Friday the 13th director Marcus Nispel clearly understands the fundamentals of his genre better than he did in his 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here, Nispel doesn't have to worry about violating the spirit of a classic, because the original Friday the 13th was utter crap. But he does prove that he knows why the franchise endures: At its core, it's less about terror than it is about comedy.
This year's model of Friday the 13th - with a screenplay by the Freddy vs. Jason team of Damian Shannon and Mark Swift - is less a remake of the original than it is a mash-up of elements from the first three films. It quickly dispenses with the Mama Voorhees backstory to get Jason into his mask and thinning the 20-something, pot-smoking, sex-having herd at Camp Crystal Lake.
Shannon and Swift provide a lively script that's funnier than plenty of conventional comedies - including an out-of-nowhere but still hilarious nod to Blue Velvet - with particularly goofy bits for Aaron Yoo as the resident cutup. And the young cast members generally serve the important functions of being attractive, topless and dead - generally in that order - while also being competent actors.
The smartest decision, though, is a structure that allows for not one group of potential victims, but two. The vintage 1980s slasher films existed for the rollercoaster release of the murder sequences - a jump in the seat, followed almost immediately by a nervous chuckle. And this doesn't indicate something deeply disturbed in the audience; it serves its function as a way to confront death and laugh at it. The look-at-me theatricality that spoiled Nispel's Texas Chainsaw Massacre works perfectly here, because this genre needs its scares to be over-the-top.