"What if there is a Jason? What if there is some kind of boy beast running around Camp Crystal Lake? Let's try to think beyond the legend, put it in real terms...what would he be like today?"
Originally released on DVD in 1999 with just a trailer, Friday the 13th Part 2 was given an anemic upgrade in Paramount's 2004 box set "From Crystal Lake to Manhattan". That collection had brief bonus interviews, none of which are on this third release. Instead, you get a new transfer, a 5.1 audio option and a meager mix of extras both new and old. Is it worth an upgrade? Read on...
I know it's even less original than the first one, but despite the extreme laziness with the script and characters, I still love Friday the 13th Part 2. Featuring a camp with six new counselors left alone and in peril, it follows the exact same structure as the original. Remember Kevin Bacon's Jack and his girlfriend Marcie? They're now named Jeff and Sandra. Remember goofy prankster Ned, first seen driving with them in the front of a pickup truck? He's now--get this!--called Ted, also seen driving with his pals in the front of a pickup! Crazy Ralph is back too, with almost the exact same dialogue. And if you saw Bay of Blood, the film's signature kill will be very familiar.
No one knew Friday the 13th would be such a smash at the box office when it was released on May 9, 1980. Eager to capitalize on the new craze, Paramount wanted more--and wanted it quick. Less than once year later, Part 2 hit theaters to officially start the slasher sequel phenomenon--and Jason Voorhees stepped front and center as Hollywood's new leading boogeyman. Director Sean S. Cunningham and writer Victor Miller stepped aside, allowing Steve Miner (associate producer and production manager on the original) and Ron Kruz to come up with a way to continue the story. Maybe that little boy who jumped out of the water wasn't a dream after all...
The film picks up a few months after Part 1 as a nightmare stirs a sleeping Alice--the perfect way for the filmmakers to dump six minutes of flashbacks on us (further shortening Part 2's already slim 85 minutes). I loathe when heroines we know and love are needlessly killed off in sequels (shades of Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Ellie Cornell in Halloween 5, Nancy Stephens in Halloween: H20, Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween: Resurrection, Ali Larter in Final Destination 2 and Dina Meyer in Saw IV), but the scene ends with one of the franchise's most talked-about jumps.
Fast forward five years, and Steve Christy--excuse me, Paul Holt (John Furey)--is opening up a camp that has the locals in a tizzy. That's because it's just a short walk from the condemned campgrounds where seven people were killed on a rainy Friday in 1980. Can't Paul just leave well enough alone? He's the head of a counselor training camp, home to six new horndogs ripe for stalking: mellow Jeff (Bill Randolph) and curious girlfriend Sandra (Marta Kober); wheelchair-bound jock Mark (Tom McBride, whose tragic real-life story casts a cloud over the film) and his admirer/stalker Vicky (Lauren-Marie Taylor); and smooth-talking Scott (Russell Todd), the admirer/stalker of Terri (the perpetually cold Kirsten Baker) and her inquisitive Shih Tzu, Muffin.
Paul is helped by right-hand woman Ginny Field (played by Amy Steel, the character's name a nod to two-time franchise production designer Virginia Field), who makes a late entrance in her beat-up VW. If you think that unreliable car will come into play later, you're right (and the lack of phone service on the camp could end up biting them in the ass, too). But fear not! Ginny is majoring in child psychology, which sounds like it might come in handy if she happens to run into a misunderstood man-child.
On the first night, the group gathers around the campfire to hear about the legend of Jason and his maniacal mother. "We're the first ones to return," whispers Paul. "He's been dormant, but he's hungry. Jason's out there..." It's all nonsense, but that doesn't stop Paul from warning his staff to stay away from Camp Blood--which just pushes Saundra and Jeff to explore it. So does a cop, who follows a mysterious hooded figure in overalls--making his way through the woods and into a rundown shack that hides something sinister. As Day 2 comes to an end, most of the counselors head into town for a night of drinking--leaving the six sexed-up teens to play. The rain and blood soon fall, and when Paul and Ginny make their way back, a surprise awaits.
