OCTOBER 17 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
There is exactly one reason 1981's Friday the 13th Part 2 exists: to introduce Jason Voorhees as the new assailant staking young people around Crystal Lake. From the pre-titles dream sequence clearly intending to bring new audiences up to date with the previous film to the final shot of a mummified head in a shrine, this second installment in the horror franchise goes nowhere and does nothing remarkable. In fact, it may rank up there with the second entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street series as most meaningless sequels to major franchises in movie history. (At least that Freddy installment had gay subtext going for it. This film isn't even smart enough to try for something like that.) The story, such as it is, follows a new group of camp counselors setting up shop just up the lake from Camp Crystal Lake. Predictably, the young adults begin meeting bloody ends as someone picks them off one by one.
Yep, that's the long and short of the movie, clocking in at a brisk-sounding 87 minutes. In reality, though, there's nothing brisk about the formal introduction to Jason the killer. Each scene is a ponderous excuse for the characters to behave like idiotic buffoons when they should really know better. One female counselor-in-training decides to wear a pink shirt around the main cabin and in the woods. Okay, so maybe calling it a shirt would be too generous. It has long sleeves but covers absolutely nothing more than her breasts. Obviously, she doesn't wear a bra either, allowing attention-grabbing protrusions to fill the screen. She's not displaying the best judgment at that particular moment but maybe she can be excused. After all, her fellow counselors are all desperate to screw one another. Why can't this one use her own sex appeal?
Even the opening sequence is head scratching. The heroine from the first film (Adrienne King) is racked with torment over what she witnessed at Camp Crystal Lake. Nightmares ensue, a cat jumping through a window causes her to jump through the roof. The assumption, at least for anyone thinking about the movie, is that these things have been happening to her since the incident. (We're told shortly thereafter it's been five years. Whether or not her sequence occurs immediately after the first movie or five years later is unknown.) Yet she's left completely alone in a house with an open window looking out onto a fire escape and an unlocked door. If I were her mother or father, knowing the ordeal my daughter had gone through and knowing she was having trouble working through it would make me stand guard over her night and day, not leave her alone.
That's the kind of mentality Part II deals with: stupid people doing stupid things. Need another example? Fine. After finding two of her friends impaled while having sex, Vicky (Lauren-Marie Taylor) lets herself be backed into a corner by Jason, walking slower than a turtle crossing the street. In other words, she could have been out the bedroom door, down the stairs and heading back into town before Jason adjusted his course. But no. Screaming and getting hacked to bits is her preferred way of fighting for her life.
Yeah, yeah, I know the whole idea behind these kind of movies is to enjoy the blood, get scared and see some naked bodies. We're not supposed to think, just react. But when the the entirety of the production rests on being brain dead, there's simply no fun to be had. Even supposing the main story at the camp with the kids being hacked to bits somehow turns out to be passable, the script completely forgets about one character left at a bar in town. What, exactly, is his fate? The movie doesn't show or mention him at the end. Wouldn't he like to know his friends have all been butchered?
(Oh, don't even get me started about the wisdom of a guy in a wheelchair signing up to be a counselor in the middle of the forest. He's easy cannon fodder for Jason, to be sure, and one in a very long list of bad ideas the movie commits to the screen.)
At times, the script by Ron Kurz is too cute for its own good. The aforementioned lead-footed Vicky is trying to jump into the sack with our wheelchair-bound hero (Mark, played by Tom McBride), though they play a cat-and-mouse game before either of them has the cajones to come out and say what they want. A sample conversation goes like this: "What happened to you?" "Motorcycle accident." "So your legs don't work?" "Nope, but everything else does." Maybe I paraphrased the dialogue, but you get the idea. For the target demographic, I'm sure this sounded like sexually charged and suggestive dialogue at the time. Today, it's hard not to wish Jason would put the audience out of their misery and just kill these two already to avoid similar awful interactions.
Even the eventual idea of a female coming to the rescue wasn't novel in 1981, certainly not after the previous film or 1979's Alien. The fact Ginny (Amy Steel) thinks as quickly on her feet as she does inside Jason's shrine is a welcome breath of fresh air in the film, even if she waits too long to finally make her move. Director Steve Miner is somewhat inspired, at least in the pre-credits sequence, by keeping the camera almost always planted firmly in front of actress King, allowing the audience to see everything behind her while she looks forward, sort of allowing for someone to watch her back so to speak. It certainly allows a different perspective to the horror film; instead of constantly being worried what's behind the actor on screen, we're now worried what's in front of them, what can they see. Naturally, one of the only time's he strays from this point of view, the predictable happens. Those pesky ice picks to the temple. They'll get you every time.
