Friday the 13th Part II: A Cashcow Grows Up Before Our Eyes

Part I is here. Friday the 13th is a franchise that runs on formula. It's fairly straightforward, but the initial premise proved repetitive, and later entries seem to move away from it. The films all fit neatly into the Three Act Structure promoted by screenwriting manuals:

In Act I (the first 30 minutes), we meet the cast, mostly sexy teenagers or 20-somethings. Jason lurks in the background, and kills someone at the very beginning and/or by the start of Act II. In the next 30 minutes, the sexy teens do little except make out and use illicit substances. Jason picks off the stragglers and has killed most of them by Act III. This last block of 30 minutes is where the allegedly virginal Final Girl uses her wits to defeat Jason once and for all. Or does she?

The franchise is also an excellent example of the development of Intensified Continuity. Now the dominant editing style in mainstream movies, it's when each shot conveys exactly one piece of information- once we see it, we cut to something else. This is most clearly seen in the cutting rate, which steadily accelerates from about 1985 on in this franchise.[ref] Cinemetrics doesn't have data on any of these movies, so I'm estimating. [/ref] Carefully planned longer takes are actually cheaper for low budgets, but as the series became more popular, the production values and cutting rates increased.

Friday the 13th Parts I, II, IV The Final Chapter: (1980, 1981, 1984) Average shot length (ASL) 8-10 seconds. This set stays true to the original premise, with the Machete Bait either in or around a summer camp at Crystal Lake. They are mostly slow and boring, with dated gore effects that look tame today. The cast is unknown and inexperienced, and- Hey! It's Kevin Bacon (Part I) and Crispin Glover (Part IV)!

Friday the 13th Parts V: A New Beginning, IX Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday: (1985, 1993) ASL Part V: 6-8 secs. ASL JGtH: 3-4 secs. These two are different. Part V is set at a half-way house, and Part IX only spends about ten minutes in the woods camping. Jason doesn't kill anyone in in V, and only appears in his usual form at the beginning and end of IX.

Both of these entries, in particular Part V, introduce secondary characters, just to kill them, often in the same scene. Body counts in the double digits.

Taken as a broad comedy, Part V is probably the most entertaining of the bunch. Director Danny Steinmann, though, doesn't understand why fans of the series hate this one: "What’s important was, there were people getting killed, and you saw some breasts.” Technically true.

Part IX, however, has almost nothing to do with any of the other films. The premise: Arnold Jason has come back from the future the dead and will stop at nothing to hunt down Sarah Conner Jason’s previously unmentioned little sister. It feels more like an action movie than a horror film. While I appreciate the attempts at suspense[ref] My heart got going quite a bit toward the end. [/ref] and a more concrete narrative, the whole thing is so unbelievably stupid, I dub it the worst of the lot.

Friday the 13th (2009): ASL 2-3 seconds. Returns to the original premise, sort of. The cinematography is Intensified Continuity in the extreme, coupled with a dark, murky picture and lots of shakycam, which is not a good mix. To quote Jim Emerson, "this is a movie that could use a director." Marcus Nispel's cameras act like flies buzzing around the actors, filming what they can, and cutting from close-up to close-up regardless of who's speaking or doing anything interesting.

Lots of screaming. The dialog is mostly improvisational exclamations: "Oh my God! He's coming! Hurry! Let's get out of here!" Hearing prolonged cries of panic was more upsetting than anything else.

On a whole, the films are a fairly pathetic bunch. The handling of the violence surprised me, and given that it's supposed to be the focus of these affairs, it lacks a certain... something. More in Part III.