Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday the 13th

Yeah, we saw it.

Yeah, it was the worst movie of the year.

I don't know why I put myself through this. Every time I opt to see a Modern Horror Film, I come away feeling sad, angry, and repulsed. Is this really what our culture has come to? Is this really the type of film moviegoers contribute over $40 million to on opening weekend? What is wrong with the world?

I suppose it is easier to turn a blind eye. Perhaps it is good to know

"Horror Porn," as a genre (if we must apply a beautiful word like "genre" to this style of filmmaking), is not terrifically new. It has been around for over a decade, when films like Saw and Hostel pioneered (?) the form of turning horror and suspense into increasingly morbid, brutal, unnecessarily graphic exercises in blood-spattering and carnage. There is no way to find enjoyment out of any such movies other than taking enjoyment out of watching heinous acts unfold as violently as possible. In that way, this material moves beyond entertainment, beyond circus freakery, and into the pornography of violence.

The new remake of Friday the 13th may well be the most revolting entry in the Horror Porn canon. It is the first Horror Porn film I've seen (and I try not to see too many of them, so I may be behind the curve here) to blend the Horror Porn with actual porn. The nasty and dangerous blending of sex and violence has been around for years in horror films--even some of the good horror movies, past and present, have committed that sin. But Friday the 13th takes the notion to a new height, ensuring that nearly every female who gets killed strips naked and, often, engages in wild, softcore sex for an inordinate period of time before being burned, stabbed, impaled, or facing some other form of brutal torture.

The men in the film don't get much better treatment...most of them are depicted as repugnant horndogs whose only activities are getting drunk, smoking weed, and trying to score. Of course, many young men are indeed like that, and I'm sure the twenty-seven or so different writers on this film most likely fit that description. So maybe there is an element of truth to that depiction...go figure.

The "plot" of Friday the 13th is fairly simple to describe: a motley group of pretty young people go on a camping trip full of boozing, drugging, and screwing, they end up getting hacked to bits in a variety of unnecessarily repugnant ways, and then we pick up with a new group of even prettier young people going on a similar trip with similar results. The film rips its structure right off of Tarantino's lightyears-better Death Proof, insomuch as we get to know one group of people, they are quickly offed, and then we focus on a completely different group of people. The structural surprise worked well in Tarantino's film because it was designed as a disorienting jolt to the audience and all of the characters had a particular attitude that sold the film's white-knuckle vibe. The effect does not work in this film, since the "twist" (so sorry I gave it away) plays as a limp rip-off, and the characters are all cardboard cut-outs of humans who speak in mind-numbing pseudo-dialogue.

Most depressing of all is that Friday the 13th is directed by Marcus Nispel, who five years ago gave us the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which respected the horror genre and, while still violent and brutal, was artfully made and stands out as one of the few good modern American horror films in recent memory. Not so with this film, which only retains a sliver of Nispel's visual prowess and also abandons any respect for the original film, the horror genre, and the audience. The violence is offensively harsh, the sex is so salacious and unnecessary that "gratuitous" doesn't even begin to describe it, the characters are carbon copies of every other idiot in modern teen cinema, and the story is non-existent. It's not even clear that the film is set on Friday the 13th...or even a Friday...or even the 13th. So in addition to being revolting, the film is also blatantly inept.

Remaking Friday the 13th is, plain and simple, just a lame excuse to take an iconic horror character and update him for the Pornified generation. So now the film is not only revolting and inept, but also dangerous to the fabric of humanity.

And as the movie ended, we saw two very young girls walking out with what appeared to be their parents, and two nine-year-old boys leaving with what appeared to be their older siblings. That right there, more than any other empirical evidence, is reason enough to retool the ratings system.

Or better yet, these films just shouldn't be made at all.


MadMike said...

I saw the very first of those Friday 13th movies and swore I would never see another one. So far I have been most steadfast in my resolve. Your review affirms my original opinion.

MadMike said...

I just remembered why I didn't visit often. The hosts rarely respond to comments by guests.

J McKiernan said...

Really, Mike? "Rarely respond?"

I might be ridiculous here, but just because we happen to not get DIRECTLY back to the comments you wrote in the last 36 hours doesn't mean we have ignored you or something. People get busy. It's tough to attend to everything at once. Gimme a break, Big Dog.

Also, with this particular comment, I took it as more a statement than conversation-starter. Anything else I contribute might be seen as redundant. I was disgusted with this movie. I'm glad you were wiser than me and ignored it. I usually do the same, but this one had a certain pedigree that I thought might make it worthy. Instead I got sucker-punched. It made me mad. Bad movies have that effect on me.

You can accuse me of many things, but do not ever accuse me of not responding to comments. I respond to nearly every comment that lands on this blog. And usually I am the one who then gets ignored. I remember just recently I posted *3* responses to a single comment...then received nothing in return. That's okay, but I wish the conversation would keep going and going. There's nothing I love more than substantial film conversation...that's what this blog is about. That's what I want.

If only you had some patience, the conversation would pick right back up.

So trust me a little bit on this one. I cherish the small readership I have attained. Y'all are why I do this.