By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
First of all, let's thank New Line Cinema for making its Friday the 13th reboot available for review.
Slasher flicks, especially updates of old favorites, are usually hidden from critics until opening day, delaying objective opinions that might stall ticket sales. As if gorehounds pay attention to us, anyway.
Showing the new, slightly improved Friday the 13th to discerning viewers shows backbone, like the one bogeyman Jason Voorhees cleaves with the superhuman throw of an ax. That's one of several morbid shots concocted by director Marcus Nispel, who knows how to earn nauseated groans and nervous laughter.
Nispel was the reason I looked forward to Friday the 13th. His remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2006 surprised me with its respect for Tobe Hooper's original classic, either re-creating memorable gross-outs or tweaking them just enough. Nispel is the smart hire to make over a horror movie deserving it.
Alas, that movie isn't Friday the 13th. The original wasn't very good, and its only truly memorable shock — a climax cribbed from Carrie — is a cliche nobody buys anymore. There wasn't a signature image to cherish, like Leatherface bursting through a slaughterhouse door or performing a maniacal chainsaw dance.
All that 1980's Friday the 13th delivered was boobs and blood, both of which can be better faked these days.
Nispel's Friday the 13th gets the combination right in one scene, when a topless water-skier (Willa Ford) winds up as shish kebab rudely disposed. The rest is strictly run-of-the-kill stuff: machetes, arrows and various impaling tools, all delivered with blunt, loud sound effects.
Between slaughters, we get the usual titillating vices, including a bumper crop of marijuana plants for the Pineapple Express crowd. Anyone who succumbs to any temptation of flesh or spirit may as well stamp "Dead Meat" on their foreheads, as slasher flick logic dictates. Nice kids always have a better chance of surviving.
The acting is . . . well, let's just say there aren't any budding Kevin Bacons in this Friday the 13th.
Nispel does pull off one surprise, possibly the longest prologue in movie history. I noticed that the five campers we met were dying off rapidly. When Jason (played by Derek Mears but, really, does it matter?) charges at the last one, the screen goes black and "Friday the 13th" appears — nearly 25 minutes after the movie starts. Nobody in the audience seemed to mind.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.