Review: ‘Friday the 13th’

(John P. Johnson / New Line Cinema)

The team behind the latest installment in the “Friday the 13th” horror franchise has decided to reboot the series with a respectful nod to the mythology surrounding its iconic villain, the unspeaking, marauding killer Jason Voorhees -- who has, in previous outings, been sent to outer space, hell and/or New York City.

Directed by Marcus Nispel (responsible for the remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” a few years back), this new film is something of a bouillabaisse of story points and killing concepts from earlier “Friday the 13th” movies -- a hatchet to the head here, a mother issue there, a poked-out eyeball for good measure -- with a few additions.

After a short opening prelude, the audience is introduced to a group of horny kids looking for a secret stash of weed near the legendary Camp Crystal Lake; they find Jason instead. Some weeks later, the brother of one of those campers comes along searching for his missing sister and stumbles across a group of college students partying for the weekend at an upscale lake house.

Jason ensues.

The film is certainly not “torture porn,” but it is unnecessarily grim. Nispel grasped the slaughterhouse despair that was at the core of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but he entirely misses the goofball giddiness that has always gilded the edges of the best stalker/slasher films.

The original “Friday” films were, in their own way, a celebration of teenage lust and rambunctiousness. In Nispel’s update, the kids are mostly distasteful cretins with a disturbingly clinical, post-porn attitude to sex that micromanages the pleasure right out of it. Even a topless wakeboarding sequence is more an emulation of fun than an actual sun-kissed reverie.

There are a few half-hearted attempts to “explain” Jason in some psychological sense, but the character has so much of the fantastic in him -- feeling no pain, moving swiftly and quietly, skillfully stalking his victims like prey -- that there is precious little reality he can sustain.

The original handful of “Friday” films had a certain low-rent elegance about them, and this slickly done, dimly lighted, whiplash-edited update loses that too.

Not fun, louder than it is scary, not even all that gory, this new “Friday the 13th” has Jason, all right, but otherwise it’s missing nearly everything that made the original films work.