Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Franchises: Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

This was the one that I saw around the time I was fifteen that got me interested in seeing the other movies in the series. Mind you, I'd seen bits of some of the other movies before but this was the first Friday the 13th movie I actually sat down and watched. I came in on Vicky's death and watched it all the way to the end, thoroughly enjoying what I was seeing. After that, I was determined to see all the other films in the franchise. As everyone knows, this is the movie where Jason Voorhees becomes the villain of the series but this is before he gets his iconic hockey mask. Like Mrs. Voorhees being the killer in the original movie, I heard that little tidbit from one of my friends who had seen the movie long before I did.

Five years after the events of the original movie, a new camp opens on Crystal Lake, despite the area's grisly history. And as before, the teenage camp counselors who are training for their summer jobs are stalked and killed by a mysterious man who turns out to be Jason Voorhees, who apparently didn't drown but has been living in the woods near Crystal Lake all these years.

I will admit that the very notion of making Jason suddenly appear and start killing people himself is a bit shaky. We were told in the first movie that Jason did indeed drown in the lake in 1957... or did he? During a campfire scene in this movie, Paul says that his body was never recovered from the lake, suggesting that maybe they just thought he was dead but, in actuality, he managed to get to shore on the far end of the lake and, due to his apparent lack of mental capacities, didn't know how to get back to the camp or his mother and just took to living in the woods. That would explain how he was eventually able to see his mother get killed by Alice in 1980, become filled with murderous rage, and set out on his killing spree. Of course, that also raises questions about the original movie's ending. If the ending scene with Jason attacking Alice in the canoe was meant to be a dream, why have that last suggestive shot of the lake and Alice saying, "Then he's still there." And if it did take place, how is Jason an adult in the pre-credits sequence where he kills Alice, which we find out takes place two months after the first movie's events. Obviously, this is a lot nitpicking but it does serve as an example that the screenwriters weren't thinking in terms of continuity even this early in the game.

We're introduced to Jason as soon as the film begins. We seem him slowly walk across the street to where Alice Hardy, the last survivor from the original movie, is currently living. (Let's not even get into how he could have possibly found out where she lived.) Inside, Alice is having a nightmare about the horror she went through that night at Camp Crystal Lake and we see almost the entire last quarter of the first movie with her trying to escape Mrs. Voorhees. Usually I actually like recaps but I've
always felt that this was kind of pointless unless you hadn't seen the first movie. (I don't know why you would watch the second one if you hadn't seen the first but that's just me. Remember I just stumbled across this movie the first time.) After her nightmare, Alice argues with her mother on the phone, suggesting that things have been difficult with them since what happened and she's been trying to distance herself from her
parents in order to recover. After that, we have a long, drawn out moment where Alice gets a phone call and when she picks up the phone, there's nobody there. I guess we can assume that was Jason, suggesting that he's smarter than he seems. The part that follows is quite suspenseful, ending with the cliche of a cat screeching through a window, providing a jump scare. (It won't be the last, of course.) Right after that is when Alice discovers Mrs. Voorhees' head in her refrigerator and is killed by Jason, who sticks a small knife into the side of her head. One thing I've always found intriguing is that after he's killed Alice, Jason places the whistling tea kettle off the eye on the stove. Was he going to have some tea now?

One thing the Friday the 13th series is good at is having each individual movie's title come up in an interesting way. In the original, we had the title come forward and break some glass, as if hitting a window; this one goes a step further. The title Friday the 13th comes up and then explodes and Part 2 is revealed in its place. It's an awesome visual. This movie's credits sequence also begins a tradition of the series in having the credits be the usual white lettering on a black background but with each credit appearing in a different position as the title theme for the respective movie plays. (The original just had a fairly standard credit sequence.) Except for Part 3, this credit sequence would appear in every film up to Part VII: The New Blood.

As with the original movie, the film is very well photographed, this time by Peter Stein. It's a bit more polished and not as lush looking as the first movie but it looks very good and, as before, the wilderness environment looks absolutely gorgeous. In fact, this movie solves the darkness problem that I mentioned in my review of the original, showing that the crew was more experienced this time around.

Steve Miner, who was associate producer on the original, makes his directorial debut with this movie and I personally think he's a much better director than Sean Cunningham. He manages to keep the pace moving, never allowing the movie to drag, and he doesn't put in scenes that cause the movie to grind to a screeching halt, which happened in the first one. I wouldn't say he's a great director, as this movie is still pretty conventional, as are his other films, but as far as technicality and pacing go, he's superior to his mentor.

While most are still two-dimensional, some of the characters in this movie manage to rise above traditional slasher movie acting and come across as likable and worth caring for. The heroine, Ginny, played by Amy Steel, is one of the best lead women of the series in my opinion. The minute she arrives at the camp, she's a likable, spunky, and intelligent woman who also just happens to be very lovely. She's apparently majoring in child psychology and that gives her
the ability to temporarily subdue Jason near the end when he has her cornered. In fact, at the bar when she, Paul, and Ted are talking about the legend, she's able to understand what could be going on inside Jason's head, how his only relationship was the one with his mother and, because of that, he sees all other people as evil creatures that took her away from him. Of course, she's still not above fighting back against Jason when he attacks. In fact, she probably didn't know who he was until she came across his shack in the woods and saw Mrs. Voorhees' mummified head. She still decided to kill him because there was no choice but you just get a sense that even though she's terrified of him, she does understand him. She also doesn't scream that much either. She does when Jason pops up and frightens her but she doesn't spend the whole time screaming to the point where you hope he does kill her. She's also a fighter, using a chainsaw to slice Jason's shoulder, break a chair over him, and eventually put a machete in his shoulder. My favorite part is when she's hiding behind a bush, hears Jason coming, and kicks him right in the balls! That's awesome!

Paul Holt, played by John Furey, is kind of the typical macho male lead but he does come across as a caring, nice guy who sincerely wants to help these kids become counselors. He's stern when he has to be but never comes across as a dick. He also has a playful side, creeping everybody out around the camp fire as he tells them the legend of Jason, leading them to believe that he's out there, and having Ted suddenly jump up with a weird mask and spear, scaring everyone half to death. It turns out Paul didn't do it to be mean, just to get it out of everyone's systems so they can forget about it. Paul is also a mystery because at the end of the film after Jason has done his obligatory last scare and smashed through the window, Paul disappears and is never heard from again. Some have theorized that maybe he ran off in a panic but I doubt that, seeing as how he saved Ginny from Jason after he was beaten senseless. My guess is that after Ginny blacked out during the last attack, Jason killed Paul and took his body back to his shack, where he kept some of his victims. But it's all speculation. This very scene causes continuity issues with Part 3, as we'll see when we get to that film.


The rest of the characters are fairly stock. Stu Charno's character Ted is the typical practical joker but, like Ned in the first movie, he never comes across a jerk, just as a goofball who likes to have fun. He is pretty obnoxious when he gets drunk at the bar late in the film, though. Like Paul, he disappears from the movie as well at the end but my guess is that he got so plastered that he never made it back to the camp. Kirsten Baker's character Terry is nothing more than the typical hot girl who wears short-shorts and belly-showing tops. She's not being slutty though. It's just the way she is. We get to see all of her when she goes skinny-dipping in the lake, which is nice. Jeff and Sandra, played by Bill Randolph and Marta Kober, are a rather adventurous couple who break the number one rule and wander onto the off-limits property of Camp Crystal Lake. Actually, Sandra was the one who wanted to go and she just dragged poor Jeff into going with her. (Kind of get the feeling that Jeff is henpecked?) In fact, Jeff seems like a nice guy who doesn't want to cause trouble but couldn't say not to Sandra. Mark, played by the late Tom
McBride, actually has a bit of a story behind him. He's in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident crippled him but he's determined to overcome it. Unfortunately, since he's in this type of movie, he never does. He's also really strong and often arm-wrestles the other counselors. Vicky, played by Lauren-Marie Taylor, is the typical slut who's determined to get into Mark's pants. She's
constantly making innuendos at him and when she's changing her underwear after they decide to stay together, she not only sprays mouth-spray (I can't think of what you actually call it) in her mouth but in her cleavage and even in her panties! What a whore. Finally, there's Scott, played by Russell Todd. He's the perv of the group who has his eye on Terry. The first thing he does is hit her butt with a pebble from a slingshot and then wink at her in a creepy way. Later, he steals her clothes after she goes skinny-dipping. He deserves it when Jason slices his throat open with a machete.