OCTOBER 17 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
There's an old saying in Hollywood that goes something like this -- with success comes sequels... lots and lots of sequels. When there's cash to be considered, the studios and their MBA-trained suits only understand one specific business model -- capitalize and exploit. When it was released in May of 1980, few at Paramount thought that Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th would be a runaway smash. Instead, slight profits were predicted in light of the horror film's usual limited box office appeal. But thanks to the commercial and critical success of Halloween, the film went on to gross a staggering $40 million (that's over $112 million in adjusted 2008 dollars). Naturally, a second offering was immediately mandated. But something had changed in the culture by the time Friday the 13th Part 2 hit theaters. By 1981, onscreen violence was suddenly uncool.
Coming five years after the first film, Camp Crystal Lake is now a condemned piece of property. But on the other side of the pond lives Paul Holt (John Furey) and his school for would-be counselors. With the help of his galpal Ginny (Amy Steel), he hopes to rally a ragtag group of party-mined young people into responsible camp employees. Of course, he has to address the rumors about Jason, the son of the late Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer). Seems many of the locals, including Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), believe the boy has been living in the woods, and ever since he saw his mother decapitated by the previous movie's last girl standing, Alice (Adrienne King), he's been on a murderous warpath. And wouldn't you know it, Paul and his students are the next in line.
Without the need for much backstory and an amplified sense of slaughter, Friday the 13th Part 2 should actually be a much better movie than its predecessor. The murders are more inventive. Director Steve Miner (taking over for Cunningham) provides plenty of naturally-endowed eye candy, and the arrival of Jason as a big screen splatter icon is here in full, ferocious force. So why does Part 2 feel like less of an already established brand? Why do the killings come off as anemic instead of aggressive and awe-inspired? The answer arrives in two forms -- the unconscionable cuts made by Paramount to protect the project from the MPAA and the groan-inducing performances by most of the rank amateur cast.
With the sudden success of the slasher film, the faux moral watchdogs of the movie ratings board began balking at all the brutality they were seeing onscreen. Films like My Bloody Valentine and The Burning were forced to remove sequences of ample arterial spray just to get a viable release. Even with their status as a major motion picture studio, Paramount was not immune. They trimmed nearly a minute out of the movie, rendering some of the deaths almost anticlimactic. After all, what's the good of a machete in the face if you can't see the actual damage, right? The lack of legitimate talent was another stumbling block. While Amy Steel is wonderful as the proverbial last girl, many of her co-stars seem way out of their acting league.
Of course, the film still made money, though nothing compared to the nearly $40 million the original raked in, and some argue that without the complete cut of the film, it's hard to debate Part 2's impact. In the Friday the 13th lexicon, this sequel remains important, if not definitive. At the very least it gave us the hulking, hate-filled killer obsessed with carrying on his mother's work. It also illustrated the backlash building against the entire slice and dice dynamic.
The new Deluxe Edition DVD includes a handful of making-of featurettes, plus a vignette on Jason's impact on horror movie conventions.
Aka Friday the 13th Part II.
OCTOBER 17 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
I saw FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II at the Virginia Theater, a former vaudeville house in my hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The late show was half-filled with high school and college students, and as the lights went down I experienced a brief wave of nostalgia. In this very theater, on countless Friday nights, I'd gone with a date to the movies. My nostalgia lasted for the first two minutes of the movie.
The pretitle sequence showed one of the heroines of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, alone at home. She has nightmares, wakes up, undresses, is stalked by the camera, hears a noise in the kitchen. She tiptoes into the kitchen. Through the open window, a cat springs into the room. The audience screamed loudly and happily: It's fun to be scared. Then an unidentified man sunk an ice pick into the girl's brain, and, for me, the fun stopped.
The audience, however, carried on. It is a tradition to be loud during these movies, I guess. After a batch of young counselors turns up for training at a summer camp, a girl goes out walking alone at night. Everybody in the audience imitated hoot-owls and hyenas. Another girl went to her room and started to undress. Five guys sitting together started a chant: "We want boobs!" The plot: In the original movie, a summer camp staff was wiped out by a demented woman whose son had been allowed to drown by incompetent camp counselors. At the end of that film, the mother was decapitated by the young woman who is killed with an ice pick at the beginning of PART II. The legend grows that the son, Jason, did not really drown, but survived, and lurks in the woods waiting to take his vengeance against the killer of his mother É and against camp counselors in general, I guess.
That sets up the film. The counselors are introduced, very briefly, and then some of them go into town for a beer and the rest stay at the camp to make out with each other. A mystery assailant prowls around the main cabin. We see only his shadow and his shoes. One by one, he picks off the kids. He sinks a machete into the brain of a kid in a wheelchair. He surprises a boy and a girl making love, and nails them to a bunk with a spear through both their bodies. When the other kids return to the camp, it's their turn. After almost everyone has been killed in a disgusting and violent way, one girl chews up the assailant with a chain saw, after which we discover the mummies in his cabin in the woods, after which he jumps through a window at the girl, etc.
