Everything 2009’s Friday the 13th Reboot Got Right

Everything 2009’s Friday the 13th Reboot Got Right

Friday the 13th’s 2009 remake was as critically reviled as the 2000s’ reboots of Halloween and Nightmare On Elm Street, but it is secretly superb.

Although horror fans tend to dismiss remakes as pale imitations of their predecessors, 2009’s Friday the 13th remake proves that some franchises can nail a re-imagining of the original. Judging by fan reactions to director Rob Zombie’s ambitious-but-flawed Halloween remake, the prospects of 2009’s Friday the 13th remake did not look promising. 2009’s Friday the 13th had a solid helmer in director Marcus Nispel, but Jason Voorhees’s lengthy absence from cinema screens left many fans reticent about his return.

Upon the movie’s release, critics were quick to agree that the Friday the 13th remake was another drab addition to an already-overstuffed franchise, with as little in the way of redeeming features as Zombie’s Halloween or 2010’s much-maligned Nightmare On Elm Street remake. However, reviewers at the time of the movie’s release were way off-base. While it is still admittedly no genre classic, 2009’s Friday the 13th was a strong addition to the franchise, a fun and worthwhile re-imagining, and a rare slasher remake that could more than justify its existence.


Related: Every Form Jason Has Taken In The Friday The 13th Franchise

Unlike the earlier Freddy Vs Jason, whose campy qualities eventually led the comedic slasher showdown to be considered a cult classic to this day, the Friday the 13th remake gets a lot of grief from fans and critics alike. However, compared to 2010’s A Nightmare On Elm Street redo, it is a much, much better reimagining and, even taken on its own terms, 2009’s Friday the 13th is a more-than-serviceable cinematic outing for Jason Voorhees. The fact that 1980’s original Friday the 13th didn’t feature Camp Crystal Lake’s famous slasher villain until a brief cameo in its closing moments allowed the filmmakers to play fast and loose with the “remake” approach, meaning Friday the 13th 2009 spent little of its runtime recreating iconic moments from the original – a problem that plagued 2010’s A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. Meanwhile, everything from its strong opening to its unusually smart plot to its new, old version Jason worked in Friday the 13th 2009’s favor.

Friday The 13th 2009 Has A Killer Opening

Whitney Lulling Jason Voorhees - Friday The 13th 2009

So solid that it could have been a successful short film in its own regard, the opening scene of 2009’s Friday the 13th is a long, ambitious love story to the franchise’s earlier entries. The sequence packs everything that makes Friday the 13th an iconic slasher franchise—annoying teen victims, copious drug use and nudity, inventive kills—into a compressed runtime. This leaves viewers with no chance to get bored of the self-obsessed lead characters before they are brutally offed and it means the movie can get down to its brutal kills before audiences have a chance to relax and prepare themselves to be scared.

Like the Scream franchise’s infamous opening scenes, Friday the 13th 2009’s first salvo leaves viewers with no idea what is coming next. The twenty-five-minute opening sequence, wherein Jason kills off an entire campsite worth of victims, is brutal, fast-paced, and full of original kills. This leaves even veteran fans unsure of where the story is heading since the standard structure of a Friday the 13th franchise installment is to drag out this setup over 90 minutes. The scene is a microcosm of what makes a great Friday the 13th movie. While the rest of the remake doesn’t quite live up to it, it’s still a stellar standalone sequence and arguably the best opening in the franchise so far.

Friday The 13th’s Plot Has Stakes

Jared Padalecki and Amanda Righetti in Friday the 13th 2009

After 1980’s original Friday the 13th (a Giallo-influenced whodunit wherein viewers are tasked with trying to work out the killer’s identity), none of the later sequels have much in the way of stakes. Jason shows up to slaughter scores of teens, but he’s nigh-on invulnerable and the Final Girl is always guaranteed to make it out alive. This makes the later Friday the 13th movies fairly predictable, unlike 2009’s remake. The remake wisely complicates things by having Jason kidnap (but not kill) one character, thus adding real stakes to the story. When Jared Padalecki’s hero arrives, he is attempting to save his sister – not merely to party, take drugs, and have premarital sex. As a result, the remake’s hero is better prepared to face Jason and has a real motivation to work with, where most of the earlier sequels gave their respective protagonists little in the way of backstory – save for the unusually solid Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives.

Related: Why Both Black Christmas Remakes Failed

Friday The 13th Kept Jason’s Appeal Simple

Jason with metallic mask in Jason X

The Nightmare On Elm Street remake redesigned Freddy, the Halloween remake gave Michael way too much backstory, and even 2006’s Black Christmas remake told viewers way too much about Billy’s origins for the monster to be effectively enigmatic. In contrast, Friday the 13th 2009 keeps Jason a hulking, wordless, un-killable monster, as he should be. The character gains no more backstory and his extant convoluted setup isn’t challenged despite being contradictory – i.e., Jason is still avenging his mother’s murder, even though his mother died while avenging Jason’s murder, a logical quandary that the remake never bothers to unknot. While an entire generation of meta-slashers that became popular after the success of the Scream series led many horror filmmakers to deepen and complicate their killers, Nispel takes the opposite approach.

Having seen how little Jason X’s robotic reinvention of the character excited fans and how many viewers were actively annoyed by Jason Goes To Hell turning the villain into a demonic force, Friday the 13th 2009 sticks with what works and makes Jason a cold-blooded killer. With little in the way of complex motives and as simple a backstory as ever, Friday the 13th 2009’s Jason is free to hack his way through the movie’s forgettable cast of teens without being bogged down by attempts at profundity. While some horror movies (such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) needed some grim story elements to ground their potentially silly villains, the simplicity of Jason’s massive “mute killer” design made him perfect for the remake’s fast-paced kills and bare-bones backstory. If other slasher remakes of the era proved directors couldn’t fix what was not broken, Friday the 13th 2009 showed that a successful horror reimagining could take the best elements of a franchise and update them without losing its central appeal in the process.

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About The Author

Cathal Gunning
(1296 Articles Published)

Cathal Gunning has been writing about movies and TV online since 2020. His obsessions include The Simpsons, Stephen King, the Scream series, and the horror genre in general. He has spent more time thinking about Stranger Things than the writers of Stranger Things, and he has never seen a Star War.

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