Friday, March 13, 2015

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part II (Part 1)

Is it Friday the 13th already?! I swear we just had one last month!”

Previously on Friday The 13th...

One of the most iconic horror franchise of all time was kicked off with a TOTAL DUD, giving us one of the most boring slasher films ever made. If it hadn't been for special effects genius Tom Savini, it's doubtful the movie would have gotten any attention and gone of to become the legendary piece of pop culture that it has. The story itself wasn't much, the mother of a child who died at a camp due to negligence comes back every time the camp is reopened to kill people as a twisted form of revenge. Eventually she kills everyone down to a Final Girl named Alice, who kicks her ass AND cuts her head off for good measure.

And that's it, how in the world can they drag a sequel out of THAT? The villain is dead and there is absolutely NO supernatural elements in this, so she ain't coming back. The main brains behind the film, director Sean S. Cunningham, screenplay writer Victor Miller, and Savini all shared this thought process and moved on to other projects. Steve Miner, who helped produce the first film, was promoted to director due to his knowledge of the inner workings of all things Friday the 13th. He brought back much of the film's original crew, including the cinematographer and editor to ensure it'd maintain the consistency already established.

The keeping it in the family tradition also extended to the sequel's new writer, Ron Kurz, who actually did some rewriting of Victor's script from Part 1. Phil Scuderi, one of the studio producers, assisted in the writing and is the one who came up with the idea of how to continue the story. The very, very, VERY confusing and nonsensical idea that to this day illustrates story was not the focus of the series. We're going to have some fun with this one as we try to figure out what the hell is going on, so pack your bags because it's time to return to Camp Crystal Lake in A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part II!

We open just like the last film did, with a Point-of-View shot of someone walking towards a house at night. Only it cuts to a side view of his feet walking, which really contradicts the first shot. In case you have any doubt who this figure might be, an ominous remix of “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” is playing, except “ma ma ma” must be on a smoke break because all we get are “ki's”. The film returns to the POV shot, the figure looking to the upper floor of the house where a light is on. We transition into this room, where we see the occupant is one Alice Hardy, our tough as nails Final Girl from the last movie. She's currently in the middle of a nightmare involving stock footage of her horrifying encounter with Mrs. Voorhees, and this goes on FAR too long.

This extended flashback also includes her dream of being dragged into the lake by Young Jason, so we are now officially on some Inception shit here. This is NOT a bad thing however if it leads to Jason throwing down with Tom Hardy. Aww, too late, she's awake. OR IS SHE? No, she is. Alice spends the next few minutes walking around her house in some nice single take shots that are literally the only interesting thing of note. No one will ever accuse these first two movies of being excitement-fests, that's for sure. When she gets a phone call with no one on the other line she begins to get suspicious, ESPECIALLY when the dramatic music kicks in. Harry Manfredini was another of the filmmakers to return for this chapter, a huge boon as his music was one of the best parts of the original.

She hears a noise come from her kitchen, finding the window there is now wide open. She grabs an ice pick that JUST HAPPENS to be lying on the counter- you know, why are ice picks a thing in movies? Who the hell was a need for an ice pick in this day and age of ice cube trays and advanced refrigerators? Sure, this was 1981 but I'm PRETTY sure ice cube trays existed back in those dark days. Alice caaaaaaaarefully and slooooooooowly peeks out the window, only to walk straight into a CAT JUMP SCARE! Hahah, fuck you movie! Eleven minutes in and that's how it's going to be, huh?
I can't be too mad over this one however, because if you freeze frame the movie just right you can see the hand of someone throwing the cat into the kitchen. Alice opens her fridge to get her asshole cat some food when she finds the severed head of Mrs. Voorhees inside. She starts screaming because she forgot to shrink wrap it and now it's going to go all bad, but then someone grabs her from behind and SHOVES THE ICE PICK INTO HER TEMPLE. Well shit, there goes one of the stronger Scream Queens you're ever going to see from this era. This was HUGE back in the day, as killing off Final Girls in the opening of sequels wasn't a thing yet.

