“You may only see it once but that will be enough.”
That was the marketing slogan for the first Friday The 13th film in 1980. Apparently they couldn’t have been more wrong, because most of us have seen the film countless times, and no, it was never enough. The franchise would thrive with over 10 sequels or affiliated films, taking us right up to the present remake/reboot of that very first outing at Camp Crystal Lake. No, my friends, once was never going to be enough.
Paramount has been working their way through the Friday The 13th series of films first on DVD and then on Blu-ray. They appear to be the result of some restoration and worthy nostalgic trips back in time in bright new high definition.
Part 2 begins with an appearance by Adrienne King returning briefly to the role of Alice, the lone survivor from part 1. Alice is having nightmares about her night of terror at Camp Blood. Well… you get the point, and Alice most certainly does here. Now Alice doesn’t live here anymore, the key word being “live”. With Momma Voorhees out of her head, who’s going to deliver the slice and dice? From here on out, it’s all Jason.
There’s a new campground opening along the shores of Crystal Lake. This time it’s a training camp for camp counselors. Whatever the reason, it’s going to bring more horny teens than ever to the place the locals lovingly refer to as Camp Blood. Gathering around a bonfire, the leader decides to give it to the kids straight about Jason. He tells them the story of the first film and hypes up rumors that Jason is still alive and no longer a little boy. The idea now is that he witnessed the killing of his mother and is now on the warpath. After telling the story, he declares Jason out of their system. Unfortunately, nobody told Jason that. Half of the teens head to camp for a “last night out”, while the other half remain behind. After far too much talking and not enough slicin’, the party gets started, and the teens begin to break off into their own hookups. That’s the way Jason likes them. It’s another rainy night, and Jason begins to take out the kids one, or two, at a time.
This film sported a higher budget than the first, and it shows mostly in a slicker feeling to the image. There are more teens and more kills than the first film. In an attempt to give us more of what they thought we were looking for, someone forgot to bring along the fright. What’s missing here is the wonderful skill of Tom Savini. Most of the kills here are predictable and done quickly with little love for the lingering camera. None of the kills are particularly imaginative, and there isn’t a one that leaves us with that reality punch in the stomach that makes us do a double take in our minds. They’ve replaced quality with quantity, and it’s amazing that Jason made it past this far more mundane film.
Manfredini’s score is actually better here. He improved on the creepy elements of the first film and provided less of the Psycho steals. We get plenty of that whispered menacing sound that has become as trademark for these films as Jason’s hockey mask. By the way, there is no mask here. Jason wouldn’t find that iconic piece of film history until the third film. Here he has a cloth sack over his face, until the big reveal.
It should be noted that both Sean S. Cunningham and Tom Savini were offered the film but decided to walk away. It was both of their idea that the Friday The 13th moniker should apply to a series of anthology films. They figured a new element would be used each year to keep the idea fresh. Neither man thought it was a good idea to use Jason in a continuing collection of films. Jason was merely a jump scene for the first film and never expected to carry the franchise. Watching this movie, you almost get the impression they were right. History proves otherwise, and it would be Jason, indeed, who would become the face not only of a film franchise, but for the slasher genre at large.
Friday The 13th is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image comes to you courtesy of a strong AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Black levels are pretty dang solid here. The image was a little soft, but it does look every bit as I remembered it looking. The daytime shots show remarkable color and the entire film sports a sharp sense of detail. There was some nice shadow effect, particularly in low light areas where the light source swayed. You could absolutely follow the shadows like I never could on my laserdisc version of the film. Don’t expect it to ever look any better.
The Dolby Digital True-HD 5.1 track is pretty much everything you can expect. It definitely places you there at the scene. This was not a surround film originally, and I was glad that it wasn’t overly tampered with. You will hear the dialog and all of those screams of horror just fine.
Friday’s Legacy – Horror Conventions: The 2008 ScareFest convention is the place. You get to meet many of the Friday universe cast and crewmembers. Unfortunately most of these guests are associated with the original film and not Part 2.
Jason Forever: Now this half hour feature is a great one. From the 2004 Fangoria Convention we are presented with a panel of Jason actors. We get to meet Ari Lehman, who played the child Jason in the first film. We also get to see Jasons from parts 2, 6, 7-10. There’s a huge Q&A session as the actors talk about getting the role and their favorite moments. It’s like there’s this fraternity for Jason actors out there. Good stuff.
Lost Tales From Camp Blood Part II: This is a continuation of the odd vignettes that started with the first film’s DVD release. This time it’s a couple in the woods. While none would appear in III, we’re promised more to come. Oh joy.
Inside Crystal Lake Memories: This 11 minute feature is an interview with Peter M. Bracke, who has put together a Friday The 13th coffee table book.
This might be one of my least favorites in the series. I do rather like the performance of Warrington Gillette as Jason. He seems more organic here than he will be in future incarnations. At some point he becomes almost machine-like. This is the beginning, really, for Jason. Looking something like the Elephant Man, he actually manages to get a little sympathy. It’s not a good film, but the character would evolve and grow over the years. Jason would have a lot to learn, like the various filmmakers who would bring him to life over the next two decades. We had a lot to learn as well, like “Axes, knives, lanterns, and saws, they can all be trouble”.