Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #236
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: May 1, 1981
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $21,722,776
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Steve Miner, Sean S Cunningham (additional scenes)
Producer: Steve Miner
Screenplay: Ron Kurz, Phil Scuderi
Special Effects: Steven Kirshoff, Carl Fullerton
Cinematography: Peter Stein
Score: Harry Manfredini
Editing: Susan E Cunningham
Studios: Georgetown Productions Inc., Sean S. Cunningham Films
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Stars: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Warrington Gillette, Walt Gorney, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Russell Todd, Betsy Palmer, Cliff Cudney, Jack Marks, Jerry Wallace and Steve Daskawisz as Jason Voorhees masked stunt double
Suggested Audio Candy:
Harry Manfredini Friday The 13th Part 2 Theme
It’s never easy to follow up a film like Friday the 13th. It had proved a surprise success at the box office and Paramount Pictures decided to strike while the iron was hot and roll out a sequel a mere year after the original had done its rounds. Director Sean S. Cunningham and original creator Victor King had their own idea of where to take the story but the studio, in their infinite wisdom, decided instead to give audiences exactly what it appeared they desired. In many respects, this proved to be an astute choice as the much-loved series went on to become the most profitable in slasher history and spawn all number of offshoots and merchandise but at what cost?
Many still regard Friday the 13th Part 2 as the ultimate Friday. It was admittedly leaner than the original and introduced us to Jason Voorhees in adult form for the first time, albeit clad in a burlap sack rather than the traditional hockey mask. That didn’t appear until midway through Part 3 but here he resembled a far less hospitable John Merrick, not that he evoked our empathy like The Elephant Man as he was clearly bad to the bone. Miner’s treatment chose to ape the likes of Halloween, particularly in the POV-heavy opener where Alice (Adrienne King) was put to the sword, or ice pick to be precise, and the way was paved for a new intake of promiscuous co-eds.
King declined a larger role in the follow-up as she had her own drama to deal with at the time. An obsessive fan had taken to stalking her thus she requested that her screen time be kept at an absolute premium. This posed little problem to Miner as it allowed him to tie up any loose ends in the first five impressive minutes and switch focus to a new troupe of wannabe-slab fodder. Whilst still retaining mystery, it also afforded him the opportunity to reveal the infamous man-child to the audience from the offset , therefore banishing any thoughts that Pamela would make a return. A lopped off head is hard to get around after all, unless you’re Michael Myers of course and the studio wanted this new direction to herald the beginning of a long-running franchise. They got their wish.
So which side of the fence does Keeper perch himself? Admittedly the sequel did a hell of a lot right without breaking any particularly new ground. It felt like an extension of the original despite aesthetic alterations to the camp site in question and Voorhees was kept largely ambiguous rather than the marauding zombified lug head depicted in later entries. The burlap sack was pulled straight from Charles B. Pierce’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown and actually worked out rather well and the kills, while cut my the MPAA to attain its X Rating, were well enough staged. One supreme downer was the absence of FX guru Tom Savini who opted to work on Tony Maylam’s The Burning instead of returning to the fray. It is evident as none of the murders match Kevin Bacon’s skewering or that glorious throat slice from the original film.
As far as sequels go, I actually prefer both my personal darling Joseph Zito’s Part IV: The Final Chapter, which featured once again the inimitable talent of Savini, and Tom McLoughlin’s Part VI: Jason Lives, which took a lighter approach and had far more charm than was customary. Parts 2 & 3 both did plenty right but also did a lot by the numbers. The famous double-spearing was plucked directly from Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve which surfaced almost a decade prior and this fell foul of the censors who promptly trimmed it despite still including a still of the human kebab on the back of the videocassette box.
Walt Gorney returned as town screw head Crazy Ralph which, considering his claims of the site bearing a death curse, seemed a dash counter-productive. He was punished for his hypocritical actions before he even got his bicycle clips off and, after a first act which played the patient game affording us more time to mingle with those co-eds, the dominoes soon started dropping in the obligatory second act bloodbath. One by one the numbers were pruned and we were all aware what was waiting for them around the next corner.
One distinct positive came in the form of Amy Steel’s Ginny. Even now she is regarded as the ultimate final girl and her plucky turn won her plaudits, bagging her the lead role in Zito’s delightful The Prowler in the process. Instead of falling into the usual traps and running into blind corners, she stayed one step ahead of her assailant by using her smarts. With Paul (John Furey) written out ambiguously it was left to Ginny to fend off Jason and she did that by mimicking his dead mother, exhibiting a resourcefulness that set her apart from the silage. Everybody else was surplus to requirements and they mostly met their end courtesy of the killer’s first-person perspective.
Friday The 13th Part 2’s critical reception may have been relatively harsh but, as a box-ticking exercise, it achieved all it set out to do. Was it a masterpiece? No. Better than the original? Hell no. The best of a fairly rotten bag of apples? Not even. It was however a solid sequel which consolidated well enough to earn the franchise its shot and for that it deserves a degree of plaudits. Steel’s steely resolve and a fascinating late twist featuring the decapitated head of Jason’s dead mommy raised its fortunes considerably and, when all else is said and done, that signifies moderate success in Keeper’s books.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Damn those killjoy MPAA punks.Because of them My Bloody Valentine became almost a rom-com and those 48 minutes of trimmed fat kept the dispatches lighter than most other entries in the long-running sequence. There was still plenty of garoting, spearing, slicing and dicing on exhibit and the indignity for one wheelchair-bound victim hilariously receiving a grillful of machete blade whilst teetering atop a stairwell in the pouring rain, but Savini’s absence is noticeable and hard to shake. Indeed, there is even an off-screen kill and, where Friday the 13th is concerned, that is downright unforgivable.
For the Pelt-Nuzzlers: As for flesh of the female variety, Terry’s ill-fated late night swim achieved legendary status and offered enough tits, ass and distant bush to satisfy the droves. Meanwhile, shamefully sexy Sandra (Marta Kober) felt the full length of Jason’s tip mid coitus which proved once again that AIDS wasn’t the only reason not to engage in promiscuous eighties sex.
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