Monday, June 8, 2009

Friday the 13th: this time with more Jason

My real-time blogging of the Friday the 13th franchise continues with Part 2, the first appearance of Jason Voorhees (excluding dream sequences). As before, I'll include minute marks for my comments. Spoilers below...

Friday the 13th Part II
Directed by Steve Miner

Prologue: the film starts with a mysterious figure approaching the home of Alice, the Final Girl of Friday the 13th. Alice has a nightmare that conveniently recaps the last act of the film, including the backstory on Jason (he drowned) and the beheading of crazy, old Pamela Voorhees. Is everyone caught up? Alice wakes up and putzes around her house for a LONG time. The director does a decent job of building up some tension, and then pulls the classic "cat jumping out from nowhere" gag. Just when the audience starts to relax, Alice opens the door to her fridge and finds Mrs. Voorhees's severed head! The mysterious figure (obviously Jason) then jams an ice pick into Alice's head. Now that's how you start a horror sequel. (12:00)

Five years later: A couple of teens arrive in the small town near Crystal Lake, and we get the first product placement of the movie (I don't give out brand names unless I get a cut). They're being watched by the good ole Crazy Ralph, who appeared in the last movie. And he's still riding a girl's bike! The guy, Jeff, wears a newsie cap, which is why he has to die. His girlfriend, Sandra, has a fantastic rack. While Jeff is using a pay phone, his truck gets towed away. Jeff chases after the tow truck for a few blocks until he runs into his friend, Ted, who hired the tow truck as a prank. Ted is, without a doubt, the biggest dork to ever appear in the Friday franchise. He looks like a cast member of Revenge of the Nerds. (16:45)

So the teens are all camp counselors at another summer camp on Crystal Lake. I'm not a parent, but I think I'd be reluctant to send my kid to any camp that was within walking distance of a place called Camp Blood. On the other hand, maybe the rates are cheap? The viewers are introduced to Paul, the head counselor, who looks like he walked straight out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. And then there's the counselor in the wheelchair, Mark, and the girl who has a crush on him, Vicki. Then we meet Terri, who's a knockout, and her little dog Muffin. Lastly, we meet Scott, who looks like a male model. He demonstrates his affection for Terri by shooting her in the ass with a slingshot. Paul gives a tedious speech to the other counselors that's interrupted by the arrival of our heroine, Ginny, who drives a beat-up Beetle. We learn that Ginny is studying to be a child psychologist. (24:20)

Ghost story time! Paul tells the story of Jason: he didn't actually drown in Crystal Lake, but has roamed the woods as a wildman for decades. He witnessed the decapitation of his mother, and took his revenge on Alice. Of course, Paul doesn't believe a word of it, and it's all just setup for Ted to scare everyone while dressed as a caveman. Apparently Ted is a method actor, because he brought a real spear. (27:00)

Later in the evening, Ralph is sneaking around the camp, and starts peeping on Ginny and Paul as they make out. Jason sneaks up behind Ralph and strangles him with barbed wire! That kill surprised me. You'd never think a character like Ralph would get killed: who else is going to ineffectually warn teens to stay away from Crystal Lake? (31:50)

Next morning we get some boring scenes with the counselors, and a few POV shots to establish that Jason is stalking them. Sandra and Jeff head off to Camp Blood to do some sight-seeing. That doesn't sound like a good idea, but who cares, because Sandra is wearing a bikini top. The two idiots don't get very far before they stumble upon the mangled remains of Terri's formerly cute dog. I guess Jason isn't a dog lover. A chubby cop then shows up out of nowhere and chases the kids away. (39:30)

As the cop drives away from the camp (he's driving a Pontiac, but I don't recognize the model. It's an ugly POS though) he sees Jason dart across the road. Rather than drive on like a sane person, the cop chases Jason through the woods. Jason never runs, of course, but he has no problem staying way ahead of Officer Tubby, who probably wishes he'd laid off the donuts. Eventually, the cop arrives at a freaky-looking shack in the middle of the woods and goes inside. He sees something in a back room that startles him, and just then Jason drives a hammer claw into his head. This movie needs to pick up the pace: we're nearly halfway done and there's been only three kills so far. (42:40)

Evening. Paul invites most of the counselors to one last night on the town before the camp opens. He says some other stuff, but I don't pay attention because Terri is wearing a really tight shirt. All that matters is Paul and Ginny head into town while the other counselors with speaking lines stay in the camp. Terri heads off to the lake and goes skinny dipping. This movie knows its audience. (46:30)

Vicki and Mark flirt while playing with some old, handheld video games. They look like gigantic calculators and are probably about as fun. Scott amuses himself by stealing Terri's clothes while she's swimming. On the one hand, that's an ass move by Scott; on the other hand, we get to see more of naked Terri. I'm torn. Terri then chases Scott through the woods until he steps into a snare. Scott is left hanging upside-down while Terri goes to look for a knife. Jason takes the opportunity to slash Scott's throat. Kill number 4! (50:35)

Unfortunately, Terri then gets bumped off-camera, which is weak. We cut to the bar in town, where Ginny does a little amateur psycho-analysis of Jason. Quick version: he's a man-boy who loves his dead mother too much. (54:30)

