Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Cast: Amy Steel, Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, John Furey
Director: Steve Miner
Nutshell: Uninspired retread proved extremely profitable and set the stage for many sequels to follow
Listen to the great audio trailer for Friday the 13th Part II:
I have to admit being an avid Friday the 13th fan when it initially hit cinemas in the summer of 1980. I had watched it opening night on the Friday the 13th it opened in London (a few weeks after the US release) and thoroughly enjoyed the jack in the box style shock and scare tactics of the film as well as the gratuitous violence. I remember distinctly that at the end of the movie on this opening night a considerable part of the audience had already departed the cinema only to hear the shrieks and then laughter that followed from the cinema within. Many clamoured back to try to see what they had missed but it was too late. Jason had been introduced and had gone down a scream as the perfect ending to an otherwise ok slasher film. It worked so supremely well that Paramount were raking in millions of dollars having picked up an unknown entity that had been designed as a quick Halloween rip off.
Friday the 13th Part 2 started shooting in October 1980 and was to be a direct continuation from the first instalment with time moving on 5 years and a fresh batch of idiotic teenagers arriving at Summer Camp as potential victims. Part 2 hit cinemas on April 30th in 1981 at the height of the post Halloween/Friday the 13th horror boom.
The opening 12 minutes or so feature the surviving girl from the first Friday movie who is living out in the sticks trying to put her life together again after her experiences as Camp Blood five years ago. Unfortunately, it’s not to be as a stalker enters her flat and drives a screwdriver into her temple after placing Mrs. Voorhees’s head in her kitchen for fresh keeping. The audience assumes that Jason, who had drowned but apparently managed to survive in Crystal Lake for 15 years has now returned along with his mother’s head to avenge her death and continue her legacy fulfil the doomsday prophecy of Crazy Ralph who also makes his second and last appearance in the Friday movies.
After Alice’s demise a fresh batch of randy teenagers arrive for Summer Camp and after the initial half hour of fun and frolic and false alarms, slowly but surely Jason gets to work, wearing a sack on his face and not the hockey mask that was to become his identity from the next sequel on. The blood count starts to mount rapidly in the second half of the movie and then there is the final stalk, slash, slice, dice, run, hide, stalk, chase, get into the car that doesn’t start scenario with a lot of frantic swishing of blades and pitchforks that just miss their target. Poor Jason get kicked in the balls and has to struggle quite a bit as it seems he hadn’t yet acquired his super powers in this film. In later films a locked door would be no defense against Jason but in this film, he has to struggle to make his way through. Jason struggles to fight off the Summer Camp guy while in later films he would send men flying through the air with the flick of his wrist. Clearly the super-powers that Jason acquired were somehow connected to his wearing of the infamous hockey mask. Like Samson’s hair, Jason’s power is evidently derived from his hockey mask and a burlap sack just will not do however eye catching.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is an uninspired retread of the first movie and paves the way for the sequels that were to follow. It set a formula into place for the rest of the Friday the 13th movies. The characterization is at a minimum and the acting threadbare. The accent is on Jack in the Box style shocks and on the nasty staged killings which sadly were largely ruined by the MPAA who demanded major cuts to a film they would otherwise refuse to pass for an R certificate. The killings, especially the one of the impaled couple were hacked to fractions of what they had been and even though the film has subsequently hit DVD and Blu Ray special editions, sadly none of the excised footage has ever been recovered and has probably been lost for good. The MPAA were reeling at the horror boom and as films got nastier with their staged spectacular “creative” death scenes, the censors got more and more determined to purge such “filth” from screens. Moralists and good Christians were outraged at the level of violence in the cinema in the early 80s and there was to be a backlash which was felt by films such as Friday the 13th Part II, My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler and others. The censors were jittery and worried about passing films that were to be regarded as degenerative bloodbaths. John Lennon had been recently shot and the moralists were in no mood for compromise.
Though despised by critics, the film found its audience still thirsting for a gory, slice and dice style fun and reaped enormous profits earning over $21 million from a budget of just $1.5 million and Paramount had a nice little franchise on their hands waiting to be milked for as long as fans were interested.
Friday the 13th Part 2’s best moments are when Betsy Palmer is on screen in flashback form or when her severed head makes appearances. Harry Manfredini’s score works away furiously trying to infuse some real sense of dread into proceedings but try as he might, it’s a losing effort. The film an so many of its kind started to focus on the creative kill rather than the elements that create the sense of dread and tension before the kill. Slasher films very soon became a procession of films containing showcases for special effects and gore effects people to display their work, but there was often no characterisation, no plot, no tension and little sense otherwise. Instead of trying to scare and create tension as was the case with Halloween, the wave of imitators started to focus solely on the “creative death” and not worry about those other crucial elements that make a slasher film successful. A quick and predictable rot and demise was to set in as films fell over themselves trying to create the most outrageous “death scenario”. The new wave of slashers quite literally lost the plot and started emphasising the kill as the only important element of as good horror movie. They were so wrong. However, a film that starts with “Itsy Bitsy Spider” cant be all bad.
One point worth mentioning is that Friday the 13th Part 2 has one of the best ever trailers and even the man whose voice used to feature in all the trailers of the era said famously that her would always consider the Friday the 13th Trailer to be his favourite one and with good reason.