The 2009 film was originally conceived as an origin story, but the project evolved into a re-imagining of the first four Friday the 13th films. The character Jason Voorhees was redesigned as a lean, quick killer with a backstory that allows the viewer to feel a little sympathy for him, but not enough that he would lose his menace. In keeping with the tone of the film, Jason's mask was recreated from a mold of the original mask used for Part III; though there were subtle changes. Friday the 13th includes some of Harry Manfredini's musical score from the previous Friday the 13th films because the producers recognized its iconic status.
On June 13, 1980, a young Jason Voorhees (Caleb Guss) watches as his mother Pamela (Nana Visitor) is beheaded by a camp counselor (Stephanie Rhodes), who was trying to escape Mrs. Voorhees's murder spree around Camp Crystal Lake. Almost thirty years later, a group of friends—Wade (Jonathan Sadowski), Richie (Ben Feldman), Mike (Nick Mennell), Whitney (Amanda Righetti) and Amanda (America Olivo)—arrive at Crystal Lake on a camping trip to search for marijuana growing in the woods. That night, an adult Jason (Derek Mears), kills everyone except Whitney, whom he captures since she resembles his mother at a young age.
Six weeks later, Trent (Travis Van Winkle), his girlfriend Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), and friends Chelsea (Willa Ford), Bree (Julianna Guill), Chewie (Aaron Yoo), Nolan (Ryan Hansen), and Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta) arrive at Trent's summer cabin on the shore of Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, Whitney's brother Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) arrives at the lake to search for her. Clay visits Trent's cabin, and Jenna agrees to help him search for Whitney. As they search, Jason kills Chelsea and Nolan while they are wakeboarding on the lake. Clay and Jenna search the old Crystal Lake campgrounds where they see Jason hauling a body into the abandoned camp house.
Jenna and Clay run to warn the others about Jason, who arrives and disconnects the cabin's electricity. Jason kills Chewie and Lawrence outside the cabin and sneaks inside and kills Bree. Trent, Clay, and Jenna escape the cabin, but Trent is killed when he reaches the main road. Jason chases Clay and Jenna back to the campgrounds, where Clay discovers Jason's lair and finds his sister chained to a wall. Clay frees Whitney, and all three try to escape as Jason arrives. They find an exit, but Jenna is killed before she can escape. Jason corners Clay and Whitney; Whitney confuses Jason by pretending to be Pamela, then stabs him in the chest with his own machete. Clay dumps Jason's "corpse" into the lake, but before Clay and Whitney leave, Jason bursts through the wooden dock and grabs Whitney.
New Line Cinema's Toby Emmerich approached Platinum Dunes producers Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form about remaking Friday the 13th in the same way they restarted The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. They agreed and spent over a year obtaining the film rights from Paramount Pictures, New Line and Crystal Lake Entertainment—the latter run by Friday the 13th creator Sean S. Cunningham. Paramount executives gave Platinum Dunes producers a license to use anything from the original films, including the title. Paramount was given the rights to distribute the film internationally and New Line retained U.S. distribution rights. Fuller and Form said they did not want to make Friday the 13th Part 11 or 12, but wanted to rework the mythology. They liked elements from the first four films—such as plot points and ways particular characters are killed—and planned to use these in their remake, which they did with Paramount's approval. Fuller said, "I think there are moments we want to address, like how does the hockey mask happen. It’ll happen differently in our movie than in the third one. Where is Jason from, why do these killings happen, and what is Crystal Lake?" The producers initially expressed an interest in using Tommy Jarvis, a recurring character who first appeared in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, but the idea was scrapped.
Though the producers decided that Friday the 13th would not be an origin story, they said that they wanted to work out a logical origin story for Jason that would provide a sense of history as the film progressed. Form and Fuller explained that the audience gets to see how Jason attains his famous hockey mask, and is given a reason for why he puts it on. Jason would transition from wearing a bag over his head—similar to the one seen in Friday the 13th Part 2—to finding and wearing his hockey mask, whereas in Friday the 13th Part III he obtains the mask off-screen and comes out of a barn already wearing it.
Unlike both horror remakes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005)—which were also produced by Bay, Form, and Fuller—it was decided that Friday the 13th would not be a period piece. Form and Fuller said the film was not strictly a remake so there was no reason they could not set the story in the 2000s. In October 2007, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the writers of Freddy vs. Jason, were hired to write a script for Friday the 13th. Jonathan Liebesman was in negotiations to direct the film, but scheduling conflicts meant he was unavailable and Fuller and Form chose Marcus Nispel. Nispel was apprehensive about taking the job, mainly because he would be taking over another film franchise, but Fuller eventually persuaded him to direct the project. Principal photography began on April 21, 2008, in Austin, Texas, and finished on June 13, 2008.
