This blog is devoted to all those pieces of 20th century culture too often pooh-pooh'ed by the so called 'high brow' crowd. The stuff that conjoures words like 'vibrant', 'garish' and 'lurid'. Cheap paperbacks, b-movies, exploitation, fantasy, horror and hokey sci-fi - all have a place on this blog where the trash of yesterday is recognised as the classics of today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Movie Review: Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

With Halloween just around the corner, I've been watching a few classic horror films. While the second entry in the infamous 'Friday' series can hardly be considered a 'classic', it's actually pretty good considering how awful the series eventually became. The franchise is also called the 'Jason' series, but strictly speaking, such a series would have to begin with this entry as it is the first appearance of Jason Voorhees who, despite wearing a pillow case throughout the movie instead of his trademark hockey mask, would go on to become a horror icon as famous as Michael Myers or Freddie Kruger.

Good a sequel though this movie is, I can't help but feel a sense of missed opportunity considering how the creators of the first installment originally envisioned a long running 'Friday' series that would focus on a different story with each entry. After all, Jason Voorhees was supposedly dead at the bottom of Crystal Lake, with his appearance in the original movie only a nightmare vision and the real killer being his mother. But various big shots in control of the money side of things demanded that the killer in part 2 be an adult Jason who had somehow survived his childhood drowning incident and spent the rest of his youth living as a hermit in the nearby woods until witnessing the decapitation of his mad mother. Taking her severed head, he builds a shrine to her and starts his own killing spree supposedly on her whim.

That's the more than slightly preposterous set up for the second Friday movie. After the credits we are re-introduced to Alice Hardy, the surviving heroine of the first installment. It has been two months since all her friends were massacred at Camp Crystal Lake and she is now trying to get on with her life and forget all about it. But somebody is not about to let her get off the hook so easily and she soon departs this world via a screwdriver in the temple. I hate it when this happens in sequels. Killing off the protagonist in a post credits sequence really undermines everything they achieved in the previous movie. I felt the same way about Alien 3 (1992) when Hicks and Newt are revealed to have been killed before the credits even started! What a downer!

But I digress. Not long after this gruesome affair, a group of teens are Crystal Lake bound once more. A new training camp for camp counsellors has been set up and soon we are subjected to watching these hopefuls perform various wholesome activities like forest runs, carpentry and cook-outs (all done whilst wearing obscenely small shorts, I might add). Crazy Ralph turns up to do his doomsaying bit and 'heed my warning' speech just as he did in the first film, and of course he goes ignored by the gleeful youngsters. There is also a spooky campfire story which serves to inform us that there are folks about who believe that little Jason Voorhees didn't drown all those years ago and is in fact living in the woods like a savage.

With all that exposition out of the way, the film is free to get on with its killings. First up is poor old Crazy Ralph who is garroted while spying on a couple of teens making out. Don't know why he was still lurking around, but that'll learn him! The following day another couple, inspired by the local tales, decide to check out the abandoned (and strictly off limits) Camp Crystal Lake. All they find is a dead dog belonging to one of the other camp counsellors. A cop catches them snooping around and hauls them back to the training camp for a stern ticking off before getting a claw hammer in the skull whilst chasing a mysterious stranger into the woods on his way back to the station.

Things really get moving when most of the counsellors head out for a night on the town, leaving just six remaining for an evening of arm wrestling, making out and playing video games on some antiquated handheld device that even I don't recognise. Needless to say, they don't quite get the quiet night in they were hoping for.

One of the best things about the movie is it's protagonist. Amy Steel plays 'Ginny' the girlfriend of the camp leader. She proves to be the epitome of the 'Final Girl' archetype - brave, resourceful and smart. Despite a scene where she is hiding under a bed, literally urinating with terror (what the hell was that all about anyway?), Ginny uses her smarts to outwit the killer in the film's conclusion - donning Mrs Voorhees's old sweater and playing mind games with Jason.

Oh, and then there is that final scare which is a retread of the most popcorn-tossing moment in the first movie - Jason's sudden appearence just when we think it's all over. Turns out to be a dream of course, but we at least get to see what he looks like under that pillow case and it ain't pretty.


Will Errickson said...

Is this one considered the best of the series? I know Amy Steel really elevated it.

'77 - '80 Collector said...

I would say that this is certainly the best sequel (I have a soft spot for the original). Amy Steel is great. Shame she never did many other movies.