'Friday the 13th' (2009)

They nearly did it. The first 20-25 minutes of the new Friday the 13th threatened to tear the roof off my lowered expectations for a reboot of a devalued franchise that began nearly 30 years ago. After a tentative flashback, the set-up in the present day was classically simple, the action flared up in mean and bloody outbursts, and Jason's appearance was note-perfect. I was starting to tense up, feeling the weight of gut-level dread in the pit of my stomach.

Then came a narrative pause, after which the movie never quite regains its footing.

Oh, Friday the 13th delivers the goods, in the same sense that Domino's delivers pizza. By now, anyone who goes to see "a Jason movie" knows what to expect. Before the screening began, in fact, audience members were betting how the first victim would be dispatched: In the bathroom! Swimming! Having sex! Wandering alone in the forest! We expect a high body count, creative 'kill scenes,' some nudity, some tasteless jokes, dumb behavior by good-looking teenagers, and a plucky yet tough heroine as the 'final girl.' Jason must wear a hockey mask, wield multiple weapons of mass destruction (including a machete), and appear suddenly behind his victims, looming out of the shadows, just before he strikes.

Director Marcus Nispel, producer Michael Bay, and their numerous writing, producing, and behind-the-scenes colloborators provide all that's expected, as well as some changes (which I won't spoil). For all their apparent willingness to try out new ingredients, though, they don't tamper too much with the recipe. While the film maintains a serious edge -- with the expected and welcome comic relief -- it never delves too deeply into darker territories.