June 22, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Friday the 13th Part 2

The year was 1980, a little movie arrived on the big screen and became an instant sensation. The movie was called Friday the 13th. The slasher film borrowed heavily from Halloween, but director Sean Cunningham and writer Victor Miller took the fast growing horror-sub-genre in a new direction, but that is not the point here. The point is that the movie was a fast enough success that a sequel was shot and released just a year later. This film has taken on a classic quality of its own, as it added more to the bigger story of the series and introduced us, officially, to one of the most legendary big screen killers of all time.

Friday the 13th Part 2 begins with a protracted opening sequence featuring Alice, the lone survivor of the first movie. She is having a terrible nightmare, she is reliving the horrors of the first movie, which saw all of her friend's murdered and her holding the reason for the killer's demise.

STOP: if you are unfamiliar with the first movie stop here, go watch it and then come back. If you like horror, there is no excuse for not knowing this movie.

Anyway, Alice killed Mrs. Pamela Voorhees, the mother of the boy who drowned in Crystal Lake. She returns years after his death to exact revenge on the camp counselors. Alice alone survived, and she is haunted by the memory. However, someone else is haunted by the memory. You see, Jason never drowned, he survived and has been living out in the woods with the memory of counselor neglect and the death of his mother by decapitation.

This opening sequence does a great job of recapping the first movie and building tension for the new tale of dead teenagers. As we are lead to the inevitable death of Alice, we follow her around her home in a long unbroken shot, tension building every second. When is it going to come? When will the figure step out of the darkness and take his revenge? There are many moments where it could happen, but doesn't. The scene had me on the edge of my seat, it has been some time since I have seen the movie. I knew how she died, but forgot the where. Nicely executed open.

Time jumps ahead five years and the land just next to Camp Crystal Lake is being opened as a training ground for camp counselors. Might as well call it Camp Jason Fodder. Before long the grounds are running rampant with young people with raging hormones. We also get to meet Crazy Ralph, the local doomsayer. All of these people go about their business, which seems to have very little to do with counselor training. The couples split off, the singles try to pair of, and Jason sits back and waits to make his presence felt.

Before Jason's bloody rampage can begin we need to hear the story, the opening flashback sequence was simply not enough. In the five years since the events of the first film, the story of Jason ha become campfire legend. The crazy girl in the lake (Alice) has inspired the growth of the story, not to mention the actual blood that was shed. The story is told around a fire and all in attendance are intrigued, if not terribly afraid. To this point, Jason's existence is a complete unknown.

Now, as the youngsters spread out into the night to take of business, Jason steps in, unhappy to have these interlopers on his land, and still harboring those bad feelings of his near drowning and the death of his mother. He moves in and dispatches the boys and girls in a variety of creative ways. It is a joy to watch.

This movie, heck the series in general, serve no other purpose than to provide cheap thrills. There is nothing wrong with that, it is not particularly scary, but it is not without its tension. The characters are moderately interesting, and some of them you may even want to see live.

Jason makes his first appearance as a big time killer in this film, but sans hockey mask. As he goes around hacking and killing he does so with a a sack over his head with a single eye hole. A big thing to note with this film, something younger fans may not know, Jason is very much a living person, he is not the unstoppable zombie he would become. In this movie you will see him run, stagger, scramble, and get hurt. He is sort of like a crazy redneck living in the woods. This is in stark contrast to what he would develop into later in the series.

The movie has some good gore effects, but unfortunately this is not an uncut version. Whether or not the extended footage still exists is still in question. You will see in the film where the kills are cut to help get around some of the blood, with the most egregious being the infamous double-impalement. It is a shame, hopefully one day the footage will be found and be able to be reintegrated into the movie.

Another interesting thing to note is the head of Pamela Voorhees is not always a dummy head, there are parts where it is someone in makeup. The original plan had been for the eyes to open at the end. Fortunately, they decided not to go that route. Of course, this leaves the ending a little nebulous. If there is one big problem, it would be the ending that doesn't really make sense.

Audio/Video. Considering the age and budget of the film, my questions going in concerned what sort of improvement the Blu-ray format would offer. All questions were answered as I pressed play. The image is nothing like the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but it is a significant improvement over the soft image from the disk in the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set. There is a good amount of film grain, but the image is more than acceptable, it is easily the best it has ever looked for me (not having seen it on the big screen). The detail is good, even in the darkness and the colors have a realistic look to them.

The audio is presented in both a new 5.1 TrueHD mix as well as the original mono. The surround mix is nice, but for my money I prefer the mono track. It has a brightness and a front and center feeling that appeals to me. Whichever track you choose, you won't be disappointed. Everything is crisp and clear, with the highlight definitely being the ever insistent score by Harry Manfredini.

Extras. This release contains a nice selection of extras.
  • Inside "Crystal Lake Memories." This is an interview with Peter Bracke by Del Howison (proprietor of a horror shop in California), author of "Crystal Lake Memories," a book that covers the history of the franchise. It is an interesting interview. I want to get the book!
  • Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions. Take a look inside the world of horror conventions. This is fun, fans and stars mingling together and celebrating what they love. Footage includes Betsy Palmer, Tom Savini, Ari Lehman, and Harry Manfredini.
  • Lost Tales from Camp Blood - Part 2. I haven't seen Part 1, but this looks like a fan film version of a slasher flick. It features a couple with a broken down car who begin to hike. Guess what happens?
  • Jason Forever. This is a half hour long panel discussion with four of the previous actors to portray Jason. They were: Ari Lehman (Part 1), Warrington Gillette (Part 2), CJ Graham (Part 6), and Kane Hodder (Parts 7-10). It was an good panel moderated by Peter Bracke. We get tales of how they came to get the part and how they approached creating it. This originally appeared on a Best Buy bonus disk for the Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set. This version has a little more footage with behind the scenes photos, and some new cutaway interview bits throughout.
  • Theatrical Trailer. The trailer looks like it has gone through some cleanup. It starts a bit rough, but overall it looks pretty darn good.
Bottomline. This is a solid sequel. It may not be the best or the bloodiest of them, but this is where the evolution of Jason begins. You cannot begin with him not in that one-eyed sack running around like a rabid hillbilly. It is not a movie you watch for the acting, although that is not all that bad, it something you watch to see who is going to get it and if they are creative n doing it. If you are a Jason fan, you will want to have this disk.



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