Sexy shenanigans at the camp. Sandra and Jeff go upstairs in the main cabin, while Vicki goes back to her cabin to get some things for her special night with Mark (the wheelchair guy). Vicki takes a long time, and Mark goes outside to look for her. Big mistake on his part, because he gets a machete right to the face! He then rolls down a staircase with the machete still stuck in his head. It's a fantastic scene, thanks in large part to how just plain nasty it is to kill the crippled guy. (1:01:05)

Jason heads inside the main cabin and grabs the spear that dorky Ted brought. I should have mentioned this earlier, but Ted is in town with Paul and Ginny, so he doesn't end up getting killed. I want to like this movie, but it's an epic failure when the obnoxious dork gets to live. The filmmakers almost make up for it in the next scene when Jason runs the spear through Jeff and Sandra while they're making the sex. Two-for-one! (1:02:40)

Vicki, after taking her sweet-ass time, finally gets back to the main cabin and goes looking for Sandra and Jeff. What she finds instead is a crazy hillbilly with a bag over his head. The filmmakers use a Jason-POV shot where the audience actually looks through the killer's eye as he slowly brings a butcher knife towards Vicki. It's a genuinely unnerving scene. You can guess what happens next. (1:05:30)

Paul and Ginny arrive back at camp. Apparently, it's not a summer camp at all, but a Counselor Training Center. Do camp counselors really need that much training? Anyway, Paul and Ginny start looking for people and it doesn't take long for Jason to attack them. Paul gets the shit beat out of him, and Jason goes after Ginny. The official Final Girl chase sequence begins and it's quite well-done. When Ginny tries to lock herself in the kitchen, Jason responds by breaking through the door with a pitchfork. Ginny flees to her car, which won't start (of course). Jason starts shoving his pitchfork through the cloth-top, and Ginny runs off into the woods. (1:13:00)

Later, Ginny hides under a bed in one of the cabins as Jason looks for her. In an absolutely hilarious moment, Ginny pisses herself when a rat gets close to her, and Jason notices the pee right before he's about to leave the cabin. Ginny looks around and no longer sees Jason's legs, so she crawls out from under the bed. But Jason was being all sneaky: he was standing on a chair ready to jab her with the pitchfork. But in another hilarious moment the chair breaks out from under him before he can kill Ginny. While Jason is getting up, Ginny runs over to a closet and grabs a friggin' chainsaw. She manages to slash Jason's arm and knocks him down before running away. (1:15:50)

Ginny wanders through the woods and eventually arrives at Jason's shack. She sees Jason following her and barricades the door. Then she notices what's in the back room: a shrine with the head of Pamela Voorhees in the center, the sweater she was wearing the night she died, and a few corpses artfully arranged around it. Luckily for Ginny, she's a child psychologist and Jason's an overgrown child. While Jason breaks down the door, Ginny puts on Pamela's sweater and the crazy man-boy starts hallucinating that is mother is alive again. Ginny has Jason at her mercy, and is about to bring a machete down on his head, when Jason notices the shriveled head of his real mother behind her. Oops. Jason slashes Ginny's leg with a pick axe, but Paul comes to the rescue. Yeah, apparently Jason forgot to kill him. So Jason beats the shit out of Paul again, but this time Ginny is ready to drive a machete right through his left shoulder. (1:21:00)

Paul and Ginny return to one of the cabins. Paul helps Ginny onto a bed (with a huge window behind it) but they then hear scratching at the door. Turns out its only Muffin. So Jason killed an entirely different dog of the same shape and size? Or was it killed by a bear? Or am I giving this dog way too much thought? Anyway, just as Ginny is about to pick up the stupid dog, Jason bust through the giant window and grabs her. We get a look at his face, and he is ugly as fuck. His right eye looks like it's slowly melting off his face. (1:24:15)

Flash forward to the next day. Ginny, still alive, is being wheeled away on a stretcher by some paramedics. Paul is nowhere in sight. We end the movie with a close-up of Pamela Voorhees's dried up head. (1:25:10)

In a lot of ways, Part 2 is simply a remake of Part 1: same woods, same setup, they even repeated the scene where Jason comes out of nowhere and grabs the heroine at the end of the film. No one will ever accuse Part 2 of being too original.

However, Part 2 is superior to to Part 1 in almost every respect. Despite a slow middle, it has better pacing, as well as a better cast. Though it doesn't have Kevin Bacon with an arrow through the neck, the kills in Part 2 are generally more creative. Finally, Part 2 abandons all pretense of being a whodunit, and instead tells the viewer from the very beginning that Jason is the killer. Even within the context of just this film, Jason has already been transformed into a legendary figure, an unstoppable force of vengeance and punishment. In hindsight, Part 1 feels like a trial run before the "real" beginning of the franchise.

Part 2 perfected the formula of the Friday the 13th franchise, and perhaps for that reason, it's the easiest Friday film to forget. The later movies would rely on the same crowd-pleasing formula, but always with a twist. Like say, Jason ... in 3D!

Next up, Friday the 13th Part 3.

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