Friday the 13th: Part 2 (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers returns to Crystal Lake for the early adventures of Jason Vorhees...
Horror movies were not a part of my early childhood. The genre wasn’t important to either of my parents, and I was a nervous kid. My introductions to horror all came around 1984-85, when we got cable and a VCR. We didn’t actively rent horror movies (mostly Gumby episodes), but it was hard to avoid the provocative posters plastered along the walls of the video store. This particular video store (and we’re talking the early days, when we had to drive across town to rent videos) had very little rhyme or reason to their poster layout, and little regard for genres, eras, and colours. There was one exception—some clerk had laid out all the Friday the 13th posters in a row… along the bottom of the checkout counter... right at a five-year-old eye-level.
At the time there were five films in the series. The most eye-catching and bone-chilling poster was for part four, the one with Jason’s trademarked hockey mask lying bloodied with a knife through the eye. That was the poster that really freaked me out, but it wasn’t long before I realized there were only two posters with the hockey mask on them. What was the deal with the other three? I asked the older kids on the bus, who explained that the hockey mask belonged to Jason, and he didn’t get it until the third movie. So I assumed that he wasn’t masked in the first two. But then it turned out he wasn’t even in the first one. It was his mother? How old was she, cause he’s got to be at least thirty, right? He was a little boy in the first one? The silhouette on the Part 2 poster didn’t look like a little boy. He was a grown man in that one? What? This series doesn’t make any sense.
Of course, I know now that the little boy Jason was just a figment of Alice’s imagination, he had to be, if he was still alive he would’ve been at least 42 years old. And it’s hard to live underwater. The real Jason had been quietly sitting in a shit shack in the middle of the forest around Camp Crystal Lake, where he was apparently fine not killing folks, until the day he witnessed his dear mother decapitated by Alice. A few months later he reaps his revenge, kills Alice, and hangs out in the forest another five years ( Part 2 came out in 1981, but seems to take place in 1984 or ’85), then starts killing teenagers in the camp with a potato sack on his head. And of course, this too doesn’t make any sense.
That’s what I think of when I think of Friday the 13th: Part 2—nonsense. The first film isn’t Shakespeare, but it isn’t insane either. The writers have to be cut quite a bit of slack, considering that they were asked to write Jason into the script in the first place, then basically asked to create a bunch of murder set pieces. The whole hindsight being twenty-twenty thing also hurts the film a bit, as this early version of Jason (which appeared only a year before his follow-up adventure) doesn’t share very many traits with the more stereotypical versions of the character. Perhaps if these films hadn’t been made as part of a continuity such trivial things would be even less important, though the slightly preferable Nightmare on Elm Street series is just as dimly convoluted.
Director Steve Miner, the only man to direct Jason twice, is I believe a general improvement over Cunningham, who really works best in a production facility. For example: towards the beginning of the film there’s a clever camera set up where a duo of doomed teens parks a truck, then crosses the street to use a pay phone. While they use the phone a tow truck appears in the background and tows their car. Miner is also has a few clever edits in him, though these may be purely the work of editor Susan Cunningham, and I’m also fond of his use of flare out at the end of many of the kills. Miner’s biggest problems are with his pacing. The character moments play very slowly (which is almost never the fault of the capable actors), and the suspenseful moments lack the best timing.
As a slasher fan though, my only realistic problem with Part 2 is the post-production gore removal at the behest of the MPAA. Legend tells us that the ratings bored got major flack for sending the first Friday through with such minimal cuts, and sort of took out their frustrations on the second movie. Like producer Sean Cunningham says, these movies are magic shows, and the audience wants to see the whole trick. The cuts made for the R-rating here are equivalent to a joke without a punch line. We’re given setup after setup, but rarely does the MPAA let us see how it ends. If Friday the 13th was a series of murder mysteries instead we could forego the gore effects and focus on the plots, but these are stalk and slash films, and without the slash you’ve got a lot of bloodthirsty audiences without an outlet. Slasher movie blue-balls, if you will.
