(This wondrous sequel entry was inspired due to my being a guest on Yuri Wainwright’s podcast: The Decline and Fall of the Dead Teenager Movie. Yuri is also the author of The Decline and Fall of the Dead Teenager Movie, which is available over at Amazon. Also, please be sure to check out his site The Deconstructionist where he has even more great reviews! We had a lot of fun talking over the Friday series together, so please go right on over and give it a listen! Go ahead! No, really, I’ll wait… You gave it a listen? Did you? Okay… Sweet! Thank you! And now back into the thick of my written rambling.)
Wait! Can you see it? Summer has finally arrived! And that means the time is ripe for the lovely excursion known as camping! After all, you can’t have summer camp without summer! Or camp! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Of course, Halloween is to blame for Friday the 13th. That plucky atmospheric independent little horror movie-that-could set the bar so high, both in execution and in box office returns, that a gaggle of imitators couldn’t help but flood the landscape. And flood it they did. Pick any holiday or any important event in someone’s life and from 1979 to 1986 there was a horror film associated with it. Christmas, prom, Valentine’s Day, graduations, birthdays, riding on a train with David Copperfield, you name it, they were all fair game. That there wasn’t a slasher movie for Flag Day is still a travesty.
Producer/Director Sean S. Cunningham, whose prior films ranged from softcore efforts to saccharine family fare, decided to get into the mix as well. It helped that Cunningham was no stranger to the horror genre either. After all, he had produced the Wes Craven-directed The Last House on the Left in 1972, which earned both notoriety and substantial box office revenue as well.
Deciding to advertise a film called Friday the 13th, which helped garner a production budget of just over half a million dollars, Cunningham and crew descended into the woods of New Jersey for filming. Using a mix of And Then There Were None and Halloween at an isolated summer camp setting where murders of young counselors could freely happen and sprinkled with the special effects genius dust of Tom Savini, Friday the 13th turned out to be an incredibly popular hit. It even ended up being Paramount’s 2nd highest grossing film in 1980. (This proves that even the salaries of Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack weren’t enough to derail Airplane! from being King of the Mount that year.)
Friday the 13th’s incredible success only whetted the appetite of Paramount. Here was this inexpensive-to-make monster hit on their hands. Why should they let everyone else cash in with imitators? “We at Paramount like money too! Hey, give us some money, you rubes! We need some! Look, we’re taking a chance on Raid on Noah’s Lost Ark or whatever its called from the guy that directed that turkey 1941, all right? So please help us!” This meant Paramount needed to get a Friday sequel out immediately to cash in on the genre they fostered.
So, with that as our preamble, let us return to the shores of Crystal Lake, dear campers. Oh, and Jason is the killer. No, really. And he kills a lot of people. You didn’t care about spoilers, did you? I didn’t think so.
The Sequel: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Original Movie: Friday the 13th (1980)
Key Cast/Production Staff Returning from 1st Installment:
|Adrienne King||as Alice|
|Betsy Palmer||as Mrs. Voorhees|
|Walt Gorney||as Crazy Ralph|
|Steve Miner||Director |
(was Associate Producer on Friday the 13th)
|Virginia Field||Production Design|
|Susan E. Cunningham||Editor|
To Start With:
“I told the others, they didn’t believe me. You’re all doomed. You’re all doomed.”
With predictable and breathtaking speed, Paramount gave a green light to Friday the 13th Part 2. They wanted some continuity, so they brought Associate Producer Steve Miner back to make his directorial debut. Ron Kurz, who did uncredited writing on Friday the 13th, was tapped to do the screenplay. Harry Manfredini was brought on again for the musical score. And any notable cast members who survived that night…that Friday the 13th also returned. Not that being whacked in the first movie was a hindrance for appearing in Part 2. Betsy Palmer, who lost her head earlier, returned to be Mrs. Voorhees once again in rather effective cameo.
Armed with double the budget of the first movie, the production crew found themselves in Connecticut, ready to make as much bloody mayhem as they could before the MPAA got their scissors out. The script could have been a bit tighter, which I’ll get to in a moment, but at least the counselors were fleshed out for the most part. The location felt woodsy, the atmosphere was established, and the formula for the future entries was set in stone. (The only thing that might upset the boat would be if Jason’s soul did body-jumping, but that would have been ridiculous! Thanks to my unbelievable powers of denial, this never ever happened in a future movie either.)
