Friday the 13th Part 2 1981 Review
Friday the 13th Part II 1981
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: John Furey, Amy Steel, Kirsten Baker, Marta Kober
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The Friday the 13th series has become almost comedic nowadays. Long gone are the times when Jason was scary. The signature Hockey Mask has turned into a ‘loveable’ image and I read a funny comment online the other day where a girl on the IMDB was asking about generally terrifying horror films and she said, “Not little-kid stuff like Friday the 13th”. However that wasn’t always the case and Steve Miner’s pulse raising sequel is easily the best of the series. Dare I say it? It’s almost as good as Halloween (there I said it). Put it this way, if I were to be abducted by aliens and they said, “Hey earthling lead us to the best Friday film” I would offer this version in a heartbeat. This is an ideal example of what a real slasher movie should be: Fast, suspenseful, creepy and ultimately out of your seat-jumpingly scary.
Many people forget – and Kasey was brutally reminded in the opening of Wes Craven’s Scream – that Jason was nothing but an unfortunate pup in the first film that popped out of the river as a kind of joke-scare for the climax. Even the, ahem, ‘lazy’ continuity of this particular franchise could not bring Madame Voorhees back for another stab at a campsite massacre and so the screenwriters turned to her ready and willing son. I have it on good authority that a second installment was always on the cards and it was part of the initial plan when the first chapter was seeking distribution. Sean S. Cunningham passed up on the chance to return, leaving directorship to his buddy Steve Miner who was heavily involved in the development the first time around. They say that inside every producer lies an eager director and it proved to be the perfect choice, as he showed a previously unseen flair for suspense that would make this film the classic that it has become.
Five years after the now notorious Camp Blood killings, life is getting back to normal in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake. Paul Holt, an ambitious local, has decided to open a counselor training complex and invites some teenage applicants to begin training in the secluded location. Of course, they are not alone and before long the silhouette of a mysterious prowler is seen stalking the campsite.
Writer Victor Miller has openly admitted that the mission statement behind Friday the 13th was to literally rip-off Halloween and Carrie and make a quick buck. With that in mind, I must admit that it’s more visible that Steve Miner is paying homage to Carpenter’s film here than it was in the previous episode. The lengthy opening borrows heavily, especially in the POV shots of Jason stalking the house and there’s a similar mystery of keeping the killer in the shadows for the first part. You could count on ten hands the myriad of references, but one less obvious one is where Jason hides under a bed sheet and sits up (really taut sequence), which clearly mimics a scene in 1978’s slasher template-setter when Myers makes his ‘telephone strangulation’. The fluidity of the direction is so good here though that the film stands on its own as a suspense marathon and therefore feels not so much a rip-off and more of a deep lying respect for Carpenter’s masterpiece.
Whereas later entries to the chain would seem to roll out victims just to show their face and get killed, this screenplay spends time here developing the characters and it’s one of the best things about the feature. There are some unique personalities that help to unravel the first half of the picture and I remember having such a crush on Marta Kober’s Sandra when I was thirteen that I ended up dating a girl called Tracey Coster who looked exactly like her. (I even showed her the similarities; probably not the most thoughtful thing that I have ever done.) Whilst there are no obvious weaknesses in the performances of any of the supporting characters, it’s the two leads that walk away with the biggest adulation. Amy Steel is widely regarded as the greatest final girl of all time and I don’t remember seeing many that put up such a good fight against their assailant. The later chase sequences are effective, because Ginny is markedly intelligent and doesn’t make the usual mistakes of running upstairs when the door is open or walking straight in to the bogeyman’s clutches. I also liked the child psychology angle and the quick-witted way that she momentarily disables (and almost defeats) Jason. John Furey’s Paul may not be given get the same opportunities as his co-star to shine, but without his fearsome support of our fiery heroine, we never could have seen such a pulsating showdown .
Amy Steel may deliver an almost perfect example of a woman in peril fighting back, but it is Steve Miner’s direction that is the REAL star of the show here. Each shot seems more creative than the last and he makes the most of an absolutely terrific score from Harry Manfredini. There are more popcorn-jolts in these 83 minutes than in many of the later continuations and thanks to some brilliant photography, Jason’s revelation (he had only been seen in silhouette up until that point) is well worth the anticipated wait.
Steve Miner’s focused work with Warrington Gillette and Steve Daskawisz created the most creepy and least cartoon-like Jason that later entries lost when they turned him into a marauding zombie. Ron Kurz and Phil Scuderi’s script delivers much more of a motive that is expressed with pathos by Amy Steel’s speech in the bar about his ‘child like’ mentality. He seems nowhere near as indestructible here and shows fear when he becomes the victim of defensive attacks from intended victims (the chainsaw scene for example). Obviously there’s no hockey mask and I personally prefer the potato-sack, backwoods lumber-jack get-up. This may have been lifted from The Town that Dreaded Sundown and Charles Pierce could have sued if it wasn’t for the fact that the disguise was taken from witness descriptions of the fiend from the real-life ‘Texarkana Moonlight Murders’. It worked for me, because it was obvious that a more ‘alive’ Jason could be embarrassed by his disfigured features, which added sympathy to his character and brought to mind John Hurt’s wonderful portrayal from The Elephant Man, who also wore a similar headpiece.
The only problems come not from a fault of the production team but of the bullshit work of the MPAA. There’s hardly any blood on display and you can tell (despite some decent re-editing) that the kill scenes should be longer. The most recent copy has a 15 rating in the UK, I mean how bad is that? Nowadays, it’s alright to watch Quentin Tarantino characters use a sword to dismember countless victims, or the numerous grisly murders from the SAW series, but a few outdated effects cannot be restored to Friday the 13th? I mean, really? Is Paramount really going to lose credibility for re-submitting this uncut? Come on! It looks however, like most of the footage has been destroyed and we will never get to see the movie how it was intended, which is a major disappointment. We can only live in hope, I guess… If I seriously dislike any major studio, then it is Paramount for their scalping of these, My Bloody Valentine and even Scott Spiegel’s Intruder. The twin murder of Jeff and Sandra was shown to special effects guru Greg Nicotero from KNB on video tape (maybe the only copy anywhere) and he commented that it was ‘shocking’ and that ‘the look on Sandra’s face as blood spurted from her partner’s back was horrible.’ He meant that as a compliment of course to his friend Carl Fullerton, but damn what I would give to see it
As you can tell, I love Friday the 13th Part 2. It’s a fantastic slasher movie and a fine example of everything that’s great about the genre. The only sequels I have time for are this, Zito’s ‘the final chapter’ and the incredibly cheesy part six. I would love to have not already seen this addition and could still have the opportunity to enjoy it for the first time. If you truly love your chills, grab a beer (or preferably a few Kopparbergs) some snacks, turn the lights down low, make sure you watch it with an easily scared partner and enjoy… Just enjoy!
Final Girl √√√√√
Posted on October 13, 2011, in Slasher, Top 50 Slashers and tagged 1981, burlap sack, Friday The 13th, gore, Hot Chicas, killer in the woods, masked killer, Steve Miner, Top 25 slashers, USA. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.