Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday the 13th Part 2

(Note: I don’t feel like tackling all of this series in one go, so I decided to count the first four as a sub-series. I’ve already tackled Part 1, so here we go.)

The original Friday the 13th has, at this point, been largely reduced to a trivia question. “Who was the killer?” Friday the 13th Part 2 has it even worse, having been reduced to the entry in the series that just flat-out didn't happen as far as pop culture is concerned. In our collective unconscious Mrs. Vorhees (Betsy Palmer) was killed, and Jason immediately rose from Crystal Lake in his hockey mask to seek vengeance.

This movie feels a bit like a stumbling block as the series goes. It isn't really bad, but it's a bit weak and uneven. Jason (Warrington Gillette) was an icon that had to be developed bit-by-bit. This film lacks any real sense of awe in regards to Jason. As far as the filmmakers knew, Jason coming out of the lake to attack the final survivor of his mother's rampage at the end of the last film was merely intended to be a one-off jump-scare, and his use was actually mandated by executives who were turned off by the idea of an outright anthology series.

The result is a Jason who's something of a work-in-progress. While the premise that Jason kills out of anger at the death of his mother continues, to one degree or another, for the remainder of the series, this film seems to much more heavily paint Jason mentally as an angry child lashing out. He's still a killing machine, but many scenes make him out to be downright vulnerable, and even show him in physical pain.

The movie starts by tying up loose ends from it's predecessor. Jason, despite having the mentality of a child, is somehow able to track down Alice (Adrienne King), the girl who killed his mother, and kill her in her home. The scene isn't scary by any means, but it does it's job. This is a movie about dead young people, and it opens by killing off a young person. Specifically, it kills off a young person dealing with a deep trauma from the previous movie's rampage, freeing us to follow a new set of young people with no PTSD to work through. We get a death, the audience cheers, and the movie moves on.

I'm not quite sure how a man with Jason's level of deformity was supposed to have walked into the middle of a suburb without comment. We're not shown his face in this scene, so perhaps he wore a mask...which would seem just as strange. However, we do see him walking down the street unmolested, and I supposed this is far less unbelievable than his ability to track down Alice at all while completely cut-off from human civilization, and any source of information that might have aided him in the task. It's not like Jason had money to hire a Private Detective.

We then cut to five years later (I'm uncertain if this means the original film happened four years before it's production in, 1976, or if this film takes place four years after in 1985). The remainder of the film has the same basic setting as the original: a summer camp, but the kids haven't arrived yet, and the counselors are prepping. A man named Paul Holt (John Furey) set up this new Camp on the same lake as two previous massacres, just a few miles away from the original Camp.

Alice's story of being attacked by Jason in the lake has now become something of an urban legend, and Paul uses it as a ghost story around the camp fire. The urban legend status is convenient for avoiding all the logical problems that come from Jason's presence. Is he undead (a status he doesn't officially take on for four more movies)? If so, what revived him? Did he not actually drown? Then why didn't he return to his mother? And how did a small child grow up surviving in the wilderness all this time anyway?

This leads us into the section of the movie in which the characters must do two things to properly merit their deaths: be idiots and have sex. So, a boy named Jeff (Bill Randolph), in an effort to get laid, agrees to stupidly go to the site of Mrs. Vorhees massacre, with a scantily-dressed girl named Sandra (Marta Kober). Before Jason can kill them, however, a local police officer (Jack Marks) finds them and takes them back to Paul. The officer returns to the woods and is dispatched by Jason with a hammer a few scenes later.

Back at Camp, Paul decides to allow the counselors, minus the two runaways, to have a “last night on the town,” isolating the few who remain at the camp. At this point you have the basic idea. The formula of the slasher film was quick to form, apparently even quicker than Jason as a horror icon. So, we have had a series of false scares, interspersed with various sins, and eventually we get to some actual kills. For a period the film continues to follow the formula of both the first film and the opening scene, not showing us Jason.

The reveal might be called sudden, but for someone used to this series, the sight of a large man attacking people isn't really surprising. Paul and Ginny (Amy Steel) return to camp early, and find that everyone left behind is dead. They're attacked by Jason, a burlap sack covering his face, using a spear instead of his later machete.

And so, we have our main characters by process of elimination. The remainder of this film really differs from the series, to the point that anyone being shown the scenes out of context would likely assume it was a rip-off instead of an official entry in the series. Aside from the Burlap sack, Paul and Ginny are able to momentarily overpower Jason on a number of occasions.

The film ends exactly as expected: Jason seems to be dead, his sack is removed, and then a few scenes later he attacks again. Another notable difference from later movies is that Jason seems to have far more hair. It seems that half his head is bald, while the other half appears to have long hair, and even a beard. A bearded Jason is just weird to me.

The film ends more-or-less as the previous film did, with our female protagonist confused and in medical care. Ginny is knocked unconscious during Jason's final attack, and wakes up being loaded into an ambulance, with neither Jason nor Paul visible. Now, however, any ambiguity about Jason's existence has been removed.

This movie is far too often discarded as an entry. I think it's likely we would have continued to see Jason with a wide variety of looks and masks if the following film, which introduced the hockey mask, hadn't been such a break-out success with it's use of 3D. Don't get me wrong, this is a long way from my favorite entry, and Jason isn't nearly as interesting when he's this vulnerable, but this is a film that played with the formula, and eventually led us to the Jason we know and love.

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