Screen Screams: ‘Friday the 13th’ (2009) Review – “The Greatest Slasher Reboot Ever Made”
In 1980, Friday the 13th was released and Camp Crystal Lake would become one of the most iconic and horrific fictional campsites in horror. The campy horror and lore around the lake would be duplicated several times. Sleepaway Camp, Fear Street 1978, Cheerleader Camp, They/Them, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods at Night… the list goes on and on. Summer camp horror movies have become a staple in slasher films. Even still, people continue to send their children to summer camps. There’s something about Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees, the slasher that every camp counselor should fear. In 2009, he would get a reboot for the ages and possibly the most excellent horror remake of all time.
We all know the legend of Camp Crystal Lake. Jason drowns while the camp counselors are messing around, drinking, smoking, having sex, etc. His mother goes on a killing spree. In the original film, she kills several of the counselors offscreen and we don’t know who it is until the film’s climax. In 2009, we essentially start off at the end of the original movie when the last surviving camp counselor, Alice Hardy, chops the head of Pamela Voorhees (Nana Visitor). For the 2009 version, Stephanie Rhodes plays the character unofficially, but the film also includes Jason witnessing the beheading, which never happens in the original.
After the opening scene reintroduces us to the legend of Jason, we see a group of campers that are looking for a lost marijuana farm stumble into the outskirts of Camp Crystal Lake. This condensed and packaged 25-minute renaissance makes Friday the 13th what it is. Drugs and sex lead these campers to die faster than a groundball in a baseball game. This opening sequence introduces Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti) and brings us some of the best kills in Friday the 13th history. Someone dies by an insulated sleeping bag and a few characters get hashed and slashed. Leading us to the teens we will follow the remainder of the film.
Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) is simply searching for his missing sister Whitney. He runs into a group of young adults using a cabin in the woods for the weekend. He asks Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) and her boyfriend Trent (Travis Van Winkle) if they’ve seen his sister and while Jenna is kind and understanding, Trent is a rude and unforgivable human. Their friends are also pretty rude. The parties part ways and eventually meet again when Trent approaches the cabin not knowing who it belongs to. Things go sideways when Jenna decides to help Clay and they ring Jason’s bell to his underground tunnel. He goes on another insane killing spree with some amazing deaths.
The film’s climax is close to that of Friday the 13th Part 2. Jason pretty much kills the entire second wave of young adults we run into. They serve their purpose by participating in some fun slasher film kills. In great Cabin in the Woods fashion, the jerk dies, the clown dies, the scholar dies, and the whore dies. Oddly enough we get a few more deaths as well, but the ending is where things get fun. Whitney and Clay drown Jason by basically chaining or putting cement on his feet. They think all is well, and the great Friday the 13th scene where he jumps out of the water occurs right before the credits.
Arguably, this is the greatest slasher remake ever. The film pays homage several times over to the original films but is using a completely different story. They acknowledge the original 1980 movie as canon but go about it in their way. They introduce Jason Voorhees in a terrifying manner, and then instead of him killing everybody, he kidnaps Whitney instead of killing her. This is a new wrinkle in the story which separates it more from the original films. They tell the story of Jason and create his legend in the first 30 minutes of the movie, and then give us the film.
Damian Shannon and Mark Swift give us a fun screenplay for Friday the 13th. I enjoyed how the story makes us believe Whitney is dead even though she is very much alive. This follows along that line where the story doesn’t use recycled bits from earlier films. There’s fun and excitement in revamping a slasher story and giving it new life, new blood, and new characters. Could they have gone deeper with character development? Sure, but Friday the 13th is literally about horny teens/young adults being murdered for not taking care of kids at a summer camp. Therefore, Jason knocking off this group was all we needed. The main characters had the necessary development, even if it was minimal.
The revival of the horror genre has been due in large part to original movies. Very few horror remakes and reboots have been good. In turn, this makes any quality horror remake/reboot stand out all the more. It happened with 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – also directed by Marcus Nispel – and it happened again here. In a way, this feels more refreshing than the actual original horror movies of the modern era. They are new stories that also pay homage to their source material. This is what most of them are missing, many can take a page from Friday the 13th. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Friday the 13th is now available on physical media, VOD, and streaming on HBO Max.