Friday the 13th, Part 2

Revenge of the avenged
★★★
☆
Released: 
1981
Director: 
Steve Miner
Starring: 
Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno
The Setup: 
Jason slaughters more camp counselors.
Discussion: 

I had heard this one was good. This movie was much discussed in Carol Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film [and we’ll discuss the discussion later in the review]. It’s also… I can’t really say what I base this on, but I get the impression that this is one of the real archetypes of the slasher genre. As in, the first one set the tone and established the parameters, and this one really refined them and set them in stone. Many people I’ve talked to who have seen them all say that while the later ones are fun because they’re so cheesy, this one is the best in terms of quality.

We begin with the survivor of the first film having a nightmare in which she relives the climax of the first film. I mean, she relives every single second of it; it’s quite comprehensive. But this is important because what this film is going to do is change the storyline and establish a different killer for the remainder of the series. The woman wakes, takes a shower, and talks to her mom on the phone. It’s interesting that so much of horror movies are made up of just doing mundane things. What also kind of fascinates me is that then something happens—a creak or a noise in the basement, or in this case a caller that hangs up—and this changes the tone to “scary,” and we see the exact same kind of mundane things [taking a shower, etc.] but now they’re scary. Of course, part of the reason for that is that they are now accompanied by high-pitched strings.

Personally I find this particular kind of tension nearly unbearable. That just walking around waiting for someone to jump out… this is actually why I am so out of touch with the slasher genre and am only now catching up. I did literally watch this entire sequence with my hands over my face. It was UNBEARABLE. She takes a shower and then hears a noise and starts looking around and then—it’s just the cat! This is kind of humorous on two levels: one, that this cat LEAPS at her through the window while snarling, which is not something most housecats do, and two, there is obviously someone outside the window who chucked the live cat in at her. I’m going to have to make a special home film fest highlighting movies that feature thrown animals.

Anyway, the woman is soon dead. Jason was in the house, as we knew he would be. This made me wonder at the reasoning behind another archetypal horror trope, that of having the tension be carefully built up, then dissipated by the cat, and then the killer strikes. I guess it’s in order for the killer to strike during the moment of perceived safety [it was just the cat], but it’s remarkable how matter-of-fact and not scary the killings that follow the tension-releasers are. Maybe it’s time for slasher movies to react against the genre and have the tension actually build up to the killer.

The credits are a bit amusing. In the first film the words “Friday the 13th” came at the screen until it shattered an invisible wall of glass between the movie and its audience. Here the credits come up—then explode! Revealing the subtitle, Part 2.

We then join some teens as they drive into the woods. They stop at some service station and head across the street to make a phone call. We can see that the moment they leave their car, some tow truck pulls up and starts to take it away. The teens finally notice and run after it—straight to the camp! It was all a practical joke! So these are the new counselors at this camp that is on Crystal Lake, just around the bend from the original camp. One of the women says “This place is spooky,” and then turns and walks off by herself into the woods! Nice one! Then this other one, who never develops any qualities aside from her defined physique and willingness to show it off, has a pebble shot at her ass via slingshot. This was done by the smoldering Scott, who immediately steps out of the woods and displays his slingshot to her. Another way in which this film really fills out the archetype is that these ARE scantily-clad horny teens, no other way to put it.

SPOILERS > > >
So the blond leader of the counselors, Paul, is laying down the rules when the blonde Ginny shows up in her failing car, interrupting his speech, then irritatingly proceeding to work on her car while he is trying to finish. What this means, however, is that Ginny is independent and self-possessed, and it’s not more than two minutes into her appearance that one knows definiteively that she will be our final girl. Oh, and perhaps I failed to mention that Ginny is a child psychology major.

So that night they all gather around the campfire and Paul delivers an assload of exposition about the whole history of Jason. I don’t know that we necessarily need all that much given how much we got at the beginning, but whatever. He speculates that Jason is still out there, furious that the campers his mother was getting revenge on killed her.

