Rocks In The Attic #766: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part II’ (1981)

RITA#766Jason’s finally here. He drowned back in ’57 but somehow he’s still alive and, two months after the events of the first film, has tracked down his killer mother’s killer, Alice, back to her suburban apartment. There’s no explanation of how he got there – did he take the bus, hire a car – nor how he managed to track her down, but he’s here to deal out some payback. Just don’t think too hard about the details.

In fact, maybe we should talk about the details. When we first see Jason, walking across the dark street towards Alice’s apartment, we only see his boots and the lower half of his legs. He’s wearing jeans, quite normal-looking, blue jeans. This isn’t the dungaree-wearing wild man of the woods we see later. In fact, it very much isn’t Jason at all, as this short insert was filmed with a female member of the crew standing in for Jason. In the first film, we expected the killer to be a man, but it was a woman; now we finally see the male killer, and his first appearance as an adult is portrayed by a woman. Mind blown!

RITA#766aAfter dispatching Alice, we cut to the kettle, whistling on top of the cooker. Jason’s hand reaches over and takes it off the heat. Every time I watch this film, I expect to see Jason force the side of Alice’s head down on to the hot element, and I catch myself agreeing that these movies are pretty gruesome. But then it doesn’t happen; my memory just tricks me. He just removes the kettle, because he…likes to keep a tidy kitchen?

Five years later, an intertitle tells us, the action moves to a camp near Crystal Lake for the rest of the film. The time-jump really throws a grenade into the timeline of the series, as discussed by Matt Gourley and Paul Rust on the excellent In Voorhees We Trust podcast. Bear with me…

The first film was shot in 1979 and released in 1980. However, a glimpse of Pamela Voorhees’ gravestone later in the series marks her death as the year of 1979, firmly placing that film’s events in the summer of that year. The five-year time-jump therefore places the events of Part II in 1984, three years into the future from its release date of April 1981. Part III and Part IV’s events both take place in the days following Part II, which allows the series to catch up a little, but then there’s another jump with Part V’s events taking place in 1989, despite being released in March 1985. I’d like to see Doc Brown chart this one out on a blackboard.

Back to Part II, and we find the businesslike Paul Holt opening a training camp for camp counsellors. We see Paul’s arm ringing the bell to call the other counsellors, and this is surely a red herring of a clue to the audience. We’ve already seen that Jason was dressed in a dark-check shirt when he killed Alice, and here we see Paul wearing a similar shirt. Is Paul the killer? The first film had a similar red herring, where we first see the killer drive a jeep, before seeing the camp leader Steve driving a similar jeep. These little details would have been really important when watching the film for the first time, but they just get lost in the picture when you’re re-watching for the hundredth time.

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I get this is now a quasi-futuristic film now, but the 1984 that this film imagines seems to be one where women don’t wear bras. The nipples on display, not to mention temptress Terry’s ass-cheeks peeking out the bottom of her cut-off Levis, are more suited to the eye-popping 3-D of Part III.

The other thing that pops out of the screen is the colour. I’m not sure if it’s better film-stock they’re using, or better-spec cameras, but this really looks like a typical Hollywood film after the muted tones of its low-budget predecessor.

Crazy Ralph makes a short return, but sadly doesn’t get to say “I FUCKING CALLED IT, MOTHERFUCKERS!” before he too is killed by Jason. With non-camp people like Alice and Crazy Ralph murdered early-on, and with the increased number of campers on offer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Part II would easily surpass the first film’s body count of ten. But strangely, the film leaves half of the campers out drinking at the local bar while the finale happens. Ted (the nerd) is very much one of the main players, and his introduction in the first half of the picture ultimately leads nowhere as we last see him asking the locals where they can go after-hours. The body count comes in at a pitiful nine.

Jason is much less-scary when he’s on-screen. Once the Final Girl, Ginny, encounters him, he’s just a lumbering idiot. This is further supported by the fact that he’s seemingly wearing a pillow-case on his head. My tricky memory always remembers it as a hessian sack, but it’s actually a burlap flour sack. We glimpse a horrible blood-blister under his thumb at one point: one of the many ways the series would continue to show him as a despicably grubby individual. Ginny and Paul overpower Jason, and he ends up with a machete through his shoulder.

The film is one of the stronger entries in the series, with a decent cast and without some of the sillier moments of the later films. The soundtrack is just more of the same from Harry Manfredini, and that’s just fine.

One last thing to mention is the shrine we see at the end of the film, inside Jason’s makeshift cabin. Lying on the floor, next to the decapitated head of his mother are a couple of dead bodies, one of which is supposed to be Alice from the opening of the film. Man, it sure would have made an awkward conversation with the bus driver when he tried to bring that all the way back to Crystal Lake.

Hit: Keep A Cool Head (Main Title)

Hidden Gem: Return To Chez Jason / End Title

Body Count: 9

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1 thought on “Rocks In The Attic #766: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part II’ (1981)

  1. Pingback: Rocks In The Attic #825: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part III’ (1982) | Vinyl Stylus

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