Blu-ray Review: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

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Jean-Luc Godard famously said that the only two things you needed to make a movie were a girl and a gun. Horror movies basically work the same way with the vital switch of replacing the gun with any sharp implement that will cause enough blood and guts to try and make viewers lose their lunch. Yet, weaponry aside-- it's still definitely all about the girl.

In other words, the scream, stab, and bleed franchise consistently offers women the most work outside of the rom-com genre save for the fact that the requirements usually consist of a double-D chest, the ability to let out a deafening scream, shampoo commercial hair, and an illogical fondness for going topless while checking out a mysterious noise, wandering into a lake despite the fact that your friends have vanished, etc.

When done right, the genre can deliver a smash success out of John Carpenter's revolutionary independent film Halloween which put Jamie Lee Curtis on the map and ushered in a whole new "golden age" of horror with its many rip-offs including the one that managed to become a never-ending box office ATM machine that started simply with the ultimate title of Friday the 13th which I was stunned to discover earned more money at the box office that year than Dressed to Kill and The Shining.

Additionally it spawened nearly a dozen sequels, a remake, a television series, and a rabid cult following that helped make Friday the 13th one of the biggest movie franchises of the '80s and solidified Paramount's status as the premiere source of entertainment for the decade (it's astounding when you analyze their output in terms of hits and contemporary classics over the course of ten years).

Naturally and even though it was totally illogical-- when the first one became an overnight sensation, those involved knew the demand was there for a sequel. However, they'd killed off not only 99.9% of their entire cast of protagonists-- a.k.a. horny teens (including Kevin Bacon) as well as the villain in a dynamite twist that revealed it wasn't a male serial killer but the otherwise unassuming sweater adorned, sweet looking mother driven psychotic over the loss of her son.

Yet, aside from beheading Betsy Palmer's Mrs. Voorhees whose "kill her mommy, kill her," still sends shivers down my spine... the door was unconsciously left open when the filmmakers decided to out-do Brian DePalma's Carrie in terms of a final fright.

And that they did-- both to their pleasure and chagrin (as a number of participants from the first film didn't take part in the second or most sequels) by creating one of the longest and still most effective horror movie finale twists of all time. Vividly seared in my mindscape-- when I think of Friday the 13th-- instead of Jason and the hockey mask, I always see the lovely Adrienne King. King's Alice-- the sole survivor of the carnage and the woman who slayed Mrs. Voorhees paddles away until she succumbs to exhaustion in a canoe in the middle of Crystal Lake only to awaken to a strange creature under the sea popping up and pulling her under the water with him.

When she inquires about "the little boy" and is told that no one had been found, the filmmakers led us to believe it was all a hallucination in her frightened head but because the film was returning and they needed a new villain, screenwriter Ron Kurz took the "legend of Jason" and set it into motion in the sequel by presenting viewers with the idea that he'd possibly been a "feral" wild-child living in the woods and solely dependent on his psychotic but fiercely protective mother.

In order to not rock the canoe any further, Mrs. Voorhees was replaced by the menacing and disfigured Jason as the damn near invincible baddie who slices and dices his way (in a burlap sack primarily before the iconic hockey mask was introduced in Part 3) in what feels essentially like a retread of the first movie.

However, in order to avoid completely ripping off their own material, a few changes were made as King returns for a dynamite opener that you just know probably inspired Scream and Final Destination as it begins ominously with the foreboding sense that she'll be killed yet it's the "how" and "when" that makes this horror prologue work better than most of the other pieces of the entire film.

Likewise, switching it up from Camp Crystal Lake-- this time the place otherwise known as Camp Blood is now a Counselor Training Center. And although you wouldn't imagine that people would still return to a site filled with so much carnage, there's another randy group of young adults all too willing to visit, despite the obligatory warning not to go near there since as we realize following the opener, five years have passed since the events of the first movie.

As a franchise expert notes in one of the Blu-ray's extras-- the filmmakers themselves acknowledged that they were basically remaking the first one but now with better technology and a bigger budget which allowed them to do so in a way that they hoped would make it "bloodier, scarier, slicker," and much faster than its predecessor with crisper camera work and deaths that become far more elaborate as the idea of booby-traps are worked in to frightening effect.

While most of the characters are interchangeable and don't make much of an impression in the slightest, the character of Ginny played by Amy Steel is a much stronger one than King's Alice as she takes the time to psychoanalyze Jason (asking her cohorts in a bar to think hypothetically with the idea that it was all real instead of a legend) and engages in a terrifically tense cat-and-mouse chase in the last portion of the film that does indeed surpass the original one.

Although they will never top King's shock with the flipped canoe as audiences first met Jason and the second is essentially only interesting for its development of Jason as we see the early workings of the character who has come a very long way from the guy we first saw just by his dark shoes-- the moonlit showdown between Ginny and Jason is excellent.

With Harry Manfredini's instantly recognizable and incredible horror score of "chh chh chh ahh ahh ahh" working overtime, Ginny tries to break down his insanity in one admittedly cheesy but creative sequence where she impersonates his mother. Thus she proves to be a far more intellectually capable horror heroine than we're usually dealt with repetitions of women holding tiny knives and hiding under beds or in closets (all of which is done here as well at one point or another).

Featuring all of the extras given the high definition treatment, although "Inside 'Crystal Lake Memories'" which interviews the expert who literally wrote the book on the franchise is the only worthwhile one-- overall, it's an intriguing variation of the same film as the first one that's perhaps less novel, less filled with the genuine shock of the first (with the canoe and killer as a middle aged mother) but technically superior and boasting a great role for Amy Steel as Ginny.

While there's no hiding the age of the picture, Paramount did a tremendous job with this remastered Blu-ray that encapsulates the same effect and heightened surround sound of the DVD release earlier in the year via the studio's Deluxe Edition but sharpening it up considerably for the move to 1080 pixels. Although of course, you can watch the film in 5.1 surround or Dolby TrueHD-- as a purist, I loved viewing it in the retro mono sound which-- together with the enhanced picture made me feel as though I was seeing the film back in the theatre in 1981.