Franchise Friday - Friday the 13th Part 2
Five years later…
The boy was never found.
Still, to play it safe, Camp Crystal Lake is off limits for Friday the 13th Part 2. This time, the action takes place next door at Camp Packanack where a group of camp counsellors are taking a two-week self-run training class before the camping season officially gets underway. With Pamela Voorhees dead, are these campers safe or is there another, more malevolent force that stalks these woods?
I think we all know the answer to that.
So here we are, Jason steps into the limelight! Now, he’s still a bit of a prototype as this time he’s got a sack over his deformed face and tends to favor more the pitchfork than his famous machete, but the kills definitely lean more toward those that have the premarital sex…thus we start to see the trope take form here. Like the first film, Jason’s style takes after his mom this go ‘round, as most kills are done in secret and then we, along with Paul and Ginny, start seeing the corpses pile up toward the end. I’m still not sure how much of a fan I am of this approach, however, I do like how this methodology is passed down. It’s like Jason was watching his mom work throughout part 1 and continues her work in part 2 as revenge for her death. This shared thematic serves as a pretty good binding agent between the two films.
This mechanic also serves to give our boy Jason a weakness: he’s a momma’s boy. Our ‘final girl’ Ginny, it turns out, is working on her degree in child psychology and once she finds Jason’s shrine to mommy, she’s able to turn her knowledge to her advantage and manipulate Jason in some small way. Since it’s been ages since I’ve gone through these films, I’m not sure how much this mechanic is used in the other sequels (granted, you don’t want it to get overused, lest it become boring) although I do know it was used in the remake…but it’s an interesting Achilles Heel. I seem to recall a variation on this theme happening in part 4, but we’ll talk about that when we get there!
Like the first film, we have a running time here of just over an hour and a half and it works…the film never overstays its welcome. Pop in, get a little gore, get out. Speaking of gore, the make-up effects here are fine, albeit brief. Now, that’s more likely thanks to the bastards at the MPAA, if you’re aware of all the controversy that swirled around slashers and Hollywood’s self-censoring regime at the time, than it is to the departure of Tom Savini. Additionally, to its credit, the film doesn’t feel like a rushed production, even though the film came out only a year after the release of part 1. Of course, Henry Manfredini is back to score but let’s face it, so long as the ‘ki ki ki ma ma ma’ is in there, the music is fine.
Now, all that being said, I do have to say that I found the film’s ending to be extremely unsatisfying in some ways. First, the good: Jason doesn’t kill the dog Muffin. Sure, he’s a monster, but he’s not a fucking monster. And while I get that director Steve Miner might have been trying to echo the way the first film ended with Jason seemingly jumping out of the lake to take down final girl Alice…the way things end here is just…well, if I’m being honest, I think they ran out of either time, money or both. You see, Jason crashes through a window for one last jump scare to get Ginny and Paul only for us to cut to Ginny being loaded into an ambulance wondering where Paul is. The closing shot of the film is a scene of the shrine to Jason’s mom, candles freshly lit, with bodies strew around it (but no Paul). So we get that Jason lives, and as such we can assume Paul didn’t…but again, we still end up violating a central core premise of cinema: show, don’t tell…and we simply aren’t shown here. [But again, that might be due to MPAA shenanigans too…I dunno, I haven’t done the research. – Ed.]
[Next Day Edit: To go with the “they ran out of money” vibe, it’s worth noting that the opening six and a half minutes are a complete rehash of the first film. Now, mind you, I get it, this was released back when home video was still a relatively new thing and certainly not as widespread/mainstream as it would become, but even upon viewing it feels like the filmmakers are stalling for time or padding the film out.]
In spite of the unsatisfying ending, we have a mostly solid film here. The thematic reversal, the son taking revenge on counsellors for his mother’s death, as well as the formation of the tropes that would not only steer this franchise but many other slashers are reason enough to check this entry out. And at 95 minutes, it doesn’t take up a lot of your time either. I ended up doing a double-header, this and part 1, and it was pretty fun. Regardless of how you watch it, it’s worth checking out.