Alice's unfortunate death kicks us to the opening credits, where a young trio consisting of Jeff, Sandra, and Sandra's breasts pull into the town from the first movie. The movies have never said the name of the town, but it's somewhere in New Jersey. In real life it's called Blairstown, and has become a HUGE attraction for Friday the 13th fans. Nearby Camp Crystal Lake is the fictional name of Camp NoBeBoSco, which still operates to this day as a Boy Scout Camp. As they park their truck, we can see they're being watched by our old friend Ralph, who looks as crazy as ever. Jeff gets out to use a payphone, Ralph coming up to them and blabbering more of his patented gibberish.

There is a fun sight gag going on in this shot, as the entire time a tow truck parks in front of Jeff's truck and begins to tow it away. He doesn't notice until it's too late, trying to chase it down the street but the tow drunk driver ignores him. But it turns out this was all a prank being played by Jeff's friend Ted, whom I'm pretty sure is going to be our jokester. The three load up Ted's gear and begin driving to nearby Crystal Lake, where they'll be attending a counselor training camp, which is near the so called “Camp Blood”. The camp is being run by a man named Paul Holt, and HOLY SHIT is there a lot of counselors here. ROLL CALL!

-Terry, who may as well be naked for all the clothes she's wearing. Wonder if she survives to the end?
-Vickie, who... uhh... is wearing a red shirt?
-Scott, who is the “cool guy”
-Mark, who is in a wheelchair
-and the rest who don't get introductions. What, is Jason going to take them out with a bazooka all at once or something?

A latecomer to the party is Ginny, who is Paul's assistant and girlfriend. Of this entire bunch, Ginny's actress Amy Steel is the only one to ever do anything else really noteworthy, and that was a starring role in the 1986 slasher classic April Fool's Day, which I'll ABSOLUTELY be reviewing next month. It is a shame she never really broke out, as she is one of those rare people just bursting with charisma and personality, a sharp contrast to everyone else we've met so far. It doesn't hurt that she is stunningly gorgeous as well. That night at the camp fire Paul tells everyone about the legend of Jason Voorhees and how his body was never recovered from the lake, leading many to think he's still alive out there in the woods somewhere. Everyone gets really into his tale, which is just Scuderi trying his damnedest to sell us on the plot.

It's a simple question that has been asked millions of times, and is certainly one I myself asked when I first saw this as a young lad: WHY IN THE HELL WOULD JASON HIDE FROM HIS MOTHER?! She was all he had, and he clearly loved her since he went to the trouble of tracking down Alice to gain revenge, so why would he not tell his mother he's still alive? I talk about plotholes all the time in my reviews, but this is one of the finest examples I could ever give. I know in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter in the slightest since with the next movie death and reality no longer apply, but at this point we are still very much down to Earth.

But let's say for whatever reason, Jason didn't seek out his mom. She was pretty fucking scary, maybe he was afraid of her. So how is it she never found HIM? He's been living out in the woods for the past 30 years, this big, hulking brute who isn't exactly the sharpest blade in the knife collection, how was he able to be so stealthy? Remember, Mrs. Voorhees knew the woods like the back of her hand and was constantly monitoring the area to kill people. During Paul's scary story he mentioned people have seen Jason lurking around, you mean to tell me she was never one of them?

As always with any hugely popular thing, the fans have come up with their own theories. One of the ore popular ones that KIND of works is that Jason arose from the dead to avenge his mother, but if that's the case why didn't he come back as the little boy that he was? The power of vengeance was not only enough to resurrect him, it added a good five feet and 300 pounds to his frame as well? Decomposed tissue known for being able to support that much healthy growth? Yeah yeah, the power of magic or whatever. I've never put much stock into this theory for reasons we'll see later on, but out of all the ones I've read it is the one that “works” the best.

Paul puts the finishing touches on his story, Ted suddenly running out in a mask and scaring the shit out of everyone. Hahah, I actually like Ted. He has a very unique sounding voice and unlike the 99% of all comic relief in horror films, is ACTUALLY kind of funny. Everyone retires to their cabins for the night, Ginny getting another jump scare by Paul, who sneaks into her cabin. They start making out, being watched by Ralph, who really needs to get a fucking life. Literally, because SOMEONE sneaks up behind him and strangles him out with a piece of barbed wire. So long Crazy Ralph, you added absolutely NOTHING to these movies! Ginny wakes up in the morning after having sex with Paul, so I guess that means she'll be dead soon.

