The ‘Friday the 13th’ reboot just drove a stake through the franchise’s future

Each and every time I write about Friday the 13th, I feel compelled to state that I am not a fan of the long-running slasher franchise, which — in the immortal words of John Carpenter — “doesn't rise above its cheapness.” Nevertheless, the idea that producers might actually try to change up the old formula is a vaguely intriguing one, and in the years since that abhorrent 2009 remake various alternative takes on the 36-year-old series — from a found-footage approach to David Bruckner's since-abandoned Dazed and Confused-inspired version — have been flirted with and then dispatched like one of Jason Voorhees' nubile, underdressed victims.

And then yesterday happened. All due respect to Breck Eisner, but as a filmmaker he feels like the safest possible choice to direct the F13 reboot, which really could have done with some fresh blood (pun intended) but will instead be saddled with a workmanlike director who is all but guaranteed to do nothing much interesting with the material. Indeed, Eisner's filmography doesn't inspire confidence for those craving a new take, consisting as it does of one notoriously-underperforming Indiana Jones knockoff (Sahara), an underwhelming remake of George A. Romero's The Crazies and 2015's The Last Witch Hunter, a Vin Diesel action-horror vehicle that didn't exactly garner plaudits from critics or audiences. If nothing else, Eisner's hiring suggests the suits behind the project got a serious case of cold feet after dipping a toe into more experimental waters.

I get that I'm speaking as a non-fan, and I get that current distributor Paramount is leery of alienating the franchise's hardcore devotees, who could potentially revolt if the new film veers too far from the established formula (witness some fans' irritation over changes to Jason's character in the 2009 remake). But I can't help but feel that there's a more interesting angle on the material than we've seen in…well, any of the previous movies, and unfortunately Eisner isn't the director who's going to shake things up.

I don't know why I expected anything different. While I would love, for example, to see a woman direct a Friday the 13th film, particularly given the series' historically misogynistic depictions of female characters, maybe this just isn't the franchise for that kind of reinvention. Among the three iconic '80s slasher franchises — Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street — Friday the 13th has always been the least creatively adventurous, and it may be that it was simply never meant for a New Nightmare or even Halloween: H20-style refresh. 

If that's the case, fine by me. As far as I'm concerned, there will be no love lost with a franchise that I wasn't particularly fond of in the first place. But I think the reboot's producers, which include, lamentably, Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes shingle, may live to regret taking an overly-cautious approach to a franchise that started to wear thin decades ago. By refusing to evolve, they run the risk of alienating potential new fans and thusly driving a stake through the heart of their once-unstoppable hockey-masked killer. Not that I'd mind if he went straight to Hell.