Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Once in a blood moon, a franchise will come along that redefines a subgenre and takes it to the next level. Such is the case with the Friday the 13th franchise, which essentially created the Horror subgenre of Slasher flicks as we know them to this day. While it’s unlikely that we’ll get a new installment in the series any time soon, now’s still the perfect time to review this franchise as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, the fine folks over at Scream Factory have released The Friday the 13th Collection on Blu-Ray! As such, I’ll be reviewing not only the movies in this franchise but these new Blu-Ray releases as well. So, let’s return to Camp Crystal Lake, where “The Body Count Continues” in Friday The 13th: Part 2 (1981)!
When producer/director Sean S. Cunningham prompted screenwriter Victor Miller to rip-off Halloween (1978), I doubt that either of these guys had any idea how successful Friday the 13th (1980) would become — Hence, why these two creative forces are currently in the midst of a lawsuit regarding the franchise that original entry spawned. Anyway, that first film was so successful that Cunningham, his investors in Boston, and the folks over at Paramount wanted to make a sequel immediately.
Initially, he was all for making a particular type of sequel: one which lead Friday the 13th to become an anthology franchise wherein each new movie would tell a fresh horror story set on the titular date. (Interestingly enough, John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted to do the same thing with the Halloween franchise and made an unsuccessful attempt with Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a couple of years later in 1983). However, the distributor nor the investors had any interest in pursuing the notion of making Friday the 13th an annual anthology. On the contrary, they wanted more of the same, maintaining that’s where the money would come from since that’s what audiences wanted to see.
Despite being un-enthused with making a stalking slasher flick once again, Cunningham relented and chose to pursue this more repetitive formula. But in doing so, he also decided to take a backseat as a producer and hand over the directorial reins to his protege, and first-time director, Steve Miner. The newly-minted director and his mentor now had to figure out how to build a sequel and continue the body count. While making Jason Voorhees the new killer is an obvious and logical choice, some folks evolved in the production couldn’t get on board with the idea that he survived.
The two most notable people to reject this premise were writer Victor Miller and SFX creator Tom Savini — both of whom staunchly maintained that Young Jason (Ari Lehman) was a figment of Alice’s (Adrienne King) imagination. As a result, both gentlemen declined the opportunity to work on the sequel. Oddly enough, Savini instead opted to lend his talents to one of the early Friday the 13th rip-offs, The Burning (1981).
Undeterred by their previous collaborators’ refusals, Cunningham and Miner passed the pen to Ron Kurz, who was responsible for some uncredited rewrites on the original Friday the 13th.
Originally entitled Friday the 13th, Part II: Jason, the sequel is primarily set five years after the long murderous night in 1979 at Camp Crystal Lake. In 1984, a new summer camp is opening on the shore across from permanently closed Camp Crystal Lake, now dubbed “Camp Blood.” Believing a half-decade has allowed enough time to pass, head camp counselors, and couple, Paul (John Furey) and Ginny (Amy Steel) are enthusiastic about opening a new camp despite the shore’s blood-drenched past. Thus, they are, of course, ready to train a new group of teenage camp counselors.
Before the real work begins, though, Paul decides to let his new crew have a night of camaraderie and fun. This inaugural evening is kicked-off with Paul regaling his staff with a campfire tale of Jason Voorhees (Warrington Galette and Steve Dash). According to the legend, a fully-grown Jason now roams the woods around the area, looking to avenge his mother, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), by slaying any and all who dare step foot on the campgrounds!
Before this night is over, this group will come to learn just how real, and deadly, Jason Voorhees is!
As with Miller on the original film, Kurz’s mission was simple on Friday the 13th: Part 2. The screenwriter was given his orders from the film’s investors via Cunningham: “Do the same thing again; just make it better.” In crafting the screenplay and bringing it to the silver screen, I believe the cast and crew of this sequel achieved that goal in many ways.
It is worth noting, though, that the protagonist and final girl from the previous film, Alice, was allegedly supposed to have a much more prominent role in the sequel. Unfortunately, due to a stalking incident following the original film’s release, Adrienne King chose to only appear in the film’s opening sequence. Although, it is, frankly, impossible to know how much Alice’s inclusion had been ironed-out before she made her decision. According to King, she didn’t know of her character’s fate until she arrived on-set, and even then, the actress maintains she ad-libbed much of her scene.