Staying true to form, the film begins to spin its wheels here. Many shots of our future victims follow as they frolic and have fun, while SOMEONE with a “ki ki ki” theme sound watches them from the woods. We get it, thank you. Of all the horror cliches involved in the slasher genre, this is by far my most hated: the “getting to know the cast” part. I don't have a problem with them due to lack of bloodshed, but it's because these people are NEVER interesting. As they years went on, filmmakers started getting the idea our heroes should actually have a personality and get a better story focus, but early on it is ROUGH. We cut between multiple people, no one gets anything to say or do, and most of them you WANT to see get killed because they're so annoying.

Sandra and her breasts, who are fascinated with the off-limits Camp Crystal Lake, finally talk Jeff into taking them to go visit it. On the path they find the grisly remains of Terry's little dog which had gone missing earlier, which might be another Halloween “allusion” as Michael Myers killed a dog in that movie. They don't make it to the camp however, as they get caught by a local sheriff who I think took exactly ONE acting class to prepare for this role. He drags them back to Paul, warning him to keep his counselors away from the condemned area. The cop drives away, startled when a a figure with a bag over his head runs out in the road ahead of him. He brings his car to a screeching halt and takes off after the figure into the woods, which is easily the best idea ever.

What's interesting here is the figure- you know, fuck it,YOU know he's Jason, I know he's Jason, we're calling him Jason- is actually RUNNING. Sure as hell don't see that too often in this genre. The sheriff quickly loses him, but does find his apparent home out in the woods: an extremely decrepit looking shack. He explores the small area, opening a door and staring in disgust at what he sees inside. We don't get to see what he's looking at though, as Jason sneaks up behind him and puts the claw-side of a hammer through the back of his skull. Figures of authority getting hammers in the back of their head must have been a meme back in 1981, because five months later Halloween II would do the EXACT same thing with a security guard.

Back at the camp, we finally learn how the film is going to deal with this overly large cast of people: most of them are heading into town to party, leaving behind only characters who have gotten a name. THAT'S convenient. Terry decides to go skinny dipping in the lake and gets naked, but that almost feels redundant considering how scantily clad she's been so far. Scott, who is more of a creep instead of the cool guy, steals her clothes and plays keep away with them when she gets out of the water. She chases him through the woods, where he unknowingly walks into a snare trap and is suspended high in the air. She goes to get something to cut him down with, leaving him nice and alone for Jason to slit his throat... with the DULL end of a machete. Oops!

Terri returns to find him dead, going hysterical as she turns around to see- SCENE CHANGE! We go into town where Ginny, Paul, and Ted joined the no-names for a night out on the town, where Scuderi throws out more exposition for his inane plot by having Ginny speculate Jason MUST have seen his mother get killed. THEN WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T HE DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? Especially when Alice just left herself completely defenseless to go sleep in a canoe. This gives us everything we need to know about Jason's motivations in explicit detail, even though, y'know, we kind of already figured that out in the opening scene with Alice. Next!

Things gets REALLY 1980s up in this bitch as Sandra and her breasts take Jeff upstairs to have sex, while Vickie tries to get Mark to smoke some pot with her. GODDAMN! Why don't you all just save yourselves the trouble and put shotguns in your mouths right now?! Vickie goes to her cabin to pretty herself up for a night with Mark, but is gone so long he goes looking for her. He wheels to the edge of the porch, calling her name when he gets a machete RIGHT IN HIS FACE! BRUTAL! An awesome shot of his wheelchair rolling backwards down the stairs shifts to Jason in a bizarre edit. Jason sneaks upstairs where Jeff, Sandra, and Sandra's breasts are in bed and earns a rare triple kill by running them through with a spear.

We sadly don't get to see much of this kill, as the scene was heavily edited to secure an R rating. That applies to a lot of this movie, as nearly ever instance of bloodletting was pared down. Fans have been asking for an unrated cut to be released for years, but it appears all of the footage has been lost to time. Vickie, who shockingly isn't dead, goes upstairs to check on them when she can't find Mark. She instead finds Jason, and you can very likely guess where this is going. The kill is one of the more famous ones, as it's done with a first person shot of Jason holding up his knife as he advances towards the screaming Vickie. We also get our first full shot of Jason during this, who is wearing a white bag over his head with an eye hole cut out. A far cry from his traditional hockey mask look, but we're getting there...