fight. Two beheadings BOTH PREDATORS. And, finally, the not really an ending ending that leaves things open for a sequel.

The movie was so fun I kept getting lost in it when I should have been working. I especially liked that writer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal seemed to have a lot of respect for the Predator mythos, but didn’t seem married to it. They worked in a new way for them to hunt and through Fishburne’s character tried explaining how that all works, though I’d have to watch again to really catch it. The characters themselves might not have been the most fleshed out in the world, but they don’t necessarily die in the order you expect them to either (who would have expected the prisoner with a knife, the Yakuza with a handgun and the doctor with no weapons would live that long?). Combine all that with my favorite movie aliens, lots of action and A SWORD FIGHT WITH A PREDATOR and I’m a happy camper.

Here’s my pitch for a sequel if anyone is interested. We pick back up with Brody’s character who has done his best to salvage the weapons that Fishburne’s character had found. While he arms himself with weapons from all ages (guns don’t really seem to work well, though explosives do) we get a look at who each of the weapons belonged to and how they fared against the Predators. Really, I just want to see Samurais, Ninjas, Vikings and maybe some weird other aliens fighting Predators on the big screen. And yes, I would actually go see the sequel in the theaters if these guys got tasked to make another one, though I’m not sure how likely that will be because guys like me didn’t see it in theaters the first time around. A vicious circle indeed.