Friday the 13th Part 2 is the first real murderous appearance of Mama Voorhees’ favorite son, Jason. This sequel is where cinema history was made, with one of the silver screen’s most popular and enduring mass murderers making a memorable impression that has lasted until the present day. Yet the impossibility of the existence of Jason among other plot headscratchers were glossed over rather quickly. Like an oblivious skinny-dipping counselor, I’ll dive into that later.
This time around, we are back at Crystal Lake, though not at Camp Crystal Lake itself. Instead we are at a camp counselor training center, which is convenient because there are no little kids to worry about in this movie either. Of course, despite several warnings given, counselors start getting killed and perhaps this Jason Voorhees chap isn’t a legend after all…
Anything Done Better than the Original?
“Paul, there’s someone in this fucking room!”
Although Alice is understandably a favorite in the Friday series, Amy Steel’s Ginny is my go-to for best final girl/Jason combatant. So many others that followed in her wake were not nearly as engaging, fun, and resourceful. Ginny didn’t have Corey Feldman, she wasn’t an angst-ridden wet blanket, she didn’t have telekinetic powers, she wasn’t an android. She just was, and I thank her for it.
Ginny even used child psychology on Jason, wearing his decapitated mother’s sweater to try and trick him. Wow. Even more incredible is can you imagine how unbelievably nasty that collar was? I’m pretty sure that Jason wasn’t big on using Woolite for whiter whites in his shack, so Ginny gets some extra cojones points there. She is simply the best, and for all those who are currently providing contrary answers to my statement, thank you for providing a list of second placeholders to Ginny.
While anyone would find it hard to follow Betsy Palmer’s insanity from the first film, Steve Daskewisz, who played Jason Voorhees in 99.5% of the film, is just great. Even though Jason’s potato sack from The Town That Dreaded Sundown look would only appear in this film, Daskewisz held his own among his hockey-masked brethren. He had definite and performed first rate stunts. While it was too bad he only did the one, the one he did was well done indeed. RIP Steve, you are missed.
Anything as Good as the Original?
“Welcome to God’s country!”
The great thing about the early Friday the 13th films is that time was given to develop and grow the characters. It isn’t always a ton of backstory, after all, there is a tight run time and plenty of blood to splatter, but at least here it was something. Later entries simply introduced a ton of characters just to kill them off. In fact, I don’t even know why they were given names in those later scripts; just label them Victim #52 and move on. Friday the 13th Part 2 is thankfully not like that.
And I like Paul too. He’s in charge but isn’t a jagoff. He’s personable, has a good sense of humor, isn’t an idiot, and is miles away from the pieces of vapid handsome luggage that would later end up playing the boyfriends of the final girls in later entries. Also, bonus points awarded as Paul’s campfire tale of Jason is often repeated and is a favorite when starting up any Friday the 13th documentary. Oh and Paul lives in my version of Friday the 13th Part 2, so *thhbbbt*!
Once again, the woods of New England make for a better playground for Mr. Voorhees to be running around in compared to the later entries that filmed in California or a cheap southern U.S. state in winter or Canada or outer space. Like New Jersey, Connecticut had the lush trees, the thick and dark forest, and the feeling of isolation necessary for this franchise. (Of course, I know that they should have done a Friday in the most bestest location of all: the lovely Northwoods of Wisconsin. But they didn’t. But it would be ideal for a winter entry…hmmm? Jason on a snowmobile…near Rhinelander? Think about it!)
If one had to pick a rock for this franchise, Harry Manfredini is it. He made more appearances than Kane Hodder, more than Sean S. Cunningham, more than anybody. Yes, one could accuse the music of being a rip-off/homage to Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score, but that’s the point. Manfredini knows exactly what kind of movies these are, and he is clearly enjoying himself. This isn’t highfalutin art, this is entertainment and Manfredini gave another fun score for this second Friday.
Anything Not-So-Good as the Original?
“It’s more fun using that child psychology on you. You’re such a sucker for it.”
Alice. Oh, poor Alice. And the kicker is that Adrienne King did a great job in the first movie. Yes, Ginny is my favorite, but Alice is top 5, maybe top 3 of all time for the series for me. But here Alice is killed off like a punk. I know that King really didn’t want to commit to doing a whole movie. And instead of just moving on and writing her completely out, the production decided to kill her off in the first ten minutes. Yeah, no.
I can slightly get behind the idea of showing off a kind of “Look what we did! Aren’t we clever? What huge balls we have to knock off our heroine this early!” But it ultimately wasn’t needed for this sequel. In fact, it would have been pretty wonderful for a future entry if Alice had to come back to take care of the rest of the Voorhees family. Remember, she had the street cred since making Mrs. Voorhees about nine inches shorter. Seeing her take on #1 Son later would have been rather nice. But of course, that didn’t happen.
