Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Friday The 13th’ (2009)
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Once in a blood moon, a franchise will come along that redefines a subgenre and takes it to the next level. Such is the case with the Friday the 13th franchise, which essentially created the horror subgenre of slasher flicks as we know them to this day. While it’s unlikely that we’ll get a new installment in the series any time soon, now’s still the perfect time to review this franchise as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, the fine folks over at Scream Factory have released The Friday the 13th Collection on Blu-ray! As such, I’ll be reviewing not only the movies in this franchise but these new Blu-ray releases as well. In this installment, we look at what happens when a franchise finds short-lived new life in receiving the remake treatment with Friday the 13th (2009)!
We all know, the film industry follows trends more so than any other business. Moreover, the horror genre chases trends more than any other. Aside from the torture porn subgenre, the horror trend of the aughts was remaking genre classics. The most notable of which was brought to us by infamous director-producer Michael Bay (Transformers, Songbird), who serves as the figurehead for his production company, Platinum Dunes, run by producing duo Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. Platinum Dunes had found massive success the same year as the release of Freddy vs. Jason with their 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Following that, Platinum Dunes remade another 1970s horror classic, The Amityville Horror (2005), and prequelized their take on TCM with 2006’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning; both to lesser levels of success. Mind you, while these returns were diminishing, they were still highly profitable. Thus, the company decided to remake another big classic via their partnership with New Line Cinema — Friday the 13th!
Alas, the remake rights proved to be more complicated than those of previous Platinum Dunes remakes. See, Paramount Pictures sold the characters of Jason and Pamela Voorhees and Camp Crystal Lake to New Line. However, Paramount retained exclusive use of Friday the 13th as a title and the majority of characters from the previous eight movies they had released. Obviously, Platinum Dunes needed the legal ability to utilize the Friday the 13th title. Otherwise, what would be the point of producing a remake?! It took over a year for all the rights and production partnerships to fall into place. Paramount made a deal to co-distribute the remake with New Line (and its parent studio Warner Bros.). In exchange for using the title and elements of the eight installments released by Paramount, the studio arranged a profit-sharing agreement. New Line/WB would be entitled to all domestic grosses, while Paramount would claim all international profits.
With these legal issues settled (the second of many that will plague this franchise), the screenwriting duo behind FvJ, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, were brought on to pen a screenplay loosely based on a screen story conceived by Mark Wheaton (The Messengers). From the beginning of their involvement, Shannon and Swift — along with the film’s producers — knew two things. Firstly, this remake needed to be grittier and more realistic than their take on Freddy vs. Jason. More importantly, though, the movie could not be a faithful remake of the original 1980 film. After all, audiences want to see Jason Voorhees, not his mommy! As such, a screenplay was written that aggregates elements of the first four films in the original series.
Following the mysterious disappearance of his sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti), and her friends near Camp Crystal Lake, Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) sets out to find them. Before long, it becomes clear to Clay that Crystal Lake’s authorities and residents have given up their search for this group of college-aged kids. Instead, they fearfully chalk up the disappearance up to local legend Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears). Baffled by this response to the case, Clay continues his independent search until he comes across a group of college friends partying in a house down by the lake. All of whom soon find out how real Jason is!
To bring this gritty amalgam of a remake to the silver screen, the producers over at Platinum Dunes selected none other than their previous collaborator on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — director Marcus Nispel. (It’s worth noting that much of the crew from that effort are also at work here.) Clearly, New Line and the production company were seeking to replicate their success with Nispel and TCM ’03. Unfortunately, for us horror fans, though, the filmmakers fail to understand that they should not have simply copy-and-pasted the formula for remaking Chainsaw to this more grounded remake of Friday. Alas, they do just that.
I remember this remake’s opening night — Friday, February 13th — vividly and entering my go-to small-town movie theater filled with anticipation. Sure, it’s a remake, but I was excited to finally see a Friday the 13th flick on the big screen! How could I not be? After all, I figured even if this take was disappointing, I and my fellow audience members that night were in for some fun. Unfortunately, though, I could not have been more wrong. And, from the lack of audience reaction and participation, I wasn’t the only one that night who was underwhelmed by this remake.
Since then, I’ve gone from being completely cold to ever-so-mildly-tepid on this iteration of Friday the 13th. But that’s probably only because I know what this movie is now. This remake is a horror genre product of the aughts in all the worst ways. In other words: it’s a mean-spirited slog of a movie that looks like it was photographed in brine. Now, if there’s one thing a Friday the 13th movie should not be, it’s mean-spirited. Yes, this whole franchise is about the thrills delivered by sex and violence, but it’s all a matter of tone, hence, why the majority of the Fridays that preceded this remake have a tone of entertaining fun. A quality which this remake intentionally seems to lack in favor of “gritty realism.”