So in here we meet Mark the jock, whose legs are paralyzed, but who seems quite sanguine and well-adjusted despite being a football player who cannot walk or run. Me, I guess I’d be a trifle bitter. But not Mark. Anyway, he plays one of those single-game portable video games, which was considered fairly advanced at the time, and hoo boy THAT took me back. Then there’s this redhead that just HAS to go visit Camp Crystal Lake, she just HAS to, and convinces this other guy to go out there with her. I think the guy is killed but she is not, but to be honest I forgot what happened and somehow I think another day passes and it’s the next night before the real slaughter begins. Sometime in here we see this little dog run up to Jason and the next thing we see is a cooked hot dog.

So the next night—possibly—the counselors are given the choice of having a free night in town, and Ginny and Paul and some nerd go to a bar, while everyone else stays at camp to have sex. You will notice that Ginny spends a LOT of time primping. Then the particularly scantily-clad female decides to “go for a walk” in the middle of the night, and then decides to skinny-dip in the lake [all perfectly rational decisions] and gets killed. Meanwhile some other girl is really into wheelchair-bound Mark, who we learn is still workable in that one crucial part, and she comes on to him with such force that it becomes a little creepy. Not so much because it’s weird to do it with the handicapped, but because she is so forceful about it that it starts to seem like she has some sort of FETISH for the handicapped.

Meanwhile Ginny is at the bar putting her child psychology background to work in analyzing the motivations of Jason. She speculates that since he had no friends, he doesn’t understand the meaning of death, and then he had to watch his mother be killed. And you’re like… well, if he doesn’t understand the meaning of death… and also, wasn’t he at the bottom of a lake this whole time? It’s a tragically underrepresented problem in our society, but people who reside at the bottom of lakes DO have to make sacrifices in their social lives. The point is, however, that Ginny believes that Jason could be real, which also sets her apart for final girl status, because she takes the danger seriously.

Meanwhile the two couples back at camp are ready to do it, and you know what that means in a horror movie. The first couple get the old favorite of a spear through both of them while copulating, while downstairs Mark and the other woman are discussing Mark’s optimistic aapproach to the challenges of life and ascertaining whether his penis is still viable. The woman runs to her cabin to change while Mark gets macheted in the face. You’ll notice that we see the killer-cam approaching from behind and standing just feet away, but when we see Mark from the front it is clear that there is no one behind him. Then this machete comes out of nowhere. The woman comes back, finds the bodies of the two upstairs and is killed also. It is worth noting that Jason has not yet donned his hockey mask in this movie, and stalks around the end with a pillowcase over his head.

So Ginny and Paul arrive back and are attacked. Paul is getting totally smacked around while Ginny just STANDS THERE. I think we’re supposed to understand that the room is pitch black, but it doesn’t work because it’s actually quite well-lit to us, and it makes Ginny just look like a selfish idiot. Then much chasing, and at one point Ginny hides underneath a bed and pees her pants! How many movie heroines do you know that pee their pants? Then she’s chased some more—and you’ll notice that Jason is quite clumsy, which actually works because it really sells the idea that this is just this GUY who went homicidal, not some supernatural killing machine, as he became later.

So Ginny ends up at Jason’s crib. He has accessorized with the popular “detritus” look, and she soon comes upon the extensive shrine he has created to his mother, complete with severed, mummified head [and scented candles!]. Ginny applies her child psychology training to the practical environment [maybe she can get internship credit] by donning Jason’s mother’s sweater [ewwwww—STINKY!] and speaking to Jason in this scolding mother’s voice. It was this scene, in which Ginny takes on the power of the scolding mother to reduce the killer to the frightened little boy inside, that drew so much discussion from Clover in her book—along with the finale of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which uses a similar tactic. In this case, however, Jason sees his mom’s head and says “Wait a minute! If you’re my mom, then how come her desiccated head is sitting on the table right behind you?” Actually he doesn’t say that, but he could. If he spoke. Anyway, eventually things are somewhat resolved and the movie, like the first one, ends with a dream.
< < < SPOILERS END

Now, since I’ve run around saying that many consider this the best one, a few people have said to me “Oh, that’s terrible!” And I have to admit I was a little bored. It’s just stalking, stalking, stalking, and false scares. But I’m not a big slasher fan. There was a little bit of amusement in just how very horny and scantily-clad the counselors were but… yeah, it’s just not my thing, I do feel like I saw a really classic example of all the standard slasher tropes, though. For what that’s worth.

Should you watch it: 

If you want to see the classic slasher films.