Horror fans are some of the most passionate movie goers on earth. No other genre has as much swag or as many conventions as they do, a fanbase dedicated to the world of monsters, slashers and ghosts. So when rumors start to spread about the possible remake of one of the more popular franchises, a wave of outrage automatically sweeps over the community, crushing those in favor of seeing what new eyes could do with an old classic. This couldn’t have been more true when, in the mid-2000s, the announcement came that their beloved Friday the 13th (1980) would be remade, sending fans into an indignant uproar. With the announcement of another Friday the 13th film set to be released in 2017, the remake debate has come up once again. But was the 2009 remake as bad as fans thought it would be?
First of all, 2009’s Friday the 13th is more of a re-envisioning of the first few films in the franchise. Director Marcus Nispel and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift decided to combine story elements from not only the 1980 classic but also took elements from Friday the 13th Part II (1981) and Friday the 13th Part III (1982), as well as references to Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) and Jason X (2001). By jumping right into the well-known twist at the end of the first film and continuing from there, filmmakers were able to tell the complete story without wasting knowledgeable viewer’s time. This was genius, in my opinion. They told the whole story arc for newbies to the franchise while also forgoing an entire movie to show what horrorphiles already knew was going to happen.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the similarities. Besides the obvious – Jason himself – filmmakers also brought back Crystal Lake, the original hunting grounds of maniacal menace, along with some of Harry Manfredini’s iconic score and the elderly crank pot that tries to warn everyone but no one listens to. Many of the deaths, while not exactly the same, were certainly homages to many of the originals in the series, especially the infamous sleeping bag beat downs from Part VII (1988) and Jason X (2001). The shrine to Jason’s mother with her decapitated head as the centerpiece was a major plot point and similarity. The basic horror rules also apply: show your boobs, have sex, get drunk or smoke some pot and you’ve signed your own death warrant. Although Jason gets his emotionless hockey mask in this first film rather than in the third, the mask itself was made from a mold of the original goalie mask from Part III.
As for differences, there are a few of those as well. The remake is slicker and more polished, making it nicer to look at but taking away some of the gritty punch of the original. The characters are also more than just a means to Jason’s ends – they all have quirky, memorable personalities and familiar faces in the 2009 film that make you feel a little bad when they die. Although Kevin Bacon would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors, back in 1980, he was an unknown getting slaughtered in the middle of a bunch of other unknowns. In 2009, the people we saw getting stabbed with screwdrivers and run over by boats were ones we knew and loved from other times: Danielle Panabaker from the Shark TV series, Amanda Righetti from The O.C. TV series, Transformers’ (2007) Travis Van Winkle, Disturbia’s (2007) Aaron Yoo, Cloverfield’s (2008) Ben Feldman, Ryan Hansen from the Veronica Mars TV series, Halloween’s (2007) Nick Mennell, and, of course, Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki.
The man behind the mask was one a face we had all seen before, whether we realized it or not. Derek Mears has worked as an actor for over 20 years, hidden beneath the foam rubber and latex of characters like Classic Predator in Predators (2010), Mosh Tendrils in Men in Black II (2002), Chameleon in The Hills Have Eyes II (2007), Edward in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), Moloch in the Sleepy Hollow TV series and the undead Russian Stavarin in Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014). Not only does he act, but he works covered in hot, itchy makeup and still manages to scare the bejeezus out of us.
A trained Martial Artist and MMA fighter, Mears was no stranger to stunt work and did all of his own stunts in the 2009 film. He used these skills to his full advantage, not only for the heavy lifting, but also for his portrayal of the territorial madman. Mears’ Jason was pissed off, cunning and lightning quick, launching over fallen trees and chasing his victims down in a frenzied bloodlust. In many ways, he had the mind of a child inside the 6′ 5″ body of a infuriated brick shithouse. “I did a lot of research on child psychology,” said Mears in a 2009 interview with klips.com. “Like what happens to a child’s developmental process when they’re like 9 or ten years old – because that was when he saw his mother get murdered in front of him. I researched a lot about being alone and loneliness, because as humans, we’re not built to be alone, and how that would affect Jason. Also, about soldiers who were separated from their men in the woods and the emotional roller coaster that they go through… Because a lot of times, people just go, ‘Oh, you’re just a guy with the mask on. You don’t have to do anything.’ ‘Just put a big guy in a mask.’ If you do that, then that’s all you’re gonna get.”
Gone was the lumbering, omnipresent, Whack A Mole killer who could pop up at any time or place, hack someone to pieces and then disappear. In his stead, we got a sprinting giant who actually used Greek mask acting to portray Jason as a focused, pissed off force of nature, a monster as hard to control as a hurricane who made the son of Mrs. Voorhees frightening once again. His ease at making his way through the woods was also revealed – in his years alone, Jason dug underground tunnels that lead all over the land, allowing him to pop up in seemingly random places and then disappear again just as quickly. This would also go far to explain how no one has ever stumbled across any of his hiding places.
As far as fans go, there seems to be a double standard when discussing the 2009 reboot. On one hand, some complained that the film brought nothing new to the table. On the other hand, others were disappointed that the feel of the film was too polished and pretty and that Jason was more of a territorial madman than just a mindless killer. If you accept the film as a remake, wouldn’t you expect to see elements from the original movie? Along those same lines, unless a film is touted as a shot by shot replica of the original, is it really that surprising to see some fresh, new ideas? Isn’t that the point of it all?
Like they say – you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time. No one remake will ever satisfy all parties. This controversy is sometimes the main fuel on the fire of a film’s popularity. I do know one thing… if it weren’t for remakes, newbies to the horror genre might have never gone out of their way to watch the original, and when a remake is announced, that first film’s status gets instantly raised. Who would’ve thought?