Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 2 (1981)
A quick warning: this article spoils Friday the 13th Part 2 from hell to breakfast. If you’ve not seen this movie, maybe give this a miss.
“Jason was dead to begin with… this must be distinctly understood, or else nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate” — Charles Dickens.
I know. You’re a horror fan. You love the old school stuff, especially those great iconic slashers from the Eighties. There’s that Halloween Blu-Ray collection on your shelf, complete with the sound-corrected Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6. You’ve got a Freddy Kreuger glove. You use it to scare your little niece on holidays. And you absolutely love Jason. He’s Jiminy Cricket with a machete, the bloody enforcer of all the morals you rebelled against as a teenager. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have pre-marital sex. Don’t be fat or offensive in any way. Conform or be cast out. Jason Fucking Voorhees. He is the physical embodiment of the entire Reagan Administration, and he’s the best, right?
I know. I get it. Really, I do. There’s one thing, though.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is a terrible film, and the existence of Jason Voorhees as a killer who rampaged his way from summer camp to outer space is ridiculous.
We all know Jason isn’t the killer in the first Friday the 13th. It’s his cable-knit sweater wearing mother, Pamela (Betsy Palmer). She murders the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake as revenge for the death of her son, Jason. He drowned. He wasn’t a strong swimmer. He was also encephalitic, a special needs child, who should not have been anywhere near a summer camp. That’s on Pam and her craptacular parenting skills.
You know what happens. Pam gets her noggin chopped off by Final Girl Alice (Adrienne King) in slow motion, her headless corpse falling to the ground, spasming hands clutching at the air.
With Mrs. Voorhees out of the way, Alice climbs into a dilapidated boat and launches herself out into the middle of the lake, where she has a dream about Jason leaping from the water like a deranged dolphin and dragging her into the deep, cold water. In this sequence, we see clearly that Jason is a child. He’s probably looked better, and he should try to do something about the slimy moss growing on his arms, but he is still only an eleven-year-old kid.
Also: he’s dead. Just a reminder. Had he not been dead, Pamela Voorhees wouldn’t have spent so much time and effort avenging his death. Nobody gets that angry because their kid is still alive.
Friday the 13th Part 2 begins two months after the ending of the original. Alice is living on her own, still recovering from both the attack at the camp and an uncomfortable relationship with her overbearing mother. After finding Mrs. Voorhees’ head on the shelf in her refrigerator instead of where it should have been — the crisper drawer for maximum freshness — she is dispatched in her kitchen with an icepick (who the hell still owns an icepick?) through the temple by an enormous man wearing black work boots. We know it is Jason, taking revenge for the murder of his mother. But how does that make a lick of sense?
First of all, how did he get so big? I don’t care how many chicken nuggets you eat; nobody goes from eleven-year-old kid to full-grown linebacker size in two months.
Also: he’s fucking dead, but that’s not important right now.
The rest of the film takes place near Crystal Lake at a training camp for new counselors. Jason’s physical existence is hinted at during a late-night meeting around a campfire, explained away in the form of an urban legend. Well, they’re out in the woods, so I guess it’s a rural legend.
According to the story, Jason’s body was never recovered and he’s been living in the woods (even though he drowned and died of drowning, as is evidenced in the first movie, when we watched him drown), lying in wait to murder anyone who comes around. It gets better. This movie’s Final Girl, Ginny (Amy Steel), wonders if Jason actually witnessed his mother’s murder from his hiding place in the woods and is now laboring under the weight of a hefty Oedipal complex. “He must be out there right now, crying for her return,” she says. Oh, she also refers to Jason as “a frightened retard.” Thanks, compassionate professional camp counselor. You’re the one I want teaching arts and crafts to my kids.
Okay, look. If Jason loved his mother that much, and he didn’t really drown, why didn’t he climb out of Crystal Lake and go to her? She was the only adult in his life. Why would he just wander off into the woods and live like some Jack London character? He would know where she was; she would have drilled that information into his swollen head. And if the police searched the area for him, wouldn’t she be there, too? Pamela Voorhees is tenacious. She does not seem like the kind of person who would be content to stay at home while the authorities did their jobs. I can understand a scared kid not wanting to run up to a cop, a stranger wearing a uniform, but Jason would have found his mother. It’s even more probable that she would have found him.
Since none of these events happened, we must believe that Jason is clearly, most sincerely, dead. [So, who killed Alice? I’ll get to that later.] That is, until the head counselor and Final Girl Ginny start talking about him, spreading the rumors. They manifest him into existence, dreaming Jason back to life. He just shows up like Drop Dead Fred and starts bumping people off!
Look, I get it. I shouldn’t be looking for logic in a horror movie. Candyman comes out of a mirror. Leprechaun is… well, he’s a leprechaun. Why pick on poor old Jason?
It’s because the rest of the movie is a fumbling mess.
After Jason kills Alice, he removes her whistling teakettle from the red-hot element. That’s awfully polite, but why does Jason give a flip about kitchen etiquette? It’s not going to matter if her house burns down. She’s already dead. From a forensics point of view, wouldn’t that benefit Jason in the long run? It would destroy some DNA evidence, but Jason doesn’t know anything about genetics or police investigations. He’s just a frightened retard, right?
Roughly half an hour in, Jason knocks off Crazy Ralph, the only remotely interesting character from the first movie. There’s no reason for this. He wasn’t smoking or having pre-marital sex. He doesn’t even mention Jason by name. Was it because of Ralph’s bike? Does Jason hate bicycles?