Stuntman Derek Mears was hired to portray Jason Voorhees at the recommendation of special make-up effects supervisor Scott Stoddard. Before the producers contacted him, Mears had already heard about the production of a new Friday the 13th and had decided to start physical training so he could pursue the role. He was unaware that Stoddard and other industry professionals were suggesting him to the producers. The studio worried that Mears' pleasant demeanor might affect his ability to portray a menacing character, but Mears assured them he was suitable for the role. According to Mears, "They were like, 'You're really nice ... are you going to be able to switch over, right?' I was like, 'I cage fight..and I've got a lot of dad issues. So yeah.'". Mears said he related to "Jason the victim" when he was growing up, and he wanted to portray Jason as a victim in the film. To Mears, Jason represents people who were bullied in high school—specifically those with physical deformities—for being outcasts. Jason is unusual because he exacts his revenge on those trying to take over his territory at Crystal Lake.
When Mears went to audition for the role, he was asked, "Why do we need an actor as opposed to just a guy in a mask?" Mears said portraying Jason is similar to Greek Mask Work, in which the mask and the actor are separate entities, and depending on the scene, there will be various combinations of mask and actor in the performance. Mears said the energy from the actor's thoughts will be picked up by the camera. He compared his experience behind the camera to a stock car race: he is the driver and the effects team is his pit crew. As he performs, the effects team subtly suggest ways he can give the character more life on camera.
Amanda Righetti had not read the script when she was offered the role of Whitney Miller. She wanted to be part of the Friday the 13th franchise from the start. Righetti said she wanted to act in the film after she read the script. Jared Padalecki describes Clay Miller as a real hero because he sets out "to do the right thing" when his sister goes missing, and goes about it as a "lone wolf" who wants to take on the responsibility alone. Adjustments were made to the filming schedule to accommodate Aaron Yoo, who portrays Chewie. Yoo had his appendix removed shortly before filming began, and could not film his scenes immediately. As soon as Yoo was ready for filming, Nispel immediately hung him upside down from some rafters, exposing the staples over his surgical wound for the character's post-death shot.
Fuller and Form said the casting process for Friday the 13th was more difficult than that for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre because thirteen young actors were involved in Friday the 13th, as opposed to five in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The pair continually recast roles to find which actors worked best together. This recasting process lasted until the start of filming. Hostel: Part II's Richard Burgi, who was cast as Sheriff Bracke, did not sign his contract until twelve hours before he was due to start filming his scenes.
When Shannon and Swift began writing the script for Friday the 13th, they imposed some rules based on their experiences of writing Freddy vs. Jason on themselves. They wanted their teenage characters to "sound normal". Shannon and Swift said they did not want the characters to know Jason's name or to become what they considered "the Scooby-Doo cliché where it's a bunch of kids trying to figure something out". The writers also wanted to distance themselves from self-referential slasher films such as Scream and to give the film a gritty, more 1980s feel that had been lost in recent films. They wanted to create a quick, loose Jason. The writing team decided to create a version of Jason "who was actually in the woods surviving off the land", and whose killings are presented as a way of defending his territory rather than randomly murdering whoever came along.
The writers did not want to spend a lot of time covering Jason's childhood experiences, which they felt would remove the sense of mystery from the character. They tried to write scenes that would add verisimilitude, like the audience finding a deer carcass lying on the ground as they follow Jason through his underground tunnels. Fuller told the writers they would have to do without it because it would cost $100,000. Because of budget constraints, certain character deaths and the ending of the film were also scaled back from what Shannon and Swift originally envisioned.
The writers had written a scene in which Willa Ford's character Chelsea is stranded on the lake for hours after she sees Jason standing on the shore. Eventually, the girl would tire and drown. Shannon and Swift felt this was something they had not seen in slasher films, but later decided to make the death quicker and more visceral. A similar incident occurred with Danielle Panabaker's character Jenna. Panabaker said Jenna was scripted to survive longer than she did in the final version of the film; Jenna was supposed to escape Jason's lair and recite a "cute line" about a second date with Clay before an elaborate fight sequence that ends in her death. The writers wanted to strike a balance between finding new and interesting ways to kill characters and paying homage to popular death scenes that appeared in previous installments of the series. To accomplish this, Shannon and Swift included the presence of a wheelchair and a sweater in Jason's tunnels; the character Mark (Tom McBride) was a paraplegic who was killed by Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2 and Mrs. Voorhees wore the sweater in the original version of Friday the 13th.
