Saturday, 27 April 2019

Friday the 13th

Marcus Nispel's Friday the 13th remake takes a relatively fresh (for this series at least) swipe at Jason, grounding him in a specific space and time that defies the drifting, indefatigable presence we're used to. The killer is no longer languid and observational, he's reactionary, jealousy guarding his territory from meddlesome twentysomethings. The film explores Jason in terms of these human, emotional drives using a physical location - a warren of abandoned mineshafts under the wider Crystal Lake area that the movie maniac has nestled into and claimed for his own. Rejected by a society that sees him as a monster, Jason has fashioned himself a home.

The tunnels also allow a sense of logic to intrude into Jason's portrayal, explaining away his ability to be everywhere at once. It's a correction that probably plays well in a pitch meeting, a crisp take on a character that has long since entered into a glib shorthand, but the alteration actually ends up weakening the franchise's swamped-out, Scooby Doo spookiness. Screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift not only dream up a lair for Jason but also a crude methodology that sees him taking a hostage, Amanda Righetti's Whitney. The latter idea has a vague sense of purchase in some of the series' early sequels, where Jason could be confounded by young women pretending to be his mother Pamela, but even in those entries these interactions quickly segued into building a taller pile of bodies.

Shannon and Swift are exploring the interioirty of Jason, a character who previously enjoyed a profound disconnection from the wider human experience. These corrections propose a person reaching for a brief sense of stability. Jason has his replacement mother chained up in his burrow, if people stop intruding into his space will he be satisfied? Will the killings then cease? In these details Nispel's parochial slant seems less like a robotic Jason sequel and more an abortive pass at reconfiguring The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (a film that this director has already remade). In modernising Friday the 13th Nispel and pals have obscured the peculiar ideas and stoned rhythms that made the original films, at the very least, feel authentic. This disconnect is most obvious in 2009's approach to Voorhees' victims - realistically plain and underdeveloped teenagers are swapped out for hateful, nipped and tucked soap opera actors.

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