surprise hit of the 1980 film season was Sean Cunningham’s Friday The 13th,
a low-budget “horror” entry produced by Georgetown Productions.
The terror flick shocked Paramount Pictures, who had picked it up for the
release to make a few quick bucks with the drive-in crowd, when it evolved into
the 20th-largest grossing film of the year (topping Filmways’ and
Brian DePalma’s so-called major motion picture, Dressed to Kill).
The 13th told the plight of a group of counselors being murdered one
by one at Camp Crystal Lake. The camp’s “curse” and killer turned out to
be Mrs. Vorhees (Betsy Palmer), the mother of a “hideously deformed boy,”
Jason, who had drowned in the camp’s lake over twenty years earlier because of
two counselor’s negligence. After a suspenseful showdown, Mrs. Vorhees was decapitated by
the one surviving teenager, Alice (Adrienne King).
The 13th Part II picks up with Alice, safely in her own home,
dreaming of the terrifying nightmare that she endured at Camp Crystal Lake.
Aroused from her nap, Alice goes to the refrigerator to fetch her cat a snack,
only to find Mrs. Vorhees’ severed head starting wickedly back at her. From out of nowhere, a mysterious stranger thrusts an icepick through the
base of Alice’s nose, signaling
the start of Jason’s revenge. . .
The 13th Part II’s main plot line begins five years later as a
group of young adults are making their way to a counselor training session at
Lake Region, a settlement in the same area as Part I’s “Camp Blood.” When
the majority of the youths leave for a night at a local music club, it isn’t
long before Jason’s reign of terror begins.
set out to make the most terrifying film ever,” says Friday The 13th Part II’s producer-director, Steven Miner (who also served as the original’s
associate producer and unit production manager). “I know that every horror
director says that, but I really think we did it. I set out to top Friday The 13th.
So far, we’ve had some very successful screenings.”
of a Friday The 13th sequel began occurring to Georgetown Productions
immediately upon the film’s prosperous opening week last spring. At that time,
Steve Miner was in Rome working with director Wes Craven (Last House on the
Left, Stranger in the House) on pre-production for a movie entitled Marimba
(temporarily suspended by still in development). Plans for Friday The 13th Part II became definite last July when Georgetown decided to begin shooting in
September, enabling Paramount to capitalize on the original’s audience by
releasing a sequel only one year later after the first film’s premiere.
Georgetown wanted to shoot the sequel so quickly, Sean (Cunningham) wasn’t
going to be able to do it,” recalls Miner. “Sean was busy preparing a lot of
projects at other studios. I was originally approached to only produce the
sequel, but it soon became clear to me that I would do as good a job at
directing Part II as anybody else could. I was familiar with the first film and
I’ve been a fan of horror movies all of my life. This would be the first time that I directed a theatrical feature, but I
had done second unit directing on a couple of movies that I’ve produced and
I’d also directed some industrial films. I think I understood what the first
picture’s audience and fans of the genre wanted in the second chapter.”
and directing Friday The 13th Part II would prove to be a difficult
task. Many horror enthusiasts felt that the initial movie offered nothing more
then its grotesque murders and, inherently, another opportunity to marvel at the
work of makeup master Tom Savini. These
fans thought that the killings weren’t supported by enough true plot
The 13th worked well,” Miner counters. “The enjoyment with this
kind of film is audience participation. The audience didn’t even mind the dumb
stuff, because they could talk back to it. They really stayed with the story. What does happen with a lot of these
movies is that they have terrific ad campaigns but then they don’t deliver. I
don’t think that was the case with Friday The 13th , because
business continued strong for weeks and weeks. Practically all of the
advertising money was spend during its first week of release, which means that
its continued success was based on a good word of mouth. Everybody that I’ve talked to really can’t wait to see
my film, Jason looks much different,” Miner states, “but that could be
because he’s five years older now. Yet he’s not the living dead, as some
rumors have speculated. I think that Jason survived his drowning. That’s how I
approached it, but that doesn’t mean that Alice saw the real Jason. In Part II, Jason doesn’t talk like Mrs. Vorhees was imitating him. In
fact, in this movie, Jason can’t or at least doesn’t, talk.”
