Before I begin my review of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, I have something I need to get off my chest. This week, Paramount pulled the Friday the 13th reboot from its scheduled release date of October 13th, 2017. Rumor has it the reboot, which was going to be helmed by Breck Eisner (The Last Witch Hunter, The Crazies) is dead and buried. “What happened?” Sifting through the rumor mill, it sounds like Paramount didn’t have any confidence in Part XIII being successful based on the failure of their latest Ring reboot. You know what I have to say about that?
No shit. To this day I will never understand why any studio would spend more than $10 million on a horror movie. Let’s take a look at the budgets of the top ten most successful horror films from last year.
1. The Conjuring 2 – $40 million
2. Don’t Breathe – $9.9 million
3. The Purge: Election Year – $10 million
4. Lights Out – $4.9 million
5. The Boy – $10 million
6. Ouija: Origin of Evil – $9 million
7. The Witch – $3 million
8. Blair Witch – $5 million
9. The Darkness – $4 million
10. Green Room – $5 million
With the exception of The Conjuring 2, not a single film cost over $10 million. Based off this, wouldn’t you agree the trend these days is to make horror movies cheap? You know how much Rings cost? 25 million. Of course, it wasn’t going to live up to expectations.
The Conjuring 2 did well because it’s fresh in the minds of viewers. The last one came out three years ago, and even then $40 million is a hell of a gamble. Had it come out at a bad time of year who knows what could have happened. “But wait, didn’t Friday the 13th (2009) do well? That cost $19 million.” This is true. Friday the 13th (2009) did open at number one on February 13, 2009, but it had a lot of other things working in its favor.
1. It was the FIRST reboot. It’s easy to sell a reboot to people, a second one takes more explanation.
2. It had relatively weak competition opening against Confessions of a Shopaholic and The International and a week after The Pink Panther 2. The new one would have opened against a new Liam Neeson thriller, a Michael Fassbender crime drama based on a best seller, and a Steven Soderbergh/Channing Tatum heist movie. It also would have opened a week after the new Blade Runner and Kingsman sequel. Not an impossible hurdle, but a bigger one than its predecessor.
3. Horror movies in 2009 cost more anyways. Don’t believe me? Here are the budgets of the ten highest grossing horror movies of 2009.
1. Paranormal Activity – $15 thousand
2. The Final Destination – $40 million
3. Friday the 13th – $20 million
4. The Haunting in Connecticut – $10 million
5. My Bloody Valentine – $15 million
6. The Unborn – $16 million
7. Drag Me to Hell – $30 million
8. Halloween II – $15 million
9. The Last House on the Left – $15 million
10. The Uninvited – N/A
Though I wasn’t able to find box office data for The Uninvited you can see at least seven of these films cost over $10 million. Paranormal Activity changed the landscape for low budget horror, and although there are still successful +$10 million horror movies like the Conjuring they have become a rarity. Not to mention audiences are more critical of horror movies than ever.
6/10 horror movies on the 2016 Horror Box Office list received fresh ratings from Rotten Tomatoes. Compare that to the paltry 2/10 on the 2009 list. People don’t want to waste their time on bad horror movies anymore. Especially with the ridiculous amount of blockbusters, they could watch at any given time. Let’s not forget the growing influence of social media. In 2009, twitter had about 18 million users. Now it has over 320 million. Today, if a movie sucks, people will know.
The fact that Paramount put their faith in the first Ring movie in 12 years with a $25 million budget to do well is incredibly naive. They are doing the smart thing financially by canceling Friday the 13th Part XIII. With a rumored budget of $20 million in the middle of a crowded October, it would have bombed. “Why couldn’t they have done the Blair Witch (2016) gimmick where the movie is advertised as something else only to reveal it’s a surprise?” I don’t know. Maybe Friday the 13th: XIII should have been found footage. At least it would have been something new.
All aside, I do have a movie to talk about. Which, coincidentally, was a bit of a reboot itself. I say “bit” because it had only been a year since the release of The Final Chapter. It’s crazy, one-minute Paramount hates Jason the next, they can’t get enough of their favorite hockey-mask wearing maniac. The game changer here was they decided to put a new spin on the story—more on that later. The results were a departure from the series, but was it a departure worth taking?
