"FRIDAY THE 13TH": A SERIES RETROSPECTIVE (PART 2) Image

One Hell of a Weekend: “Parts 2” to “4”
These three movies (along with the first film) are the beating heart of the series and the reason that it’s kept on going despite the overall iffy quality of all the installments.

The timeline is a little confused but these three sequels essentially take place on a “Friday the 13th” a few years after the first film where we find out that Jason did not die as his mother had thought, but is still alive and has been living in the woods ever since he supposedly drowned. The goof here is that since he’s such a mama’s boy why hasn’t he contacted her? And if his mother knew he was alive why was she killing off the camp counselors? Oh well… let’s not languish on plot holes that are merely small enough to drive a car through when there’s big old eight lane freeway of impossibility linking every episode in this series together.

To describe “Part 2’s” “story” would be a waste of time. We already went through it with “Part 1” and there are no surprises here. Camp, counselors, killing, Jason… Hell, they might have used the same script for all I know with a few edits removing the parts with Jason’s mom. “Part’s 3” and “4” are the same as “2” with the notable exception that we finally get to see Jason don his trademark hockey mask. “Part 3” was released in 3D but no one’s seen that version since 1982 so let’s not ever mention the format again. “Part 4” was directed by Joseph Zito when Paramount decided to kill off the franchise with a bang. He was a kind of “celebrity” director and he did as good a job as Sean S. Cunningham (“Part 1”) and Steve Miner (“Part 2” and “3”) did before him.

Of the entire series, “Part 3” and “4” are probably the two “essential” films. They’re the ones people think of when they think of Jason Voorhees. “Part 4” is slightly better than “3,” but not by much. Both the films have a good degree of “meat” to them. The characters are fairly well drawn out, the films are well acted and they’re directed with care. Even the writing, never a “Friday…” strong point, hits a peak the series never reached again. Some of the dialogue is hilarious. Who can forget “They all went skinny dipping, but I’m not skinny enough.” from “Part 3” or “The computer says you’re a dead f**k!” from “Part 4”?

Speaking of “Part 4,” this is the one Friday that comes closest to being a proper “star” film. It has Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman and Peter Barton (Remember Barton? He was Matthew Starr in that TV series about the “Powers of” somebody?) All these actors were fairly famous at the time, and on top of that, Tom Savini was back doing the effects after a much missed absence.

Ted White, the actor who played Jason in “Part 4,” probably plays the best incarnation of the beast for the simple reason that he runs and moves at a normal human pace. It sounds like I’m reaching here, but I’m not. His portrayal really works. The tensest scenes in the entire series occur when Kimberly Beck (the last surviving girl) is climbing a flight of stairs and Jason is just right on f*****g top of her. There’s a real sense of menace to these scenes. They’re not stylish, they’re not “cool,” they’re raw and real and it’s one of the few times when Jason truly does look like a madman who could have spent his whole life living in the woods and wiping his a*s with leaves.

The Beginning was the End: “Part 5”
“Friday 5” is unique among the series since Jason doesn’t show up at all except in a dream sequence and the killings have nothing to do with the Voorhees family at all. The film was fairly clever. Not good, I must stress that, but clever. It was also the last “Friday…” film to be done in a serious tone. Everything after this was tongue in cheek. There were hints of the jokey style to come here, but for now it was held in check.

Tommy Jarvis, our hero in “Part 4” and now a young man, is sent to a halfway house before being released from an insane asylum. This halfway house is awful similar to a summer camp. So similar in fact that it’s not surprising that he begins to see “Jason” everywhere.

The movie isn’t all that great and from what I’ve heard it was an extremely unpleasant experience to be a part of. However, it’s just good enough for you to be able to see the hazy outlines of a much better movie. If they’d spent just a little bit more time and effort on it, they could have really had something. Alas, by 1985 the “Friday…” series had become such a bloated cash cow for Paramount that they had started to think they could just film anything and people would come anyway.

Still, despite my misgivings and less than kind words, this is nonetheless a decent film and worth watching. The series didn’t start to really stink to holy high hell until the next installment.

The series takes a turn for the awful in Part Three of “Friday the 13th”: A Series Retrospective>>>

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