June 15, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Friday the 13th - Killer Cut

Back in 2003, Marcus Nispel made his feature film debut with the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie was a success, debatable of course. He then went on to Pathfinder, which was bad, to be kind. It seems that this German born director of music videos (George Michael, Billy Joel, Janet Jackson, Faith No More) has found his theatrical niche. He found that by helming his second remake of a slasher classic. You guessed it, he is in the chair for this redux, which I also find to be a successful new take on a horror icon. It is definitely a flawed movie, but it does a lot more right than it gets wrong in providing a fun, bloody time.

The Blu-ray includes both the theatrical release and a new so-called "Killer Cut" that runs approximately nine minutes longer. This longer cut is the default version, so when you pop the disk in and it begins to play, do not fret if you see some different things than you remember. The theatrical version can be selected through the Special Features menu. Being the first time I have watched the film since the theatrical release, I would be hard pressed to tell you where all of the new footage is. However, I did notice a couple of changes, when Jason sharpens his machete he has flashbacks to the death of his mother and he gets a little upset, throwing stuff around the room, the other being Whitney's escape and subsequent recapture is in there. I liked both of these elements, I felt they added a little more character in a film that was somewhat lacking.

The film itself is not a straight up remake of the original film, and that is clearly understandable. Why? Well, the franchise has become defined by Jason Voorhees and the hockey mask and, as we all know, Jason was not the killer in that first movie, it was his mother. How could they relaunch an icon when the icon doesn't even bother to show up? For that matter they couldn't even do a straight up remake of the sequel, while it does feature Jason hacking up kids, it does not have the hockey mask. Considering how closely Jason and the mask have become identified, it is easy to forget that it did not appear until the third movie. So, for this remake, writers Damien Shannon, Mark Swift and Mark Wheaton have crafted a story that involves elements of the first four movies.

Friday the 13th opens in 1980, it is raining at Camp Crystal Lake and we see a woman terrorizing a young counselor. It does not end pretty. In the bushes is a young deformed child watching the brutal events unfold before him. These opening minutes are a Cliff's Notes version of the first film, and proves to be an effective sequence that plays during the opening credits.

From there, we move into a similar treatment of Friday the 13th Part 2. The centerpiece here is the return of the Jason myth as a campfire story. This helps bring back the original fears of Jason and the tradition of telling scary movies around the campfire. This also brings in some elements of Part III. This ends with the title card coming up on the screen, now the real story can begin.

This is also where the movie takes a bit of a turn and becomes The Real World: Crystal Lake. This is also my least favorite part of the film. The characters are unlikable, the dialogue is corny, and the focus on drinking and drugs is a bit much. I expected them to be here, but the focus just seemed to be a little unnecessary. Fortunately, Jason shows up again before long.

We also meet a young man named Clay (Jared Padalecki) who is looking for his sister who's gone missing in the area of Crystal Lake. As we all know, "missing" around this particular lake generally translates to "dead."

Clay makes a connection with Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), who then joins him to help canvas the area. This leaves Jenna's boyfriend, Trent (Tavis Van Winkle), free to enjoy some adult time with Bree (Julianna Guill). Meanwhile, their friends, including Chewie (the very funny Aaron Yoo) and Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta) are free to get drunk and high. Not to mention the other couple that headed out to the dock. Based on these people, can you guess who gets killed?

Now, I am not going to take you through the kills, but I will say they all work pretty good. That reminds me, some of the deaths are longer in the "Killer Cut" with added blood, this is most notable with Chewie's demise.

I must admit that even with its faults, I really liked this movie. It helps that Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker give us characters to identify with and can actually cheer for. It also does not hurt that a few things in the film actually surprised me, such as what characters die and when they die. I also think the timing of the sequences work better than the original film.

You see, 29 years have passed between the death of Mrs. Voorhees and the main story of this movie. This makes the boy at the beginning and the much larger Jason later make sense. As it is, in the original series, we see the little boy in the first film, and the second film which takes place not long after the first has the fully grown Jason. That is a little something that always bugged me a little about the original series timing of events.

As it is, this new movie has a greater sense of realism as Jason goes about his business. The film is gritty and mean spirited, but it all feels genuine. It still requires the suspension of disbelief, but it feels so natural that it is easy to give in and believe the movie, especially when the twenty-something characters stop talking and begin screaming.

Not to be left out is Derek Mears who dons the hockey mask for the role of Jason Voorhees. I know that many say Kane Hodder is the best Jason, but Derek gives him a run for his money. A big difference between the two is that Hodder played the killer when he was a zombie, giving him a reason to move differently, this Jason is very much alive and Derek Mears brings a real nastiness to him. I look forward to another go around for him should a sequel be made.

Audio/Video. The technical side of the disk is very, very good. The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.4:1 (does Blu-ray have anything modfied? I don't think so). This is definitely not a low budget affair like the original film was, this transfer proves that much. Now, it is not the best looking Blu-ray I have seen, but it is no slouch. It does a great job with the darkness, of which there is much of, just watch Jason emerge from the shadows on more than one occasion. The colors are not bright, nor are they washed out, they have a nice even tone that underlines the tension and horror while not being unrealistic.

The audio seems to be weighted greatly towards the front channels. Loud, crisp, clear, and does the job of making you jump when loud noises are needed. I cannot really point to any one scene that made the track stand out, but it is uniformly solid. The music is used effectively and does shine throughout, especially when the tension needs to be ratcheted up.

Extras. This release has a nice selection of extras that you can only find on the Blu-ray release.
  • Digital Copy. There is a second disk containing a digital copy of the theatrical cut that you can use for your PC or portable device (I have it on my iPod at this very moment).
  • Theatrical and Extended Cuts. The DVD you can get one or the other, unlike the Bu-ray where you can choose which you prefer.
  • Terror Track Trivia. This picture-in-picture track puts facts about this film and the series on screen, as well as behind the scenes video and interviews. It is no commentary, but it is a nice feature and worth turning on.
  • The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees. This is an interesting look at how they went about reinvigorating the Jason character for the new film, crafting his back story, making him realistic as opposed to supernatural, and making him genuinely scary. This includes interviews with cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage.
  • Hacking Back/Slashing Forward. This featurette takes a look at the history of the series through the eyes of the cast and crew.
  • The 7 Best Kills. This begins with an introduction talking about how much fun it was to make, how bloody they are, and how brutal they can be. It then goes through the 7 kills (which can be chosen individually) and how the effects are done. Very fun to watch.
  • Deleted Scenes. Funny, the deleted scenes have a mature audience warning! The first scene is an alternate version of how Jason gets the mask. I like this version better, especially since it ties into a line earlier in the movie. Next up is the police station getting the 911 call and the discussion of how to respond. I like this scene too. The third scene comes near the end of the film with Clay and Whitney running into the barn, proceeding to show us an alternate take of the final battle.

Bottomline. The script is either bad or an homage to the original and bad on purpose, I tend to think it is the prior. That aside, the look is fantastic, the performances from a few cast members are quite good. The experience as a whole is very good. There is great tension, good kills, and I can watch it over and over and not get bored. If this is for you, you know who you are.



Post a Comment