This movie is a cross between the Mad Slasher and Dead teenager genres; about two dozen movies a year feature a mad killer going berserk, and they're all about as bad as this one. Some have a little more plot, some have a little less. It doesn't matter.
Sinking into my seat in this movie theater from my childhood, I remembered the movie fantasies when I was a kid. They involved teenagers who fell in love, made out with each other, customized their cars, listened to rock and roll, and were rebels without causes. Neither the kids in those movies nor the kids watching them would have understood a world view in which the primary function of teenagers is to be hacked to death. *This review will suffice for the Friday the 13th film of your choice.
OCTOBER 17 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
Five years after the original film, a group of dumb teens decide to re-open a camp NEAR Camp Crystal Lake. They are warned not to venture across the fence because Camp Crystal Lake is condemned but of course they don't listen. That really pisses Jason (Gillette) off and he spring cleans their asses while wearing a pillow case on his head.
I’ve always been half and half with this sequel. On one end, I dug the opening sequence with Adrienne King, truly grooved to one of the kills (wheelchair) and enjoyed the creepy and jolt filled final showdown. I also appreciated seeing Jason finally getting into the body count ring. Yup, this entry marked Voorhees' first appearance in the Friday the 13Th series. He wore a pillow case on his head and carried his mom’s head around. What’s not to love? Lastly the ample showcase of female flesh helped make the proceedings go down smoother than a hooker stroking you after having banged three call-girls. Call me a perv…but in my book, hot naked ladies are always a plus when it comes to enjoying a slasher.
On the other hand, the whole felt a lot like a poor imitation of the first film to me but with a shakier screenplay structure. We get a lot of copycat scenes and shoddy writing. An example of the latter; why was that badly executed bar scene even in the film? Could’ve found something more compelling to cut away to. And why was that Stu dude introduced in the first place? He was never killed off! That always annoyed the crap out of me. Furthermore, I often felt like I was watching a porno but with “kills’ replacing “cumshots”. That would’ve been fine if at least the flick delivered in the gore department. But we don’t even get that sweet jive to sugar things up! What’s the point then? Add to that the fact that apart from Ginny (Steel) and Paul’s INSANE hair cut, I had a hard time giving a fudge about anybody in this Zoo and you get a slasher that didn’t give me much to hold on to throughout.
Overall Friday the 13Th Part 2 was yes, watchable (At 87 minutes, it better be!) and it sported a couple of standout scenes but it wasn't all that it could've been. You’re call Campers!
Don’t blink or you might miss the kills; although brutal, the flick cut away mucho fast after they happened. We get an ice pick in the temple, choking with barb wire, hammer in the head, slashed throat, knifings, machete in the face, double impaling and a severed head.
Amy Steel was the sole actress that left an impression on me. She played a psychology student named Ginny who had lots of attitude and charm to spare. Ginny was an original when it comes to slasher flicks. She was actually smart, attractive, independent, sexually active and she survived…GO GIRL! I’m surprised Miss Steel didn’t become a full on star, because she had that star quality…you can always see her in April’s Fools Day. Warrington Gillette and his “one” eye were effective as Jason.
T & A:
YES SIR!!! Lots of it. I think all of the women in this film took off their shirts at some point! We’re treated to an exquisite butt shot, full frontal nudity and lots of bra shots. In this one teens don't need an excuse to take off their clothes, they just do!
Miner (in his directorial debut) did his best Cunningham impression. The flick didn’t have its own “visual” voice and that took away from it. Miner did “ace” the opening and the conclusion on a visual standpoint though; I’ll give him that. If only he would’ve gone that way throughout!
The same as in the first…it still worked. You can have someone clipping they’re toe nails; put that Ki Ki Ki in the background…and you’ll get a creepy scene.
Friday the 13th Part 2 looked, smelled and acted like all those Friday The 13th clones that came out after the original. It was by the numbers, it copied the original too much while managing to be somewhat dumber. If the gore quotient would’ve been jacked up, I would’ve been way more lenient on this puppy. I say, see it for Amy Steel, a couple of strong scenes and all the TNA you can eat and then watch part 3 and 4 to gap the void!
Miner had such a good time directing Part 2 that he decided to direct Part 3 too. In Part 2 notice the cat jumping through an open window, it’s so obvious it’s some dude (probably Miner) throwing the poor feline in. That pussy flies! Part of your therapy Miner? You sick bastard…I love you.