The following examination of the second Friday the 13th, and all subsequent discussion on the series, won't be reviews as such, and will therefore contain numerous SPOILERS. I will be including this warning before each entry. Please read no further if you haven't already seen the movie in question. Thanks."Some kind of out of control psychopath? A frightened retard? A child trapped in a man's body?"
It would be hard for me to pinpoint my main reason for being fascinated by the Friday the 13th franchise, but one of the major contenders would be the way it plays fast and loose with its own mythology, and how it seems to be able to get away with it. I think the explanation lies in its shaky beginning. The creators of Friday the 13th have admitted that they had no idea where they were going to go with the second one and the development of Jason was just one of many different possibilities. Compare this organic way of constructing a mythology with any other series. As examples, Halloween and Hellraiser established ground rules and main antagonists right off the bat, and any deviation from that standard, no matter how minor or even beneficial, was considered a form of blasphemy. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Friday the 13th evades this trap simply by having little in the way of a concrete foundation from the very start, which isn't to say that various installments haven't stretched this dubious advantage to its breaking point. Yes, I'm looking at you The One Where Jason Goes Into Outer Space.
The Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back, The Bride of Frankenstein, Friday the 13th Part 2. Many people feel that this movie is one of those rare jewels, the sequel that is superior to its originator. I'm not sure I agree, but I can see why some would feel that way. Part 2 retains some of the grit of the first film, while finally establishing some of the more popular ground rules. With its transitional sequence from Part 1 to Part 2 out of the way, this installment jumps right in with a noticeable lack of bosomy support and the introduction of some truly scandalous ass cheek-enhancing short shorts. The 80's are just starting to kick into gear, camp counselors have gathered at nearby Camp Packanack for "training" and already the woods are looking more spacious and inviting.
Jason's supposed origin is told to the counselors as they huddle around a campfire. In it, Jason didn't drown as a child but survived and lived in a near bestial state in the surrounding woods. He was, according to legend, an unwitting witness to his mother's demise, which set him on his current path of destruction. To purists, this origin is the true one, preferable to the notion advanced in later films that Jason drowned in the lake and emerged from his slumber upon his mother's death. Truth be told, though numerous indications are made throughout the second film to support the first theory, we never objectively find out what happened to Jason during those missing decades. The head counselor's campfire tale is just that, a tale. If it also happens to be true is pure coincidence.
The inherent isolation of Jason in this situation, if this version is true, adds a compelling twist to his character. Unlike, say, the family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jason is left without a support system. His motives are entirely clear, untainted by the whims of kin or friends. It's true, as critics have asserted, that Jason's actions are base, but how much thought has gone into the how and why of his rampage? Does he even understand the concept of Death, or what happened to his mother? The time that Jason has spent in the woods scrounging like an animal take up nearly half his life before the events of the first Friday the 13th, two decades worth, and none of it is accounted for. Also of interest is the human weakness shown by Jason in the second film. He hasn't yet developed his purposeful stride, instead varying his step from a slow stalk to a sharp trot to running away instead of towards danger. His hand isn't sure and steady yet, groping around seeking out a vengeance even he doesn't fully understand, but somehow feels compelled to obey. He even sets snares and requires shelter from the elements and his mask is utilitarian, with only one ragged eye hole poked through a dirty burlap sack.
Back to the story, in the evening the majority of the counselors make their way to the local watering hole for a few drinks and necking. This whittles the large group down to a more manageable level, but it's also weird in that they decide not to partake in such pleasures at the camp itself. In fact, at least one of the major characters, Ted the obligatory smart ass, doesn't even return to the camp. He ends up staying behind and we never really find out what, if anything, happened to him. The killings themselves have a few bright spots, including another use of the fake subjective camera where it appears that we're watching through the killer's eyes when really it's just another case of sleight-of-hand. Even the victims are interesting. It's one of the only instances that I can think of in a slasher film where the characters actually state their dreams and aspirations for a future they don't have, almost convincing an audience so used to ciphers that anyone with hopes can't possibly be cut down before they're given a chance to make them come true. It's little flourishes like this that place the first two films up there with Halloween and other more respected slasher fare, despite the heavy and usually well-deserved criticisms that came with later installments.
Now despite my preference for the first one, the second film has what is easily my favourite scene in the entire series, and one of my favourite scenes in all horror films. I'm glad Final Girl
pointed this one out as well. I'm talking about the scene where Paul is investigating a dimly lit room in the main cabin and Ginny says "Paul, there's someone in this room,"
which escalates to "There's someone in this fucking room!"
That instinctual knowledge that someone is right there with you, coupled with what seems to be a reluctance to immediately freak out for fear of embarrassment. It's the battle between rational reluctance and irrational certainty, played out in two nearly identical sentences, with the word "fucking" hammering the fact of the matter home. That second sentence pops right out, much more then if Ginny had simply started screaming straight away. It's a punch to the gut, and the perfect signal to start a new round of carnage, because all the last minute warnings in the world can't help you when the killer is right beside you unseen, waiting.
Damn, I'm going to go watch that part again.