the question of whether or not Jason survived was one of Miner’s lesser
worries. He also had to overcome some of the original picture’s more principal
there were mistakes in the first film’s script was not the way I approached
it,” says the director-producer. “I came to the project thinking that there
were some very good things about the first script, mainly the structure. I felt
that the overall framework-the way the story was told-worked. We tried, however
to improve upon some of the character dialogue flaws. We attempted to make the
characters a little more realistic. We did avoid ‘strip monopoly. . .’”
and screenwriter Ron Kurz (who had done some rewrites on Part I’s script), did
indeed give their movie fuller characters. Yet their reminiscent structure –
including a throat slashing and an after-sex murder – might disturb some
theater patrons who pay to see a new production. These scenes’ saving grace is
that, for the most part, they are put against different settings and emotional
moods from what was utilized in Cunningham’s feature. Other holdovers from
Part I are Harry Manfredini’s “Hiss, hiss, hissing” Jason soundtrack
theme, a swimming hole sequence, and Walt Gorney as the camptown’s resident
weirdo, Crazy Ralph.
is really a very dedicated actor,” Miner smiles. “I think that he tends to
live his roles. We’d be between takes, sitting around the location, and Walt
would be talking to himself. I don’t know if he does that in real life, but he
did it on the set. Crazy Ralph is so strange, that maybe Walt had to act weird
all of the time in order to stay in character.”
retaining Walt Gorney and Adrienne King was fairly easy, getting Friday The 13th’s
production personnel to return was nearly impossible. Most follow-ups have
sometimes as much as two years after their predecessor’s release before they
start shooting, but since Friday The 13th Part II was slated to begin so quickly, most of the original’s crew were
committed to other projects. Perhaps
Miner’s largest loss was the absence of Tom Savini.
a good friend and a very talented man,” says Miner. “Unfortunately, he was
involved with another film in Buffalo (The Burning). When his schedule kept
running over and it became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to do the sequel,
I called a good friend of mine in Los Angeles, Stan Winston [Gargoyles’
“background” creatures, Dead and Buried].
I called Stan about Friday The 13th Part II, he said that he wanted
to do it, but that he also had a bunch of conflicts. One of the problems was
that I had to shoot here in the East Coast and Stan was busy with his studio in
California. [Winston wound up casting Betsy Palmer’s negative mold for Mrs.
Vorhees’ severed head.] Stan told me to call Dick Smith, who then highly
recommended Carl Fullerton. [Fullerton had worked in various capacities on such
endeavors as Saturday Night Live, The Wiz, the upcoming Wolfen, and as Smith’s
assistant on Altered States] Stan also thought extremely well of Carl. It was a
disappointment not to use Tom Savini again, because he has such tremendous
creative energy and is a joy to work with. Now, he even has certain box office
appeal. But when Carl Fullerton brought a severed head that he had made for
Wolfen – it was so amazingly lifelike and extraordinary – to our first
production meeting, I knew that he’d be up to the job. I confidently feel that
after Wolfen and Friday The 13th Part II, the name Carl Fullerton
will have box office appeal as well. He’s incredibly skilled and creative.”
matter how important script, cast and crew may be the real star of any graphic
horror film is its special effects. Fortunately, Miner’s gamble on the
relatively unknown Carl Fullerton paid off. Fullerton’s work in the sequel is
certainly as disturbing as anything created by Savini for Part I.
most elaborate makeup effect is the ‘after-sex’ impaling through two bodies
at the same time,” comments Miner. “We used special rigs and some excellent
large body appliances that Carl Fullerton made which necessitated the actors
being put in very uncomfortable positions. Carl and his assistant, Dick
Smith’s son, David have a kind of air pressure tank that shoots blood out.
They made the scene really gruesome. The blood is made up of jelly and stuff. .
favorite murder is when Mark (Tom McBride) gets the machete in his head. Part of
the thrill in these movies is that the audience knows that the guy or gal is
going to get it, but the tension builds up as they’re trying to guess when and
from where the murder’s going to come. What I like to do is distract the
audience as much as possible. The buildup to the machete killing is nice because
it really throws the audience off. I think it’s cleverly conceived and
executed. To do the murder, I had a special mask built to cover Tom McBride’s
face and catch the machete. With a quick reverse cut, though, it seems like the
murder actually happens on screen. The mask was very simply built from a
catcher’s mask that we put Styrofoam on. We made the machete out of balsa
many first-time directors faced with helming a horror opus, the prospect of
dealing with intense gore effects didn’t bother Miner.
really found it interesting,” Miner admits. “On the last film, Tom Savini
took over the editing studio in my house in Connecticut to build all his stuff.
I was with him all of that time, so I got a pretty good working knowledge of how
all the various tricks work. With my background as an editor, I was able to
easily visualize the effects sequences. In fact, I storyboarded the whole film.
I very carefully worked out how the effects scenes would work, how one shot
would cover another. That enabled me to tell Carl to build only exactly what we
needed. The storyboarding was very enjoyable, because it was like putting all
the pieces together of a giant puzzle.”
with Carl Fullerton may have been fun for Steve, but the detailed makeup effects
must have caused some of the actors to have doubts about their decision to let
themselves be murdered on celluloid.
were all good sports about it,” notes Miner. “The makeup – particularly
Jason’s – was terribly uncomfortable. Jason’s makeup covered all of the
actor’s [Warrington Gillette] Face. Warrington was in makeup for six hours to
get the appliances on. Once Warrington had it on, he couldn’t eat. Warrington
had to do that twice, because the first time they filmed the sequence where you
get to see what Jason looks like, it didn’t work. That was one of the scenes
that I didn’t figure out properly. There was a lot to coordinate. In the first
Friday The 13th, it took us three takes to get the scene where Jason
comes up out of the water correctly shot.”
mention of Jason’s makeup prompted FANGORIA to remember the controversy that
surrounded our coverage of the last film (see FANGORIA #6) On Part I, Tom Savini
was instructed to make Jason look like a mongoloid. FANGORIA received complaints
when we ran a photo feature entitled “How To Make a Mongoloid” (see “The
Postal Zone,” issue #8) Although Miner claims that Georgetown Productions
didn’t receive any admonitory letters, Jason doesn’t appear as a mongoloid
in the sequel.
never said ‘mongoloid,’” Miner insists. “Someone else on the staff did,
but I’m not going to pass the buck. That word was used, but not to belittle or
make fun of handicapped people. ‘Mongoloid’ was used to describe someone who
might be horribly deformed and at the same time be mentally incapable of taking
care of himself. Tom might have just latched onto the word ‘mongoloid’ and
made him look that way.”
with a “new look” for Jason, Miner also brought to the sequel a new female
lead, after spoiling Adrienne King’s “girl-next-door” good looks in the
precredit sequence. Amy Steel fills the lead roll of Ginny, the youth who
ultimately faces Jason in the final confrontation. Like King’s Alice, Ginny is
an independent type, but Steel injects her heroine with another quality: sex
appeal. Casting Steel in the lead role was a cagey move for Miner, who is aware
that fright film fans are fond of starring actresses cut from a traditional,
unabashedly sensual mold.
think that Hitchcock figured that one out, with Tippi Hedren and the rest,”
says Miner. “We were really
fortunate to get Amy for the part. Our casting agents, Simon and Kumin, did a
terrific job scouring New York for the best people, and it shows in the movie.
The basics still hold true – you have to care about the characters.”
coup for Miner was his success in signing Betsy Palmer for a return appearance
in the sequel, despite the letter writing campaign stirred up by Chicago critic
Gene Siskel, who encouraged his readers to write to Betsy Palmer at her home
town to express their shock at her participating in such a film. The scene that
features her cameo appearance is one of the best of the entire movie.
Miner’s film will have to face some of the critical barbs that were thrown at
the Cunningham film. Miner isn’t too bothered by the prospect, however.
don’t understand this kind of movie,” he says. “You have to show some
realistic violence in order to make the setup frightening. You can’t scare
people nowadays without showing some kind of gore. I have my doubts whether the
audience that enjoys ‘pure’ psychological terror exists anymore.
don’t necessarily have to dwell on violence, however, to satisfy an audience.
Still, I’m sure there will be people, especially critics who will think that
we’ve gone overboard. All I have to say to them is, ‘Don’t go see Friday
The 13th, Part II.’ If you don’t enjoy this type of picture, fine
– but other people do. I can’t worry about what the critics will say. If we made a movie to please the critics, we probably wouldn’t be doing
justice to our audience.”
Miner may be able to brush off the expected jibes of the critical press, there
is one set of critics that cannot be ignored – the ratings board of the Motion
Picture Association of America. Since last year, the MPAA has responded to the
demands of alarmists like Chicago’s Siskel, and have taken a tougher stance on
film violence – as anyone knows who has seen the difference between this
magazine’s coverage of Bloody Valentine and the severely cut version that was
released to theaters. If the ratings board stamps Miner’s current cut of the
picture with an X rating, Miner and the picture will have to return to the
am worried that we’ll have to edit a lot of the film,” Miner admits. “I
was involved with the trimming that we had to do on the first one, though, and
our cutting didn’t diminish the movie’s effectiveness. We basically just had
to tone down some of the excessive blood. If
that’s all we have to do on this one, it won’t be too bad. The success of
Friday The 13th Part II isn’t based on total explicitness.”
solution to the possible MPAA problem is to release Friday The 13th Part II without a rating. But while small distributors can afford to release
their films without the MPAA’s approval, Paramount Pictures cannot, since it
would cause them political problems with their other, larger budgeted
productions. Isn’t this a state that might make Steve wish that his movie was
being released by a company like United Films Distribution (the firm that
releases George Romero’s pictures)?
major is always much more effective in releasing a movie,” answers Miner.
“They have the money for advertising and the ability to line up an incredible
number of theatres. But I guess it’s too early to say. My answer would really
have to be based on how much we have to cut in order to get the ‘R’ rating.
It would obviously be a shame if whatever trimming we have to do ends up hurting
Friday The 13th Part II. It would be sad not to release a film in its
most effective form. But Paramount
has brilliant marketing and they’re the best people to distribute this
picture. We’ll have to wait and see.”
condition that might damage Friday The 13th Part II is already in the
film. Throughout most of the picture, Jason wears an Elephant Man-type mask.
Albeit Jason is supposed to terrify theatre crowds, his hood might make them
was an unfortunate coincidence,” Steve concedes, “but we finished shooting
right before The Elephant Man came out. The mask wasn’t meant as a joke, so I
hope people won’t laugh at Jason. I don’t think it will remind people of The
Elephant man, however, because the two films are so completely different.”
Friday The 13thwas such a great success, if its sequel fails
financially, the blame will be entirely leveled at Steve Miner. Since this is
Miner’s directorial debut, that could possibly stop his promising career.
is my break,” comments Miner. “Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham and I all started
out together on Last House on the Left, but this is my first major shot. I’ll
be judged on this film. I really wanted to do better then Part I, and I think I have.
So far, I’ve been very fortunate in my professional life. But even if Friday
The 13th Part II is a terrible bomb, which I know it won’t be, it
won’t stop my career. I still have a lot of years ahead of me.”
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