The loss of Tom Savini is a blow to be sure. Nothing against Carl Fullerton, he had quite the job in front of him. But the overall kills in Part 2 just fall short. There are no incredible amounts of gory set pieces like the first movie had. No “how’d they do that?!” moments per se. But everyone remembers Friday the 13th with the arrow through Kevin Bacon’s neck or the axe to Marcie’s face or Bill’s arrowed impalement to the generator door. Part 2 doesn’t really have that, aside from the wheelchair kill, and even that should have been gorier. I don’t blame Fullerton totally for this, because he also had the tighter reins of the MPAA to contend with for the sequel.
A common complaint by directors in this franchise is that the censors gutted their films and Friday 2 is no exception. There was plenty of nasty stuff like violent gags and nudity that the MPAA simply snipped out. The holy grail of missing material in this entry is where Jason impales two victims at once on a bed. There was even a picture from this kill on the VHS box, tantalizing viewers for years with shots of a scene that wasn’t even in the movie. It took until the most recent Blu-ray set from Scream Factory before we could watch this scene in all its VHS-transferred glory, almost 40 years later.
Anything Far Worse than the Original?
“You’re not even going to reprimand them? No punishment? What kind of place is this?”
Far too many continuity errors for such an early entry in the series. Yes, I know, this is a reprehensible ghastly horror franchise and yes, I know, Halloween fans have it so much worse, but c’mon! There are some of us who have watched these films repeatedly, tallying up an ungodly amount of time in the process when we probably could have been doing something slightly more constructive to benefit the human race, but that’s no excuse for letting some of these head scratching moments get away with it!
“C’mon Ben! What moments could you possibly mean?” Well, I for one am glad I that I had anticipated asking myself this question, so I’ll yield the floor to myself so I can allow me to answer! Here are some examples and please keep in mind that I love this series, I truly do, but tough love is important too.
And so, in no real particular order:
- How is Jason alive? No, really, how is he alive? Even if we go with the idea that Mrs. Voorhees didn’t see Jason drown, what did he do? Just get up out of the lake at some point to later to go off and live in the woods? Wouldn’t this child go looking for his mom at all? And when he finally did get back to the lake some 23 years later, it was just in time to witness Mrs. Voorhees not needing hats anymore? Did he just live submerged in the lake for decades waiting for a canoe to glide by as pleasant background music played on?
- Or perhaps Jason didn’t die in 1957 and he was living with his mom the whole time… And when Steve Christy was going to reopen the camp, his mom just went complete Looney Tune, whacking anyone connected with the new Camp Crystal Lake…perhaps even to the point of ignoring the fact that Jason didn’t die? Gosh, I’ve overthought this, haven’t I?
- I’m to believe that three months after Mrs. Voorhees is dead, Jason apparently manages to get his private investigator’s license, so he can the track Alice down, so he can kill her? This dude, that at best only knows how to live like Gollum in the woods surrounding Crystal Lake, somehow surreptitiously seeks out and then gets the jump on Alice in her townhouse apartment? Magnum P.I.’s got nothing on the tracking abilities of Jason.
- Speaking of Alice, allow to me to reiterate: wouldn’t the movie play better without her little death prologue being there? Just don’t have Alice. She’s not really needed. If anything, the film would play better as far as wondering who the killer is again. Cut the flashbacks, cut the rotting head, cut icepicking Alice, start with that Part 2 title explosion, and go off to the races from there! C’mon fans, let’s see that edit!
- I’m to believe that five years after Alice’s death, Jason just hangs out in the woods with his little mom altar? Okay, but why stick Alice’s body right by that altar? Why be reminded of the woman that killed your mother all the time. Aside from the aforementioned sweater stank, can you imagine the overall smell of that little shack room? Yikes. Also, why does Mrs. V’s head look so radically different from earlier to five years later. Come to think of it, her head looks better later than it did earlier for some reason. Shouldn’t it look worse now? Did Jason master taxidermy after getting his P.I. license?
- When Jason kills Crazy Ralph, who suddenly became a peeping Tom, how did he manage to get that barbed-wire job over the whole tree trunk to start garroting? Jason doesn’t swing it around the trunk, he comes down from above already surrounding the trunk somehow. Did he shinny right up that the tree earlier with the barbed wire ready to rock and roll just in case someone would coincidentally lean against that tree to do some peeping? Jason really lucked out there!