But there’s one scene at the end that absolutely runs all over me. Ginny is hiding from Jason underneath a cot. She has found her friends dead, their bodies falling into her path left and right. She’s being chased by her worst nightmare. But while she’s cowering on the floor, out of Jason’s sight, a mouse scampers across the floor and runs towards her. After all Ginny has seen and everything she’s been through, this little critter frightens her so badly, she wets her pants. Mutilation and murder? Fine with Ginny. But a mouse? Nope! Can’t handle that. Then, Jason discovers her hiding place because he smells her urine. Did drowning give him heightened senses? Is he Daredevil now?
After this nonsense, she attacks Jason with a chainsaw. She nicks him and gets a little blood on herself. The motor stalls out, but she doesn’t attempt to restart it. Instead, she whacks him on the back with a chair like Mick Foley going after Terry Funk. The wooden chair shatters and she runs off. When she leaves the cabin, her jeans are not wet. Didn’t she just piss herself? But this is a Friday the 13th movie, and as history has proven, continuity is not of great import to the filmmakers.
One more thing about that sequence: she should have finished the job. Ginny had Jason dead to rights. She had a chainsaw. I repeat: a chainsaw. Decapitation is far less of a chore when you have a motorized blade. That’s what’s wrong with America today. Kids just don’t want to work.
It’s the same situation during the final confrontation at the altar Jason built to his mother, with Pammy’s head sitting on a table surrounded by tea lights. It’s lovely. Her desiccated face-flesh really ties the room together. Ginny slips on Mrs. Voorhees’ grotty old sweater, momentarily tricking Jason into believing his dearly departed mama has returned from the grave. When Ginny gets the opportunity to swing a machete at him, she hits him in the shoulder. And she only makes one attempt! Ginny is a one-and-done type of girl.
Oh, and when did Jason grow hair? When we first see him, as the dead child that Alice dreams about, he’s as bald as a baby. But in Part 2, he’s got a mane of flowing brown hair like Kip Winger.
Now that I’ve picked it apart, let me saw something nice about Friday the 13th Part 2. The kills are fantastic. You’ve got a garroting, a double impalement, and a machete to the face. For a slasher flick, it’s good stuff.
It also makes me appreciate other films in the series. I really enjoy Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, because Jason is finally killed by a maniacal Corey Feldman, wearing a latex bald cap. I also like Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, because the killer isn’t Jason. The killer should never have been Jason, the dead kid, the rural legend, the product of the fevered imaginations of a few impressionable camp counselors.
We know who Jason is, but what is he? A drowning victim that didn’t drown, a genetic freak who grew to full manhood in two months, and who lived in the woods with his mother’s severed head while killing anyone who dared to wander into the woods. Jason also enjoys candles, long walks by the lake, and burlap.
Is he a ghost? Negatory, good buddy. Spirits don’t bleed, and the killer in this movie definitely bleeds his own blood. He’s not some kind of zombie, either. He doesn’t eat people or work on a sugar plantation, and he uses a wide variety of farm implements to destroy his victims, not his teeth and sharp nails.
Jason is a monster, that good old rampaging Id. But, I’ll tell you the truth.
That doesn’t make a goddamned bit of sense to me.
Michael Myers makes sense. He’s the Boogeyman, for cryin’ out loud. Freddy Krueger even makes sense to me but, having suffered from night terrors and recurring nightmares my entire life, the Fredmeister holds a special place in my heart. Besides, Freddy isn’t corporeal. The supremely meta and woefully underrated Wes Craven’s New Nightmare firmly establishes Kreuger as a mythical creature, the dark side of the power of storytelling, the bastard son of a thousand Joseph Campbells. And yet, to my thinking, he holds something in common with Jason besides that crossover movie.
Understand: I’m not trying to change your mind about Jason Voorhees, or even Friday the 13th Part 2. That would be an exercise in futility. By and large, it is a beloved film.
But I have to believe that every single entry in the franchise after the original takes place in a universe where Alice never died, making each individual film a different nightmare brought forth from her traumatized mind. How the hell else could Jason have been locked in battle with a psychokinetic girl or found himself on a low-rent holodeck, smashing an illusory sleeping bag against a tree? What other explanation allowed him to survive multiple stab wounds, explosions, fire, and drowning twice?
It is the only thing that allows me to make sense of Friday the 13th Part 2. It is the only way I can allow myself to fully enjoy the franchise as a whole. It’s the magical mental chamois that polishes the turd. Ideally, the last scene of the ultimate Friday film would be Alice waking up from a troubled sleep, staring directly into the camera, breaking the fourth wall and saying, “Wow, that was weird.”
But, you know.
He’s Jason, and he’s the absolute best, right?
Jeffery X. Martin is the published author of several stories that are sure to shock, including those in the Elders Keep universe. He also published a fantastic tale in The Black Room Manuscripts Vol 1. You can find his work, including his latest novel, The Ridge, on Amazon’s blood-soaked altar. When Mr. X is not writing creepy mind-benders, he’s been the host and/or contributor to several podcasts and review sites over the years, including but not limited to, Popshifter, Kiss the Goat, Cinema Beef Podcast, and now is an editor over at Biff Bam Pop!. He is a frequent contributor to Machine Mean, reviewing for us The Wolf Man (1941), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Squirm (1976) Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) and so much more.
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