Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)

Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)
Directed by Steve Miner; Starring Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King

Rating: 3/5

This is the first sequel to Friday the 13th (1980) and in many ways it’s a retread of the original. We’re back in Camp Crystal Lake, where a new gang of teenagers have had the less than sensible idea to try and become camp counsellors. Most of the films in the series follow a basic formula, and there are about ten more of these, each with their own idiosyncrasies that define them, for better or worse.

Friday the 13th, Part 2 stands out for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s the first sequel, and the first to directly feature the killer who would go on to define the franchise: Jason Voorhees. Notably, he hasn't even acquired his signature hockey mask yet, and instead obscures his face with a sack.

Unfortunately, it looks a little stupid and impractical, and it’s nowhere near as iconic as the hockey mask or even the white mask of Michael Myers in the competing Halloween franchise. But otherwise clad in a plaid shirt and dungarees, this Jason comes across more as a shady backwoods killer than the relentless undead monster of later sequels.

The story is set up quickly and simply. After a direct flashback to the ending of the previous movie, we get a tense, jump-filled introduction which ties up the one loose end from the first film, the lone survivor Alice. Back at Crystal Lake, new counsellors are attending pre-camp training, led by Paul (John Furey) and his girlfriend Ginny (Amy Steel), who are the main protagonists. The other counsellors are merely fodder for Jason.

This fact is obscured at first, as Paul takes most of the counsellors out for a last night on the town before camp begins. As a result, we see little of Paul and Ginny until later in the movie. Unsurprisingly, those who choose to say behind at the camp are sitting ducks, and for the next act, there is no clear protagonist.

The director, Steve Miner, retains the atmosphere of his predecessor, but with slightly tighter pacing. He would direct the third instalment in the franchise; as a result, the first trilogy has some of the strongest continuity in the series. Thematically, this film is linked with the original in ways that the other films aren't.

I liked the way that the story of Jason and his mother was told around the campfire early in the film. This tale encourages the characters to head into the woods to find evidence of Jason or the original Camp Crystal Lake, and it does not end well once Jason realises they have trespassed on his hallowed ground. This Jason is still haunted by the ghost of the late Mrs. Voorhees and we also see where he lives: in a ramshackle cabin in the woods behind the lake, and this is where the final chase and fight end up.

Ginny is revealed to be studying child psychology and discusses the effect Jason’s upbringing and the death of his mother may have had on his behaviour. Cleverly, Ginny eventually uses her knowledge to manipulate Jason in the finale and buy time.

Another recurring theme is that characters mention what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives (using those words) which is deeply ironic, considering the fate that will likely befall them. One character declares she needs a couple of months to sort her life out, one idly muses about what he’ll do for the rest of his life, another promises that she will never be ‘late’ again, and a disabled character declares he doesn't intend to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. 

Save a hockey mask, there’s here everything that a Friday the 13th film suggests, including some good action (at one point, Ginny attempts to fend Jason off with a chainsaw), inventive and gory death scenes and plenty of neglectful sexcapades which lead to the arrival of Jason. So it does the job.

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