A while back I had screenwriter/oft-nude actor Todd Farmer help me praise the underrated Carpenter film In The Mouth Of Madness for a piece we called Terror Team-Up, with the idea of turning it into a monthly feature. But folks be busy, and I don't want to impose on their infrequent free time by asking them to write half an article for me, so it's hard to come up with both a good topic and a good time to ask one of my pals to help out.
And few are as busy as actor AJ Bowen, who has racked up an impressive resume over the past couple years, mostly in the horror/thriller genre, almost all of which have become major festival hits such as The Signal, House Of The Devil ("Are you not the babysitter?"), and A Horrible Way To Die, where his role as serial killer Garrick Turrell won him the Best Actor award in the horror category at 2009's Fantastic Fest. He also stars in the same team's upcoming You're Next, which will likely win him many new fans when Lionsgate releases it next year. Oh and he got his head cut off while fucking a hot chick in Hatchet II, which is just plain awesome.
Those are just a few of his recent credits; there are several others - so when I say my pals are busy, I can easily use him as a prime example. However, when I saw him defending Friday the 13th Part 2 over Twitter (I have forgotten the exact context), I knew it was time to resurrect the column, for two reasons. One, I feel this entry gets a bum rap (mostly among younger horror fans), caught in between the original and the introduction of the hockey mask in part 3 legacy wise, and lacking Savini's FX majesty or the 3D gimmick for those who enjoy these movies strictly on a visceral level. I've even seen it ranked behind Freddy vs. Jason and the remake, which is sacrilege in my eyes. It was also the lowest grossing of the first five entries, but that may have been due to the glut of slasher films in the marketplace at the time.
But the second reason is that AJ and I don't agree on too many horror films; we're in line on the classics, like any good horror fan, but when we discuss sequels, modern films, etc - it's often like oil and water. So I was excited about actually getting to agree with him for a change, before we went back to berating one another over his enjoyment of the Fright Night remake or my love of Shark Night.
So without further ado, enjoy this new installment of Terror Team-Up!
BC: AJ, I must start by telling you how delighted I was to see you rank Friday the 13th Part 2 so highly against the other F13 movies. As anyone who knows us (or at least follows us both on Twitter) knows, we don't agree too often on movies, but the fact that we both champion this somewhat underrated entry is enough to forgive you for your misguided judgment on all those other films.
Admittedly, even I didn't love this one much my first time around, but over the years I have come to appreciate how it essentially remakes the original film but does a better job with it. Some of the kids are carbon copies of characters in the original (Jeff in particular is just Kevin Bacon's Jack, right down to his literal "deathbed"), the pacing is similar, and (more in retrospect here) it follows the idea of CAMP Crystal Lake, as the kids are all counselors in training. The camp aspect would be ignored for the next few entries - Jason Lives (aka part 6) would be the next and last time they bothered. They also did a pretty good job matching the town/lake that we saw in the original, even though it was filmed in a different area. As the series went on the geography of the town would continually change - Devin's description of the lake in New Blood looking "like someone left a hose running in the back yard over night" was particularly apt, and I was always tickled that their high school senior class was big enough to warrant renting a cruise ship in Jason Takes Manhattan, when every other entry suggested the town was little more than two streets and a lake.
What about it elevates it above the original for you?
AJ: I'm admittedly a bit surprised that this is considered an underrated film, especially in the canon of that universe, because I think it is far and away the strongest story, and one of the strongest executions, of the franchise. I do agree with you about the remake concept-it takes bits and pieces of the 1st film and uses them to establish a new, similar universe. I am always torn between this one and part 6 for personal favorites (6 was filmed in my neck of the woods, and I went to camp there with scouts about 6 weeks after they wrapped shooting). I could go on and on about Jason Lives, but since this is about 2, I shan't digress any further.
Things that elevate it for me above the original... there are easily 2 that I would say instantly strengthen the original story. one; the characters are actually interesting, and fairly developed for this series; and two, Jason.
