Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday The 13th Part 2

After FRIDAY THE 13TH became the surprise sleeper hit of 1980, Paramount became antsy for a quick sequel to rush into theaters less than a year later. Though F13's denouement seemingly left the story with nowhere to go, screenwriter Ron Kurz (EYES OF A STRANGER) and director Steve Miner (a long-time associate of Sean Cunningham, who directed the first film) crafted an exciting horror film as good as the trendsetting original. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 was not as financially successful as the first movie (it opened in first place though), but it did well enough to lead to a third movie, which was lensed in 3D and released during the summer of 1982.

PART 2 is better directed and contains more and better shocks than Cunningham’s original. The gore is less (makeup effects whiz Tom Savini was replaced by Carl Fullerton, who likely went easy on the red stuff with an R rating in mind), but the murders are more interesting. Leading lady Amy Steel is sharp, sensitive, and sympathetic in the same mold as Adrienne King and a better actress. Kurz’s basic story may be more or less a retread of the first film, but the final half-hour really is a barnburner, a suspenseful, scary ride that holds suspense right down to its final shock.

PART 2 takes place, not at Camp Crystal Lake, but at the next summer camp down the road, where — gee whiz — more teenage counselors gather to prepare for the camp's grand opening and the arrival of this year's kids. Once again, the counselors are bumped off one by one in variously bloody ways — a machete to the face, throat slashing, really any sharp instrument will do. The killer is the deformed, psychotic, and presumably indestructible Jason Voorhees (credited to Warrington Gillette), who rips and tears his way through the cast out of revenge for his dead mother, whose head he keeps on the mantel inside his dilapidated shack.

The story and structure are simple, but effective. PART 2 offers a higher body count, more nudity than the original (thanks to the pneumatic Kirsten Baker, who gives Mickey Mouse new dimension), another terrific Harry Manfredini score, and Connecticut locations that mostly match the New Jersey camp where the first movie was shot. Miner does such a good job with the terror scenes that he earned the right to direct PART 3 as well.

Though Gillette contractually receives screen credit for portraying burlap-bagged Jason Voorhees (he didn’t get his trademark hockey mask until PART 3), the actor notoriously balked early in production at the extensive makeup and stuntwork involved with the role. Outside of the tense (off- and on-screen) climax, little of Gillette’s performance is in the film. Stuntman Steve Daskawisz does most of the heavy lifting as Jason, even becoming injured during a fight scene when Steel smacked his arm with the sharp side of a machete. Adrienne King briefly but memorably reprises her role from the original F13 in a lengthy pre-credits sequence, Betsy Palmer appears in archive footage, and Walt Gorney is back as Crazy Ralph.

1 comment:

Tolemite said...

This is the slasher film that i love the most.

KBSI in Southern IL aired this one night during their "Creature Feature," and forgot to show an edited copy. Gore and nudity make for an awkward film to watch with your grandma. D'oh!