Friday the 13th, Part 2
A couple years ago I swore to myself I wouldn’t go the whole HD route. Two different formats, and neither with much market penetration? No thanks. Besides, I’ve already got an HD satellite subscription that I hardly use as is. Well, Blu-ray won, and with that HD-DVD discs and players both hid dirt cheap prices. Army of Darkness HD-DVD and DVD combo for $3.99 at Safeway? Okay, fine, I’m in. Two combo players and fourty discs later, I guess I’m fully invested in this newish medium. I’ve still got one thousand DVDs though, with no signs of stopping, so where should the line be drawn? I’ve drawn it at the classics. The only time I’ll upgrade to HD is if they’re giving them away (like HD-DVD), or more likely if the films have such significance to me that they demand the highest resolution possible. For me, the Friday the 13th films fall into that latter stratum.
Freddy and Michael are cool (well, at least John Carpenter’s Michael is) but Jason and his whole film series mythology is something of legend to me. Growing up, it was always something more to me, and even today I marvel that so much grandeur was confined in Paramount’s earnest eight. But it was, and now that they’re finally hitting Blu-ray, I’m eating up the fact that I can truly pick them apart – looking into backgrounds to try and find parts and pieces that might reveal just a little more than what we Friday fans already know. Seeing the cropping on Friday the 13th wasn’t quite bliss, but seeing the 3D finally, wholeheartedly work for Part 3 was a great pleasure. But now, we come to my favorite little ditty, the camp slasher to end them all – Friday the 13th, Part 2. Jason’s first outing as star is also his best – but does his first outing on Blu-ray fare the same?
The orderlies assured Alice (Adrienne King) that the memories she had about being pulled underwater by the undead Jason at the end of Friday the 13th were just figments of a dream. They were wrong. Five years later, Alice is home alone near Crystal Lake and ready for a midnight snack. Instead of a sandwich, she finds Mrs. Voorhees’ head, and seconds later a grown up Jason (five years can do a lot, right?) is driving an ice pick through the main course. With all the counsellors from the first film dismissed, it’s time to move on to the next batch of counsellors. No one in their right mind would open up camp again after all the problems that befell Crystal Lake, so instead, someone opens a copycat camp across the pond. Jason’s woods are a big woods, though, and no desecration of his mother’s legacy will go unpunished.
Paul’s (John Furey) the head counsellor at Packanack Lodge, the new counsellor training centre across the lake. The other significants are soon to be Final Girl, Ginny (Amy Steel), the skinny dipper with a red herring dog, Terri (Kirsten Baker), soon to be shish kebob Jeff (Bill Randolph) and Sandra (School Spirit’s Marta Kober) and Mark (Tom McBride), cinema’s only wheelchair jock. Of course Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) is still riding around on his bicycle spouting out drunken dictums of doom, but naturally, nobody listens. The bodycount picks up again when, after an iconic campfire incantation of Jason’s legend, the counsellors to be decide to walk through the woods in search of that killer man boy. They find his shanty, and Mr. Strong Silent Type ain’t too impressed. Dressed in plaid and trendy jean overalls, Jason picks up where his mother left off...again and again and again.
