40 Years Ago: ‘Friday the 13th Part 2′ Makes Jason a Killer
Following the runaway, yet totally unexpected, success of Friday the 13th in 1980, producers were eager to make a sequel to a low budget horror flick. Just shy of a year after vengeful murderess Pamela Voorhees had her head severed in the closing moments of the first film, Friday the 13th Part 2 arrived in theaters May 1, 1981.
Filmmakers faced a quandary from the outset, with almost the entirety of the original cast cinematically dead, including the main antagonist, Betsy Palmer’s aforementioned Mrs. Voorhees character. Director Sean S. Cunningham wasn’t keen on the idea of making her son, Jason, the new killer. Though he was used in the stinger ending of the first film, jumping out of Crystal Lake and pulling Alice (Adrienne King) from the canoe in which she was floating, Jason was meant to be a figment of her imagination.
Cunningham thought perhaps the next entry could be an entirely fresh story with no carryover roles or connection to the original other than in the title. Dissatisfied with the planned path of the story and his ideas for an anthology rebuffed, the filmmaker stepped away from the project, passing it on to friend and collaborator Steve Miner, who would make his directorial debut.
Victor Miller, writer of Friday the 13th, had suddenly found himself a hot commodity in Hollywood in the wake of the movie’s success and he was now out of the price range for the studio. Besides, he had little interest in making a follow-up so closely aligned with the original and decided to explore other avenues. That opened the door for Ron Kurz, an uncredited co-writer on the original, to pen the sequel's script.
Watch the original trailer for 'Friday the 13th Part 2'
Friday the 13th Part 2 begins a couple of months after the last one ended, with Alice trying to move on with her life following the horrific slaughter of her friends. One night in her apartment, she opens up the refrigerator only to find the decapitated head of Mrs. Voorhees for which she was responsible and, as she recoils in shock, is stabbed in the temple with an icepick by an unseen assailant. Cut to five years later and a whole new crew of fresh faced camp counselors in training arrive at Crystal Lake’s Packanack Lodge, across the way from the infamous, condemned and campfire story ready “Camp Blood” where the murders took place a half decade prior.
The characters are the now-classic horror film tropes of horny teens, partiers who unwittingly get themselves into a nasty situation. Taking Alice’s place as the upstanding, morally conscionable final girl is Ginny Field, played by Amy Steel. Her boyfriend Paul (John Furey) is the head camp counselor imploring everyone to walk the straight and narrow, a seemingly impossible task. Oblivious to any real lurking danger, everyone is looking to drink, get stoned, laid and engage in fun like skinny dipping.
Watch camp counselors tell ghost stories in 'Friday the 13th Part 2'
Clad in an outfit straight out of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Jason wears denim overalls, a flannel shirt and a burlap sack over his head with one eyehole and begins to pick off the counselors one by one, along with anyone else who gets in his way. Town drunk Crazy Ralph, who warned the "doomed" kids to stay away from the campgrounds in both Fridays, is choked to death by barbed wire against a tree. The local sheriff’s deputy sees Jason crossing the road and chases him into the woods, only to get a claw hammer to the head for his troubles. But it’s the teens who are the main attraction, especially those getting intimate like those neglectful ones from all those years before who let Jason drown while they were fornicating. Most importantly though, he's intent on avenging the death of his mother.
Jason’s weapons of choice vary, at one point using a spear to murder a couple having sex, impressively piercing both of their bodies, the bed and straight through to the hardwood floor in a scene heavily inspired by Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood a decade earlier. Wheelchair bound Mark receives a machete to the face on the porch in one of the most memorable kills in the series, with the chair then rolling in the rain and down a lengthy flight of outdoor stairs – backwards.
Wielding a pitchfork, Jason chases Paul and Ginny, who are returning from a night out on the town. The latter stumbles across the killer’s shrine to his dead mother, puts on her blood-soaked sweater and pretends to be Mrs. Voorhees to confuse him. She then buries a machete into Jason’s shoulder, ostensibly killing him, only to have him attack her later by jumping through a cabin window sans the sack, displaying a horribly disfigured head and face. For whatever reason he doesn’t kill her and Ginny is shown the next day being loaded into an ambulance. Paul’s fate remains unclear. The final scene lingers on the altar to Mrs. Voorhees with the bodies of dead victims strewn about. Thankfully a cheesy last shot where the head opens its eyes and smiles was decided against.
Watch Jason attack Ginny in 'Friday the 13th Part 2'
Stuntman Warrington Gillette played the role of Jason, sitting in a makeup chair for seven and a half hours to have his face made to look deformed for the climax where he crashed through the window. The scene was filmed early on and he quit the movie after just two weeks, to be replaced by actor Steve Daskawisz, who suffered a fair share of injuries, including a broken rib and nearly losing his middle finger when he was cut by Steel with a real machete. After all that, he faced the ignominy of being referred to in the end titles as “Jason Stunt Double” as Gillette wouldn’t relinquish the rights to or share the Jason credit.
Filmed in the small Connecticut town of Kent, Friday the 13th Part 2 wasn’t the most pleasant shoot as it turned to fall in 1980 and the weather had begun to change. The majority of the scenes took place in the chill of night and there was no heat in the cabins where the cast and crew were staying. At one point, the former held a work strike to protest the conditions and were eventually moved to a hotel.
When filming completed, the movie was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America 10 times in an effort to garner an R rating instead of an X. One minute of footage in total was cut, nearly all of it crucial shots of violence, leaving many horror fans to criticize the movie for its lack of gore. Ironically, the strictness levied by the MPAA is considered to be a measured response of sorts to the backlash the graphic nature of Friday the 13th received. The reduction in blood and guts wouldn’t be the only complaint, as some noted Friday the 13th Part 2 feels more like a remake than a sequel overall. It replicates much of the original thematically, but with better acting, cinematography and on a grand scale is much more visually appealing since its budget was higher.
The movie took $6.4 million in its opening weekend but didn’t have the staying power of its predecessor and ultimately grossed less than $22 million. None of that dampened plans for a franchise of films, with the next Friday the 13th installment released the following summer.
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