Friday the 13th Part 2

Director: Steve Miner
Screenplay: Ron Kurz
Stars: Amy Steel (Ginny Field), John Furey (Paul Holt), Adrienne King (Alice Hardy), Kirsten Baker (Terri), Stuart Charno (Ted), Warrington Gillette (Jason Voorhees), Walt Gorney (Crazy Ralph), Marta Kober (Sandra Dier), Tom McBride (Mark), Bill Randolph (Jeffrey), Lauren-Marie Taylor (Vicky), Russell Todd (Scott), Betsy Palmer (Mrs. Pamela Voorhees)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1981
Country: U.S.
Friday the 13th Part 2 DVD
Friday the 13th Part 2When Sean S. Cunningham’s low-budget independent shocker Friday the 13th was picked up by Paramount Pictures and successfully marketed into a massively profitable hit in the spring of 1980, it was a no-brainer that a sequel would follow. Never mind, of course, that there was a fundamental roadblock in the fact that virtually every character in the original film had been killed off, including the killer herself, one Mrs. Vorhees, who viciously murdered a group of camp counselors as a means of taking out her anger over her young son Jason drowning 20 years earlier.

However, that wasn’t enough to stop writer Ron Kurz, who also scripted Cunningham’s follow-up film, 1981’s Eyes of a Stranger, and director Steve Miner, who had worked as an associate producer on the original. Instead, they came up with a solution to justify Friday the 13th Part 2: resurrect Jason himself by explaining that he hadn’t actually drowned, but had been living in the woods as a mutant recluse his whole life and was now spurned to vengeance after the killing of his mother, a plot development that necessarily rights the original’s clever inversion of the Psycho mother-son dynamic. At the time, such a solution was risky and, to be fair, genuinely nonsensical, but hindsight has shown it to be nothing short of brilliant--that is, if brilliance is defined by one’s ability to create an unstoppable horror franchise. Resurrecting Jason created one of the 1980s iconic movie characters, who would eventually take his place alongside Halloween’s Michael Myers and A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger as a new-generation boogeyman par excellence.

The story in Part 2 opens with a brief prologue that features Alice Hardy (Adrienne King), the sole survivor of the original Friday the 13th. She quickly serves her narrative purpose, with her fitful nightmares allowing the film to rehash the original’s shock ending and then establish the basic stalk-and-scare mentality that is brought to a pre-credits climax involving a surprise in the refrigerator and an ice pick to the temple. The story then jumps ahead five years as a new group of camp counselors converge on Crystal Lake, except this time they are starting up a new camp across the way from the notorious and now off-limits “Camp Blood.” The counselors are more numerous and even less memorable than in the original, and ironically enough a number of them survive the ordeal because they’re off partying in town, which is both a lazy means of ushering a bunch of character off-screen and forgetting them and an amusing subversion of the genre’s supposedly conservative ideology that equates immoral activities with a gruesome demise. As with virtually all slasher films, there is a Final Girl, in this case a headstrong strawberry-blonde named Ginny (Amy Steel) who is a little less virtuous than her predecessors, but still has the most solid head on her shoulders.

The marketing campaign for Friday the 13th Part 2 was as blunt as the title itself. The posters promised more of the same with the tagline “The body count continues …” And, while that is certainly true, the MPAA ratings administration ensured that said body count was significantly less bloody than the original. Richard D. Heffner, who was chair of the Classification and Ratings Administration at the time, always felt that he had made a mistake in allowing the original Friday the 13th to be awarded an R rating, even in its edited version, and he vowed to get tougher on rating violence after that. Naturally, Part 2 bore the brunt of that new toughness, resulting in a decidedly less gory film. Characters meet all means of grisly ends: a machete to the face, garroting with barbed wire, and, in the film’s most self-reflexive moment, a post-coital couple is pinned together with a spear, thus literally conflating sex and violence. However, the film is forced to cut away from the impact of each violent death, making it all too obvious how much was left on the cutting room floor.

