Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

It's easy to understand why a formula would start to get stale after a dozen sequels, but how did they manage to make it seem so tired the first time out? The trailer tells you what to expect: 8 teenagers are isolated alone in the woods while an unknown psycho murders them one by one. The movie meets that expectation, and nothing more.

Perhaps if the characters had been interesting, I would have cared about whatever it was they were doing before they got killed, but they are all amiable-but-bland samey-looking stiffly-acted teenagers. Only one is given a personality - Ned, the goofy prankster - but it's such an annoying personality that I found myself hoping he would be the first one offed. I assumed the pranks were introduced to set up some misdirection and I waited for an actual death to be laughed off as a prank or a faked death to be mistaken for a real one, but nothing ever came of it. There're no interesting characters, no misdirection, just 8 kids getting murdered one by one, and nothing more.

I also hoped that there would be some mystery. Who was this killer? Was it someone we met? It seemed like they wanted to throw in some red herrings: The camp boss leaves the camp just before the teenagers start to die, maybe it's him? No, the very next scene establishes that the killer is driving a jeep different from the one the boss drove out on. The town crazy shows up at camp shouting that they are all doomed, maybe it's him? No, we see him in the very next scene getting away on a bicycle, not a jeep. Maybe one of the kids is actually the killer? No, the very first kill happens far away from any of them establishing all their alibis. There's no mystery to figure out, just 8 kids getting murdered one by one, and nothing more.

Strangely, nobody even realizes there's a psycho killer on the loose until moments before they're killed. The last two alive are the first to suspect something's happening when they can't find their friends, but nobody ever witnessed a murder or found a body until there was only one left alive. It wasn't 8 kids trying to outwit a psycho killer in the wilderness, it was just 8 kids getting murdered one by one, and nothing more (well, maybe the last one was trying to outwit a psycho killer).

The movie even fails at being just a shameless excuse to show nudity and gore. Only one couple has a very tame sex scene were very little is exposed. The others engage in a very PG game of strip Monopoly that ends before they get very far. There are two or three gruesome images, but half the murders take place off-screen.

There was only one scene that gave me a genuine fright. It was a tacked on bit at the end, and even though I'd seen the movie before and knew what was about to happen, it still got me. But one well-executed scene doesn't justify the rest of the surprisingly boring, mostly un-scary movie. It certainly doesn't justify its dozen sequels.

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