To me, the key to a truly great “remake” of a pre-existing horror film is simple. Would the new update make a good double feature with the original movie? When it comes to programming a double bill, the goal is to find two movies with a similar theme that would complement each other. And there’s no better test to see if a remake works than by watching it back to back with its inspiration and seeing if it respects its source material and tells a similar enough story, yet does its own new thing. Each week, we’re going to pair up two horror films – its original and its remake as a double feature and see if it makes for a great double bill. Welcome to Double Take!
This Friday marks another Friday The 13th, so of course this week’s double bill had to be in honor of that unlucky day. Let’s take a look at the original 1980 FRIDAY THE 13TH and its 2009 Platinum Dunes remake. The FRIDAY franchise is unique in its sense of consistency when compared to other franchises. The majority of them are slightly tweaked and improved remakes of the first. Think about it. If you ask someone what their favorite NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or HALLOWEEN or TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE movie is, you’ll more than likely get the response, “well the first is the best, of course.” FRIDAY THE 13TH is the only franchise where I doubt many people would pick the first film as their favorite. It depends what kind of Jason fan you are. Some gravitate towards bag head Jason in PART 2. Others would crown PART 4 as the quintessential FRIDAY movie. (Myself included) In the zombie-Jason years, some love the fun of FRIDAY VI, while others lean more towards Kane Hodder’s first appearance and look in PART VII. Point being, the first FRIDAY isn’t exactly universally considered the best of the series, but it is in fact the beginning of one of the most famous and lucrative horror franchises of all time.
Capitalizing off of the sudden “slasher” trend launched 2 years earlier by John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, director Sean Cunningham had a title which debuted in a giant one page ad in Variety and not much else. With screenwriter Victor Miller crafting the story and later bringing in up and coming FX artist Tom Savini, they were able to capture lightening in a bottle and make a horror film that became much bigger than anyone involved anticipated. It’s the 80’s version of the traditional cautionary tale. 2 kids are off having sex while a young boy drowns in the lake. Ever since this event, a curse has bestowed Camp Crystal Lake anytime someone tries to reopen it. None of this dissuades Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) from purchasing the property and bringing in a small group of teenagers to fix it up and get it operational again. This includes Kevin Bacon in one of his first feature roles, Adrienne King stepping up and giving us the “final girl” template with her portrayal of Alice and TV star Betsy Palmer as the grieving and homicidal mother that would do anything to avenge her son Jason Voorhees.
And that’s the basic gist of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. It’s got good characters and real kids you care about. When the murder sequences happen, they were at the time, the most graphic and innovative ever seen on the silver screen, to the point where audiences were asking “how did they do that?” And then there’s the climactic battle in the final 15 minutes between the killer, Mrs. Voorhees and Alice, the sole survivor of the camp. Getting there is a bit of a chore in spots. I mean, we do watch Alice boil a pot of hot water in real time. But between the “kills” and the finale, plus that extra jump scare at the very end, it’s no wonder this was a popular horror outing for teenage kids of the 80’s. After that, the franchise followed an unexpected trajectory with the sequel where they kill off Alice in the opening sequence (at the request of King) and instead shift the killings to a grown up (and seemingly unstoppable) Jason Voorhees.
Cut to the 2009 remake. At the time of this film, Jason had been killed, resurrected, visited Manhattan, had gone to Hell, to space and battled Freddy Krueger. Pretty much, the only way to go was to bring the series back to the basics. And so the opening scene in the 2009 FRIDAY THE 13TH, is a very truncated version of the events of the original. It shows Mrs. Voorhees battle and demise at the hands of Alice. Little Jason witnesses the whole thing, then picks up the machete and we’re off on a brand new story. So technically, this one’s not a remake of the original’s story, but uses it as a jumping point and then incorporates minor threads from other sequels. SUPERNATURAL’s Jared Padalecki plays Clay Miller, a guy just searching for his missing sister. (Rob from FRIDAY 4 seems to be the template here.) He ends up at a cabin on Camp Crystal Lake with a group of kids that fit every single stereotype you’d expect from a horror film.
It’s all pretty straight forward as Jason keeps Clay’s sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti) captive and picks off the other kids one by one. And while the kills are OK, they’re nowhere near as innovative or as jaw dropping as Savini’s work was to a 1980’s audience. It’s not a bad film by any means. I just wish it was a bit better considering the budget, time and tools they had at their disposal. Among the highlights of the movie are Padalecki’s sympathetic Clay and Derek Mears performance as Jason Voorhees, which ranks up there as one of the best Jason’s of the series.
Do these two make a good double bill? Well, yes. Mainly because they’re such different movies. In fact, because the 2009 film opens with a recap of the Voorhees legend, it can easily play as a sequel to the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. Now, is this double bill the two best FRIDAY movies in the series? Negative. Pairing up the two best FRIDAY films is going to be different for everyone, although I personally like 4 and 7. Both open with recaps of the previous films and offer two of the best, most brutal Jason performances by Ted White and Kane Hodder respectively. But again, it’s all about personal preference.
Instead of asking whether you like the original better or the remake in the poll below, I’m actually more curious to hear which is your favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH film. Maybe I’ll try pairing up the two that get the most votes. ‘Til then, Happy Friday The 13th, kids!