In any event, Kurz’s screenplay for Part 2 is what it needs to be and more. Once again, we’re introduced to a cast of likable teen counselors who are picked off one-by-one. Moreover, they are endearing teenagers who are much more focused on some summer lovin’ than the original film’s cast of protagonists. I’m not entirely sure why, but sex seems to permeate this film — a distinct change from its predecessor.
The focus is not gross or perverse, mind you. On the contrary, this sequel is merely more of an innocent sex romp before the majority of violence and horror kick-in (which is odd considering both flicks have roughly the same amount of sex and nudity). By focusing a little more on carnal desires, Kurz truly cemented one of the cornerstones in this franchise. The other, of course, is violence and gore.
More importantly, though, the screenplay legitimately establishes an adult Jason Voorhees as a campfire legend come to life. Sure, he’s a seemingly mindless killer who’s to be feared. But, unlike his contemporaries, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, Jason evokes a bit of sympathy. After all, he was a child with developmental issues who never got the chance to grow and evolve properly. On top of that, the only support system he had, his mother, is dead (albeit, she rightfully earn her demise). No matter how you slice it, though, Jason’s just a cat who was dealt a lousy deck of cards. Instead of playing them, though, he cut them all up.
These fun characters are brought to life by a superb cast. The teen counselors are a more charismatic bunch than those in the original picture. Amy Steel gives a strong performance as Ginny, a Final Girl armed with a background in child psychology.
Then there are my two favorite camp counselors in the entirety of the franchise: Mark (Tom McBride) and Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor). Now, as a person who has Cerebral Palsy and uses crutches — and, occasionally, a wheelchair — I am a little biased, but I’ve always been incredibly pleased to see Mark represented as a character who is not strictly defined by his paralysis. Moreover, the dude finds a girlfriend in Vickie, who looks past Mark’s apparent physical deficit and legitimately digs on him. It is a dynamic which genuinely gave me hope as a kid, and one which came to fruition later in life. Oddly enough, though, the wheelchair kill in this picture is my favorite of the entire series. What can I say? I have a dark sense of humor.
Aside from the camp counselors, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the man himself. As noted above, Jason Voorhees is portrayed by two folks here. First, there’s actor Warrington Galette, who appears as Jason more often with prosthetic deformity makeup as opposed to having a bag on his head. But as he proved unqualified to do the stunt work required to play this antagonist in full, stunt coordinator Steve Dash carried the remainder of the load.
In my opinion, both of these gentlemen get their respective jobs done as Jason. Even still, who played Jason most of the time is still in debate among the horror community after all these years. Depending on which fellow Part 2 cast members are interviewed, you’ll get a different answer to which of these guys played Jason the most. I find myself learning toward the late Steve Dash as the majority player.
The only issue I have with this prototype version of Jason is that he looks like a straight-up rip-off of the bag headed killer from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976). Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying Part 2‘s costume designer, Ellen Lutter (who portrays Jason in this flick’s opening shot), internationally copied the bag head aesthetic from that true crime film. Still, it certainly seems to be an inspiration. As a result, we get a memorable Jason, but not the iconic one yet.
All elements of the sequel are brought together by Miner as the director. In being promoted to the helm, Miner, and new cinematographer Peter Stein (Pet Sematary), not only maintain on the visual palette and overall tone established in the original picture, but also expand upon it. Beyond that, though, I feel Miner outshines his mentor, Sean Cunningham, as a director. He feels more adept and invested behind the camera, whereas Cunningham was seemingly pulling double-duty out of necessity. Miner is by no means an auteur — he’s a classic example of your workman filmmaker and there’s nothing wrong with that.
More importantly, though, Miller and company help truly grow the Friday mythos despite the lack of iconography. For better or worse, no one outside of hardcore horror fans such as myself think about the original film in this franchise or Mrs. Voorhees when they think of Friday the 13th. On the contrary, most folks envision the character who will rule the rest of the franchise: Jason Voorhees. So much so that Part 2‘s predecessor almost feels like a prequel to this franchise’s remainder. As a result, Friday The 13th: Part 2 is perhaps the most significant Franchise Expansion I’ve seen yet as it sets the template for the rest of this series in a concrete fashion.