Besides Alice, another returning character from the first movie is Crazy Ralph, again played by Walt Gorney. He doesn't do much else other than once again warn everyone that they're all doomed if they go treading around Crystal Lake. He also meets his end at the hands of Jason, so he won't be back for a third time. Besides the footage used from the original, there's new footage of Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees when Ginny pretends to be her in order to fool
Jason. All I can say about that other is that Jason must be really dumb to think Ginny's his mother just because she's wearing her sweater and says that she is.

Like Mrs. Voorhees in the first movie, Jason spends a good portion of the movie stalking the woods and watching everybody. We don't get a full-body shot of him until he kills Vicky, a technique that would be continued in the next few movies. As fans know, he's not wearing the hockey mask here but rather some sort of white, burlap sack over his head with one eye-hole cut in it. This particular look for Jason has been referred to as the "Hillbilly Deliverance Jason", "The Klu Klux Klan Jason", and my favorite, "Tater-Sack Jason." All funny names aside, I think the sack is actually scarier than the hockey mask. I can't explain what it is but it looks creepy to me. It seems more realistic to me that, if somebody was stomping around the woods and wanted to cover his head, some old sack he'd find lying around is what he would use some old sack. Jason does indeed resemble the killer in The Town That Dreaded Sundown here but, given that that film was inspired by the real-life case a killer in Texas, I think that just helps give this particular incarnation of Jason a bit more realism. Clothing-wise, Jason wears funny-looking hillbilly overalls with a checkered shirt underneath that, which I imagine he probably stole from somebody's clothesline, as he does in the next film. He's also a much thinner, average-height man here, which is amazing considering the hulking monster he would become in later movies.

And unlike later movies, here Jason has a place that he actually lives in besides just the woods around Crystal Lake. This deputy makes the mistake of chasing Jason when he sees him running through the woods and comes across this broken-down shack. Who knows if Jason actually built it or if he just came across it but, whatever the case, it's as rundown and disgusting as you can get, especially on the inside, (check out the toilet the guy finds!). There's one room in particular that is devoted to his mother's decapitated head, which he keeps in a manner similar to Norman Bates. That room is particularly eerie at the end when there's a tight zoom-in on the head and it just freezes before the credits roll.

For years, there was a controversy over who played Jason in this film. The ending credits say a man named Warrington Gillette did so but in later years, it was discovered that he only did the ending scene where Jason crashes through the window to attack Ginny (after he's lost the sack on his head) and that a guy named Steve Dash did the majority of the movie. Apparently, Gillette was initially hired to play Jason but when he couldn't cut it with the stunts, they hired Dash. However, Gillette refused to have his name taken off and Dash is only credited as stunt double. This makes Gillette look like an untrustworthy person because he went around for years acting like he did the entire movie but some could have been wise to his scam because all he ever talked about was that one scene (that said, though, Lauren-Marie Taylor has stated that Gillette was the person who portrayed Jason in the scene where he kills her). Dash has made it clear that he despises Gillette and he refuses to do conventions that he appears at. All controversy aside, though, I think Dash did a good job as Jason, managing to be fairly threatening with his movements and body language. Also, unlike Michael Myers, Jason initially ran after his victims in the first three movies featuring him, which I feel adds to the threat since it gets across that this guy is not going to just stroll after you; he's going to come at you and rip your head off. As for the makeup job Carl Fullerton did for Jason's unmasked face in Gillette's scene, I have mixed feelings. While it is impressive how ugly he is (even more so if you look at behind the scenes photos of it), I could kind of tell that it was latex and it never looked as convincing to me as Savini's design for young Jason at the end of the original. (That could be because they show it in way too much detail here.) I also don't like that he has all this stringy hair, which he would never have again. Besides not matching up with his young version, it looks like the hair is falling all over the left side of his head during the scene.

