With 13 Days of Sequels I’ll be reviewing horror sequels every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.
Believe it or not, Friday the 13th Part 2, like many a sequel, was borne of financial motivations. That is to say, the version of Friday the 13th Part 2 as we know it.
Originally, producers had intended for the Friday the 13th franchise to continue, but in an anthology-style format where each successive movie follows a different storyline, the only constant being that they all take place on that unlucky day. (If this sounds a lot like John Carpenter’s approach to the Halloween franchise, it’s because, well, it is. You’ll notice a lot of parallels before this is over.)
In fact, the infamous ending of Friday the 13th wherein Jason pops up out of the water wasn’t even in the original script – it was suggested last minute by make-up effects maestro Tom Savini who was working on the picture. He had just seen Carrie and thought Friday could benefit from a similar last minute jolt. Victor Miller, who wrote Friday the 13th, was against the idea – he wanted only to focus on Pamela Voorhees, the mother who would do anything for her child – even kill. According to Miller, “Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim, not a villain.”
Alas, once audiences saw that moldy mutant pop out of the drink and pull poor Alice under with him, they were hooked. Producers knew they had a hit on their hands. Ideas for the anthology style series were abandoned, and in its place a new script was fast-tracked — this time focusing entirely on Jason.
Ye of little faith was the entire crew from the original film, as none of them returned – not Victor Miller, Tom Savini, nor director Sean Cunningham. Adrienne King (who played Alice) and Walt Gorney (who played the wild-eyed, ominous-but-ultimately-right town weirdo, “Crazy Ralph”) returned, but only for brief cameos.
So a new cast and crew was assembled, and a Jason-fronted storyline – which takes 5 years after the original – was set in place. Continuing their penchant for “homage”, producers decided to model Jason’s look after the killer from The Town that Dreaded Sundown, by throwing a burlap sack over his head. They also “borrowed” two of the more memorable kills from Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. (Previously, they’d lifted the “killer mom who wears gloves and gets decapitated” thing from Deep Red.)
This was the first and last time Jason Voorhees had any sort of motivation for his killings, and therefore the last time he’d be portrayed as an empathetic character. The series began tragically – a boy drowning, his mother avenging his death. And with this sequel, the boy returns to avenge his mother’s death. It’s almost poetic in a way.
And while I do have a soft spot for the undead Jason later sequels adopted (that charred hunk of meat sure can take a beating), I like the wily, lanky, unpredictable mountain man that he was in the first three sequels far more. He’s real and he has motivations, and – to me – that makes him much scarier than a robotic zombie.
At one point he runs from a cop who spots him in the woods (he eventually kills the cop, but clearly he just wanted to run at first). Later, when trying to surprise attack one of the counselors, he falls off a chair, blundering his chance and allowing her to escape. And one of my favorite inclusions is in the opening scene when Jason takes a whistling kettle off the stove after killing said tea-boiler. I just love that he’s this lumbering murderer who doesn’t know any better, and is only trying to do right by his mom.
For not being the thematically-intended sequel we were supposed to get, there are plenty of things to love about Friday the 13th Part 2. What I find most impressive about Friday the 13th 2 (as well as the next few sequels that followed it) is that it looks and feels like it came from the same crew. The locations, the acting, even the camera work – stylistically, it’s all very fluid and linear. It’s something that’s easy to overlook but that I think attention should be drawn to.
Lastly: those simple stark white opening credits, and the white fade outs every time someone gets killed? I wish they’d bring those back for the next (inevitable) Friday the 13th sequel.