Friday, May 13, 2011

Triskaidekaphilia: Friday the 13th Part 2

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

I wrote about the original 1980 Friday the 13th at this time last year, and since it's a year later, plus the 13th actually falls on a Friday this month, it seemed appropriate to return to the franchise and write about the 1981 sequel. In a lot of ways, Friday the 13th Part 2 represents the real launch of the series: It's the first movie to feature Jason Voorhees as the killer, to establish him as a mute, unstoppable brute who slaughters anyone in his path. Jason's still without his iconic hockey mask (which he picks up in the third movie), and his machete is only one of many weapons he uses to slice up a new crop of good-looking, dim-witted camp counselors. But most of the other elements are in place, and this movie serves as sort of a bridge between the limited premise of the original and the never-ending rampage of the later sequels.

Basically, Part 2 rehashes the plot of the first movie: Five years after the Camp Crystal Lake massacre, a new camp sets up shop on the other side of the woods. Jason, who showed up in the final moments of the first movie, is out for revenge for the death of his mother (the first movie's killer), and so he hacks up a bunch of interchangeable characters. There's even less excitement to this movie than there was the first time, and the characters are even more indistinct. There's a lengthy pre-credits sequence featuring Alice (Adrienne King), the final girl from the original film, but rather than building some sort of mythology and continuity around her, the filmmakers just kill her off gratuitously. It would have been better just to leave her out entirely. (Although the entire purpose of her appearance seems to be so that she can have an absurdly detailed dream sequence that recycles footage from the end of the previous movie to remind viewers of what happened.)

The town crazy also returns, but for the most part the focus is on the new characters, which is a precedent followed in all the later Friday the 13th movies (there's no series equivalent of Halloween's Laurie Strode or A Nightmare on Elm Street's Nancy Thompson). Amy Steel's Ginny gets one semi-interesting moment in which she speculates on Jason's psychological make-up, but it's an isolated blip in a movie that is otherwise unconcerned with anything other than a body count. Director Steve Miner, whose later horror credits include the next Friday the 13th as well as Halloween: H20, amps up the gratuitous nudity and lingers on the violence, but none of that compensates for the rudimentary plot and cardboard characters. Jason is mysterious enough here to be sort of creepy (for most of the movie we just see his feet or hands, and eventually he's revealed wearing a ragged white sack over his head), but that doesn't really matter if we don't care about the people he's killing, or why he's doing it.

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