I walked out of the theater with a slight tremble and patch of goosebumps on both arms. And no it was not another butter topping high. Really. Honest!

I had high hopes for the remake of Friday The 13th. Platinum Dunes (run by Michael Bay, Brad Fuller & Andrew Form) did a fabulous job with the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They handled Leatherface with a lot of love and added new wrinkles to the story without blaspheming the original legend the franchise was based on. On the other hand, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) wasn’t so hot. It was practically a retread of the remake. Different characters but same formula. So while I had a good reason to highly hope I also had cause to worry a little. Would this collaborative reboot from Paramount, New Line Cinema and Platinum Dunes impress horror fans or have us reaching for our machetes in protest?


Clay (J. Padalecki) With His Sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti)

As far as I’m concerned the studios hit the nail on the head. 2009’s Friday The 13th is more a reboot than a remake. Fans will enjoy the familiar staples lovingly sewn into this spanking new tapestry. Staples such as gratuitous nudity, raunchy sex scenes, and the big guy dispatching his young victims with common household tools have not been tampered with. Newbies will enjoy seeing Jason from the getgo. This is a fresh start on one of the most popular horror monsters in history. No offense to the original "13ths" but even I felt a wave of relief because I could push all those bizarre sequels to the side and see Jason the way he was meant to be seen; as a nigh unstoppable murdering machine.

The plot seemed exclusively derived from Friday The 13th (1980) and Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981). Jason is still a drowning victim thanks to some reckless camp counselors. Mama Voorhees (Nana Visitor!!) still ends up with a splitting headache. And the supposedly dead Jason carries on his mother’s vengeance trip against those vile youngins who only live to fornicate and get wasted on mind-altering substances.

What is different is how the fresh meat, I mean, kids end up at Crystal Lake. The first group is out there looking for a rumored marijuana garden. The events from that ill fated excursion lead into the bulk of the plot that centers on a group of college kids on vacation at Crystal Lake. Trent (Travis Van Winkle) is the son of some well to do parents that have a posh woodland hideaway. Trent is a snob and even his girlfriend, Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), is puzzled over why Trent would invite these people over if he thinks they’re campus trash. While Trent, Jenna and the rest of the co-eds whoop it up a man named Clay (Jared Padalecki) is biking around town passing out fliers with his sister’s face pictured on them. Clay’s sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti), was one of the members of the first group and when the law isn’t able to find her Clay conducts his own investigation. Clay crosses paths with Trent’s group and all parties are soon caught in the crosshairs of a certain hockey masked psycho.

When I saw the trailer I thought the pretty boys and girls were camp counselors at a newly renovated Camp Crystal Lake. I guess the rebooters decided to take a different approach and I think it worked out for the best. The Camp, instead, plays a wonderfully eerie supporting role as a dilapidated memorial to the campers and counselors who lost a lot more than their virginity all those summers ago. 


Even Hockey Masked Undead Vengeance Ghouls Need A Hug Sometimes.
Clay (J. Padalecki) & Jason Voorhees (D. Mears)
 

Just like in the Texas Chainsaw remake the producers put more emphasis on characterization. That resulted in scenes where we get to meet some of the “townies” through Clay’s door-to-door inquiries. I know that in past sequels Jason has ventured outside of the campsite area but this attempt to broaden the boundaries of the reboot’s location makes it bigger in scale and in scares. The idea of Jason doing his dirty deeds beyond the camp is still a disturbing concept.

The kids are also given a little more personality then usual. I think the "most endearing performance" award will either go to Chewie (Aaron Yoo) or Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta). Chewie’s character is Asian and that means traditionally he’s supposed to be kind of a nerd and unable to spark very little sexual energy with the female guests. Then there’s Lawrence who is black and that translates to “all mouth and not much else”. But hold on! While Chewie & Lawrence get one foot stuck in the old stereotype traps their other shoe is firmly planted on some fertile comic ground.
Both have some of the wittiest lines and funniest moments in the film.

