Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Homicidal Maniac's New Mask

So Valentine's weekend has past and the dude who got the luckiest is not the one who married Salma Hayek, but the unkillable, hockey-masked, maniac who goes by the name of Jason. The latest FRIDAY THE 13TH installment opened this weekend and - surprise, surprise - it made a killing (Daily Variety, you know how to contact me.) Not only did it open well, but it apparently was the best holiday weekend ever for an R-rated film (can you name the second highest R-rated movie to open on a holiday weekend? Neither can I. Who cares???) Anyway, the idea of reinventing the F13 series obviously appealed to a whole ton of moviegoers. And they didn't even need a gimmick like 3-D to lure folks in like the MY BLOODY VALENTINE reboot did, though the movie did in fact open on Friday the 13th. The flick made just south of $50 million this weekend alone, including President's Day, natch. That's about $30 million less than the last Jason installment, FREDDY vs. JASON (or is that a Freddy installment?) made in it's entire U.S. engagement. So what is it exactly about a man in a hockey mask that's so irresistible?

Folks, I wish I knew. I've never been a big fan of the F13 series, though there have been a few bright spots, like the casting of Dudley from "Diff'rent Strokes" in Part 4: The Final Chapter (yeah, right.) Or was it Part 5: The New Beginning? Honestly, it's hard to tell them apart, except for the ones where he went to Manhattan and the one where he ended up in outer space. Yes...outer space. Scoff all you like about JASON X (no relation to Malcolm or Marci) but that otherwise forgettable installment did have one stroke of genius: the climax in which a virtual reality version of Camp Crystal Lake is created, giving Jason even more indestructible powers. You haven't lived until you've seen two female campers slammed together like orchestra cymbals while still in their sleeping bags.

I rewatched the original FRIDAY THE 13TH just yeaterday and it really isn't that great of a movie. However, it was the first movie to capitalize on the new wave of Reagan-era horror movies created by John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece HALLOWEEN. F13 took the unstoppable killer theme a bit further by amping up the gore factor, which really was the best part of any given Jason movie, at least when makeup savant Tom Savini was involved. Sadly, the HALLOWEEN franchise jumped on that bandwagon and created what Roger Ebert likes to call "geek shows" and not psychological suspense films, which is what the first Michael Myers movie was.

I have a theory: if the producers of the new F13 movie (who include Michael Bay, the man who already gave the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE series an unnecessary makeover) called the movie FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 12, which is what it really is, then I doubt the weekend gross would have passed the $25 million mark. However, since this was billed as a "re-imagining" in which the only noticeable difference is that Jason moves a lot quicker than he has in the past, people came out in droves eager to see...well, I still don't know what. New gruesome deaths? A storyline far more intriguing than the previous eleven? Or is it the undying hope of the male moviegoing contingency that horror movies will finally start showing boobs again (from what I've heard, this movie more than delivers on that score. Sweet!)

So, look, I don't care that an insanely violent movie has once again topped the box office charts. American moviegoers loving violence should be as expected as much as the inflated prices at the concession stand (talk about scary!) I just want to know: what were people expecting that they didn't already get before? I spoke with a horror-loving movie critic friend of mine who lamented that the new F13, while totally delivering in the gore department, was a complete disappointment in pretty much every other category. Full disclosure: I received a pass for the new F13 and was curious to see what they did with it until I had what Samuel L. Jackson's character in PULP FICTION described as " a moment of clarity," in which I realized that the long line I was about to stand in was probably not worth the entertainment content I was likely to recieve. That God for those Spidey senses.

Well, folks, if you at all sympathize (empathize? I can never keep those straight) with my incredulousness, then get ready for another heaping helping: HALLOWEEN 2, which is actually Part 10, opens August 28th. What goes around, comes around, I guess.

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