Creating a sequel to a movie that was, for all intents and purposes, a stand-alone thriller presents some unique challenges. Who’s gonna be the killer now? Will it be a mystery? Does the series go supernatural if Jason is brought back? And how are they going to hide the fact this is essentially a cash-in?
Original director Sean Cunningham declined to return for the sequel, letting producer Steve Miner fill the seat. As a first-time primary director, it’s obvious Miner studied the original to uncover what got audiences reacting to it, copying somewhat obsessively from it, right down to its opening credits. Friday the 13th Part 2 is a fairly effective slasher, but it’s also rather unassuming. As this series continues on, I have no doubts that little from this movie is going to stand out in memory besides what’s mentioned here.
Now initially Miner does bring back some of the interesting, natural camerawork Cunningham attempted in the first. The opening takes place in an apartment (Alice’s, the original’s only survivor) and is easily the best sequence in the movie. Miner opens this franchise up, transporting viewers into the deceptive safety of an urban home and out of the woods that would become a little stale. A four-minute tracking shot around the apartment reveals Alice’s life post-Crystal Lake: her psychological conflicts, rote arguments with her mother, and her artwork, all culminating in an unusual and unsettling gotcha moment where Alice pulls off her shower curtain and stares directly into the camera.
Then minutes later Jason comes in and delivers an ice pick to the brain. Poor girl.
As the story picks up five years later, Miner settles down into typical slasher routine, with little interest in developing characters or highlighting the natural splendor surrounding Crystal Lake. The Friday the 13th series has never been big on twists (or continuity) and it’s clear that Jason will be the killer, giving me room to keep guessing who’ll be the hero of this installment. Will it be Paul, the head counselor reopening camp? Ginny, his flaky girlfriend? Terry, the skinny-dipping princess?
My guess was that they were going to give Mark, the wheelchair guy, a fighting chance to play hero.
Instead, he’s the 3rd counselor victim, dispatched with a quick machete to the head. It’ll probably go down one of my favorite kills in the series. Mark’s death is not particularly gory or inventive, but it’s startling in its bluntness. The filmmakers made a conscious decision to put this dude in a wheelchair and, as movie watchers, we’re trained to expect the character to either become the butt of some cruel jokes or valiantly overcome this obstacle and save the day (even if only partially). Miner upends our expectations by giving Mark literally nothing to do, nothing to say, and then suddenly chopping his head in two. As a humiliating and hilarious kicker, Jason tosses his carcass down the stairs.
Otherwise, I found nothing immensely captivating about Part 2. A mangled dog corpse here, a stupid sheriff there, a few sessions of teen makeouts. The finale is among the most famous of the series: we finally get a clear glimpse of baghead Jason (ripped off from The Town That Dreaded Sundown) and his altar to dear mother: Pamela Voorhees’s decapitated head and sweater, plus his offering of corpses to her. Ginny (Amy Steel) emerges as a resourceful heroine, and her lowering of Jason’s defenses by pretending to be mama Voorhees is a clever victory. Or is it? Just when we think the terror frenzy is over, an unmasked Jason comes crashing through the window. This echoes, of course, the original’s last-minute shock tactic, and reveals a fledgling franchise already quick to cannibalize itself.
Friday the 13th Part 2 Vital Stats:
Tomorrow, it’s death and destruction in new dimensions: Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D!
Schedule of Fridays: