1981 – Five years after the events of the first Friday the 13th, the counselors at a new camp near the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake are stalked by a mysterious masked figure.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
This past week featured our second Friday the 13th of 2015, so I decided to spend it in the most depressing and cliched way possible: sitting at home alone, eating a microwave dinner, and drinking a bottle of wine while watching 80s slasher movies.
Slashers, and the Friday the 13th franchise in particular, get a bad rep. You’ve heard the now-familiar criticisms: they’re poorly acted, they’re voyeuristic, they’re misogynistic, they glorify death and violence. Well maybe it was my dreary mood and maybe it was the bottle of wine and maybe it was the Stouffer’s Three Cheese and Ham Panini, but I had a totally different reading of these films. They aren’t about death and violence. They’re about life, youth, love, and how fragile these precious gifts can be.
Take, for example, Friday the 13th Part 2 (I skipped the first one because I’ve seen it before). Alice (Adrienne King), the prototypical “final girl” and survivor of the first movie, walks around her apartment for a while, talks to her mom on the phone, gets scared by a cat, and then takes an ice pick to the temple after finding the head of Mrs. Voorhees in her refrigerator.
Damn. If that’s not a downer, I don’t know what is. This movie takes everything we “know” about the genre and subverts it. Ted, the “annoying prankster” character who is always dead meat, ends up getting drunk at a bar and probably sleeping with a waitress. For him, the pursuit of sex actually saves his life. Ginny, our heroine, gets drunk at the same bar – and aren’t we supposed to “know” that alcohol and drugs equal death in a movie like this? But her drunken ruminations actually lead her to an idea that, later, helps her defeat the killer and survive.
The script is filled with little moments of tragedy that just touched me to no end. Take the relationship between wheelchair-bound Mark and generic brunette Vickie. The two of them flirt, play a few video games, and seem to establish a real rapport. Despite his crippling motorcycle injury and a negative prognosis from his doctors, Mark is determined to walk again. “I don’t intend to be in this thing the rest of my life,” he tells Vickie. Unfortunately, he does spend the rest of his life in the chair – and his life lasts less than 5 minutes before he takes a machete to the face. Meanwhile, we see poor Vickie preparing herself for a night of romance with her new beau. Returning to the cabin, she is knifed to death.
Damn, I’m depressed.
One aspect that I really liked is that, when a character is killed, the screen fades to white. There’s a positive, uplifting feel to it. A fade to black would indicate an ending, a termination. But a fade to white seems to show us that there’s a release, perhaps even a peace. I may have been reading too far into things. I was drinking white wine.
You’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned the killer, Jason Voorhees. There’s a reason for that: he’s really the least important part of the movie. He’s just a force of nature, unreasonable, implacable. His killing spree is as random as a car accident and just as tragic.
Regarding the ending – what the hell? Ginny and head counselor Paul battle Jason in his creepy shed and drive a machete into him. They return to their cabin and get a false scare from Muffin, the little dog we thought had been killed earlier. Whew! What a relief (by the way, has any other horror movie ever featured a false scare via cat AND dog?). Then WHAM! Jason comes smashing through the window, machete still lodged in his body, grabs Ginny, and… She wakes up the next morning on a stretcher calling “Paul? Where’s Paul?” and gets driven away. The end.
This really bothered me. Is it a dream? What happens to Paul? If he’s alive, why isn’t he there with Ginny as she’s going into the ambulance? If he’s dead, why didn’t Jason kill Ginny too? I actually have a few theories, but none of them is completely satisfying. I’ll elaborate more when we discuss the next film.