Most of the Counsellors Who Aren’t Introduced By Name head off to the local pub for some Friday night delights, but for those who stay back, Jason’s planned his own fun and games. No Strip Monopoly this time ‘round, but Mark arm wrestles a woman...and wins! There’s also those handheld blinking lights hockey games to show that yes, humanity has advanced in the five years since the first film. It’s a dark and stormy night, where the rain pours and the win howls...but nothing will stop Jason. He’ll skewer you with an spear. Hang you before slitting your throat. Stab you with an ice pick or, most memorably, put a machete in your face and push you down a staircase. Nobody is lucky on Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is what loving slashers is all about. A loveable cast of amateurs, inventive kills, a leafy camp ground setting and one psychologically tormented killer. The first film was charming in its meagre style and overall earnestness, but Steve Miner’s effort here trumps the original in every which way. The only black mark may be the absence of Tom Savini behind the makeup, but considering the film still continues to be presented in cut form, we may never be able to compare each in all fairness. What Miner does, and what virtually no other slasher film has managed to do before or since, is create such an overall atmosphere of fun. So often slashers waver from sex comedy hijinks to darkly lit scares, but here Miner gets it both ways, keeping that fun campground atmosphere throughout while still serving up kills both day and night. And as mentioned earlier, the kills this time are no slouch. Jason learned a lot from his mother and then some – each death has a unique twist, but it isn’t so outlandish that he’s stuffing road flares through people’s mouths like his doppelganger does in A New Beginning. Again, Miner manages to really mine the perfect balance between laughs and scares, fun and freakish, smart and simple.
It’s not only the kills that are orchestrated with skill – the stylings take a major step up with this second effort. Some of the most iconic shots in the series come from this picture, with that slow zoom in during the warmly lit campfire tale, the kill from the perspective of Jason’s knife (complete with bruised nail) and that oft-reused shot of the candlelit shrine to the beheaded Mrs. Voorhees. More than just point and shoot, there was a real devotion to giving the genre born of voyeurism a form that would really make it worth peeping in on. The addition of the steadicam makes all the many prowling scenes in the forest much more mobile and menacing. The panaglide operator, Eric Von Haren Noman, did so well here that Miner called not only him back for Part 3, but recommended him to the Weinsteins to lens another classic camp slasher, The Burning. I had the pleasure of working under him on a shoot a few years ago, and when I asked him what his approach was when making these movies he told me quite simply “the money was pretty good”.
Okay, so the film, and the series, has never been considered high art. Cunningham even mentions throughout the extras on the first film that the series was devised solely to make a quick buck. The cut from Terri’s puppy, Muffin, running into Jason to a shot of hot dogs on the grill isn’t exactly what Eisenstein had in mind when he wrote his treatise in montage and editing. Yet still it works, and it works well. The aim may have been to cash a paycheck – to bring Hollywood out to the woodsy East coast, but what was created was so much more. The low budget and inexperienced cast give the film a realism that was mostly missing throughout the Spielbergian excess that defined the eighties. In many ways, these little camp flicks was cinema’s way of connecting with audiences the same way verite documentaries did in the sixties and seventies. Only with a lot more tits, ass and gore.
Psychosexual hang-ups like those on display in Halloween, The Burning and American Nightmare, which commonly came saddled with guilt and sadness, were suddenly turned fun. Sean S. Cunningham’s goal of making the filmic equivalent of a rollercoaster finally came true. This is that crossover slasher film where the typical trappings of the genre have been massaged into entertaining accessibility. When Jason comes crashing through the window at the end, it’s not to demonstrate society’s failure in rehabilitating Michael Myers, or in correcting Angela’s gender identity in Sleepaway Camp. With Jason there’s no blame – he’s a simple boy getting simple revenge. He isn’t scarred the way Alex is in Prom Night or Kenny in Terror Train. He loves his mom, and it’s that quality that in a way makes his deaths something to champion rather than guiltily appreciate. This little invalid is doing his mamma proud, and doing it well. It a success story like that that reaffirms the hope of the American Dream, isn’t it?
Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter is commonly cited as the fan favourite, but after the fun of the first half, the film gets downright dirty, savaging vacationers to grisly masses of body parts when before Jason was just doing his duty. It stops being fun and ends up being downright masochistic. In The Final Chapter there’s a real lasting legacy to Jason’s violence, with campers looking for revenge for lost family members, or Corey Feldman memorably starring into the camera after Jason’s killing spree sent him into a psychotic distress that would last three films. There’s a place for that along with all the other great, draining films of the slasher canon, but again, what sets Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2 from the pack is its ability to make merry what most films made harrowing. Miner shows great delight in carving Jason’s mythology for the first time, and all the leaves fall in one perfect pile. This is the quintessential camp slasher, the best in the series and in many ways the one slasher that all others tried to emulate. Not bad for a deformed backwoods boy with a burlap sack for a mask!
