The Scariest Scene In The Friday The 13th Remake Happens Right Out Of The Gate

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Matt Donato and Ariel Fisher. In this edition: Ariel talks about what makes the opening of the "Friday the 13th" remake so terrifying, while Matt breaks down the unholy amounts of ass it whips.)

Horror remakes can be ... finicky. Sometimes, they really don't do their predecessor justice, like "A Nightmare on Elm Street" from 2013, for example. If we're dealing with the ever-replicated and always applicable "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," it's pretty hard to really botch that up. Then there are the standouts, the all-time greats that basically "ruined" the game for everyone else by setting an immaculately high standard: "The Thing," "The Fly," "Thir13en Ghosts," "Evil Dead," etc.

Thankfully, today's pick is in the latter category: Marcus Nispel's "Friday the 13th" remake from 2009.

I had written this movie off without giving it a moment's pause. Just ask my husband, he'll tell you. I stubbornly insisted that it wasn't a remake but was rather a sequel, and was dead-set on the notion that it would be bad.

I am not a huge "Friday the 13th" fan. I know, that's verboten to say, but here we are, and I'm just being honest. It always felt like a cheap "Halloween" knock-off (which, technically, it was), Jason was never that compelling to me, and the first three movies are basically remakes of themselves. The first one is also, I'm sorry to say, a little boring. [Ducks, preparing to be pelted with rotten tomatoes.]

But, I was pleasantly surprised (and genuinely horrified) when I did finally sit down to watch this remake just a couple of years ago. The opening is absolutely incredible, and it sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Gone is the lumbering Jason of yore.

Welcome to the faster, meaner, more brutal Jason Voorhees; He's not f***ing around.

The Setup

On June 13, 1980, a young counselor from Camp Crystal Lake fought her way out of that hellish nightmare, killing Pamela Voorhees (Nana Visitor who played the incredible Kira Narys on "DS9") in the process. Then, almost 30 years later, a non-descript young group of friends head out on a hiking trip to find a presumably massive crop of weed only to stumble on the remains of that very camp. It may have shut down 20 years ago, but things aren't as quiet as they seem.

The Story So Far

Everything starts off in a rainy, desaturated flash of scenes catching us up to the story we are already intimately familiar with — Pamela Voorhees went on a killing spree at Camp Crystal Lake to avenge her drowned son, Jason. Like skipping over the Uncle Ben dying scene in a "Spider-Man" movie, this allows us to move straight into the present, fully aware of the legacy at play. This film exists in a world where Friday the 13th is a date, not a franchise, and it wants us to be aware of that fact. In one fell swoop, and a matter of minutes (three and a half, to be exact), we're set up with the premise of the original film, and the flashback recaps from the second and third installments.

Then we get to the present day.

A group of presumably college-aged friends are out on a hike looking for a rumored crop of pot they plan to harvest for themselves and sell for a tidy profit. While searching, they have to stop for the night, since their GPS isn't updating quickly enough to give them accurate directions to the stash. They set up camp, make a fire, and things quickly get to the ghost stories portion of the evening, like clockwork.

"Hey, guys! Guys! I just found some broken-down cabins over there," says Wade (Jonathan Sadowski), the brilliant mastermind who's leading this expedition. "It's gotta be the old camp. Who wants to check it out?"

Enter the exposition.

He proceeds to regale his friends with the story of Pamela and Jason Voorhees. No one's really buying it — they're too old to be scared by stories like that.

Whitney (Amanda Righetti) and her boyfriend, Mike (Nick Mennell), go wandering into the old camp to talk and explore. Richie (Ben Feldman) and his girlfriend, Amanda (America Olivo), ditch Wade to have sex in a tent as one is wont to do in the creepy wilderness. And Wade goes off to find a safe place to take a leak.

The Scene

It just so happens that Wade's chosen toilet is the very patch of weed they've been looking for, and he just happened to piss on it. But as soon as he starts celebrating, there he is, the towering and truly menacing Jason Voorhees, watching Wade from a few feet away. In a split second, he charges towards Wade, who scrambles backward, screaming, completely confused and terrified before being slashed against a tree.

Whitney and Mike find the old camp buildings, and inadvertently stumble into what's clearly Jason's home. It even has his mom's old locket and his bed with his name all neatly engraved. Whitney is thoroughly creeped out and wants to leave.

Cut back to Richie and Amanda, and their coitus is interruptus by strange noises in the woods. Amanda insists Richie has to investigate, thinking it's Wade perving out and watching them from the trees. [Very Ron Howard voice] It wasn't Wade.

While Richie is fiding Wade's body (sans ear), Amanda meets Jason who cuts into the tent, pulling her out only to tie her up in a sleeping bag and hang her upside down above their roaring fire. The humour of Jason's sleeping bag kill in "Jason X" is completely gone. All that's left is Amanda's charred corpse and Richie's demolished leg stuck in a bear trap, unable to help her.

Then Jason catches up to Whitney and Mike. He stabs through the floor of the cabin, repeatedly catching Mike's foot, then his leg, then his hand, while Whitney stands safe in the bathtub. He breaks through the floor, killing Mike, as Whitney runs to safety. Back at their campsite, she finds Amanda's charred corpse and Richie screaming for help, his leg decimated in the bear trap.

Desperate to help him, she can't get the trap open. And with a kind of calm yet terrified acceptance, Richie realizes he's done for as Jason barrels towards them at top speed, swinging his machete like an axe with one hand directly into Richie's skull. Whitney scrambles backward, desperately trying to get away, as Jason rushes towards her, swinging his machete one more time.

It cuts to black before he makes impact, and "Friday the 13th" appears on the screen in blood red.

The first 23 minutes are a near-perfect pulse-pounding adrenaline rush that will absolutely have you jumping out of your seat. 

The Impact (Matt's Take)

I adore Platinum Dunes' "Friday the 13th." I cherish this opening massacre. I obsess over how Marcus Nispel chose the Jason Voorhees version cemented by pop culture, forgoing what's less enticing, in my opinion. Jason doesn't don the mask or achieve his "final form" until well into "Friday the 13th Part III," but 2009's "Friday the 13th" doesn't dwell on tedium. The SparkNotes version bypasses overdrawn mythology and gets to the good stuff, like "Jason Lives" without hesitation. We want our uber-scary Jason, and we want him now.

Cue the dope field lewdness Ariel describes above.

In keeping Platinum Dunes' surprisingly prudish desire to slay those who'd dare transport and partake in blazing the devil's lettuce — "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" starts with a Mexican marijuana deal — those bonehead teens never stand a chance. Better yet, in "Friday The 13th," it's all table setting for an efficiently brute-forceful slasher that's of the utmost aggression. There's so much death in the opening, calling back to previous entries but quadrupling the terror like planting a flag in moistly bloodsoaked soil. There's a specific part where Jason sprints like Ty Cobb stealing home plate, and it's so memorably vicious because a monster shouldn't move that fast. Where's the saunter? The patience? It's all gone. Jason kills and kills with haste.

It's an opening sequence that understands more about the horror genre than some entire franchises. First off, how classic horror properties can allow remakes to learn from a storied past and create narrative efficiencies — use what works, trim the translucent fatty bits. Secondly, how to approach "dark and gritty" from a perspective of nightmarish scares. Third, how modernization learns from hindsight and adapts to current trends, dragging older formulas into present molds that work best when learning from one another. 

I always forget how long we have to wait before "Friday the 13th" flashes its title card, and I'm always pleasantly reminded how much the lengthier-than-expected beginning whips unholy amounts of ass.