- Look, Muffin the dog is dead. Definitely deceased. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. The body is clearly seen by the two horny future impalements as they trespass onto Camp Crystal Lake. It is dead. So why does it show up alive at the end aside from being a red scaring? (See that! Like a red herring, but for a jump scare! Look at that verbose cleverosity! I’m claiming it!)
- If the ending of the film is a dream sequence and the real events truly ended after Paul and Ginny leave Jason’s shack, I can almost go along with it because the ending with a missing Paul and a still alive Muffin is goofy. But film of Ginny going into the ambulance is used as background footage for the news report on the events of Part 2 at the beginning of Part 3! So does this mean the newscasters of Crystal Lake have weird dream recording powers that they can broadcast on TV?!
- There is no way Ginny would be scared enough of a rat at that point to lose bladder control under the bed while hiding from Jason. No way. Now if Ginny would have peed under the bed, only to go and hide elsewhere so she could then fake out Jason to get the jump on him, that I could see. But as far as I’m concerned, it was the damn rat that gave her location away to Jason because it was scared of Ginny.
- That reminds me: you don’t have Jason kill the practical joker?! Ned was offed in the first one, Shelley in the third, why skip Ted in round two? This is puzzling… My expectations were as subverted as possible! Next you’ll tell me that Jason has never played hockey before!
“Five years… five long years he’s been dormant… and he’s hungry. Jason’s out there… watching… always on the prowl for intruders. Waiting to kill… waiting to devour… Thirsty for young blood.”
Oh, ye gods, yes, were there follow-up installments. Mr. Voorhees was a hard man to stop over the years. It has finally taken a cacophony of legal briefs and lawsuits to so far effectively do what decades of final girls couldn’t do: stop Jason.
For the sake of saving bandwidth for future generations of interweb pundits, I will be brief. I might dig deeper with more in-depthness into the individual entries of this illustrious franchise later, but for right now, here’s a list of the sequels with short Friends-like title descriptions of each.
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
The one in 3-D and the first hockey masked Jason
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
The one with Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
The one with the fake Jason, cocaine, and sleazy breasts
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
The one with Horshack and the resurrected Jason
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
The one with the telekinetic girl
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
The one on the cruise ship and not really NYC
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
The one with not much Jason but with much homoerotic shaving
Jason X (2002)
The one in space, in the…ahem…future
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
The one where Freddy is versus Jason
Friday the 13th (2009)
The one that’s the reimagined reboot requel.
Let’s not forget the Friday the 13th: The Series TV show from way back in the late 1900s that had nothing to do with Jason. I don’t know why that was thought of as being a good idea, but they did it and it exists. And one of the leads from the show, John D. LeMay, later played the protagonist in Jason Goes to Hell. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. (If anything, at least he was good in that movie, despite so much else in that film not being good.)
Friday the 13th became a workhorse and a blue collar, mostly reliable horror franchise. It is now a part of the culture. There’s always someone in a hockey mask doing their trick-or-treating. There were also video games and toys and a plethora of books and various pieces of bric-a-brac attached to this series. The merchandise tie-ins still bring in enormous bank to this day. (Perhaps with all that cash we can get Jason a better shack now, eh? Maybe a bottle of Febreze or forty wouldn’t hurt either. Well, unless Jason kills me with it, then I’d stand corrected and dead, but smelling like fresh linen. That’s a win!)
“I don’t want to scare anyone, but I’m going to give it to you straight about Jason.”
Despite some naysayers who would dump on the Friday the 13ths anyway, the first sequel is quite entertaining. It certainly solidified the idea of having further entries with this franchise, using Jason as the antagonist. (Although in future entries, Jason could be considered the protagonist. Yeah, Dr. Crews in Part VII and practically every one of the introduced-only-to-be-killed morons of Part V, I’m looking at all of you, amongst others.)
As far as horror franchises go, I will say that for the most part there are attempts at continuity with Friday the 13th, at least for the Paramount ones. Of course, the first sequel had the toughest job, bringing Jason Voorhees to life so he could bring so many others to death. Friday the 13th Part 2 wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. That’s kind of like this franchise: not pretty, but gets the job done.
Is Friday the 13th Part 2 my favorite in the series? No, that would be the now ironically named Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. But I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who says that Part 2 is their favorite. There’s a great Jason, a not that annoying cast, a return of sorts of Mrs. Voorhees, and Amy Steel as the simply marvelous Ginny. This film is a reason why we were encouraged to return to Crystal Lake again and again. And again. And, well, again.
“But if I was you, I’d have located in the next county. You’re too close. Things have been quiet for five years and that’s the way we want to keep it.”