October 3rd, 2009

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) ***

Jason Vorhees is still upset that a camp counselor chopped off his mother’s head with a machete.  In what can only be described as a case of Extreme Therapy, he begins hacking up a set of counselors who dare to open up a camp across the way from his home of Crystal Lake.  Jason picks them off one by one until Ginny (Amy Steel), The Final Girl is left.  Jason chases her back to his shack in the woods where he keeps his mom’s decapitated head on an altar.  Ginny is able to play mind games with the poor boy long enough to distract him and plant a machete into his shoulder, which puts him down for the count until the next sequel. 

 

The Jason in Part 2 isn’t quite the Jason we know and love.  He doesn’t wear the hockey mask in this one (that comes in Part 3-D) but a potato sack.  I don’t know about you but I like the potato sack era Jason.  (Hey if your face looked like one of the Oak Ridge Boys crossed with a microwaved eggplant, you’d be wearing a potato sack too.)  As much as I dig his bag head phase, I have to admit that his overalls are stupid looking.  Seriously, who can be menaced by someone wearing Osh Kosh B’Gosh? 

 

Friday the 13th Part 2 is a better than average entry in the series.  There are a number of quality kills yet most of them were so neutered by the MPAA that they wind up being rather anticlimactic.  We get an ice pick to the skull, a hammer to the back of the head, throat slashing, a machete to the face and the piece de resistance; the spear through the two humping horndogs.  It’s not quite up to snuff with the similar scene from Twitch of the Death Nerve (in that movie, the lovers kept on fucking while the spear was through them), but it’ll do.

 

Since a lot of the FX were cut out by the censors, the best special effect in the movie is Kristen (Gas Pump Girls) Baker skinny dipping.  Yowsers.  Kristen, all I have to say is that I am an Animal Rescue Technician and I want to adopt your puppies.

 

While were on the subject of excellent performances, Amy Steel makes for a feisty and likable heroine.  Re-watching the film, I was surprised that they actually make a point of Ginny’s degree in child psychology.  This no doubt figures into the finale where she makes Jason think she’s the reincarnation of his mom by donning her ratty ass sweater.  Steel isn’t like the prototypical Final Girl because she actually has sex in the movie but her background in child psychology coupled with her fascination with the Jason legend (when she speculates about Jason’s frame of mind while drinking in a bar, her friends just laugh at her) gives her the edge she needs to defeat the masked mongoloid.

 

Steve Miner’s workmanlike direction enhances the film nicely.  It’s not out and out scary like his next film in the series, Part 3-D but it’s never boring.  The opening pre-title sequence where the first film’s heroine Adrienne King gets Janet Leigh’ed is a good example of how Miner works.  He establishes a threat, gives a false scare (courtesy of a leaping cat), then allows the scene to naturally pay off.  This scene is also important because it also brings the audience up to speed.  (King dreams the last five minutes of Part 1.)  What I found especially creepy about the opening is that Jason actually LEAVES Camp Crystal Lake in order to get revenge on her for killing his mother.  Before Jason went to Manhattan, Elm Street, or even space; this was his first road trip.

 

Miner is also good at establishing a moody atmosphere.  The campfire tale where John Furey explains Jason’s origins is extremely well done and sets a perfect tone for the movie.  I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that it’s the definitive campfire scene of the genre (that would probably belong to Madman) but it works really well.  Miner does go overboard when it comes to showing Jason’s feet while he’s stalking his victims though.  There are so many fucking close-ups of his feet in this movie to make you wonder if maybe Doris Wishman had a hand in directing it.

 

Part 2 delivers about half as many scares as the original and has features about half as much blood but it still has a nasty edge to it that I admire.  Like when Jason kills the guy in the wheelchair.  When we first see him, we’re like, “Wait.  They wouldn’t kill the handicapped guy would they?”  Then it’s revealed that his legs are the only thing that doesn’t function and he’s perfectly handi-capable in the Boot Knocking Department, so he’s fair game for Jason’s machete.  There’s also a gnarly scene where Ginny is hiding from Jason under a bed and gets so scared that she pisses herself.  There’s even a close-up of the urine running out from under the bed.  It’s down-and-dirty touches like that that separates Part 2 from some of the lesser entries in the series.

 

However the flick does reek of some missed opportunities.  Like the introduction of the chainsaw.  This would make an ideal weapon for Jason (hey if it’s good enough for Leatherface, it’s good enough for him) but he never uses it.  After Ginny nicks him with it then conveniently drops it next to his seemingly unconsciously body, Jason never picks the damn thing up!  I was also kind of miffed that he killed Crazy Ralph too.  He was one of the best parts of the original and it was a shame to just seem him written out of the story like that.  I mean you’d think Jason would want a PR man running around telling people all about his legend, but I guess not.  Jason is human after all and being human, he’s entitled to make mistakes.

 

That’s why I prefer Jason when he’s Mongoloid Jason and not Zombie Jason.  He’s not just some unstoppable killing machine but a real character.  I particularly liked the scene in this one where Ginny kicks Jason in the nuts.  This is a great moment as it shows that Jason can be vulnerable too.  A swift kick to the nads is something Zombie Jason wouldn’t have had to put up with, that’s for damn sure. 

 

Miner returned the next year with Friday the 13th Part 3-D, my personal favorite of the series.

 

<Tomorrow’s Horror Franchise Movie:  Friday the 13th Part 4:  The Final Chapter>