The characters in 2 are all fairly likable. I appreciate this. They are, for the most part, intelligent young people who are using their time not JUST to fornicate, but also to actually train and work at a camp for kids. I mean, fornication is awesome, but often in the Friday universe they trade tits for character development. I dig the subtle relationship between Ginny and Paul. I know, I said subtle. There's a real human interplay and a real relationship at work. I love that they give us all we need to know about their possible romantic relationship with Ginny waking up to the words Paul left for her on the mirror. Most entries would've said, HEY SHE'S ON HER PERIOD SO SHE DIDN'T LET PAUL FUCK HER. Ginny represents my very favorite final girl of all time. Yes, even more so than Laurie Strode. She is an intelligent, strong woman, and this doesn't come at a cost of her sexualization. She's not a prude, and she is capable of wielding a power tool, or her sexuality, or her mind, whenever it bests suits her. I'll get into the rest of the characters in the next dialogue about this, but I will say I'd love to see a spinoff movie about the characters that went to the bar, and didn't find themselves in the hands of Jason. A "Last American Virgin meets Friday the 13th" kind of thing. And yes, I just want to see a whole movie about Ted.
And Jason. Other than Kane's and Derek's takes, I'd say this is far and away my favorite Jason. I am about to commit horror travesty: I prefer the pillowcase to the hockey mask. I know it's a bit homage, but it's function, and not a strange arbitrary visual choice. I love the hockey mask, but once he put that on, and until Kane got inside him, all Jason was was a hockey mask. This Jason in part 2 was young, he was wild. I really liked that you weren't sure who was going to be standing after he and Paul started tussling. He was still a human being, albeit a very strong one, and he wasn't just a straight killing machine. I liked Jason's awkward late teen years a lot. The cat and mouse he played with Ginny from the cabin, to the car, and then to his shack in the woods is one of my very favorite sequences in any Friday film. The continuous shot of Ginny running to the car, ducking and hiding, then running up the hill and hiding in bushes, that's just solid, suspenseful storytelling, which again displays one of the reasons I loved Ginny so much. She fought Jason on all fronts, physical, intellectual, and like my favorite kind of women, downright mind-fucked him once all other avenues were exhausted.
BC: Wow. Friday is the only horror series that you can say you prefer one of the sequels to the original without a fight breaking out (whereas if you tell someone you like the 4th Halloween or Nightmare On Elm St entries more than their respective originals, shit can get ugly) - but I think that's the first time I've heard someone say they prefer pillowcase to hockey mask. Well, maybe except for the guys who played him in this installment.
It IS a shame that they dropped his more human qualities almost instantly, though. Part 3 takes place the next day or so but he lost the mullet, the shack (complete with toilet!), and started displaying his superhuman regenerative qualities. So in that respect I do prefer Part 2 Jason over his blander, superhuman brute version of later installments, but the pillow case mask just bored me as a kid and even as I've come to further appreciate the flick, it's still a red mark for me.
Similarly, while I love Amy Steel, I can't put Ginny above Laurie Strode. Mainly for her terrible "frog in a blender" joke, but also because she was reduced to supporting player for a giant chunk of the middle, and thus while she had the smarts to outwit Jason at the end like all of her fellow Final Girls, I think that her survival was based more on going off to drink more than anything else. Laurie was always in the thick of it, but stayed alive because she was more alert, not because she simply wasn't there. Agreed though - Ginny definitely had more characterization than many of the Friday heroines, more than one of whom had stupid "previous encounter" back-stories to make up for the fact that they were horribly dull women (and often played by terrible actresses to boot). It's no surprise Steel is one of the few to have any sort of career after this; even if she was far from an A-lister, at least you can name some of her other credits.
You said you wanted to talk about the other characters, so let's kick that off. Ted is obviously one of the most memorable because of his antics, but it's interesting that he doesn't die. I wrote about all of the Friday "nerd/geek" characters in an article for Bloody Disgusting a while back, and he is the only one that survived (again, because he went off to drink), and it actually kind of surprised me when I revisited the film after not watching it for 6-7 years - "How the hell did he not end up dead?". Especially in a movie that kills what has to be one of the most decent people in the entire franchise: Mark the wheelchair guy. This dude is one of those inspirational types, with a "My doctor said I won't walk again, but I'm determined to prove him wrong!" attitude, plus he largely ignores the advances of that one girl who was all over him... and he gets a machete to the face anyway. Christ, Ted openly MOCKS JASON and he gets away clean.
And we MUST give props to Scott, played by Russell Todd. He's one of the more blatantly sex-driven men in the entire series, shooting pellets at girl's butts and stealing their clothes while they skinny dip, yet he's actually kind of charming in a weird way. Hell of a nice guy in real life too - he now works as an agent; one of his clients is actually BJ McDonnell, a camera operator who will be making his directorial debut on Hatchet 3 - a series you're obviously quite familiar with, and very much influenced by the Friday series. Full circles and all...
Who are your favorites?
AJ: I'm sure if you told someone you prefer Jaws: The Revenge to the original no one would argue.