Those hoping the added resolution of Blu-ray would finally be able to tell us just what the hell happens when piss runs under the bed when a rat scampers by Ginny will sadly be disappointed by this new transfer – because I still have no fucking clue! That said, those with more modest hopes for this disc – that it will tack on a broader contrast spectrum, a higher resolution and a more filmic picture to the already exceptional Deluxe DVD upgrade, will find no surprises here. This new MPEG-4 AVC Blu-ray transfer, 1.78:1, progressive and anamorphic, is just the kind of upgrade you’d expect of the medium. There aren’t any earth shattering improvements over the DVD, but still, the quality is noticeably superior, especially when you look at the finer details.
Thin lines, like hair, for example, would previously show compression artifacts and softening when looked at closely. In Blu, though, they come out one strand at a time, and just make the overall image look that much more lifelike. The new DVD revealed much more information than the previous darker DVD, and this Blu-ray, too, increases the picture retention in the darker areas without affecting the contrast. Consider the campfire scene and how in Blu you can see the cabin walls that were once engulfed in black. It’s again the little details like that that make the Blu-ray transfer that much more flattering to the eye. Seeing the effects work with the added resolution is also a plus, since even then it shows that the effects still really do hold up (unlike in Part 3 where several of the wires used in the 3D gags make themselves evident in Blu).
If details like that don’t really matter to you, then you’ll be more than happy with Paramount’s lovely Deluxe DVD, but if you’ve got to have the best, then Paramount’s delivered with another fine Blu-ray upgrade.
As with the other Fridays to hit the Blu, this one upgrades the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track to Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and retains all the other tracks as they were. Truthfully, there isn’t much difference at all between the two tracks, so here’s my review of the audio from the Deluxe DVD:
Like the Friday the 13th Deluxe DVD, this one also comes packed with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. While this track does the same in opening up the sound space into the surrounds, it isn’t quite the track that the one on the original is. There is absolutely no low end, and often a lot of the high violin spikes from Manfredini’s track come through very shrill. Less work has been done in separating the track, too, with all the dialogue and primary sound effects simply stuck in the center channel. There is no directional separation between speakers. That said, the surrounds do effectively add ambient sounds throughout, and Manfredini’s score does a bit of creeping in those satellite speakers, too. The audio itself is very clean and without hiss, and on the whole sounds a lot better than almost every other slasher from the time. It definitely sounds much better than the original release, too, but still, it’s mono in its roots, and there’s little done here to make you forget that. If you really do forget, then the actual mono track itself is included in English, French and Spanish.
Since I’m in the copying and pasting mood, I may as well do it for the extras, too, since they’re identical to the ones found on the Deluxe DVD. The only difference is that Paramount’s nicely included all the extras (including the trailer) in 1080p HD, save for the older “Jason Forever” that was done in standard definition all those years ago for the box set. For those wanting to know more about the extras, here, again, is my review of the previous DVD:
Part 2 is my favourite film in the series, and indeed one of my favourite horror films. So seeing that this new disc has only a fraction of the extras that the first film does, and that half of them are old content, this “Deluxe” edition is a de-sappointment. The main new extra is “Inside Crystal Lake Memories” which is a sit down between Dark Delicacies owner Del Howison and Crystal Lake Memories writer Peter Bracke. Rather than this being a puff piece on Bracke’s making-of, it’s actually more a discussion about Part 2 and what changed from the first film to the second. Bracke certainly did his research, and offers some clarification about the original ending and why Steve Miner took over as director. It’s nine minutes, and a good companion piece to the other different supplements on the disc.
