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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friday the 13th Part 2

     Words cannot describe my love for the sequel to FRIDAY THE 13TH.  I have vehemently defended this film since the 80's, and I'm pleased to say that it's finally getting the respect that it most certainly deserves. To me, it's one of the greatest slashers of all time, and was one of the scariest films to ever come out of the 80's. At least to me. Major nightmares, kids.

     It opens with a bang. Adrienne King, Alice from the first film, is trying to put her life back together after her ordeal at Camp Crystal Lake. She has an apartment not far from the camp, and dealing with it all through her art. She lives alone, and one dark night, receives a strange phone call. Alice instantly knows something is wrong, and so do we. It's a great, scary opening scene full of roving camera work and that frightening score that immediately sets a tone of dread and fear.  And most importantly, it establishes that Jason is very much alive, and hell-bent on revenge for the death of his mother.

Flash forward 5 years.  Camp Crystal Lake has been closed and abandoned.  But a nearby camp has opened, and once again a group of counselors roam the woods care-free, not knowing that they are being watched. And stalked.  It seems there truly is a death curse on Crystal Lake, and before you know it, the blood is flowing.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is in my opinion one of the best and scariest slasher films ever. The final twenty minutes are quite scary, and overall, this is a bit more of a polished effort. Being a sequel, of course the body count is higher, although not quite as gory as the original. Doesn't matter though. This one makes up for its lack of gore with dread and suspense.

        Part 2 fully establishes the mythology of Jason Voorhees, and does it quite well, actually. The genius of FRIDAY THE 13TH is that the tale of Pamela and Jason Voorhees could be told around any campfire in any decade, and scare the kiddos to death. It presents the story as myth already. And that myth tells us that Jason never really drowned as a child, that he witnessed his mother's beheading and simply ran away to live in the woods, growing up to be this stalking, deformed mongoloid... which I can swallow. Sure. He could have ran off and lived in the woods, growing hair and whatnot. I can buy that. Much more than a Jason in space or in Manhattan.

         Like the original, it's actually much better than it's reputation- it's a good, solid creative effort all around.  It seriously contains some of the best stalk/chase scenes in any slasher flick I've ever seen. 2 isn't as gory as its predecessor, but that's the censors fault. They really cracked down on this one, and sadly, Carl Fullerton (who replaced Tom Savini on this one) found much of his effects left on the cutting room floor. I don't really think it hinders the film, though. At all.

     Amy Steel makes a great heroine here.  She's tough, and gives Jason a run for his money. She is a great and memorable Final Girl, and her appearing in APRIL FOOL'S DAY only ups her coolness factor. Warrington Gillette and Steve Daskawicz brought to life my favorite incarnation of Jason Voorhees- he's downright terrifying. There's just something very frightening about the sack cloth, and I never got the hatred of it. Steve Miner stylishly and steadily directs the shenanigans, and of course the iconic Harry Manfredini returns with the brilliant score. It has likable characters, it moves along at a brisk pace, and you can tell that a lot of creative effort went into the making of this installment. It doesn't come across as some sleazy excuse to knock off a bunch of teenagers. Sure, there's a body count- it is a slasher of the early 80's, after all.  But this film had a lot of talent and creativity involved, which ultimately raises it to a higher plateau. 

     1981 was a banner year for horror, and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 was most definitely one of the stronger slashers to hit theaters that year. Not only is it a damn good slasher, but it's a fantastic time capsule of the early 1980's. Especially if you were eleven years old like I was when this hit theaters.

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