Review: Friday the 13th Killer Cut—more pointless nudity and violence, and we like it

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

No matter how much you love the original films in the Friday the 13th series, it's virtually indisputable that the 2009 remake/reboot/re-imagining is far and away the best-made of all of them.

Although superior less because of its use of state-of-the-art technology than its straightforward proficiency as an entry updated but entirely authentic to the franchise, Friday the 13th managed to resuscitate Jason Voorhees because it eschewed many of the conventions of modern horror movies while managing to satisfy the demands of a contemporary audience. That said, the film nevertheless lacks some of the scruffy, low-budget charm of its predecessors, not to mention the built-in pedigree of being an actual '80s slasher flick.

One suspects that the debate over its merits will only intensify with the release of the Friday the 13th Killer Cut, a Blu-ray that features both the film's 97-minute theatrical version and a 106-minute extended cut. In all honesty, one isn't demonstrably better than the other, but while the added footage doesn't enhance the film's impact, it does indicate the filmmakers' dedication to fulfilling as many of the hallmarks of the franchise as possible.

For example, the theatrical cut offers the most basic components of what a Friday the 13th film requires: attractive people willingly remove their clothes before dying at the hands of a masked killer. As Jason, Derek Mears offers a genuinely transcendent performance that betters virtually all of the actors and stuntmen who tackled the role before him. Meanwhile, his intended victims are played with sufficient obliviousness to the decades of "don't go in there" clichés by the likes of Danielle Panabaker, Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti and especially Travis Van Winkle, who elevates jock douchebag characters to an art form.

That said, the kills—the elements in each film that receive the most effort and creativity—are not especially original or inspiring in the theatrical version, except for the particularly inventive combination of a campfire and a sleeping bag. Evidenced by the Killer Cut, however, many of these scenes were pared down either for time or ratings consideration, and a restored version fulfills much more of the viscera quotient that longtime fans look forward to. Specifically, Aaron Yoo's death in the tool shed is far more painful and graphic, but several other scenes are expanded to really show what Jason is doing to his victims (and for how long), and in general the atmosphere of menace is significantly more palpable.

Additionally, the new footage reinforces two essential staples of the genre—abundant, pointless nudity and abundant, pointless violence. In the first case, an already substantial sex scene was expanded by some five minutes or so of extra humping—ostensibly so the filmmakers could include a fruitless subplot about one of Jason's victims temporarily escaping capture, but really so we can see more of Julianna Guill's "spectacular" breasts (that's her companion's description, not ours). In the second, our heroes encounter the evidence of Jason's killing spree as they are fleeing for their lives, revisiting all of the murders he's committed before they square off for the final showdown. While this certainly evokes the earlier movies, almost all of which featured a sequence in which the heroine ran past all of her dead co-ed pals, it feels superfluous here, which is no doubt why it was excised from the theatrical version. But again, it's an indication that the filmmakers were aware of the series' conventions and trying to include as many of them as possible, even if ultimately excising them was a better decision for the effectiveness of the final film.

As with most DVD extras, the rest of the materials are interesting in a single-serving kind of way: "Hacking Back / Slashing Forward" collects the cast and crew's memories about seeing the original Friday the 13th, to no substantive end; "The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees" is standard-fare promotional stuff that talks about conceiving a new Jason; and a "Terror Trivia Track" offers facts and picture-in-picture background details while you're watching the movie, albeit too infrequently and too similarly to the featurettes. But the "7 Best Kills" featurette is probably the centerpiece of the extras, because it delves into the execution (no pun intended) of several of the characters' deaths, showing how they were created and then technically achieved.

Paramount Home Entertainment concurrently released Parts IV, V and VI of the original films on DVD at the same time as this Blu-ray, and while IV—better known as The Final Chapter—is a personal favorite, not to mention widely regarded as the best in the franchise, none of them holds up technically to the new Friday the 13th, even if our sense of nostalgia encourages us to prefer their dubious professionalism to this one's studio polish. Does that mean it's actually better in either an artistic sense, or even as a piece of entertainment? Not necessarily.

But at the very least, this Blu-ray affords folks the chance to check out what the filmmakers were trying to do, even if they ultimately chose to make the best movie possible instead of one that's purely faithful to the origins of the franchise. In fact, it gives you both of those movies; but whether you think that 2009's Friday the 13th is a triumph, a travesty or just the 12th entry in the series and nothing more, its very existence resurrects the franchise for fans both old and new and, most importantly, ensures that Jason will live on for years to come.