The Franchise Files: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
The year is 1980. Friday the 13th has just been released, and by the time it’s out of theaters, it will have made a grand total of 59.8 million USD on a budget of only 700,000 USD. The Gods of Money quickly demanded an offering in the form of a cinematic sequel, and thus talks for how to continue Friday the 13th in a second installment began. Not even a full year later, Friday the 13th Part 2 is released on May 1st, 1981.
The decision to create a sequel to the film would not be an easy one for much of the production team to make, and therefore caused much of the crew to walk. Sean S. Cunningham had originally envisioned any sequels to the film to be based on myths and superstitions pertaining to the day of Friday the 13th, and was unhappy with the pushing by studio execs and writers to continue on with a story about Jason. Special effects pioneer Tom Savini would ultimately decide to work on another slasher instead called The Burning (1981), as it didn’t make sense to him for Jason to be running around doing the killing, but would return to the franchise shortly; on the other hand, Cunningham would not make his return officially to the series until the eighth installment. He would still give help to the new director, Steve Miner, in pre-production work and casting for the film. This was done as a service to Miner, as Miner helped co-produce the original film.
While there was only one character to survive the first film, her involvement in the film would be no less troubled than the production team’s, though there were drastically different reasons for her specific troubles: Adrienne King, who played Alice, was having issues with an obsessed fan-turned-stalker and wanted her role to be as small as possible. Logically, there was only one thing left to do in order to have her make a small appearance in the film…kill her off in the very beginning. Be reasonable. This is a slasher film; anything else would just be ludicrous.
Friday the 13th Part 2 begins with Alice in a fitful sleep; she dreams of the events which happened during the first film, serving as an extremely thorough recap. A cat jumps into her house through her window, and as she opens the fridge to find some milk for the cat, she sees the head of Pamela Voorhees, which she lobbed off somewhat recently. Jason takes an icepick and drives it through her skull, effectively ending Adrienne King’s character for good. After fifteen whole minutes (!!!), the initial credits finally roll. Fast-forward to five years later as a new group of counselors are getting ready to open up summer camp at Crystal Lake, led by Paul, the counselor, played by John Furey. We are introduced to the soon-to-be typical characters in a film such as this; Ginny (Amy Steel), the innocent final girl, Scott, your annoying-but-maybe-somehow-loveable wise guy, Jeff and Sandra, two lovers who are quick to bed, and a whole cast of women who are just dying to take their clothes off and serve as nothing more but scream tracks and murder victims. Among them also is Mark, the jock, who interestingly enough is wheelchair-bound.
Although we the viewer have all been told the story of Jason through the first film, the characters in this one are told by Paul around the campfire, which makes for an interesting and clever way to literally spell out the entire lore behind the camp while being completely reasonable. It’s a campfire tale, and makes the second installment’s Jason that of a myth; a boogeyman of the woods.
The film does, in fact, feel like a natural progression for the series, and will continue to feel so for the next two installments after this. This is the first real introduction to Jason Voorhees as the real killer of the film, though he still won’t be seen here wearing a hockey mask just yet. Instead, we’ll see him in overalls and a burlap sack over his head with a pitchfork as his weapon of choice, as the machete will become more integral to the character later in the series. This Jason has always been a personal favorite of mine; he’s not quite a huge, hulking mass, standing only 6’1’’ tall which is the shortest adult Jason we’ll ever see. He’s not exactly rippling with muscles yet either. The Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2 is a completely different entity than anything we’ve seen in the franchise before, and will be different than the Jason in any other installment after. Warrington Gillette played an absolutely maniacal villain here, and feels quite unique as they are still trying to figure out the defining characteristics of this villain.
The film progresses as one thinks it would, with the teenagers being brought to their early deaths one by one until the final showdown between Ginny and Jason. Along the way we are met once again by Crazy Ralph, the token prophet of doom, who is the first to be killed off at the camp by barbed wire being tightened around is throat by Jason in a violent and gory way, accompanied as usual by the iconic Jason theme. Interestingly enough, Betsy Palmer (Pamela Voorhees) does make a small yet important cameo; Ginny stumbles across a makeshift cabin in the woods in which there is an altar with Pamela’s decaying head and dirty sweater on, surrounded by candles and victims. Ginny figures out that if she can put the sweater on, she can probably trigger the memories of his mother in Jason’s head and gives a moment of vulnerability for the character.
As Ginny speaks to Jason as Pamela, Betsy Palmer delivers some lines against a black background, symbolizing what Jason may be seeing while Ginny speaks. In that moment, Paul makes a surprise attack and slams a machete through Jason’s shoulder, ending him (for the time being). Just as it seems that the film is over and Jason has finally been defeated, an unmasked, long-haired and bearded Jason smashes through the window in another surprise ending, reminiscent of the first film. Ginny awakens in an ambulance, questioning what exactly happened.
Part 2 makes clever use of many of the elements from the first film, such as the first person view for the killer and the music only being played when the killer is about to do something horrible to a counselor (or Crazy Ralph. Sorry buddy, I know you were only trying to help!). It’s completely conscious of what it is, however, keeping with the notion that the viewer that’s going to pay to see this film just wants to see exactly what thrilled them during the first film: a crazed killer, clever use of special effects to make some overly gory scenes, and naked teenagers. Hey…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Put Jason in the woods, make him kill people. The formula for success in a Friday the 13th film is incredibly simple, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Though one can’t help but wonder what the film would have looked like if Savini was involved, his replacement Carl Fullerton does a wonderful job with a lot of these clever death scenes. The scene in which Jeff and Sandra are both impaled by a spear while sleeping together has always been a favorite of the franchise, and the fact that Jason first appears with his mask on soon after only amplifies the appeal of this kill. And while Jason does use a machete in the film, it’s lost soon after he makes a kill with it; in a scene that is so inappropriate and mean-hearted that it’s actually hilarious, Jason puts a machete through Mark, the disabled jock’s head, and pushes him down a flight of stairs. It’s one of the franchise’s best kills in terms of insanity alone. No one is safe when Jason’s in the film; everyone’s a victim, even the disabled.
Due to the truthfulness of that last statement, it should come as no surprise that once again, the film was berated upon its release and shamed for its use of gore and nudity as shock value to draw in an audience. Once again, it’s pointless to debate that, because it’s true, and you can either love these films and hate them for it. Still, the box office numbers do not lie, and the film made 19,100,000 USD at the box office against a budget of an estimated 1,250,000 USD. Though not as much money as the first, it’s still an undeniable success, and a favorite of the franchise for many…including myself.
Sadly, this is the last time that we’ll see Jason with a sack over his head, as I’ve always felt that this was his best look, but there’s still more exciting mayhem to come in the series. Stay tuned for Part 3 as we see the logical evolution of this illogically-surviving killer in two weeks, as the third installment of The Franchise Files will return on April 4th, 2016!