Those other series have classic genre/cinema redefining first movies. I don't think anyone would say that about the original Friday film. And when I say I prefer pillowcase, I mean that I prefer that incarnation of Jason. I enjoy the iconography of the hockey mask, and the muted or blank emotionless state that it brings, but I think the latter films allowed an interesting character to be reduced to just that mask. So he was just a weird dude in a grease monkey's jumper until he died and became zombie Jason, which was also an awkwardly funny dude until Kane made him scary again.
I can see why you think Ginny was reduced to supporting player, as other characters were given the briefest opportunity to develop a sympathy with the viewer so you actually cared for them when they were put in harm's way. Her initial safety from being in the fray was due to her location, but once she returned she was in the thick of it and kept herself alive. She did not have Dr. Loomis arrive and put 6 in his chest. Ginny wasn't there when Jason began his incursion, but alas, Laurie wasn't there when Michael broke out of a mental hospital. And at the end of the day, both of these characters stayed alive because the writer needed them for the end of the movie. No other reason as paramount as that could ever possibly exist.
I too love Laurie. I just will always have a special place in my heart for Ginny. She's not naive, she's not scared of boys, she's not afraid to have a drink, she doesn't have to unwind a hanger, she just starts up the chainsaw. She's the total package.
The other characters... before we even begin to do that we have to talk about the concept of the tropes that we all know about now and have for years - when you say Ted openly mocks Jason and gets away, of course that would never happen today in a movie. The reason this would likely not happen today is because we exist in a postmodern film world, especially when it comes to genre efforts. Gone are the days (mostly) of sincere, straightforward cinema. We now prefer our scripts, characters, and audiences to openly applaud one another and rub each others' backs with how clever we all are, and how smart we must be for picking up on that inside joke. When they made Friday 2, they were concerned with telling a story, for very little money, that would scare audiences and put butts in seats. They weren't trying to impress their audience with cleverness, they were spinning a campfire tale. So of course Ted could survive after mocking Jason - they had no idea back then they were obligated (from a fanboy's perspective) to kill him for such heresy.
And Mark the wheelchair guy. You decided to pick Mark over crazy Ralph? Do you even like movies? Crazy Ralph was trying to warn everyone until Jason nixed that plan. Poor old guy was decades ahead of us as a culture by engaging in a green lifestyle - dude rode a bicycle instead of a gas guzzler. Jason decided to end that. Perhaps Jason is owned by big oil...
How do you know Mark is a decent guy? Because he was in a wheelchair? Maybe he ignored her advances because he was on the fence with his sexuality. I like to think he got a machete to the face because he was boring. Or perhaps because they knew in later installments they could throw that into a wicked death montage instead of worrying about writing a coherent story.
Yes, Scott. I love that dude. I think my favorite moment is after he uses his slingshot, and then demurely presents it as evidence - "Yeah, I just shot your butt with my slingshot. I'm dangerous. I've got a dick. Show me your tits?"
I've always loved Paul. He was a total asshole. Classic dominant male. I loved his reaction to the sheriff: "Ginny, no seconds on dessert for them." He was physically in control of his situation and by default assumed he was also intellectually in charge. Young Eddie Vedder Jason cleaned his clock, though. It was a good scrap, but ultimately dudebro went down. He had to. Brawn is not enough. If it was, motorcycle guy would have beaten him in the barn in part 3.
I've always found it so surprising that the creative team behind 2 also made 3. They couldn't be more different, and that difference is part of why I think 2 is such a standout to the others in the series. Everyone references 4, and to be sure I do love that movie, but by that time the series was using tits and sex and nudity in place of nearly any character development. I'm speaking of course of the teens, not the Jarvis family, who I loved. Part 2 did not sacrifice other elements of the medium to get its low budget story out. I find this to be clear in the camera department most of all. It was a story told visually, and not just to highlight gore. As I said earlier, the chase between Jason and Ginny is incredibly tense. This is in large part I think to the way they shot this scene, in a continuous frame that darted back and forth between the 2 of them, that ducked with Ginny, and showed Jason sparingly for the most part while hiding with their heroine. I love that Jason was calculating, psychotic, and just plain odd: who keeps their mother's head? And sweater? In their peepee shack? There was no explanation for what he was doing beyond that first revenge kill (Alice). He was an oddball with sizable strength who liked to hide and set things up, then pounce when things were in his favor. He was the ultimate hunter. He'd set traps, he'd wait until he had the best chance for victory. He wasn't yet an unstoppable regenerative zombie Frankenstein.
