Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Friday the 13th - Part 2 (1981)

The true horror-film devotee can easily name you not one, not two, but several different films in the genre that have gone on to not only spawn a sequel or two, but ones that have gone off to become million-dollar franchises, each one as bankable as the next. From mainstream knowns as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street to the more obscure and lesser-seen titles as Children of the Corn and Hellraiser, the genre as a whole is scattered with plenty of sequels to keep any fan's palette happy. But amidst all the endless titles on the shelves at the local Blockbuster, no franchise stands out more nor has had the impact upon the world that the Friday the 13th series has had. And this was the sequel to begin all sequels.

The movie takes place five years after the events that happened on the shores of Crystal Lake in the first film. All horror die-hards know the story of how Alice (Adrienne King), still trying to free herself from the memory of what happened there, is hiding away in her home away from the outside world. She is quickly killed off by an unknown killer and left to die. Side Bar: Did you know that this movie holds the honour of being one of the few films in cinema history with a pre-credit sequence totalling over fifteen minutes? Not bad for a horror sequel, huh? But, could this be the maniacal Jason whom she told police she'd seen rise up from the annals of the lake itself? We instantly move to Camp Packanack where a new set of young and nubile counselors are setting up to re-open the camp despite the warning from local doom-preacher crazy Ralph. Leading this new group is experienced head camp counselor Paul Holt and his faithful sidekick Ginny (fan favorite Amy Steel) - one dedicated to train the other counselors in the good 'ol ways of survival in the woods, the other to allow the kids to goof off once in a while and enjoy their surroundings, and each other. Seems like the perfect team. But little do we know there is a romantic history behind them.

The problems begin when Paul decides to gather the counselors in front of a roaring campfire and scare them with the legend of Jason Voorhees and his mother and the bloodbath that took place years prior. This not only scares everyone, but it sparks the curiosity of two of the counselors-to-be, Jeff and Sandra (who's brother will avenge her death in The Final Chapter) to take a peek at the now-condemned - and off limits - area once known as Camp Crystal Lake, better known to them as "Camp Blood". When they're brought back by an officer patrolling the area, it also sparks the curiosity of Ginny, who makes her opinions and thoughts known while some of the group enjoys one last night out of the town during a rainstorm. Could the legend of Jason and his mother be true? Did Jason really see his mother killed that night on the lake shore? Is a real maniac hiding in the woods ready to kill to avenge his mother's death? Is that a real KISS pinball machine in the pub's background? Inquiring minds want to know!

Meanwhile, back at the cabins, teen-aged hormones are running rampant. Couples having decided to stay behind are pairing up, enjoying the rain outside form the inside and enjoying each other just the same. Especially Jeff and Sandra, forced to stay behind as their penance for their foray into the wilderness without permission. But, unbeknownst to them, something is lurking outside watching their every move. Sounds like every other slasher film cliche, doesn't it? But Part 2 goes for panache and delivers it well, even though it totally borrows from the Italian giallo shocker Reazione a Catena better known to the U.S. horror-loving world as Twitch of the Death Nerve or Bay of Blood directed by maestro Mario Bava. Almost all the death scenes are alike: The machete across the neck, the machete in the face, and the world-famous double-impalement on a bed. I didn't really believe it until I took both films and played them side by side and there's a lot of truth to it, which surprised me. Was Steve Miner's intention to re-do Bay of Blood by means of a Friday sequel? Or was he secretly paying direct homage to the film itself hoping die-hard horror buffs would get the tongue-in-cheek references? There are horror experts out there who even claim that the original Friday the 13th borrowed from the same film: Simon, the killer in that film and Mrs. Voorhees shared the same blue-knitted sweater! Because of these explicit scenes, the MPAA chopped this one up like a chicken salad, taking the best out and leaving barely enough to savour. If you own the original Paramount VHS version, look on the back and you will see that a still from the cut scene of the double-impalement is proudly slapped on the back of the box! And it was even omitted from the DVD sleeve! Something like that deserves a "WTF"? But more on that later.