Unfortunately, though, for all it achieves, this sequel does have one significant flaw. Friday The 13th: Part 2 has some great kills, but except for my aforementioned and beloved wheelchair gag, most of them were unable to be executed (no pun intended) to their full potential. After essentially letting the original Friday slip through the cracks with minimal cuts to garner an R-rating, the MPAA ratings board had it out for the sequel and all the slasher flicks of that time as well. Thus, all the kills in this flick were all but neutered by the ratings board. Despite this near censorship and another thrashing by most critics, audiences flocked to the movie. Friday the 13th: Part 2 opened less than a year after the original and grossed over $21.72 million worldwide on a $1.25 million production budget. Needless to say, a third entry was inevitable!
Like many of the films in this beautiful Scream Factory boxset, Friday the 13th: Part 2 has been remastered with a new 4K scan from the original camera negative. As a result, the movie looks and sounds better than it ever has. But, at the same time, it still looks like a product of the early 80s; as well it should! In other words, it’s another warm crisp blanket of nostalgia! Of course, such nostalgia is bolstered because each side of the cover art sleeve features vintage original poster art!
(NEW EXTRAS INDICATED BY *)
- *My Life And Ginny: A Conversation with Amy Steele* — This 33-minute audio interview initially debuted in 2016 on The Radio Hour podcast hosted by author and producer Justin Beam, and I have to admit something here. As much as I dig actress Amy Steele in Ginny’s role, I generally found her to be bland as an interviewee. While I highly doubt she’s apathetic toward her work in this film, it always sounds like she is to me. I think that’s because I hear a bit of vocal fry in her voice. Despite my feelings on Steele’s demeanor, this is a legitimately entertaining interview. I especially enjoyed hearing Steele discuss her professional life post-Part 2.
- *Slashed Scenes* — 4 minutes of footage from uncut kill scenes. These kills are fun to watch but were not as audacious as I expected them to be. It’s also too bad these uncut scenes could not be cut back into the movie itself. Then again, the source material on the scenes seemingly come from a rough 35mm print of the film or a VHS tape.
- Inside Crystal Lake Memories The Book — An 11-minute interview with Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke, hosted by the owner of L.A.’s definitive independently-owned Horror-based book and multimedia store, Dark Delicacies, Dale Howisan. The majority of this short interview with Bracke covers information most fans already know about his book and Friday the 13th: Part 2, but it’s fun to hear rehashed nonetheless. However, there’s also one highlight wherein an alternative (or more appropriately extended) ending to the movie is discussed. As someone who always suspected such an ending was initially intended, this was very gratifying to learn.
- Friday’s Legacy: Horror Conventions — This 6-minute mini-documentary chronicles the undying fandom of Friday the 13th franchise and its nearly omniscient presence at horror conventions. I loved watching this, but boy, it makes me miss attending horror cons!
- Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 2 — We’re treated to the second installment of writer/director Andrew J. Ceperley‘s short fan film series here. This short runs 8 minutes in length and is markedly more entertaining than the previous entry.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Japanese Trailer
- *TV Spots*
- *Radio Spots*
- Movie Stills Gallery
- Poster and Lobby Cards Gallery
- Cast Commentary with actors Russell Todd, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Bill Randolph, Stu Charno, Kristen Baker, moderated by Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke — I admittedly don’t usually enjoy listening to such crowded commentaries like this one. But, this particular cast commentary is an exception as it feels like a fun reunion.
- *Commentary with Actor Amy Steele and Filmmaker Tommy Houdson (producer of the Crystal Lake Memories documentary), moderated by Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke* — As I mentioned previously, Amy Steele’s not my favorite interviewee. Still, this track is reasonably informative.
- *Original Fangoria Articles *REQUIRES BD-ROM DISC DRIVE*
The Friday the 13th Collection is Currently Available on Blu-Ray!
Next time, Franchise Expansion or Implosion will return to Camp Crystal Lake for Friday the 13th: Part III IN 3D (1982)
The Franchise’s Body Count Thus Far-
Friday the 13th (1980)