The writers altered Jason's character. Mears describes him as a combination of John Rambo, Tarzan, and the Abominable Snowman from Looney Tunes. To Mears, Jason is similar to Rambo because the audience sees him setting up the other characters to fall into his traps. Like Rambo, he is calculating because he feels he has been wronged and he is fighting back; he is supposed to be more sympathetic in this film. However, Fuller and Form said they learned from their experience with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning not to make Jason too sympathetic to the audience. They decided against an origin story because they did not want to focus on Jason's tormented childhood because the producers felt that would "demystify" the character in an unhelpful manner. Fuller said, "We do not want him to be sympathetic. Jason is not a comedic character, he is not sympathetic. He's a killing machine. Plain and simple."
The producers used Asylum Visual Effects to create digital effects for Friday the 13th. Although director Marcus Nispel is a proponent of practical effects, Asylum had to digitally create some shots to protect the actors and to allow the director to achieve a specific look. Visual effects supervisor Mitchell Drain assigned ten crew members to work on the visual effects; they first analyzed the script in pre-production to decide which shots would need digital effects. Asylum worked on 25 shots for the film.
One of the first scenes Asylum was given was the scene depicting the death of Amanda, in which Jason ties her into her sleeping bag and hangs her over a campfire. The risk to the actor and the surrounding woodland was deemed too great to physically perform the scene. Asylum created a composite of two shots to show Amanda burning to death in her sleeping bag. Instead of creating a computer generated (CGI) model of the campfire, a real campfire was filmed. Asylum compositor John Stewart blended that footage with shots of the hanging sleeping bag into a single shot. Stewart digitally altered the flames to keep continuity between frames. Another composite shot is used in the scene in which Chelsea is hit by a speedboat. Because the scene would be too dangerous for even a stuntperson to perform, Asylum digitally combined footage of Willa Ford reacting to an imaginary boat that runs over her with shots of the actual boat to create the effect.
Asylum also enhanced some of Jason's signature machete kills. In several scenes, the company used a computer-generated machete because Nispel wanted to show multiple characters' deaths in one shot instead of cutting from the acts of murder to the aftermath of their deaths. In one scene, Jason kills Richie by slamming a machete into his head. Instead of using a real machete with a fake head, Nispel had Feldman act dead as Mears pulled a handle—with only a portion of the blade attached—away from Feldman's head. Then, Asylum digitally created the rest of the machete blade to complete the effect. For this scene, Asylum adjusted the actor's facial expressions to create a "post mortem" look. The special effects team digitally drooped half of the actor's face to appear as though the nerves had been severed by Jason's machete.
Asylum digitally created weapons for various scenes. In the scene in which Nolan is killed suddenly by a shot in the head from Jason's arrow, Asylum created the arrow in post-production. Another scene involved Jason hurling a hatchet at Lawrence as he runs away, striking him in the back. The shot of a hatchet flying through the air—in one instance appearing in the same frame as the actor—would be too difficult to achieve practically. Asylum rendered a complete 3D model of the hatchet then inserted the model into the frames leading up to the frame in which it hits the character in the back. One of the final images added by Asylum was for Trent's death scene. Here, Asylum digitally created a metal spike that bursts through Trent's chest as Jason slams him onto the back of a tow truck.
Effects artist Scott Stoddard described his look for Jason's face as a combination of Carl Fullerton's design for Friday the 13th Part 2 and Tom Savini's design for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Stoddard's vision of Jason included hair loss, skin rashes, and the traditional deformities in his face. Stoddard tried to craft Jason's look so it would allow more human side of the character to be seen. Mears was required to wear full body make-up from the chest upwards while performing as Jason. The actor wore a chest plate with fake skin that would adjust to his muscle movements. He wore a hump on his back to give the impression that Jason had scoliosis. A prosthetic eye was glued to Mears' face to show realistic eye movements. Stoddard initially spent three-and-a-half hours applying the make-up to Mears' head and torso. He was eventually able to reduce the required time to just over an hour for scenes in which Mears wore the hockey mask. For scenes in which Jason's face is revealed, it took approximately four hours to apply the make-up.
