Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Friday the 13th Part II Movie Review

This may have been the one that scare me most probably because Jason with that brown sack over his head with eye holes cut out is far creepier than the absurd hockey mask. Of course in the later films he's built like a tank and takes on the aura of something akin to the Terminator, making it a little hard to take seriously. But a crazy guy living in a shantytown shack in the woods with a shrine to his dead mother? And he wears a bag on his head? And he kills people? Man, that f---ed me up.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

As bad as Friday the 13th is, it’s nothing compared to Friday the 13th Part II. Here’s a film that makes the absolute minimum effort to present something new and different. It basically recreates the same premise but sets it in a camp on the other side of Crystal Lake: a group of young people preparing for a youth camp get killed on-by-one by a stalking psycho lurking in the surrounding woods. The big difference is that Jason is now the killer. We only learn that for certain at the end when Ginny (Amy Steel) stumbles upon his lair complete with a creepy shrine featuring his mother’s severed head.

It looks as though the body count is set to be doubled in this first sequel. The total number of counselors is far greater. But half of them are anonymous and leave for a night on the town, but don’t return for the slashing. Most everything else is identical. The cast of characters is dull and uninspired, existing only to be killed in new and not so inventive ways.

Steve Miner’s direction is even more erratic and less concerned with continuity and logic than his predecessor’s. He’s taken the hand-held point of view camera technique to a new level of incoherence. It’s clear that Miner and screenwriter Ron Kurz had every intention of making a scary movie. It’s just that they didn’t do their homework to learn what really makes for a frightening movie experience. There’s no building of tension. There’s just a whole lot of stupid and badly-written dialogue punctuated by shock scares complete with orchestral stingers. The absence of Tom Savini in the makeup department leaves a gaping hole where decent gore effects should be.

There are a lot of creepy elements in the film. The whole idea of a deranged, child-like monster living in a shantytown house in the middle of the woods is unsettling. When a local police officer stumbles across it shortly before taking a hammer to the head, the shocked look on his face doesn’t come close to preparing us for the discovery at the end of the film of what’s really there. And truthfully, I’ve always recalled Jason’s visage after the cloth sack (he doesn’t acquire the hockey mask until the next film) is removed. That image used to give me childhood nightmares. Oddly enough, it turned out to be nothing like I remembered it. It’s more disturbing than scary looking.

The opening devotes far too much time to rehashing the ending of the first film. Maybe a year after the first film’s release audiences needed that, especially in a time before everyone had home video. But now it just feels superfluous. It would have been better, perhaps even in 1981, to jump directly into Alice in her home a few months after the events of the first film. She is dispatched after finding Mrs. Voorhees’ head in her refrigerator.

The premise is established in a story told by lead counselor Paul (John Furey) to his newly assembled crew of youngsters some 5 years after the last murders (which means this movie takes place in 1984). He tells of the drowning of the boy Jason and lack of a body; the murders committed by his mother followed by her decapitation; and the possibility that Jason is out roaming the woods, now a grown man seeking vengeance. Wouldn’t you guess that it turns out to be accurate?

And so it goes that the camp counselors begin pairing off to have sex or simply going off on their own, giving Jason ample opportunity to rip them apart until only one remains. That’s when the movie really starts to go off the rails. Up to that point, Jason is a methodical, patient, and stealthy killer. From the moment that Ginny catches sight of him he becomes a bumbling oaf. He’s just plain clumsy, falling over furniture and failing to hold onto a young woman half his size. I always thought Scream was being totally original in having a clumsy killer. It turns out Wes Craven may have been inspired by Friday the 13th Part II.

But that’s not all. The movie culminates in a climax and conclusion that make absolutely no sense. I thought the ending to the first film was illogical. This takes it to unbelievably new heights. I can buy into the absurdity of Ginny putting on Mrs. Voorhees’ sweater and tucking her hair back to fool Jason into thinking that his mother is speaking to him. I can even stay with it when Paul, presumed dead, turns up to save the day (never mind that he could hardly have had any chance of finding that ramshackle shed in the woods in the dead of night). The problem comes after Paul and Ginny, believing Jason dead, return to their cabin. Suddenly Jason jumps through the window (recalling the shock ending of the first film when Jason jumps out of the water to drag Alice down) and grabs Ginny. The slow motion shot fades out and the next thing we know it is the next morning and Ginny is being loaded into an ambulance. What happened to Jason, you might ask? And where’s Paul? Was the last bit only a dream? In that case, why is Paul’s fate left a complete mystery? If Jason really did attack through the window then how the hell did Ginny escape and where’s Paul? This is the kind of incoherent mess that gets on my nerves. It’s just lazy writing.

Friday the 13th Part II is not the worst in the series, but it’s pretty damned close.

Deaths (with my rating out of 10)

Total deaths: 9 (8 on screen), not counting Paul, whose fate remains unknown
Average rating: 4.56/10
Highest rating: 9

Ratings are based on my personal reaction to the killing taking into account factors such as shock, surprise, and fear, as well as the creativity involved and how graphic it is.

1.       Alice has an ice pick driven into her temple (6).
2.       Crazy Ralph is strangled by a wire from behind a tree (3).
3.       Officer Winslow gets the claw of a hammer in the back of his head (6).
4.       Scott gets caught in a rope snare hanging upside down then his throat is cut by a machete (7).
5.       Terry’s death is not shown. We see her body at the end in Jason’s lair (1).
6.       Mark takes a machete to the face and goes rolling backward in his wheelchair all the way down a long flight of outdoor stairs (9).
7.       Jeff and Sandra get speared together in bed after having sex (2 each).
8.       Vickie has her leg slashed and is then repeatedly stabbed with a kitchen knife. This death has the reveal of Jason (5).

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