The film is the first to showcase Jason, and in my opinion, this is the scariest he's ever been. The sack over his head - again, maybe borrowed from The Town that Dreaded Sundown - to me, is creepier than the hockey mask any day. Especially in the scene where he sits up from the bed when Vicky is looking for Sandra and Jeff. Yowza, that still gives me the heebies. There isn't much to Jason in reality, since he doesn't appear really until the film's closing act. But what we see does deliver and it delivers good. From the moment Ginny delivers the classic line, "Paul there's someone in this fucking room!" the action really begins. And it's one hell of a fun ride. This one for me is the best of the many sequels that would follow the original film, though Jason Lives comes in at a close second. Steve Miner's direction is charismatic and flamboyant and he showed us how much fun being scared to could be. And not many films can do that for me. The film's final minutes in which Ginny dons Mrs. Voorhee's sweater and tries to outwit the son-of-a-bitch - Remember, it's mentioned at the beginning of the film that she has a degree in child psychology - are fantastic and are quite clever if you really think about it. How they got Betsy Palmer to return in the second film is something to think about. She did call the first installment a "piece of shit", remember? But her short performance here steals the show. And I'm glad that the original idea of closing shot was never done. I've read that the original closing shot was going to have the eyes of Mrs. Voorhees' decomposing head open and her smile at the camera. That would have ruined the film for me. What they kept was just perfect.

Now, back to the "WTF" moments and questions posed by this film, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to ask these, but here goes. 1) In the first act, when Ginny and Paul are in the cabin alone - in the seconds before Ralph is killed - she kisses him and says, "Paul, I think there's something I need to tell you." That is never explored in the film and the question is never answered. What was she going to say to him? Was she pregnant? Was she out of condoms? Was her monthly visitor in town for the weekend?** I had never really noticed that question until just the other night when I sat down for my yearly Halloween dosage of this film. So, what was she going to say?! 2) What the hell happened to Paul? Friday history says he was killed off screen, but could this really be true? Maybe when Jason broke through the window, Paul made a run for it, got into his car and disappeared? Paul is the only character in the series who's whereabouts are never explained. Did he really die? And if he did, why did Jason spare Ginny instead of him? She was the one who tried to kill him. She was the one that tried to fool him by channeling his mother. So why him? and 3) What did the other counselors who had been out all night come back to find? We don't see anything but the ambulance and police car at the end of the film. Case in point: Ted, played by Stu Charno, is one of the main characters in the first half of the film, then he just disappears and we never hear anything about him again - why wasn't he brought back at the film's close?

(**Ginny was on her monthly. Remember Paul's line about bears and menses?)

This one remains in my top 10 of all time favorites. I watch this one more than the original film itself, maybe because I have more fun with this one as I'm still creeped out by the first film. This one delivers the scares but it does it on a different level. The first one was gloomier and it had more of a dreaded type of tone. Most horror-fans have this in their collections, I would assume. I own the original Paramount VHS, it's 90's re-release on the Paramount/Gateway label, and the Paramount DVD. I wished that Paramount would have included more in their special features in these films besides the theatrical trailer. Maybe a mini-documentary on how this sequel was contrived would have been a treat for fans. Though there is an uncut version of the original film that can be found on the likes of ebay, I've never heard of an uncut version of this film. I am aware of a television version in which alternate scenes are used that exists and currently, I'm trying to get my hands on a copy of it. Check this one out if you haven't seen it yet. Honestly, if you're reading this, you've seen it more than twice, I just know it. Sadly, the Paramount R-rated version is all we have to go on for now. Maybe they'll change their minds one day and give us a special edition with all the scenes cut by the MPAA in tact. But sure, that will happen. Just like one day Paramount will finally release an uncut version of My Bloody Valentine. But we can all dream, can't we?

Here is the short trailer. The actual full length trailer continues the "counting" where the first one ended. I think once was enough for that. If you are a true Friday devotee, you will notice the hundred-or-so things that are wrong with this trailer

Isn't in fun being a horror geek?

(Update 5/25/12): So Paramount has released a Special Edition of Part 2, as well. I won't be the first one to say that I was very disappointed to see that we still don't have the excised footage that was removed at the request of the MPAA having seen the light of day yet. Now that My Bloody Valentine has been released in a very gorgeous uncut version on DVD, I will now  personally consider Part 2's cut footage the holy grail of M.I.A. footage. I would actually dismiss any talk that any extra footage exists if it weren't for that one still shot that still remains printed on the back of every single VHS box in the United States. You know, the one that copies the infamous scene from Twitch of the Death Nerve? I've read a handful of articles regarding this and from what I've read, it seems that Paramount won't release the uncut footage and some articles claim that Paramount doesn't even acknowledge that said footage even exists. Part 2 looks fantastic in this edition and sounds just as good. I'm even thinking about buying this on Blu-Ray just to see how much better it looks. The total waste of a sequel to Lost Tales from Camp Blood is avoidable on this one, as well. Just skip right past it. Still remains, for me, the best of the bunch. 

Paul, there's someone in this fucking room! 

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