by Jack Sommersby
It's not atrocious like a lot of '80s slasher movies, but it's not particularly distinguished, either.With uncreative kills (excepting one involving a spear), tame carnal relations, and a dire lack of scares, Friday the 13th Part 2 is a lackadaisical sequel that definitely makes one want to revisit the flawed but perfectly acceptable original. For the uninitiated, that box-office smash involved an array of camp counselors being systematically slaughtered one fateful night while getting the immortal Camp Crystal Lake ready for its summer opening. The killer, largely unseen until the final fifteen minutes, hacked away at the nubile, pot-smoking, sexually-promiscuous teens with a Grim Reaper's efficiency -- finding quite inventive ways with sharpened instruments, ranging from arrows, knives and axes that would've made the Marquis de Sade positively weep with unbridled envy. The culprit, finally revealed, was deranged mother Pamela Voorhees, the mother of a boy who presumably drowned twenty-two years prior at that same camp while the counselors were too busy making whoopee; she was eventually decapitated by the heroine, Alice, who, following the standard slasher-movie template, neither made sexual overtures nor had sexual intercourse, thus ensuring her survival. Until now, that is, for the movie opens five years later with an extended sequence where Alice (still played by the excellent Adrienne King) is alone in her townhouse and still having nightmares over those tumultuous events -- we're given brief flashbacks from the original detailing her graphically doing in Big Bad Mama; but her screen time is rather brief as she's soon the victim of an icepick to the head at the hands of an unforeseen assailant right when she's about to feed her kitty (which, of course, has been employed for the sole sake of jumping out at her right beforehand for a cheap shock effect). We forward to a camp-counselor training center, which is just starting its session and which just happens to be located quite close to Camp Crystal, which local law enforcement has declared off-limits. The youngsters this time around run to more or less the same 'ol type: the mature, level-headed directors of the center Paul (John Furey) and Ginny (Amy Steel); practical joker/flirt Scott (Russell Todd); skinny, carrot-top geek Mark (Stuart Charno); sexually-active couple Jeff (Bill Randolph) and Sandra (Marta Kober); flimsily-clad, bodacious-figured Terry (Kristen Baker); with wheelchair-bound Mark (Tom McBride) and lusting-after-him cutie Vickie (Lauren Marie-Taylor) thrown into the mix. Oh, and also making an appearance is Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), who's still into issuing warnings to the teens that their fates will be sealed if they don't listen to him; naturally, they don't, ensuring their untimely-demises, and, in a welcome surprise, Ralph is finally earmarked to meet his maker, as well. (Then again, maybe Gorney's horrific thespian abilities is the reason why.) After some boring exposition and talking-heads scenes, the seasonal slaughter is under way, with an adult Jason, who most definitely is not dead, getting even for the death of his mother (though how his sub-mental, backwoods, man-beast self was able to locate Alice in a major city is something for scholars to contemplate, I guess).
Granted, one doesn't go into something like Friday the 13th Part 2 expecting something of Shakespearean proportions, but it's still an inept piece of work. The debuting director, Steve Miner, doesn't get enough creepy atmosphere going -- unlike in the original, we never feel the counselors are vulnerably isolated out in the woods; and his camerawork is consistently underwhelming (the numerous shots from the killer's point-of-view are overused and clunky; and the compositions are inexpressive and boxy in a bland TV kind of way -- it's hard to believe the movie was shot in 1.85:1 rather than 1.33:1). Here is a filmmaker who's not only fouling up on the basics but throwing in groan-inducing attempts at humor like cutting from a shot of a dog walking up to Jason's feet to one of hot dogs cooking away on a grill. And what on earth, pray tell, possessed him to unfathomably cut to shots of a full moon during a late-in-the-game action sequence (with grade-Z spatial logistics, mind you) where Jason is in hot pursuit of Ginny over hundreds of yards? You'd think someone of even mediocre technical know-how couldn't screw up an entry in an undemanding series such as this, but darned if Miner, whose use of film language is akin to a drunk fumbling about for his car keys, rolls snake eyes through most of the still-feels-overlong eighty-six-minute running time. Of course, the screenplay by Ron Kurz (who did much better work in the crude but effective urban slasher Eyes of a Stranger), hasn't exactly provided the sturdiest of groundwork. The dialogue is pure poppycock ("What's brown and sits on a piano? Beethoven's bowel movement"), the telegraphing of plot devices blatantly obvious to the nth degree (a VW having trouble starting at the beginning, and a chainsaw, which we haven't seen used for anything, being put away in a nearby closet), and the ultra-low behavioral actions of the heroine pitiful beyond belief (after she strikes Jason with the chainsaw, rather than finishing him off while he's on the floor, she just hits him with a chair and runs away, just so Jason can have -- no pun intended -- yet another stab at her). Which is a shame because some of the performers, against all odds, manage to come through. Furey's understated, quietly-resilient hero is very appealing. Baker, who indulges in a skinny-dipping scene displaying the kind of perfect figure and delectable tan lines that should make all men libidinously moan, has a playful naughtiness that's all her own. And McBride and Marie-Taylor have a couple of really sweet scenes. (Unfortunately, Steel's performance is runny, with both Randolph and Kober repulsive and about as erotic as raw sewage.) Friday the 13th Part 2 simply fails to deliver the goods, with gorehounds likely to be disappointed, too, what with Miner, whose camera never seems to be in the right damn place, cutting away from the killings way too soon -- there's more of the almighty red stuff to be found in an old Marcus Welby, M.D. rerun, for cripe's sake. Tsk, tsk.Rent the original.
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originally posted: 10/23/11 11:00:42