A great example is when one of the girls asks Lawrence what he plans to do on the vacay and he replies that he is going to work on his music. The girl asks if the music genre is rap and Lawrence goes off on this mini-tirade about how he’s constantly smacked with racial profiles. The girl apologizes and asks again what kind of music Lawrence is planning to work on and Lawrence says, "Rap". Lawrence & Chewie are integral in breaking up the suspense with their quick wit and potty humor so the viewers don’t end up passing out from the tension. I give a “whoopy!” to both Mr. Yoo and Mr. Escarpeta for turning their obligatory “token” role halfway on it’s ear.


Lawrence (A. Escarpeta) & Chewie (A. Yoo)

Now, I knew Jared Padalecki was from the Supernatural series and I recognized Danielle Panabaker from James Woods tv show, Shark, plus Richard Burgi (Officer Bracke) who I’ve seen in a bunch of things including Hostel II & Starship Troopers II. But somehow I missed Willa Ford’s name in the credits. Willa plays “Chelsea” who is among Trent’s houseguests and has a pretty exciting waterskiing sequence. The last time I saw Ms. Ford she was doing the vertical mambo on Dancing With the Stars, Season Three. She caused a little bit of a stir when she said something that possibly translated to “I’m doing more than dancing with my professional partner”. I hope the Willa Ford fans out there enjoy her performance. And her boobies.

How can I go on about Friday The 13th without mentioning the man at the center of it all? Hollywood tough guy, Derek Mears, plays the disfigured mama’s boy this time around. Mr. Mears is a big dude. I know. I’ve just googled his images (sorry, ladies and some gents, no nudes). The man has played all sorts of physically demanding roles so I guess hoisting those kids by the neck and swinging around those powertools was a walk in the park. Mears continues the “lumber, not run” method that Jason is famous for. Good job, Mr. Mears, for doing this horror fan proud.

The second worst villain was Trent. Trust me, out of all of the crazy kids in that forest this stuck up Fatcat Jr. is just asking for a rectal examination via Jason’s grimy fist.

Eeww…..maybe that’s a little too harsh even for that jerk. No offense to Mr. Van Winkle, though. He just did too good a job of playing the resident snob.

My only gripe is that today’s young people still have a problem with self defense. I was appalled at how these kids failed to arm themselves. Even when they got clued in that a killer was after them they still walked around with this strange belief that their cell phones and lip gloss would protect them. At least Trent gets a gun but obviously skipped target practice. Have we all forgotten the important lesson taught to us by The Monster Squad? If Wolfman has nards so does most of the other anatomically correct monsters. If you can’t find a stick, a sword or an uzi then kick one through the goalposts and head for Dodge.


No Stereo! How Is Jared Padalecki Supposed To Strip Without Music?! Can Anyone Hum "Lady Marmalade", then?
Bree (Julianna Guill), Jenna (D. Panabaker) & Clay (J. Padalecki) 


Oh wait, another gripe. Sorry but that June, 13th 1980 flashback confused me. So, did Jason survive the lake incident or was this his magically reanimated corpse or was it some other kid who filled in Jason’s shoes? I guess it doesn’t matter at the moment. Then again I probably just missed something because I was so astonished at seeing poor Ms. Visitor’s fake decapitated head on the ground. Then there's the ending. I ain’t spoiling but I do hope that if a sequel is derived from this remake that the writers take a moment to explain why Jason is so difficult to kill. For now, I’m gonna go with steroids. A whole lotta steroids.

Despite the little naggy things the new Friday The 13th is improved. It didn’t take a trip to Manhattan or a surreal space mission to bring the magic back. Nope. These guys simply went back to the drawing board and married all those classic "13th" clichés with the sensibilities of today’s audience. I truly got the sense that all involved took this reboot seriously. It was not a stunt or a quick paycheck but rather a cinematic love letter to Jason fans worldwide. This 2009 treatment made Jason scary again. If you think I hated camping before I totally abhor it now. I left the theater chilled, tensed, and jittery. Mission accomplished, guys! www.fridaythe13thmovie.com