Great Film Critic Joe Bob Briggs He once joked that the makers of “Friday the 13th” basically “made the same movie nine times.”
He is not completely wrong.
Although each part was described as a new ‘part’ or ‘chapter’, it always looked like a standalone entry.
The constant change of director, screenwriter, and actors with each new sequel, plus the studio that failed to maintain any kind of continuity (much for the Jason Voorhees Cinematic Universe, or JVCU), was built to a poor narrative timeline.
When the sequences started piling up like a body count, the consistency of the raw lines became poor at best. This is why Steve Miner’s movie “Friday the 13th, Part 2” (1981) stands out from the rest. It aims to be, like “Halloween II” of the same year, a true follow-up, with a story that picks up right after the original.
While the original “Friday the 13th” (1980) got off to a rough and totally ineffective start, the sequel has a great start. We start with a close-up of a boy’s foot walking along a rain-soaked street, reciting “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” We gradually become aware of the presence of the returning character – now – main antagonist Jason Voorhees – at first, we only see his shoes.
As in John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978), we sense an invasion in humble suburbs. Miner immediately proves that he is a stronger filmmaker than Sean Cunningham, who directed the first film.
We are reacquainted with Alice, the lone survivor in the previous film, played by Adrian King, the first sports personality of the 1980s. A comprehensive “Rocky”/”Superman” synopsis of the previous movie usefully fills in the uninitiated (and flashbacks also give us a chance to revisit Betsy Palmer’s stellar performance as Jason’s mother).
What happens in the truly hypnotic and frightening pre-title sequence is something of a mystery: knowing what we eventually find out about Jason Voorhees, how did he manage to track down Alice and find his way to the suburbs?
Another confusing element: Why is the watermelon sitting on top of Alice’s refrigerator? Never mind, Prolog plays like gangsters. The rest is okay, although there are some exciting moments, and for sure, horror history is made here.
“Friday the 13th Part 2,” as horror fans know, was the first to introduce Jason Voorhees as the central villain (after a somewhat bizarre and mystical thriller at the mythical ending of the first installment).
The cloth mask that Voorhees adorns here is steeped in horror lore (it’s a choice that references 1976″The city that is afraid of sunset“But the picture goes further.) She was initially slapped with an X rating for her mix of sex and violence.
The original had to beat that cinematic Scarlet A as well, although this would become an afterthought given its success, while the more popular sequel made headlines for several sequences that had to be cut.
The formula is consistent here: Teens come to the idyllic Camp Crystal Lake to experience the dangers, stresses, and contradictions of the outside world. They embrace the allure of sexuality and utter absurdity, only to collapse from the appearance of Voorhees, who punishes them, as a manifestation of the world of doomed adults and as the embodiment of the cruelty of nature.
This started a long line of infamous but hugely popular sequels, each one leaning heavily against a gimmick: if the first part was alarmingly driven by his live blood, the sequel was more of the same, though more pivotal, he had A legendary killer, omnipresent and evil driving the characters’ anxiety.
With Jason Voorhees established as a new and continuing threat to the franchise, subsequent sequels have also been gimmick-driven: Part 3 was in 3-D, Part 4 claimed to conclude the story with “the final chapter”, Part 5 sarcastically reruns the whole thing as a “new chapter”, replays Part Six revives neglected Voorhees, and adds a particularly welcome touch, to his self-conscious sense of humor.
Part VII paired Voorhees against an animated remote Carrie White clone, Part VIII had the gall to float Jason to New York, Part Ninth saw Voorhees plunge into Hell through Freddy Krueger’s gauntlet, Part X threw Voorhees into outer space and Part XI finally good in a title fight. between Voorhees and Kruger.
Are you exhausted yet? There’s also a 2009 remake, which, like this entry, peaks before the opening credits, then dips at the formula.
John Furey’s performance as the camp’s most trusted advisor helps with this a lot – it brings out the basic, lengthy, and intimidating monologue that establishes tradition. Mark is played by Tom McBride, an Anthony Perkins-like actor whose character is likable and well developed, as well as a rarity in American film, then and now – an ordinary teenager in a wheelchair.
Given the level of the script, Amy Steele is amazingly good. Although other roles (mostly on TV) came her way, Steele deserved a more extensive film career.
Furey’s dissenting yet effective speech about Jason’s origin is one of the script’s few verbal highlights. However, late in the proceedings, one of the camp counselors drops a sweet sentence: “These kids smoke steroids better than me!”
At one point, two beloved leads find an empty bed drenched in blood, the image of sex has worsened, and a teenage nightmare is real.
A fascinating perspective on how film critics viewed the film at the time can be found in the printed critique of one of the all-time greats: Roger Ebert’s hilarious review, both a refusal of the film but a celebration of the tumultuous theater experience he participated in, is among his best.
For all the “bad pieces” that have been pared back, there are a few noteworthy images, particularly at the grand finale: The filmmakers devise a new way to bring back Betsy Palmer. The final big horror isn’t quite on the level of the big hit Cunningham and the crew came up with for the first part, but it’s still a contradictory picture.
It came during the first big wave of teen slasher genres, which arrived around the same time as “My Bloody Valentine,” Jamie Lee-Curtis’ “Terror Train,” “Prom,” and “Happy Birthday to Me Linda Blair.” Hell Night,” C-list competitors, such as “Graduation Day” and “Final Exam,” tear openly as “The Burning” and “The Prowler,” and “adults” like “The Shining” and “Dressed to Kill.”
While “Friday the 13th, Part 2” was a hit and found a grateful audience upon its release, it cemented the series as a controversial taste in the eyes of film critics and the kind of catnip for audiences that followed Jason all the way to Manhattan, outer space and beyond.
“Friday the 13th, Part 2” is not elegant and lacks the atmosphere that made the first chapter of the original work so effective at creating tension and mood. As with every sequel Paramount Pictures produced in the ’80s (New Line Cinema would pick up the franchise in the early ’90s), it’s low budget, efficiently made but lacks cinematic effort.
While the subsequent “A Nightmare on Elm St” (1984) would feature the Bravera film industry in its initial entry and continuing installments, Jason Voorhees’ cinematic saga, in its heyday (1980-1989), always looked like rushed projects with no money. Sufficient or time available to film makers.
One could argue that this made it a franchise for a less cluttered movie, although I would argue that the focus on stunning makeup effects, cheap thrills, and sinister fantasy was part of the charm.
Also, every time I watch any of the “Friday the 13th” movies, I see the fashion choices, the languages and the hairstyles of my childhood nannies and all the older “cool kids” I grew up with.
Can a movie with several decapitations in the first 10 minutes make one feel nostalgic? This one can.