The film begins with Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman, reprising his role from Part IV), exploring a graveyard in the late hours of a torrential downpour. Tommy finds the grave of Jason Voorhees but senses something is wrong. He hears people approaching and hides in the bushes. The people reveal themselves to be two douchebags who want to dig up the body of Jason Voorhees. I guess Jason’s grave has become a tourist hot spot.
The two digs up Jason and what happens? Zombie Jason rises from the dead and kills them with his machete. He notices Tommy and pursues him. FINALLY, a Friday the 13th movie that doesn’t open with a stupid highlight reel from the previous films. This might be the best opening to a Friday the 13th yet!
Of course, they had to fall back on another Friday the 13th trope. Yes, this entire opening was a dream. God damn it. A dream from the past as the story progresses to modern day with a teenage Tommy Jarvis (John Shepard). I thought I had a good grip on the timeline but now I’m not so sure.
Traumatized by his encounter with Jason, Tommy finds himself transported to a secluded halfway house in the woods known as Pinehurst, a home for troubled teens. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual gaggle of sexy teens at camp, yet they still felt the need to include a pair who is constantly having sex because they are nymphomaniacs. Should people who’ve survived serial killer attacks and nymphomaniacs be going to the same treatment center?
There’s a handful of colorful characters; a cool 14-year-old, Reggie (Shavar Ross), who’s dad is the cook, a goth girl, Violet (Tiffany Helm), a dumb fat guy, Joey (Dominick Brascia), a guy who is pissed off 24/7 and screams all his lines, Vic (Mark Venturini), a few local officers and redneck neighbors. I appreciate that most of the characters have distinct personalities, but there are too many of them. To make it even more overwhelming, all of these characters are introduced in the same scene. There’s like, fifty people on screen, give me a break!
Tommy is supposed to be our protagonist, but for the most part, he takes a back seat to a lot of the action. Most of the time all he does is stare blankly, only uttering a word when someone gets too close to his monster masks. Though I like the idea of Tommy returning he’s lost any spark he had in the previous film. I think the character Reggie would have made a much better protagonist, he’s charismatic and doesn’t look like the president of the Jeffery Dahmer fan club.
Joey is the first to go in one of the strangest deaths featured in a Friday the 13th movie. It’s strange because he isn’t killed by Jason. Joey is wandering the grounds eating chocolate bars and bugging people only to annoy the character of Vic SO MUCH that Vic kills him with an ax (he was chopping wood in the scene.) You have to see it to believe it.
That scene is a breath of fresh air. Sure, it’s a weird, dopey scene, but I did not see it coming. This is promising. The rest of the movie descends into predictable slasher flare, but this isn’t a bad thing per se. It’s a decent slasher, with a good amount of laughs. Jason doesn’t have much of a presence in the film, but there’s a good explanation.
Jason Voorhees isn’t in this film. “SAY WHAT?” Nope. It’s someone pretending to be Jason. I like this and I think it’s justified considering most of the cast is comprised of crazy people. What’s weird is it doesn’t turn out to be any of the crazy people, rather a paramedic named Roy (Dick Wieand) who had one scene prior. What’s funny is I knew the twist (fake Jason) of the film going in, but not the killer’s identity. Yet the paramedic had been my number one pick. It was because his only scene is bizarrely unnecessary. “Why are we spending so much time on this paramedic?”
It turns out, Roy is Joey’s uncle, which is kind of brilliant. Someone’s death actually had an impact on the rest of the plot. Sure, ‘ol Roy may have gone a little far, but it’s a good enough motivation for me. The film is bookended by another Jason dream and then Tommy dons the Jason mask and it’s dumb but that’s okay. So I had a good time.
In conclusion, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is a cult favorite among fans of the series. It’s the funniest of the franchise (that I’ve seen thus far) and has an enjoyable Scooby-Doo whodunit quality after you learn the twist. I would gladly watch this film again at a drive-in with a big ‘ol bucket of poppin’ corn and an extra gooey chocolate bar. This is how you do a reboot; not too serious, tongue and cheek, and fun. Let’s hope the franchise can resurrect the fun in my next review: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
Last but not least, the Jason mask has blue arrows in this film. I’m not going to lie, he’s looking pretty sharp.