For Jason's wardrobe, Mears was given a pair of combat boots and a "high-priced t-shirt" that allowed the special effects make-up to be seen through holes in the shirt. The jacket Jason wears in the film was created by combining a hunting jacket and a military jacket. Mears wanted to use the hunting jacket, but the creative team liked the way the military jacket billowed as he was making his "kill movements." The top of the hunting jacket was removed and placed over the top of the military jacket. Mears called it a "giant Frankenstein jacket." He describes Jason as leaner in this film because the character does not eat much. A leaner Jason was deemed more functional and allowed more emphasis to be placed on the hump on his back. Stoddard was inspired by the third and fourth films when designing Jason's hockey mask. Using an original mold, Stoddard made six new versions of the mask. He said, "Because I didn't want to take something that already existed. There were things I thought were great, but there were things I wanted to change a bit. Make it custom, but keep all the fundamental designs. Especially the markings on the forehead and cheeks. Age them down a bit. Break them up."
Form and Fuller recognized the iconic status of the music used in the first four Friday the 13th films. For their 2009 film, they immediately had the studio attain the licensing rights to the music, which was composed and originally performed by Harry Manfredini. They did not plan to use the score in its entirety, but they used Steve Jablonsky to compose a score that was reminiscent of Manfredini's and created the atmosphere for the 2009 film. Nispel contacted Jablonsky to score Friday the 13th after having worked with him on the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Nispel told Jablonsky he wanted him to create something that Nispel could "whistle when [he] left the theater", but was subtle enough that it would not immediately register while watching the film. Nispel said, "I don't believe that, when you watch a Friday the 13th film, you want to feel like John Williams is sitting next to you with the London Symphony Orchestra".
On Friday, February 13, 2009, Friday the 13th was released in 3,105 theaters in North America. The 2009 film was given the widest release of any Friday the 13th film, including the crossover film with A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was released in nearly three times as many theaters as the original 1980 film and exceeded Freddy vs. Jason by 91 theaters. Friday the 13th was also released in 2,100 theaters in 28 markets outside North America. The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Apple TV on June 16, 2009. The DVD and Blu-ray releases contain the theatrical release and an extended cut of the film.
On its opening day, Friday the 13th grossed $19,293,446, and immediately exceeded the individual box office grosses for Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Jason Goes to Hell (1993), and Jason X (2002), which earned $14,343,976, $15,935,068, and $13,121,555, respectively. From February 14–16, Friday the 13th earned an additional $24,292,003, making its four-day President's Day weekend total $43,585,449. By the end of its three-day opening weekend, it was already the second highest grossing film in the series, having earned $40,570,365, slightly exceeding The Grudge (2004) for the best 3-day weekend opening of any horror film. When comparing the 2009 film's opening weekend to that of its 1980 counterpart in adjusted 2009 US dollars, the original Friday the 13th film earned $17,251,975. Although the 2009 film made more money, when factoring in the number of theaters each film was released in, the 1980 film earned an average of $15,683 per theater, compared to the 2009 film's average of $13,066.
Friday the 13th saw a significant drop in attendance in its second weekend at the box office. On its second Friday, the film earned $2,802,977—a decrease of 85.5% from its opening Friday. By the end of its second weekend, the film had earned $7,942,472—a decrease of 80.4% from the previous weekend. As a result, the film went from first place to sixth in the weekend box office chart. By its third weekend, Friday the 13th had left the top ten, earning $3,689,156—a 53.6% decrease from its second weekend. By the end of its box office run, Friday the 13th earned an estimated $65 million at the United States box office, but failed to regain a top ten spot after its third weekend.
As of July 2014,the 2009 film is the fifth-highest earning President's Day weekend with $45,033,454. It is the eighth-highest grossing weekend in the month of February, and the eighth- highest-grossing weekend for the winter season—the period from the first day after the New Year weekend until the first Thursday of March. Friday the 13th finished as the fourth-highest grossing film of any February with $59.8 million, just behind Taken with $84.3 million, He's Just Not That into You with $77.2 million, and Madea Goes to Jail, with $60.9 million.
Friday the 13th was the fifteenth-highest grossing R-rated film of 2009. Because of the significant decrease in box office revenues in its second weekend, the film had the sixth-largest second-weekend drop. It is the seventh-largest drop for a film that opened as the top-earning film in the United States. With its $65 million revenue at the North American box office, Friday the 13th is the highest-grossing film among the recent slasher remakes, which comprise When a Stranger Calls (2006), Black Christmas (2006), Halloween (2007), Prom Night (2008), and My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009). The film is ranked seventh-highest earning of all horror remakes, and is the seventh-highest earning slasher film in unadjusted dollars.