As a result, we’re presented with an interpretation of Jason here, who, well, is not like the character we’ve come to know and love at all. On the contrary, the Jason we get in this remake is a survivalist type without any clear modus operandi. Perhaps that lack of motivation is why this guy of a presumably diminished mental capacity somehow has rigged up electricity for his land. Then again, I suppose Jason needs those lights to grow all that pot for seemingly no reason. Although, maybe he did it to bait his victims, one of whom Jason chains up in his underground tunnels, which in turn have a cinematic odor of the aforementioned torture porn trend. Moreover, this version of Jason doesn’t even kill his victims in that familial fashion. Much to my chagrin, these kills are uninspired.
This depiction makes for a killer who doesn’t feel like Jason. Worse yet, this remake does not even feel like it’s part of the franchise in review. Frankly, this feels like a random, numbingly dull slasher flick. The only staple of the franchise this remake nails is sex and nudity. Therefore, Friday the 13th (2009) is a painful Franchise Implosion that I do not ever care to watch again. (Three times in twelve years is more than enough!)
Despite my dislike of this installment, I should credit its cast. Mears does a good enough job as Jason, though I wish he had the chance to play the character again in a more traditional interpretation. This movie also features what has to be the most talented cast of victims in a Jason movie. Unfortunately, though, they’re all playing characters I cannot stand.
Beyond its cast, the remake was also very successful in the financial department as it grossed $91.5 million worldwide on a $19 million production budget. Furthermore, this entry holds the record for the highest opening weekend for a horror remake, making $42 million in its first three days of release. Unsurprisingly, a sequel was announced (multiple times) but never came to fruition. The franchise has been put on indefinite hold thanks to a couple of ongoing lawsuits; the longest-running being between Sean S. Cunningham and the screenwriter of the original Friday, Victor Miller, over rights and royalties. Beyond that, Cunningham recently sued Paramount and New Line over money he feels he is entitled to from this very remake.
Despite all the litigation, the Friday the 13th franchise is still very much alive thanks to its ardent fan base. A by-product of this franchise expanding into video games. The very well-received Friday the 13th: The Game debuted on consoles and PC in 2017 and proved highly successful. Alas, online play and updates were shut down a short few years later in 2020, thanks to those previously mentioned legal battles over the franchise and creative rights. It is worth noting, however, that physical copies of the video game can still be purchased and played. No matter what happens with this franchise, though, I’m confident that we will eventually get another Friday the 13th movie for better or worse. And, like many of my fellow fans, I’ll be there for it like a moth to a flame. In the meantime, the minor miracle that is The Friday the 13th Collection will have to hold us over!
Like Freddy vs. Jason before it, this disc is simply a recycling of The Killer Cut‘s initial release from back in 2009. As such, the picture and sound transfers are perfectly satisfactory, but the disc is a major disappointment as far the supplemental material goes. I also don’t care for the fact that The Killer Cut of the movie automatically plays upon the disc loading. So, if, like me, you want to watch the Theatrical Cut for the sake of comparison, you have to navigate to the special features menu to do so. On the upside, though, the cover art is reversible, featuring the theatrical poster art on one side and the teaser poster art on the other.
- Killer Cut Infinifilm Trivia Track — Once DVD and Blu-ray had taken off as formats, a few mainstream studios tried to find a way to distinguish themselves from the competition with extra special features. A prime example being New Line Cinema’s “Infinifilm” feature. Infinifilm tracks were essentially picture-in-picture commentary tracks comprised of interviews with cast-and-crew and behind the scene footage, which is precisely what we get here. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t find any of it all that interesting.
- The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees — In this eleven-minute promotional featurette, all the key cast and crew briefly discuss making the remake. Unsurprisingly, this is all promo fluff resulting in no information of consequence.
- Hacking Back/Slashing Forward — Another eleven minutes of promotion in which much of the same cast and crew members discuss the franchise’s legacy and how their remake will not only honor it, but bring something new to the series. The highlight of this featurette for me was when producer Andrew Form made it a point to stress that Friday the 13th movies are supposed to be fun. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at how unaware this cat seemed to be about the fact that this flick is not much fun at all.
- The 7 Best Kills — Here, we get seven different featurettes, all of which cover each death in the film through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Once again, there’s nothing all that enlightening here, despite the total runtime of twenty-two minutes.
- Alternate Scenes — Unfortunately, I can see why these scenes were cut down as they were unnecessarily long in the versions presented here.
The Friday the 13th Collection is currently available on Blu-ray!
The Franchise’s Body Count Thus Far-
Friday the 13th (1980):
Friday the 13th: Part II (1981):
Friday The 13th: Part III in 3-D (1982):
Friday The 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984):
Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985):
Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986):
Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988):
Friday The 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993):
Jason X (2002):
Freddy vs. Jason (2003):