A 15 minute recap and introduction quickly helps those new viewers unfamiliar with "Friday" continuity. The film opens up with the final moments of the original 1980 version. The audience is given a new perspective as to how Jason came about to be a serial killer, as well as where he was during the ending of the original film. "Friday" then flashes forward to the present day, and centers on a group of teens hiking through the woods and later being picked off by Jason, after he makes his grand entrance.
After the introduction we are introduced to the main characters that will make up the rest of the film. Clay (Jared Padalecki, "House of Wax") is the brother of one of the teens killed in the intro, and is shown as he searches the area around Crystal Lake, looking for his missing sister. Subsequently, Trent (Travis Van Winkle, "Transformers") takes a group of friends up to his father's cabin that sits at the edge of Crystal Lake. The two parties eventually meet up at Trent's cabin, and are given a short reprieve before Jason shows up.
From this point on, "Friday the 13th" is full of what we've come to expect from the franchise. This includes gratuitous sex (every movie could use a topless water skiing scene), shocking "boo" moments, drug use, and the obligatory brutal kills. This isn't so much a reimagining as an "update"; not a flaw, but merely an observation. Immediately after the film ended, I was reminded of the 2006 remake of "The Omen." Both are similar in that they don't overhaul the history of the source material, but instead jazz up the visuals and kills so that it feels as if you're watching something new. It didn't hurt either that the actors played their parts rather convincingly. The film has the usual teen beauty queen, misunderstood heroine, and pair of stoners, but the actors overcome the trappings that are usually associated with slasher film characters, and really get into the roles to make them their own. By the time Jason shows up, I actually felt worried for the characters, which is an extreme rarity when dealing with slahser flicks
My advice to those who want a truly scary movie watching experience is to go to a showing filled with teenage girls. Normally I'm a pretty brave fellow when it comes to watching these kinds of fright flicks, but I'll have to admit that I jumped quite a few times. With the constant screaming and hiding of eyes behind hands that took place in the audience, "Friday" turned out to be quite a spooky time.
The film also succeeds from a purely technical angle. The cinematography of Crystal Lake will remind viewers of the interpretation found in "Freddy vs. Jason" (a compliment). Cinematographer Daniel Pearl's contrast between the warm and inviting look of daytime Crystal Lake and the brooding, creepy feel of nighttime Crystal Lake lures the audience into a false sense of security.
This is director Marcus Nispel's third feature film, and a step in the right direction for him. While the film wasn't as good as the 2003 remake of The "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", it was certainly much, much better than his horrid "Pathfinder". Kudos also goes to Damian Shannon and Mark Swift's screenplay for completely doing away with the supernatural element that has plagued the last couple of entries in the "Friday the 13th" franchise. One of the film's stronger points was that it showed Jason as being a normal human being, albeit a rather large one. Several times during the film, Jason gets stunned and noticeably injured by a blow from one of the characters. I love that the "Juggernaut" element was taken away and the audience was presented with the idea that Jason could be hurt, and that he could be stopped.
Now, those looking for a new horror masterpiece better look elsewhere, but what "Friday" does, it does well. This is a popcorn flick at its most basic, but that's not always a bad thing. Noted film critic Roger Ebert was once quoted as saying that, "a movie is not good or bad because of what it's about, but how it's about." If you are a believer in "Ebert's Law" as it has come to be known, then the film is a success in the slasher genre. "Friday the 13th" breaks free of the faults that have plagued the last few entries in the series, and for the first time since 1980, this franchise is beginning to feel fresh again.