From what my eyes can tell there’s no difference between this release and the previous R1 DVD releases, except for perhaps a smidge of lightening. The $500,000 increase between Friday the 13th parts one and two most obviously afforded the purchase of a better cinematographer, and more lighting rigs, creating a façade of studio influence. This transfer is quite grainy in its darker shots, but the day light scenes are surprisingly clean and clear. Detail also depends a bit on lighting, as daytime scenes are crisper than nighttime scenes, though with crispness comes a bit of edge-enhancement. Other artefacts are scarce, though there are some flickers of white print damage throughout the disc.
$500,000 additional also affords your film more music, and a bigger selection of musicians. New composer Harry Manfredini keeps most of Harry Manfredini’s best cues, and more or less sticks to his ‘no music without the villain’ rule, but generally has more frenetic oomph behind his orchestra, which leads to a more impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 revamp. Like the other new Friday the 13th releases, Part 2 is mostly an audio centric experience, so the surround and stereo channels are mostly reserved for the cleaned soundtrack, and a couple canned sound effects, like frogs and crickets. I didn’t catch any directional movement out of the on screen actors and objects, but the LFE bump does do quite a bit for the score, as does the stereo separation.
Friday the 13th: Part 2 was likely the most butchered of all the films in the series after battles with the rating board, with the possible exceptions of The New Blood and Jason Takes Manhattan, which very few people really liked anyway. Had Paramount included this deleted footage (which for all I know may be entirely destroyed) this DVD re-release might have been a real reason to celebrate (like last month’s release of My Bloody Valentine uncut). As is, the extras exclusive to this new release aren’t really worth the re-buy, especially if you’re a fan that already owns Peter Bracke’s book ‘Crystal Lake Memories’.
‘Inside Crystal Lake Memories’ is the best extra, and it makes one long for more substantial extras taken from Bracke’s book. The extra is an eleven minute interview with Bracke, who describes the process of writing his epic ode to the Friday the 13th series, and offers insight to the behind the scenes fun of Part 2. In his recollections Bracke goes out of his way to describes some of the deleted gore. Even more unfortunate than the brevity of the extra is the realization that Bracke only gets a chance to talk about Part 2, and looking at the box art I see he hasn’t done anything for the Part 3 disc.
‘Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions’ is a behind the scenes look at horror conventions, specifically one called ‘Scarefest’. Here we have about seven minutes of footage taken from the convention floor, and culled from interviews with several cast and crew members that worked on the original film. It’s followed by ‘Jason Forever’, which was available as part of the previous Paramount collection release. This is raw footage taken from a 2004 Fangoria convention that brought together four of the eight actors that played Jason. For about thirty minutes the actors talk about their roles, and field questions from the audience.
‘Lost Tales From Camp Blood: Part II’ is another fan made short film featuring everyone’s favourite killer goalie killing a few more people, minus the goalie mask. This one appears to be a direct continuation of the first episode, which accompanied the new release of the first film, picking up with a ringing phone in a bloody room. This time Jason takes out one of a bickering pair of hikers, though he teases her for several minutes first. Everything is completed with a trailer.
Paramount misses yet another opportunity to give fans the Friday the 13th: Part 2 release they’ve been clamouring for. The print looks pretty good, and the new sound mix is better than expected, but there are no deleted gore shots, and almost no real making-of material. I might’ve also enjoyed a commentary track with this release. Steve Minor and the screenwriters could run down their many inspirations. Friday the 13th: Part 2 features a lot of (intentional?) homage, to films like Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (the couple spearing), Hitchcock’s Psycho (a long shot of Jason gripping a butcher knife in a very Norman Bate-ian fashion), and even David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (Jason’s pre-hockey mask headgear).
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 3rd February 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby 2.0 Mono English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Extras: 'Inside Crystal Lake Memories', 'Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions', 'Lost Tales of Camp Blood Part 2
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steve Miner
Cast: Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Steve Daskawisz, Rex Everhart, Warrington Gillette
Length: 86 minutes
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