Nevertheless, even with reduced on-screen bloodshed, Friday the 13th Part 2 was less than well received by the critics. John Corry, writing in The New York Times, noted that the film “will frighten you, at least for moments, although it will be a close-run thing whether it will be fright, nausea or simple distaste that gets to you first.” Writing in The Washington Post, Gary Arnold didn’t seem much impressed with the film either, although he did strike close to the bone in his assessment of how the genre as a whole works and why it is so disreputable: “the visceral nature of the sensation in horror thrillers tends to remind you of susceptibilities that are intellectually embarrassing and leveling. Despite all sophisticated defenses, you find yourself prey to primitive fears, superstition and basic technical tricks of the movie medium.” In the Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert dismissed the film with a half-star review and then added an amusing asterisk at the end alerting the reader to the fact that his review could be applied to any Friday the 13th sequel (clearly he never envisioned the ridiculous Jason-in-space odyssey that is 2001’s Jason X).

What is most interesting about all these reviews, however, is the fact that the critics spent a significant amount of time writing about the audience and their reactions. Denied special critics screenings and forced to watch the film with the unruly teenage mobs for whom it was intended, these critics couldn’t help but notice the disparity between their own reactions and those of the other viewers. Watching the film in the Virginia Theater, a former vaudeville house in his hometown of Urbana-Champaign, Ebert bemoaned the days in which teen-centric movies focused on “teenagers who fell in love, made out with each other, customized their cars, listened to rock and roll, and were rebels without causes,” after which he concluded that “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.” Similarly, Gary Arnold couldn’t help but notice that his theater was filled with “returnees in a holiday mood, explosively vocal when their expectations [were] teased or fulfilled,” which led him to the conclusion that “the failure to be concerned about [the characters on screen] separates the sort of people inclined to deplore exploitation movies from the public inclined to derive gratuitous enjoyment from them.”

In a sense, none of these critics are wrong: Friday the 13th Part 2 is every bit as crude, senseless, and blunt as they accuse it of being, and it’s not surprising that discerning filmgoers with higher aspirations than the slasher genre offers would find it somewhat unnerving to be in a roomful of kids who seem to revel in make-believe bloodlust. Friday the 13th Part 2 cannot be defended intellectually, yet, the film’s very simplicity and directness gives it a kind of folkloric power, albeit power that works only if you give yourself over to it. If you do, it not only allows you to find a queasy sense of pleasure in being unashamedly goosed and grossed out, but also to ignore just how utterly nonsensical the film’s ending actually is.

Friday the 13th Part 2 Deluxe Edition DVD

Aspect Ratio1.78:1
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • “Inside Crystal Lake Memories” featurette
  • Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions” featurette
  • “Lost Tales From Camp Blood: Part 2”
  • “Jason Forever” featurette
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateFebruary 3, 2009

    Friday the 13th Part 2 is presented in a new anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1), and it looks very good throughout. The image is smooth and clean, with good detail and strong colors. Some of the night scenes look just a little bit murky, but that is most likely the look of the original cinematography. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is an effective remix of the original monaural track (which is also included), with the memorable musical score getting good space in the surround channels and some decent instances of directionality.
    The supplements open with “Inside Crystal Lake Memories,” a 12-minute featurette in which Del Howison, B-movie actor and owner of the horror book store Dark Delicacies, interviews Peter Bracke, author of the 2006 book Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Bracke discusses some of the background of “Part 2,” including why Sean S. Cunningham had no role in the production, how the film was effectively bowdlerized by the MPAA, and why the ending is so vague and confusing. “Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions” is an 8-minute featurette that focuses on the 2008 Scarefest horror convention, which reunited a number of Friday the 13th luminaries, including stars Betsy Palmer and Ari Lehman (the original Jason Vorhees), composer Harry Manfredini, and original writer Victor Miller. “Jason Forever” is a half-hour featurette that documents a panel at the 2004 Fangoria convention in which Bracke moderates a discussion with four actors who played Jason Vorhees over the years. Also included is the second entry in the Friday the 13th-inspired video short series “Lost Tales From Camp Blood: Part 2” and the original theatrical trailer

    Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick

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    Overall Rating: (2.5)

    James Kendrick

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