When it comes to October and spooky month watchlists, it’s always good to have at least a few slashers in there; or if you’re like Alex and Ryan, almost your entire list will entail serial killers, chase scenes, gore and an unnecessary amount of nudity in the woods. Many of their nights this month have consisted of cracking open a couple of beers and doing double features, and although they came up with some good ones (The Guest / You’re Next, Insidious / Sinister, Wrong Turn / The Hills Have Eyes), the most fun came from a double feature of Friday The 13th Part 2 and The Burning. Not only were they both released in 1981, but one of the biggest things they share is how underrated they remain to this day. For this double feature recommendation, Ryan writes about the iconic slasher series second installment while Alex writes about how that series in particular tainted the success of a criminally underrated camp slasher.
Friday The 13th Part Two
The Friday the 13th series will always hold a special place in my heart. They were some of the first slashers my horror-enthusiast dad ever showed to me, and thinking back on it, was where my love of horror first started. It might seem crazy now, but 14-year old Ryan did not like scary movies. Then I was introduced to movies like Halloween, Child’s Play and Friday the 13th, and all that changed. If I could have three wishes (the first two being perfect eyesight and a jetski, obviously), the other would be to go back and experience those movies for the first time all over again.
After the huge success of Halloween in 1978, the film industry saw a sudden surge of teen slasher/stalker flicks. To keep up with the demand, Paramount and director Sean S. Cunningham created Friday the 13th, which follows a group of camp counselors as they are picked off one by one by an unseen killer. While it didn’t receive overwhelmingly positive reviews at the time, Friday the 13th still went on to become an iconic franchise and started the whole cabin-in-the-woods setting in horror movies.
The original Friday the 13th installment is pretty solid for what it is, but watching it now, it’s hard to ignore the cheesy performances and glacially slow pacing. As a kid, I remember loving the second Friday way more than the first, and after rewatching it for the first time in 10 years, that opinion hasn’t changed. I mean sure, the original has a certain charm to it but if Friday the 13th was made as a standalone movie (meaning no sequels or remakes), would it still have the same following it does today? Maybe, but my guess is that it would have gotten lost in the avalanche of 80’s slashers that followed it. In my eyes, Friday the 13th Part 2 is what defined the series by introducing us to our favourite hockey mask-wearing lunatic.
Part 2 is superior to the original in so many ways. It has better scares, better pacing, more likeable characters with actual personalities, and a far darker tone. After all, it opens with Jason killing the only surviving character from the first movie, proving to us from the start that it doesn’t have quite the same campiness as the first. The final chase scene is so intense, largely due to impressive camerawork from director Steve Miner (Halloween H2O, Lake Placid). The perspective of the viewer constantly switches between Jason and final girl Ginny in a seemingly one-shot fashion, to the point where we don’t even know who it is we’re following. Just another example of how Friday the 13th Part 2 ups it’s scare factor, and establishes itself as a sophisticated sequel.
All in all, Friday the 13th helped shape an entire genre of fun, campy slashers, and that isn’t something you can say about just any movie. And while I do think Part 2 is the strongest installment in the franchise, it works best as one chapter in the overall story. So if you’re looking for a little Halloween-time nostalgia, might I suggest revisiting Camp Crystal Lake.
The truth is, when we think about fun camp setting horror we think of Sleepaway Camp or Friday The 13th almost immediately. Although I’ve got the utmost respect for both of these films and how they’ve effectively instilled fear into children heading off to summer camp or mainly the counsellors soon to be running it; there’s a film that’s being left out of the conversation. And that’s The Burning. When it comes to this underrated gem, many people still have yet to come across it which is borderline devastating. Even myself, an avid horror fanatic since birth wasn’t introduced to it until two years ago. I remember looking through the horror section at a BMV and coming across a retro DVD of a madman with giant sheers on the case. Without hesitation I bought it and it remains one of my greatest purchases among a large collection of DVDs.
In Tony Maylam’s The Burning, the tone is set with a gruesome prank on the camp cook gone wrong; only for that same man who goes by the name Cropsy, to stalk and hunt down the newest counsellors five years later. Now, this is clearly nothing groundbreaking considering the amount of “revenge over a prank gone wrong films” we’ve gotten over the years, but it’s executed much better than most.
It’s a shame that when this first came out it was immediately labeled a Friday The 13th ripoff, and it didn’t help that Friday’s sequel came out the exact same year either. Now I know what I’m about to say is pretty bold but I truly believe this one executes the camp setting revenge slasher so much better. First off, the characters in this film aren’t just a bunch of horny teens in the woods who never watch over the kids and make dumb mistakes. We’re actually given real fleshed out people that are funny, human, most of the time smart and stuck in a much rougher predicament with higher stakes. There’s so many of them to root for that it physically brings you to the edge of your seat in anticipation for who’s going to get the chop next. And speaking of getting the chop, the kills and practical effects are fantastic. While Friday decides to have most kills off screen and not nearly enough blood shed, The Burning shows you everything and I honestly had to look away for a couple of them. One of those times being a raft scene that is extremely shocking and gruesome in all the best ways.
Another thing is, this film aged like fine wine and even shares some of the same morals and themes that we stand by in today’s society. Most 80s films don’t condemn men being pervs and harassing women with unwanted touch and attention, while this one puts it front and center having its main characters deal with the situation and show that it’s never okay instead of turning it into a joke like “boys will be boys.” This movie has more developed women at its center who aren’t afraid to shut down the men who come on to them too strongly and talk about consent, again making it easier to root for them.
Now while Cropsy isn’t as iconic as Mrs. Voorhees or Jason himself, he’s still a scary killer who is out for the blood of anyone at any time. There’s so many reasons I find myself coming back to this film, especially on Halloween, and I assure you that if you give this movie a chance then you may just find yourself watching it more than once.