And I liked the concept of young adults training for running camps. It put them in that environment believably, and allowed them to engage in the things people their age liked to do (without it potentially putting children in harm's way): drink, doobie, fornicate. The only thing I think that could've improved it was if Savini wasn't doing The Burning and instead was doing this one. I'm totally not kissing up at all. This has nothing to do with him playing my dad next year. Part 2 is easily my favorite outside of part 6, which in my opinion is the only one that competes with 2 in terms of interesting supporting players. do you want to talk about 6? now THAT'S something i could go on and on about...
BC: Quick note to clarify on Mark - he's likable when you compare him to the most famous wheelchair-ed horror victim ever: Franklin from Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He was obnoxious and felt sorry for himself, so it was nice to see a guy in that situation with a more positive attitude. A later sequel might have made him into the "nerd" character just to make him more unlikable, since by then Jason was the "hero" and you wanted them all to die.
And on that note - you're right, this was indeed early in the slasher cycle and thus the stereotypes hadn't been set in stone yet. One of the things I've always struggled with for Horror Movie A Day is the fact that I have to remember when the movie was released and in turn what that sort of film (and the genre as a whole) was "like" at the time when it comes time to write up the review. Incidentally, I just watched an old slasher called To All A Goodnight, and if there was no such thing as the internet I might have assumed it was just some cheap ripoff of Friday the 13th and Prom Night, but in reality it actually came along months before those films. Additionally, I saw this series completely out of order as a kid, and thus F13 Part 2 was one of the last entries I saw in the original Paramount canon (1-8), so I was used to the nerd (and everyone else) dying.
The training camp subplot is also another strong point for this one, and it's interesting (or, not too surprising?) that you also love 6, which was the only entry after this one to deal with the CAMP part of Camp Crystal Lake, as the others just had a bunch of kids coming there to party. I was quite disappointed that the remake opted to go with the latter route - these sort of camps do still exist but it seems the idea of setting a modern horror film in one hasn't crossed anyone's mind, with the dubious exception of Return To Sleepaway Camp.
And yes, the FX here aren't quite up to par, and it doesn't help that I'm not a big fan of The Burning (Savini's FX are pretty much the only thing about it I enjoy). Some of the kills are just ludicrous too - Ralph's doesn't even make sense if you look at it closely (was the tree only 6 feet tall?). Many of them were spoiled in the film's silly trailer too, which took the "the body count continues..." tagline to an extreme by recycling the "countdown" from the first film's trailer, but added a few deaths to that film's count. Which makes it a pretty lousy trailer as well, because it says that this movie only has 10 deaths (which is true) whereas the original is given a count of 13 (which is exaggerated). Who would be excited for a sequel with a lower body count, especially in 1981 when these things were hitting theaters every week?
Anyway, I think we've covered this one enough for now. I might take you up on that offer to discuss Jason Lives in the future, as it's also top tier Friday movie in my eyes (I do love 4 the most though, natch), but at this point I kind of want to hear from someone who DOESN'T like this entry (maybe Mr. Faraci himself?), because if anything your points have made me like the movie even more, rendering me even more confused that a fan of the series wouldn't be into it. Good work, Mr. Bowen!
AJ: I'm surprised to hear you don't care for The Burning - or not, as is the case with most of these things: I'm Coke, you're Pepsi. I get it. I think the 1st 2/3 of that movie is stellar but the 3rd act needs a total overhaul. At any rate, it is indeed a Christmas miracle we can both love a movie together - this means that you finally exhibited good taste about something, so congrats. Yes, we must discuss Jason Lives, the one with no nudity, and the predecessor of Scream. And yes, I too would love to hear what Devin has to say about this entry. Devin, you don't like part 2?
Happy "Garbage Day"! Happy early last year of all time! Cheers!
BC: Thanks again for taking the time to discuss a 30 year old slasher movie with me. I owe you a Coke.
Note from Devin: How come I've never been invited to do a Terror Team-Up (maybe I have and just forgot about it. I do that)? You're right, Brian, Part 2 isn't one of my favorite F13 films, largely because it's so much a retread of the first. Also, I really don't like redneck retard Jason; there are elements, like the shrine at the shack, that I quite like, but in general I prefer him when he's an unstoppable force of pure killing. I also can't get past the opening, which has Jason apparently taking a bus or a plane out of Crystal Lake to get his first kill. I know getting tied up in logic with these movies is a stupid thing to do, but I can never get past that.