There's one scene in particular that always interests me for two reasons. It's the scene where Ginny hides from Jason under a bed in one cabin and, as she waits for him to give up searching for her, a rat wanders under the bed and brushes up against her hand. Suddenly, there's a shot of urine leaking from underneath the bed, which Jason apparently sees and it leads him to tricking Ginny into thinking that he left so he can attack her. I've always assumed that Ginny got so scared by the rat that she wet herself but I have to wonder how all that urine could come out when she has jeans on. Others have speculated that maybe it was the rat that peed. Which do you think? The moment that comes after that makes me laugh. Ginny slowly crawls out from under the bed when she sees Jason standing on a chair next to the bed. Just as he's about to kill her, the chair breaks and he falls, breaking the pitchfork he has in half. That always makes me laugh because it seems like such a slapstick moment.

The gore effects in this movie were heavily censored by the MPAA, who didn't think twice about the gore in the first movie but I guess after all the slasher movies that followed and the controversy that came with them, they decided to crack down on the sequel. Therefore, Friday the 13th Part 2 doesn't have nearly as much gore as its parent and while there are a couple of creative kills, most of them are standard. I already talked about Alice's death. Jason kills
Crazy Ralph by slipping a cord around his neck from behind a tree and strangling him with it, as well as cutting into it a little bit through sheer force. That deputy that finds Jason's shack gets the claw of a hammer in the back of his head, which really had to hurt. Scott gets killed when he gets caught in a trap that hangs him upside down and Jason slices his throat open with a machete. That always looked fake to me, especially with how the blood flows
out of the cut. Terri is killed off-screen. My favorite death is Mark's because it's so un-PC. Jason puts a machete in his face and he goes rolling backwards down the stairs in his wheelchair. Probably the most well-known death in this film is the one where Jason puts a spear through both Jeff and Sandra, who had just finished having sex. I would love to see the uncut version of that kill. Vicky's death is really prolonged because she's first stabbed in the leg and she
cowers in the corner as Jason slowly closes in and eventually stabs her with a butcher knife. Speaking of which, you know what's interesting? It's hinted that Ginny and Paul had sex at one point so they should have been killed as well according to the rules of slasher films! I guess they weren't as solid then, though.

As I said, I really like the climactic scene where Jason corners Ginny in his shack but she fools him into thinking she's his mother when she puts her sweater on, showing how Jason's pretty dumb and naive in a childlike way. However, he eventually sees his mother's head behind Ginny and realizes he's being tricked. Just as he's about to kill her, Paul runs in and grapples with him. I love how brutal and raw the fight between the two of them is, as they grapple with and knock each other into the wall. Ginny saves Paul's life when Jason overpowers him and is about to stab him with the pick-axe by putting the machete into his shoulder. I also like the way Jason looks at his wound and how he just slowly falls backward. It's always the little things that I like.

Harry Manfredini reuses some music from the original but also manages to create a lot of new music that would be used in the next two films as well. I like the slow, creepy music that plays at the beginning as Jason slowly walks towards Alice's house and as she cautiously walks through the inside. The exciting main title theme is another one I like, as well as the music that plays during the chase between Ginny and Jason. I like the misdirection that Manfredini uses at the end when Ginny and Paul hear a noise at the door of their cabin and, thinking it's Jason, prepare to attack. The music tensely builds but instantly becomes warm and loving when Paul opens the door to reveal it's just Muffin, Terry's little dog. (This is a surprise because Muffin wanders into the woods at one point and encounters Jason. Later, Jeff and Sandra find the mangled remains of an animal at Camp Crystal Lake, suggesting that Jason killed Muffin.) But, just when Ginny is about to pick Muffin up, Jason bursts through the window behind her and all hell breaks loose. Of course, the music instantly turns frantic in that instance. To me, this is equal to Manfredini's misdirection in the moments leading up to the scene between Alice and Jason at the end of the original movie.

While I don't like it as much as further films in the franchise, Friday the 13th Part 2 is an enjoyable slasher movie and a pretty good followup to the original (as you can tell, I enjoy it more than the original). Of course, even though the film ultimately did pretty well when it was released in 1981, it's doubtful that anybody was thinking there would be any more. As a result, it feels like the series was still trying to find its footing here. With the next movie, though, it would firmly establish its identity.

No comments:

Post a Comment