Part 2 isn't as good as Part 1 in almost every way--most notably in the performances of the younger actors, who are given so little to do and say. Randolph and McBride are the only ones to come across somewhat naturally, but everyone else is a dud--Todd and Baker are given so few lines, they barely register on camera. Thankfully, Steele saves the day, and is at least tied for the title of my favorite Friday heroine (along with King and Kimberly Beck). Her speech at the bar with Paul and Ted--where she tries to humanize and rationalize Jason--is delivered with far more sincerity than you'd expect, and sets up the franchise's origin (although I'm still waiting to find out what she had to tell Paul...was she pregnant?!).
Harry Manfredini returns with a familiar score (listen for a Jaws homage during Terri's impromptu skinny dip), appropriate for the familiar plot. Despite all that, Part 2 still entertains in the second half when the carnage (and chase) begins. This is one of my favorite final showdowns (save for that odd pee scene that I'm still a little confused by). Like Part 1, the setting here helps--it looks and feels like a real camp, adding to the authenticity.
Part 2 also has one of my favorite Jasons--there's no hockey mask yet, so he hides behind a creepy sack with a hole for his good eye (long before The Strangers came along). Played mostly by Steve Dash (he was billed as a stunt man for Warrington Gillette, who appears in a few scenes), Jason is far more human and vulnerable than you'll ever see him again (way to go for the groin, Ginny!)--and that makes the terror more relatable. It's amazing how expressive Dash can be with one eye, and some simple head tilts make Jason even more real.
The kills are relatively tame, and far less gory than Part 1. In the bonus features, author and Friday fan/historian Peter M. Bracke notes that about one minute of gore had to be trimmed--an eternity for a film like this--but is apparently lost (it's been the stuff of legend for Friday fanatics). Like the other Part 1 bigwigs, makeup master Tom Savini didn't return--primarily because he was busy with The Burning, a Friday copycat that was released one week after Part 2. That left Carl Fullerton to handle the duties.
A lot of the kills feel abrupt: Some are off screen or have no post-impact shots (just what the heck happened to Terri and Paul?!), giving many of the sequences an edited-for-TV feel. Still, a lot of the action is intense: I love when Vicki makes an unfortunate discovery (my favorite scene of the film), even if it has no money shot. There's something so chilling about Jason's hand clutching that knife--his bruised thumbnail is a simple yet effective image that has stuck with me. Ditto Mark's last stand, one of the more visually striking kills in the franchise. And there's something about Jason clutching that pitchfork that still sends chills down my spine...
If you can overlook the leap of faith you have to take with Jason's existence (and intelligence)--and accept the film's familiar structure from opening kill to final jump scare (and those cheesy fake thunderstorm flashes)--you'll fare a lot better with the movie. Part 2 follows the tried-and-true slasher formula, but it's one of the better entries from the franchise and the genre. With the appropriately named Amy Steel leading the way, Friday the 13th Part 2 birthed an iconic killer and a sequel phenomenon--what more could you ask for?
To help put my thoughts on the series and each film into perspective, let's take a look at my quality rankings (subject to shuffling within their groups at my leisure):
A Cut Above: The Top Tier
1. Friday the 13th (1980)
director: Sean S. Cunningham
leading lady: Adrienne King; Jason: Ari Lehman
The original and still the best, this low-budget indie started a slasher craze that hijacked horror in the early '80s. Singlehandedly giving summer camps a bad name, it's a perfectly crafted campfire tale with great gore from FX legend Tom Savini and a genuine sense of tension in its creepy, isolated setting. The only franchise film presented (a little deceptively) as a mystery, it's strengthened by likeable characters and natural performances--something none of its sequels (and very few slasher films) can claim. Adrienne King puts up a great fight, etching her name as one of the best "final girl" scream queens--and two iconic villains make a mark on horror history. The film owes a lot to Halloween, but still has its own flavor.
2. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
director: Joseph Zito
leading lady: Kimberly Beck; Jason: Ted White
Three years after directing The Prowler, Joseph Zito stepped in to inject a little nastiness back into the franchise. Savini also returned to up the gore quotient, topping his work on Part 1. The result is one of the leaner and meaner entries in the series, with some of my favorite kills (normally I'd love to hop in the shower with Peter Barton; not so much this time). While Parts 2 and 6 are stronger from a story perspective, there's something so attractive about this installment--it's just vicious (I have equal enthusiasm for all three of these top sequels, by far the best ones). The Final Chapter introduced Tommy Jarvis to the fold, tampering with the "one female survivor" formula, but the film still has one of the best end chases and "final girls"--Kimberly Beck was undoubtedly the strongest of all the Friday women at acting genuinely scared (listen to her voice crack: "Tommy! You were supposed to leave!"). On the bad side, a dog dies (oh, poor Gordon!), and the off-camera exit of mom is a little annoying. On the plus side: If you're annoyed by Crispin Glover, he gets it real good. And hey, it's those twins from Days of Our Lives!
3. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)
director: Tom McLoughlin
leading lady: Jennifer Cooke; Jason: C.J. Graham
Some diehards dislike this installment because it strays from the formula; it's probably one of the more enjoyable for casual fans, and critics were slightly kinder to it. That's because Tom McLoughlin (whose first film, One Dark Night, still holds a fond place in my heart) decided to inject a few laughs, making this one of the first genre films to successfully blend horror and humor. He does a damn good job--in many ways, this is the strongest film in the franchise, and is easily the strongest from a production standpoint. The self-awareness holds up well today, never hurting the fright factor. I also love the look and sound--Jason Lives is smooth and slick, the most professional of the first nine entries. Jason's resurrection is given a supernatural element for the first time--and it's the only time it works for me. But best of all is C.J. Graham, my favorite Jason ever--he has a commanding presence, and adds a few slight yet masterful touches (he was hired shortly after filming began; the paintball sequence is the only one without him). Add in a great opener with a memorable title sequence featuring a reinvigorated Harry Manfredini score (and the closing credits with that rockin' Alice Cooper theme song!) and this one always puts a smile on my face.
4. Friday the 13th (2009)
director: Marcus Nispel
leading lady: Danielle Panabaker; Jason: Derek Mears
No film in the franchise was put under the microscope like this one: With the series derailed long ago, hopes were high--with many fans holding expectations unheard of for the 11 previous films. Nonetheless, everyone was thrilled Friday finally got back to basics. Not a remake and not a re-imagining, this version takes place after the events in Part 1 (given quick reference during the opening credits) and uses pieces from the other films, most notably Parts 2 through 4. After a long opening sequence sets the tone--five campers meet a grisly fate--the film has a familiar set-up: a group of young horny friends visit a cabin for the weekend. Along comes Clay (Jared Padalecki) looking for sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who disappeared six weeks earlier in a spooky part of the woods near the long-abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. He gets help from Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), who sympathizes with his plight. What follows is the slickest entry in the series, with a number of killer sequences--I loved the opening, the lake stalking, the unfortunate fate of Lawrence and the last two set pieces. Director Marcus Nispel (also responsible for 2003's Texas Chainsaw reboot) throws in a few neat touches of his own (love the underground!), and he also messes with one of the formula's staples. The only thing that bothered me (and to a large degree) was the large number of highly annoying characters, primarily four of the supposed "friends" (led by Travis Van Winkle's Trent, who ruins every scene he's in). But this is easily the best sequel since Jason Lives, and one of the most re-watchable of the bunch. Not the perfection many were unfairly hoping for, but still a bloody good time--especially with Derek Mears' awesome Jason (the potato sack and the hockey mask both make appearances!) and Righetti's awesome lungs (damn that woman can scream!) leading the way. For now, I'll place this fourth--let's see how future viewings alter its legacy.
5. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
director: Steve Miner
leading lady: Amy Steel; Jason: Steve Dash/Warrington Gillette
Part 1 producer/production manager Steve Miner steps up to the director's chair for his first feature, which faithfully follows the original's framework (translation: it's pretty similar). A little time has passed since the original, and a nearby camp is set to open with new counselors. This is the first full role for Jason, and the only time he seems human and vulnerable, which I love. He's got a smaller frame, and Steve Dash (Warrington Gillette gets all the credit, but Dash did more work) does a great job. And screw the hockey mask--that sack is way creepier. Some gore cuts hurt the fun, but there are still some effective kills (my heart aches for Mark!) and a great location (like Part 1, this was shot on a real camp in the East Coast, not in California). And while it's a close call, I think I'd name Amy Steel as my favorite heroine of them all--Ginny is one smart, tough cookie. This film has a similar vibe as the first, with some scares that still hold up ("Paul, I think there's someone in this room..."). On the down side, what happened to Paul? And why the hell did you have to do that to Adrienne King?!
The Middle of the Machete
6. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
director: Steve Miner
leading lady: Dana Kimmell; Jason: Richard Brooker
Miner is the only director to helm two entries in the series, and this one was all about capitalizing on the 3-D craze. The production headed to California (it shows), and while I'd never count acting as a franchise strength, the performances here are worse than usual. This picks up immediately after Part 2, making Jason's sudden growth spurt an issue for continuity sticklers. But I'll suspend my disbelief because Richard Brooker does a great job of scaring the hell out of me (his Jason is visually the creepiest). His presence helps offset some of this entry's oddities, like those ridiculous bikers who are so not badass. Dana Kimmell may not be the best actress, but she makes up for it with a fun final chase--including one of my favorite sequences of the whole series (when those barn doors open, I still get the chills: "He can't be alive!"). But I'm not a fan of the jump scare that follows, a Part 1 rip-off that has another jarring continuity error. The gore is built around the 3-D effects, which don't hold up very well (the eyeball isn't anywhere close to realistic), and that opening funky new wave theme is sooo '80s. But with the debut of the hockey mask, Part 3 still holds significance.
7. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
director: Danny Steinmann
leading lady: Melanie Kinnaman; Jason: Tom Morga
Like Part 3, the fifth installment has some not-so-nuanced acting from a lot of the cast--but considering they're loony bin residents, it's not as jarring. Danny Steinmann was a year removed from directing the Linda Blair exploitation classic Savage Streets, and like The Final Chapter this entry is a little nasty. In retrospect, I love the idea behind the story--but it could have been done better, and the characters have zero connection with each other. The ending has a neat twist, and one murder makes me cringe (watch out for that ax!). John Shepherd does a good job as the brooding, disturbed Tommy, and Melanie Kinnaman has some good moments in the end (although the barn standoff is too similar to Part 3). Otherwise, the stalk sequences aren't very inspired, and the kills seem more flashy than frightening. I also loathe over-the-top Ethel and her dimwitted son, and there's something weird about watching Dudley from Diff'rent Strokes run around and scream in a red sweat suit. But this entry gets bonus points for the best Friday song ever: Psuedo Echo's "His Eyes", used to great effect during Violet's dance with death.
8. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
director: John Carl Buechler
leading lady: Lar Park-Lincoln; Jason: Kane Hodder
For a while, this was one of my favorites--but it hasn't aged well. The first gimmick film in the franchise, The New Blood pits a resurrected Jason (now looking more monster-like than before) against Tina, a Carrie in training. Lar Park-Lincoln pits her telekinetic powers against the villain, who stalks a cabin full of mostly annoying teenagers (the set-up is identical to The Final Chapter). It's hard to care about most of the stereotyped kids save for Tina and hunky Nick (Kevin Blair/Spirtas), but you will cheer for the demise of bitchy Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan). Kane Hodder is the only man to play Jason more than once--this was his first of four consecutive appearances behind the mask. He never stood out much for me, probably because he was weighed down in heavy makeup and costumes. This installment is the most butchered of the entire series, and fans have long been clamoring for the restored gore (seen in very rough form as an extra in Paramount's 2004 box set), which would help the choppy feel of the kills. But you have to admit the sleeping bag slam is still pretty cool!