In addition to its North American box office gross, Friday the 13th earned over $9.5 million in foreign markets on its opening weekend. The film's biggest markets were the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Friday the 13th took in approximately $1.7 million in both the United Kingdom and Russia, an estimated $1.1 million in Spain, and $1 million in both Italy and Germany. According to Paramount, this was the largest opening outside North America of any of the Friday the 13th films. The film finished its North American box office run with $65,002,019; coupled with its earnings of $27,688,218 outside North America, the film has accumulated $92,670,237 worldwide. The film earned $10,344,904 in domestic video sales.
Based on 166 reviews collected by review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Friday the 13th has a 25% approval rating from critics with an average score of 4.2 out of 10. The consensus reads: "Though technically well-constructed, Friday the 13th is a series rehash that features little to distinguish it from its predecessors." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 34 based on 29 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that average grade cinemagoers gave the film a "B-" on a scale of A+ to F. Exit polls showed that 51% of the audience was male and 59% were at least 25 years old.
Alonso Duralde wrote that the film should please slasher fans, but that it added nothing new to the genre or the franchise and would not appeal to people who did not like slasher films. Duralde criticized the film for adding a black and an Asian character in an attempt to "update the movie for the new millennium". He also said the prospect of another Friday the 13th—crafted by the film's "sequel-friendly" ending—did not leave him with a feeling of dread. Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic said the film accepts the "ridiculousness" of what it is trying to accomplish—mainly the "death and dismemberment" of "party-hungry kids", and that audiences would enjoy it if they also recognized that. Although Goodykoontz acknowledges the unique touches the film brings to certain characters' deaths, he was unimpressed with the acting and said Padalecki's presence gave the film a "less-good episode of Supernatural" vibe.
The Washington Post's Dan Zak wrote that the film fails to provide laughs, scares, suspense, or gore. Zak also said it fails to provide the exhibition of nudity expected of horror films that cannot deliver on the previously listed criteria. Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times said Nispel captured the despair he created with his Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Olsen also said the film failed to provide the "giddiness", "teenage lust", and "rambunctiousness" that made the previous Friday the 13th films work. Wesley Morris said Friday the 13th did have humor; he said the characters continually act the clichéd role of would-be-victim, making it hard to fear for their safety. In his opinion, the 2009 film lacked the "psycho-social" aspect—a mother killing out of revenge for her son's death—crafted by its 1980 predecessor, and ultimately the film is "more hilarious than terrifying".
The New York Post's Kyle Smith said Nispel made no attempt to create a movie beyond blood and guts, and even those attempts were "forgettable". Smith said that apart from Clay and Trent, the rest of the cast were merely "faces in the crowd" with no attempt to give them any sort of backstory. USA Today's Claudia Puig said that the film keeps to the same formula as its predecessors, with a story that adds little to nothing to the franchise. She also said Padalecki and Panabaker filled their lead roles well, and that Aaron Yoo's comic relief made him one of the most likable characters on screen. Rob Nelson of Variety also praised Panabaker and Yoo's performances.
In contrast to the film's detractors, The New York Times's Nathan Lee said Friday the 13th managed to "reboot the concept" of the original films with style. Lee said the film takes pleasure in killing off each of its characters, that there is a desire among cinemagoers for this type of material, and that Friday the 13th satisfies that desire. Adam Graham from The Detroit News said the film is the most effective and scary film in the Friday the 13th series; he praised its choice of allowing Jason to run after his victims—as opposed to slowly walking behind them, as became prominent in later sequels—because it made him more menacing. Graham also said the film does not "soften" Jason's scariness by providing a sympathetic backstory. Entertainment Weekly's Clark Collis said director Nispel made a competent film that performs better as a whole than the previously released remakes of Prom Night (2008) and My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009), although it does provide a few too many unbelievable character moments.
Jason Anderson of the Toronto Star said the film added freshness to the standard formula of the previous films by focusing on the chasing and killing aspects instead of lingering on the prolonged suffering of victims like the Saw films. IGN's Chris Carle said Aaron Yoo stole the film with his comic timing and with his "memorable death". Carle said Derek Mears' portrayal of Jason adds more to the character than being simply a stuntman; Mears's subtle movements, athleticism, and physicality created an imposing image of Jason.