You’re Killing Me

To follow up on our recent double feature of slasher favorites Friday the 13th (1980) and My Bloody Valentine (1981), we went with the other two F13 films currently available on Blu-Ray: Parts 2 and 3.

I have to say, I was disappointed. After all these years of build up, I was expecting more. I’m not sure what I hoped to find in these films; maybe more gore, more scares, or violence disturbing enough to justify having avoided the franchise for so long. But mostly, I think I just wanted them to be more fun.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (81) was a pretty good remake of the first film. I was surprised how tame most of the deaths were, especially considering that at least one scene was copied directly from Mario Bava‘s Bay of Blood a.k.a. Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971). That film was made in the early 70s, and still had more gore and a higher body count than Friday the 13th Part 2.

Part 2 did up the sleaze quotient, and the skinny dipping scene was much appreciated. But I was waiting for the rest of the counselors (billed as “extras” in the credits) to return and get killed. Before I knew it, the film was almost over, and it seemed like Jason was just getting started.

As far as the controversial “sack” is concerned: I thought it was an effective look for the killer, albeit one borrowed from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (74). I also liked how Jason was still shown as being human in this one. Turns out, he doesn’t like being kicked in the nuts more than any other guy.

Considering that I went into these films expecting them to be light on plot and character development, I was still frustrated by the lack of cohesion from one film to the next. The ending of Part 2 makes no sense whatsoever: If Ginny (Amy Steel, in one of the series’ stronger lead performances) was the only survivor, then what happened to her boyfriend (or Fluffy for that matter)? Even if the last scene of Jason coming through the window was a dream, the boyfriend still would have been alive. So where did he go? how did Ginny escape from the killer?

We watched Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982) immediately after, which seemed appropriate as the events supposedly take place the same day as Part 2. I was hoping for some answers, or that the films would at least stick to following their own internal logic. But it soon became obvious that I was setting the bar way too high.

Even though Part 2 left us with a truckload of “extra” camp counselors still roaming around Crystal Lake in one piece (including the Comic Relief Jew, who got more screen time than anyone in Part 2 besides the Final Girl), the film instead focuses on a new batch of “teens” who are spending the weekend at a creepy old house owned by the parents of our new heroine (Dana Kimmell). I guess it’s on the other side of the lake or something, thus the connection?

Jason has also evolved quite a bit in the hour or so between the events of Part 2 to the events of Part 3. He inexplicably shaved his head, and has apparently began using steroids. Thanks to a lean protein diet of dogs and forest critters, he now has the ability to crush a person’s head with his bare hands, and can no longer be slowed by a kick in the nuts (he does have an aversion to books, however).

Anyway, we get a ridiculous flashback sequence where it’s revealed that the Final Girl had a previous run in with Jason. They fought, he knocked her out, and…she woke up in the hospital. I was expecting this to lead to some twist, like maybe she was now carrying his child or something. But there was no explanation – he just let her go.

Really? So we’re supposed to believe that Jason just randomly decided to let this one girl go, so he could go after her later?

At this point I pretty much gave up on Part 3. There were some good kills, but overall I felt like I had seen it all before. And that’s when it hit me: The reason why the Friday the 13th franchise deserves a certain amount of critical scorn is because it basically sucked the creativity and imagination out of the horror genre. There are hundreds of movies out there exactly like Part 3. The unique touches that made films like Black Christmas (74) and The Burning (81) memorable are completely missing from Part 3. It’s a by-the-book slasher, complete with implausible back story, terrible acting from the main characters, and a relentless killer who keeps coming back from the dead. Even the ending was a cop out, as we get a lame “twist” on the brilliant shock ending from Part 1.

A note about the characters: While they were mainly stereotypes, I still found some of them likable. It’s been well documented that Jason gets his famous hockey mask from Part 3’s Comic Relief Jew, Shelly (Larry Zerner). I also liked the addition of a hippie/pothead couple, even if they served no real purpose other than body count. The incongruous mixed race bikers were also fun. And the girl who was supposed to be Mexican, who got stuck on a blind date with Shelly (and eventually the business end of a 3-D harpoon), was played by a decent actress (Catherine Parks) and should have been the Final Girl.

The film was so successful in theaters that producers saw no reason to take chances after that, and from 1983 onwards, we saw a glut of increasingly formulaic horror films. Some credit must go to Wes Craven for breathing life into the genre with A Nightmare on Elm Street (84), but for the most part, the slasher was dead. It was up to filmmakers like Dan O’Bannon, Stuart Gordon, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson to get horror back on track, which they did largely without the participation of masked killers.

And maybe that’s OK. There were certainly enough of these movies made during the early 80s peak era to keep me busy for awhile. And what fun is a slasher movie without feathered hair, short shorts, and tacky synthesizer music?

Picture-wise, both films looked great. I liked the look of Part 2 the best. It was appropriately dark without being washed out (something that detracted from the night scenes in Part 1), and there was enough grain to lend it a gritty, film-like quality. If you have the opportunity to watch these films in high definition, go for it.

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3 Responses to “You’re Killing Me”

  1. Out of the bunch, NOES has a better record for creativity, and even Halloween had part 6, which attempted to bring sanity to the world it took place in, and Paul Rudd.

    Jason however, has always been the red (bulbous) headed step child of the slasher series world. Pt 1 had good moments and pts 9 (JGTH) and 10 were both kind of post-modern spins on their own character (see New Nightmare for the NOES equivalent), which was fun. JTM also made me laugh enough, usually on purpose, to its credit.

    It sounds like a lot, but out of 13 movies, only 2-3 were decent – DECENT. Mostly, it’s just repetitive story arcs and repetitive kills. I did really like the one where he bent the guy over backwards 😛 … but maybe that’s all they’re about; you chat with friends, while it plays in the background, occasionally getting a cheer when a kill or a boob pops onscreen.

    • roarvis Says:

      We’re looking forward to Part 4, which has Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover. And I might watch Part 5 only because it was directed by Danny Steinman who did the awesome Savage Streets. But I don’t see myself going any further into the series. Except maybe the remake, just for larfs.

  2. […] You’re Killing Me « Blanked as Ordered […]

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