There’s also a short but sweet new featurette, “Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions” that shows all the panellists from the Friday the 13th Reunion on the Friday Blu-ray, but shows them separated and natural as they talk one on one with fans at their respective tables. There are a few short blurbs about each one about fan culture, and some of the Scarefest festival programmers, and a fan or two, weigh in on the whole phenomena as well. It’s only seven minutes, but a nice sampler of what these things are all about.
Jason Forever was a Best Buy exclusive disc for the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set, but it is now included here in its 30 minute entirety. Along with “Crystal Lake Memories” writer Peter Brake, there are four former Jasons on display here – the first, Ari Lehman, the second, Warrington Gilette, the first post-mortem, C.J. Graham and the fan favourite, Kane Hodder. It’s an enjoyable panel discussion, with Ari sharing the same anecdotes as he did on the extras for the first film, but with all the others humble and armed with a few good stories. Gilette expresses his continued surprise at being an icon, since he had originally auditioned for a part as a counsellor. He also has plenty to say about the famous finale. C.J. Graham is a daddy now, and shares some stories about how his kid approaches the series, but he has a funny bit where he scares the panel with a spontaneous bit of put upon rage. Hodder’s a guy I wouldn’t want to double cross, the stern steroid that he is, and here he seems a bit dismayed at having been overlooked for the role in Freddy vs. Jason. He loves his character, though, and has a lot of worthy information to share. It’s nice to finally have this as part of a regular release.
There’s also a new “Lost Tales From Camp Blood” murder segment, this one moving from the cabin of the first disc to a sunny forest with two campers facing the wrath of Jason. Well, err, I think it’s Jason. Still, the guy doesn’t have a mask, but since Harry Manfredini’s score rages on, we’ll give wardrobe the benefit of the doubt. It’s not particularly well made, but it’s still fun to see Jason’s legacy continued in this fresh series of features. Keep ‘em coming for the future discs!
Lastly, there’s the trailer that was previously included on the original disc. Overall, it’s a decent assortment of extras, but with no talk from the director, writer, or any of the original counsellors, this disc can’t feel anything but incomplete.
As much as I enjoy the first film, I always look at it as more of a pilot episode compared to the series proper that would begin with Part 2. Even if Paramount didn’t know it yet, Jason makes the perfect killer here, and this film does the best in developing the character, expanding the legend and upping the fun. There’s a chuckle for every shriek, thanks to both a fine cast of counselors and a creative assortment of deaths. There’s even a psychology lesson stuffed in the plot for good measure. If there’s any film a slasher should aspire to, then this is it. This new Blu-ray improves over the already impressive audio and video quality of the previous Deluxe DVD with an even greater range of visual detail and a slightly fuller sound space. The extras are identical other than the HD upgrade, which still means that Steve Miner and John Furey are stubbornly absent. While the extras still may leave a bit to be desired (not even a commentary?), fans can’t really ask for much more when it comes to audio and video quality. If you’re a diehard fan, go Blu, but otherwise sticking with the Deluxe DVD will no doubt do. If you’re watching it through a potato sack with a single eye hole cutout though…then we need to talk.
*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.
I cant wait to get a blu ray player...!
I'm just going to wait for the box set. Around that time, there hopefully will be more uncut footage for the series planned. It always goes that way with Paramount.
But, one must wonder with F13 2; if Pamela killed the counselors to extract a sort of vengeance (albeit on the innocent) for her son drowning in the first...
It looks like this one is identical in transfer and disc content to the UK Blu-ray. So, happily I won't have to upgrade this one!
OLD-BOO-RADLEY: I wish i could have your patience...i want a Blu player and Part 2!!!!!
Already pre-ordered. My fav Friday the 13th movie too!
Boo, that's definitely the big unanswered question in the series. My way to rationalize it:
Rhett, I like your theory, but I find this similar one more convincing (and an idea I brought up on forums to great disdain for a remake outline):
Anyone hardcore enough to debunk that one? :p
The second film takes place five years after the first (says title card), so:
^ Haha that was hardcore enough.
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