At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Friday the 13th Pt. 2

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Steve Daskewisz, Stu Charno, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Kirsten Baker, Russell Todd, Walt Gorney, Betsy Palmer, Jack Marks, Cliff Cudney/ Runtime: 86 minutes

I would like to propose a challenge to you movie goers to start this review off: An enormous success of a horror film is made on a budget that makes the quart jar of pennies on an elementary school teacher’s desk look like the contents of Scrooge from Duck Tales’ vault makes the studio quickly commission a follow-up. Therefore what is the speediest manner to bring audiences another film in less than a year? Simple. Just take what worked before, and do it all over again. Indeed it was by doing this that Friday the 13th Part 2 came together faster than a flock of movie fanatics crashing the movie theater websites trying to purchase Avengers: Endgame tickets. Plus with a total budget that simply added a few dimes that were most likely in the filmmakers’ couches as well as a quarter found in the car on the way to set for the first day of shooting, the film, unsurprisingly, managed to bring in a huge pile of money for studio financier Paramount. Noteworthy for being the franchise’s intro for audiences to now iconic machete-using, teen-slaughtering, mother-issues abounding spook Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th Pt. 2 is also, it should be noted, horrifically repetitive, 100% unoriginal…..and yet also fun in a macabre sense of the word. More than that however, this is also the only sequel to really follow any kind of formula and manages to remind us of where this all started before Jason, taking advice from a leprechaun, decided to go first to Manhattan to match wits with The Warriors in the hood and then to space where he got picked up by the USS Enterprise….or something to that effect.

The plot is as follows: It has been half a decade since the horrific and nightmarish events that took place in Friday the 13th, and in that time, Camp Crystal Lake, still better regarded by the locals as “Camp Blood” has become a vacant and dilapidated ruin and is now patrolled by the town police force to keep stupid people from going there. However this lovely legacy of carnage and bloodshed still hasn’t prevented a young man by the name of Paul from setting up a camp counselor training center nearby (because apparently you need training to drink, make out, oh and watch kids. That too). Thus with a “diverse and eclectic” group of counselors assembled for the first 2-week session, Paul soon regales them with the riveting saga of local spook story Jason Voorhees who, despite believed to have drowned at Crystal Lake when just a boy, is rumored to have somehow survived, and is now an adult wild man living in the nearby woods, eating squirrels, deer, and maybe the occasional bear (oh my), and also who engages in the delightful pastime of stalking and butchering anyone who comes into his territory. However it isn’t long, naturally, before what was seen as simply a legend becomes a horrific nightmare for this group of truly hopeless and quite hormonal teens as we see, surprise surprise, Jason Voorhees, the man, the myth, the legend, arrive on the scene and begin turning the new campsite more into a slaughterhouse you might see in Fort Worth’s Stockyards. Thus with morons getting bumped off left and right, it seems like maybe only the intelligent and clearheaded Ginny may have what it takes: not only to survive, but to use Jason’s limited intellect and (maybe) finish him off for good (though not likely given the amount of sequels that followed this)…..

Now the name of the game that everyone involved with this film seems to be playing with the audience is a game known as “repetition,” and suffice it to say this is one game which becomes old really, really, really quickly to the point it becomes more obnoxious than a group of 30 frat guys after 10 beers and 2 shots of Tequila….each. To put this into a cinematic perspective, our 87-minute film begins with a near 6-7 minute recap of how the first film ended complete with quick shots to the first film’s heroine restlessly tossing and turning in obvious psychologically distress as she finds herself having to recant the nightmare that she found herself facing all those years ago (even though the films were only made a year apart….strange). Indeed although not quite as head scratching as the one that is found in the film Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 for example, having this in the film at the very beginning does make Friday the 13th Part 2 rather cumbersome right from the top (not exactly a good thing for a movie like this). Nevertheless, the sequences do, I guess, provide people who are just tuning in to this riveting saga the opportunity to not only get caught up narratively-speaking, but also to help them comprehend how this one wraps things up. From that point on however, or at least until the end credits start to roll, the anxious audience will find themselves playing what may feel like the longest, this side of the DMV, waiting game in the world as we are introduced to a delightful group of perfectly doltish and dull in equal measure teenage victims as we patiently await the moment where they are bumped off. How doltish and dull are they you may be asking? Well they are so crudely developed and so unimportant to the overall narrative that it is likely you will not be able to remember what they look like, or even who is who as the film goes on. Instead, the only thing that you will remember about them, instead of what they did while alive in the film, is how they die. Indeed this group of teens is like a pack of diapers you buy for your infant child: practically identical, possesses a very distinct purpose, and yet completely expendable when thoroughly trashed.

Tragically, it should be pointed out that the resolution for the excruciating wait to see this group of hormonal teens meet their maker, or rather the sharp tools he uses, is very much like being in the dentist chair for a cleaning, and then being told to come back at a later date for a root canal. Indeed it’s not that the kills aren’t fun in a macabre sense; rather it’s just that they mean absolutely nothing since their character development was as thorough as the descriptions on a menu at Sonic. Yet even if you choose to overlook that, I definitely feel that what can’t be overlooked is the fact that the camera cuts away almost as soon as the kill occurs. Indeed maybe it’s just how much the genre was influenced by films like the Saw series, but I kind of feel like this kills aren’t as brutal as they could, or maybe one could argue should, be. I mean don’t get me wrong; a spear to the stomach or a hammer to the back of the skull is a solid kill in the world of Horror, but in this film it just doesn’t work as well as it should. This, of course, brings us to the man himself: Jason. Suffice it to say that what I will say about his time in this film is that his intro to audiences in this, like everything else, is slow and methodical, as we see way more of his hands and feet before we finally get to see his bag-wearing head (the hockey mask sadly wouldn’t come to play until the third film sigh). Yet I guess it should be noted that Part 2 does have a decent resolution thanks to a potent and creative conclusion, and an intriguing glimpse at what Jason’s face truly looks like. All I’ll say: it definitely is one that only a headless mum could adore and picture Sloth from The Goonies mixed with Grizzly Adams and 70s Kenny Loggins. Yeah; try getting THAT image out of your head……

All in all due in large part to being in many respects a carbon copy of the first movie released the year before, I think it is safe to say that it is a relatively safe bet to make that Friday the 13th Part 2 might have the effect of inspiring quite a few of the people who decide to give it a watch to take a nap instead. This is because we have to sit through an excruciatingly long and way too familiar build-up before this movie even begins to do the very thing that we are there to see it do: kill off stupid teenagers for doing stupid things. Yet even when the film gets to that point, the murders that do occur are, in all fairness, well-staged. However they are also quite lack of meaning once the initial kill is committed since the movie chooses to do the, now familiar horror trope of just throwing into the mix a group of one-note and purely expendable nobodies whose primary function in this film is to do as little possible and not make the audience care one way or the other about them whilst also going to and fro half-dressed in 80’s style, read: tight-fitting, attire just waiting to be the next lucky person to be bumped off. However because this film did make the wise choice for introducing audiences to Jason Voorhees, albeit not exactly as people worldwide have come to know him, for that we would have to be patient and wait for Part 3, I suppose I can say that Friday the 13th Part 2 is, easily, one of the “better” films in this storied franchise thanks not only to the above fact, but also because of its iconic, nonsense being left at the door, and just play by play approach that although repetitive at least is repeating a commercial, legit, and actually to a teeny tiny degree entertaining formula that actually worked. On a scale of 1-5 I give Friday the 13th Pt. 2 a solid 2.5 out of 5.