The theatrical box office (especially on a film’s opening weekend) is like Hollywood’s voting booth. When you buy a ticket for a remake of a classic film you’re telling film producers/studios that you want more of the same, you’re showing there’s a demand, making them respond by continuing the supply.
The old saying for political elections, “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain” works backwards in The Industry…If you DO buy a ticket you have no right to bitch about the lack of original films coming out. This is why I started Remake Shmee-Shmake, because OLD MOVIES FUCKING ROCK, and unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, you haven’t seen enough of them.
Instead of paying first run theatrical prices to see what (let’s face it), is almost assuredly an inferior film, why not rent/stream the original? Or, if not, try one of my similar feeling choices below! You’ll get a better movie, save money, and help dissuade Hollywood from constantly rehashing the same product. Just (re)imagine the savings!
What Not to Watch: Friday the 13th ’09
Why the Original’s Great: It was the Saw of the 80’s…a hugely successful B slasher with a gotcha ending and annual sequels that, defying critical lashings and the audience’s suspension of disbelief, kept making money.
ORIGINAL MOVIE POSTER 1980
Ah, Camp Crystal Lake, where frisky teens go to get some, and man DO they. They get some axes to the face, some spears through the chest, some machetes to the… EVERYWHERE. The funny thing about Camp Crystal Lake is how not-a-camp it is. Each new movie the camp itself is closed down from the previous sequel’s massacre, and unless I’m mistaken (going from memory here, so I could be off) only two (pts 1&6) of the original ten movies actually has kids attending camp. The series came to be thought of as the impalement happy morality play of the 80’s, with right wing father/zombie figure Jason Voorhees ready to shove a razor tipped arrow of righteousness through the throats of any rebellious teens sinful enough to smoke a joint or bang their girlfriends. But that’s not what it’s really about, nor how it originated. Sean S. Cunningham, the main man behind the series has said (paraphrasing here) It was never meant to be a morality play, just about the fear of untimely death. Teenagers expect to live forever, and here they are getting cut down(and up) in the prime of their lives. (It should also be noted, in the same interview he admits to making the movie almost solely because he thought the title was so good)
You probably already know the basic story…Counselors are assembling at Camp Crystal Lake to prepare for a fun summer. We hear some mostly ignored tales of the camp being cursed or haunted because a boy drowned years previous. Soon the counselors begin to die in horrible but creative ways. There’s some problems with the power, a spooky chase, a whodunnit twist, a villain rant, and and a spectacular beachfront finale! I think that’s one of the most satisfying things about this movie…I’ve always been a HUGE fan of a great villain death, and this one’s classic. The performances are mostly very good, the music’s great (and kind of iconic) but it’s Tom Savini’s FX that steal the spotlight.
In my opinion, this is the movie that stabbed a thousand blondes…What I mean is, I think this may be the first film where audiences started going to a “scary movie” less to be scared than to see the magic show of inventive kills. While not breaking ground conceptually, the “line ’em up, knock ’em down as graphically as possible” template caught on big with audiences, and Friday helped to create the Golden Age of Gore that was the early 80’s…
_________________ What to See Instead(of the remake): ________________
The Burning – The Burning is to Friday the 13th, what RC Cola is to Coke…More appropriately, it’s I Know What You Did Last Summer to Scream. It’s the very first example of the Weinstiens saying “hey that worked, let’s copy it.” This is the first Miramax movie, and maybe the first straight up Friday clone. The Burning was released almost exactly a year after Friday the 13th, to much less acclaim. It’s got a lot of teens getting killed at a summer camp, it’s got Tom Savini fx, it’s got lots of POV through the bushes shots, skinny dipping, a murder/revenge plot, a great villain death, it’s even got a not-yet-famous-future-big-star. In this case, Jason Alexander (George from Seinfeld, with hair!) instead of Friday’s Kevin Bacon…so what’s it missing? Why isn’t Cropsy as famous as Jason Voorhees?
That’s really the only major difference…The Burning is very straightforward, and unlike Friday where we get the the backstory towards the end of the film, there’s never really any question who the killer is or why he’s killing. After the unnecessary hospital/hooker prologue things get familiar quick. If you’ve never seen it, it’s certainly worth a watch…just don’t expect it to reinvent the machete. On a final note though, to go against my last sentence’s joke, the murder weapon is one of the best things about The Burning. The killer’s weapon of choice? Hedge clippers. Yup. Wonderfully bloody, fun stuff.
Already Seen That One Too? Try:
Hatchet – “Old School American Horror” was the tagline on the dvd box that grabbed my attention. In the 2006 world of PG-13 bullshit and J-“horror” remakes, “Old School” sounded really good to me, and I watched it almost solely on the challenge of “let’s see what the filmmakers mean by old school horror.” It doesn’t disappoint. It feels a lot like one of the Friday films listed below, and I mean that in a good way. A handful of characters we like, a handful we don’t, a handful of boobs, (yeah, I went there) and an urban-legendary deformed psychopath roaming the woods and leaving a trail of gore behind him. What more do you need? Making this feel all the more familiar is Kane Hodder, who plays Victor Crowley, the Jason Voorhess character. (he also plays Crowley’s father in a great little flashback sequence, and has played Jason 4 times) Hodder does a great job of both conveying menace with his body language while differentiating Crowley from Vorhees.
Friday the 13 parts 2, 3 or 4
Yes, again, the obvious choices, but they’re all good in their own ways. (Noting of course, that I mean “good” as 80’s slasher movies. Don’t go in expecting Psycho or something) There’s not really a continuing storyline, so you can just as easily jump into any of them, and being Friday films, you pretty much know what you’re in for anyway. Quality wise, I’d rank them in descending order, but there’s fun stuff(creative kills, funny dialogue, boobs) in each of them. If you’re not sure if you’ve seen them or not (which I understand, the Friday’s can be a bit interchangeable) here’s a cheat sheet: (mild spoilers ahead)
Part 3: This is the one that was originally in 3D, so it’s full of completely shameless “stick something into the camera” gags (seriously, it’s CONSTANT…everything from yo-yo’s to eyeballs)…it’s where Jason gets his hockey mask…it’s got the famous “squeeze a guy’s eyeball out” kill.
Part 4: This is the one with Crispin Glover(Back to the Future) and Corey Feldman(Goonies)…it’s got a high body count and a lot of nudity…and it’s got the famous “Jason gets a taste of his own machete medicine” ending.
As for why I’m recommending 2, 3, 4, as opposed to just any of them…well, there’s a distinct switch up in the series after part 4. The Final Chapter is like Bond’s Thunderball, it encapsulates everything you dig about the previous entries while simultaneously taking things dangerously close to the point of parody. Part 5 tries to be similar, but strays too far from what’s key to the previous chapters. After that, things really take a turn, but that’s really a whole separate article.
…And remember: If you absolutely HAVE to see a remake, buy a ticket for some other, more original film, and then sneak in to the remake’s theater.
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