Bottom of the Bloody Barrel
9. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
director: Ronny Yu
leading lady: Monica Keena; Jason: Ken Kirzinger
In theory, this is the film I should hate the most: 60 years after Frankenstein squared off with The Wolf Man, the genre's two modern icons finally met after years of speculation. I was never really a Freddy Kruger fan--after the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, he just became a wisecracking clown (Wes Craven's New Nightmare was the only other entry I really liked, although Dream Warriors had cheesy appeal at the time). This film is far better (and immensely more watchable) than the three travesties that preceded it--but it's not really a Friday film. This is a Freddy showcase with Jason as a sideshow, but at least it has a decent structure and is played relatively straight. Yes, the final showdown is super lame, but there are still some cool moments and a few good (intended) laughs...and that Destiny's Child chick cusses! (Note: This is the only film in the series that doesn't have a Harry Manfredini score.)
10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
director: Rob Hedden
leading lady: Jensen Daggett; Jason: Kane Hodder
This is where things started to go really, really wrong. Convinced it needed to do something crazy, Paramount let director Rob Hedden (who helmed a few episodes of the TV show) send Jason to New York. But Manhattan looks an awful lot like Vancouver, and the first hour is set on a boat with the seniors of Crystal Lake High on their class trip. It's all ridiculous, starting with the sound of "The Darkest Side of the Night" by Metropolis playing over the glossier opening credits (and continuing with yet another underwater resurrection...shame on Parts 7 and 8 for zero creativity!). The kills are uninspired (why the hell is that poser playing a guitar in the ship's stairwell?!), and the "chases" are lame--so many victims just cower. Things get even worse when the survivors make it to land (followed by a Michael Phelps-like Jason, who now apparently swims very well). And if you can't shake Jason in Manhattan, you deserve to die. Jensen Daggett is lifeless as the heroine, and her silly back story (connecting her to Crystal Lake) just makes you wish for the good ol' days. The ending is perhaps my most hated of them all; the only thing I liked about this film was its "controversial" poster, which got some New Yorkers all up in arms. These last three films are equally awful; trying to rank them just gives me a headache.
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
director: Adam Marcus
leading lady: Kari Keegan; Jason: Kane Hodder
The first Friday under New Line's watch, this is also the first to completely ignore its predecessor (but with Part 8's awful ending, what choice did they have?). Long gone are camps, counselors and horny teenagers, abandoned in favor of a supernatural twist. After an explosive opening sequence (one of the few decent parts of the film), Jason's possessed innards attack the coroner. The Alien-esque plot has Jason's evil essence traveling from host to host, each doing his dirty deeds until he can be "reborn" through the body of another Voorhees. How the hell they got Erin Gray to do this, I have no idea. She's far too good for the material, and is wasted in a throwaway role (did they really have to have alien Jason crawl up her dead cooch?!). Save for Grey's class, a few bloody sequences (like the cool tent kill) and a badass waitress (Allison Smith), this feels like a long episode from Friday the 13th: The Series (fittingly, John D. LeMay has a role here). The film is a misguided mess, just like Halloween 5 and Halloween 6--it's like a bad comic book come to life (don't get me started on the bounty hunter). And yes, that is Beverly Leslie from Will & Grace (are you kidding me?!)--Leslie Jordan is cast alongside Rusty Schwimmer as a cartoonish redneck couple. Need I say more?
12. Jason X (2001)
director: James Isaac
leading lady: Lexa Doig; Jason: Kane Hodder
I keep telling myself, "Just accept the concept and have fun." But I can't...despite the fact that this entry is more similar in structure to the early efforts--with a spaceship in place of a camp and stupid horny space students in place of stupid horny counselors--it's astronomically asinine. It's also cheap in every way, including the costumes (apparently the '80s are back in style). Jason X is a slap in the face to Jason and franchise fans. Like Jason Goes to Hell, it ignores what came before it, starting with our madman locked up in the Crystal Lake Research Facility (?!), which looks like a giant empty warehouse with one light (way to stretch that budget!). He winds up frozen and on a cargo ship 455 years in the future, where he wakes up and stalks the utterly inept crew (if you thought the "soldiers" in 2007's The Hills Have Eyes 2 were bad, get ready for a new low). A few virtual reality scenes are snoozers (one even copies The New Blood's sleeping bag gag), and Jason also gets a ridiculous makeover before another dumb ending collapses on us like a giant turd. Yeah, I know it's supposed to be cheesy and stupid, but that doesn't excuse its excruciating awfulness--including Kay-Em 14 (she's the talking severed android head) and the nipple clamp scene ("Daddy likes it hard?!").
The anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is just a slight improvement over the 2004 version. Part 2 always looked stronger than the lower budgeted Part 1 anyway, so outside of fewer specks and slightly stronger colors, you won't notice much difference. Some shots are still dark, and grain is still present. It's a good image, but not as big a jump in quality as the Deluxe Edition for Part 1.
The standard mono track (in English, French and Spanish) is available, but a new 5.1 option is included. Like Part 1, this track has a few nice subtle touches, but doesn't do much with the rear channels to really catch your attention. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Missing from this collection are the relevant interviews about Part 2 that appeared on 2004's "From Crystal Lake to Manhattan" box set. Instead, you get three short new features and a holdover from 2004. New is Inside Crystal Lake Memories (10:46), a brief interview with author and Friday expert Peter M. Bracke. He talks about the genesis of his comprehensive book, a must-have for franchise followers. He's interviewed by Del Howison, owner of Burbank horror store Dark Delicacies. Bracke knows a lot about the films and is always a good listen--I appreciate how he champions the films and speaks for the fans. He shares a few facts about Part 2, including the apparent missing minute of gore (most hurt by the cuts is the centerpiece spear kill) and how a (wise) cut made the ending more confusing. He also notes that Part 2 had a higher budget and a much slicker, more polished look. Most of the information won't be new to franchise freaks, and Howison is a little too rehearsed with his questions and interaction.
Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions (6:27) has clips and interviews from the 2008 Scare Fest, the same convention where the reunion interviews for Part 1's Uncut Deluxe Edition were filmed. Brief clips and/or interviews with Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Ari Lehman, Victor Miller, Tom Savini and other event attendees, guests and personnel are shown, none of which pertain to Part 2. It's a decent quick watch, but just proves how little care and thought Paramount put into this so-called "Deluxe Edition"--trying to stretch out material from one event over multiple DVDs is not cool.
Even more unrelated is Lost Tales from Camp Blood Part II (8:02), another short film that has two annoying people being stalked in the woods. The familiar Friday music is the only connection this has to the franchise--the hooded killer sure ain't Jason.
Up next is Jason Forever (28:43), footage from the January 14, 2004 Fangoria Convention in New Jersey. Bracke moderates a short panel discussion with four of the actors who played Jason: Lehman (Part 1), Warrington Gillette (Part 2), C.J. Graham (Part 6) and Kane Hodder (Parts 7-10). (Part III victim Larry Zerner also makes a quick appearance.) That footage is interspersed with solo interviews taped with each actor, who talk about their motivation behind the character and their experiences on set before an audience Q&A finishes the talk.
Even if some of the information is repetitive, it's the most interesting extra here--I love listening to Graham plug his son as a future Jason, and listening to the men compare favorite kills. We also learn some random facts about Hodder, who expresses a genuine love for the character: his favorite film as Jason was Part 7, his favorite kill was the sleeping bag smack and he can vomit at will. But don't be fooled by the fun: This extra isn't new. It appeared on the Best Buy bonus disc for the "From Crystal Lake to Manhattan" box set in 2004. The theatrical trailer rounds out the package.
Even less original than Part 1, Friday the 13th Part 2 follows a familiar formula. But it still has a spooky atmosphere and plenty of memorable stalk-and-slice moments. Led by Amy Steel--one of my favorite "Final Girls" ever--it also birthed the slasher sequel craze and gave life to Jason Voorhees, who is even scarier in his more human, pre-hockey mask form. As for this so-called "deluxe" edition, it doesn't do enough to warrant a purchase from fans--most of whom probably already have the 1999 or 2004 disc. The new transfer, 5.1 track and meager extras--most of which don't even focus on Part 2 (save for Peter Bracke's welcome enthusiasm)--just don't cut it. And something tells me this isn't the last release we'll see. Skip It, and cross your fingers that some day the deleted footage will be unearthed.