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LONG NIGHT AT CAMP BLOOD

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In 1979, a small group of filmmakers set out to make “The Scariest Movie Ever Made” in the woods of Blairstown, New Jersey. One year later, what was meant to be a ripoff of John Carpenter’s classic slasher film Halloween, quickly gained steam and became a box office hit in its own right. That film of course was Friday the 13th.

Originally titled Long Night At Camp Blood, the filmmakers quickly changed the name to honor the day that so many see as unlucky. Well, luckily for them, it proved to be a smart move, as audiences were treated to the ill-fated camp counselors looking to re-open Camp Crystal Lake. There’s no need to get in specifics about the plot, because let’s face it, we’ve all seen this movie. While it may seem dated to some, it still holds up and the ending is still extremely effective.

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THE BODY COUNT CONTINUES

After the first film made well over its budget back and not to mention a nice profit, Paramount decided that a sequel had to be made to cash in on the success of the original film. However, the direction of where the story would go was another issue altogether. Sean S. Cunningham, director of the original film, wanted to take this in a different way. Cunningham had intended to have a completely different story being told that just so happens to take place on the title’s namesake.

Now it should be noted that similar to Carpenter, Cunningham did not want to retread into familiar territory. Both legitimately tried to take their respective franchises in different directions. While commendable, they were overruled by the studios. Paramount wanted another slasher film, as they were generating huge profits for the studios distributing them.

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It was decided that Jason Voorhees, Mrs. Voorhees’ special boy, would indeed be the villain of the sequel. Now screenwriter Victor Miller (writer of the original film) has gone on record as saying that Jason was dead from the start of the original film. He was a macguffin (plot device) used to explain Pamela’s murderous motives.

Unhappy with this decision, Cunningham, Savini and Miller wanted nothing to do with the sequel. Enter Steve Miner. Miner would take over directorial duties for the 2nd chapter in the Voorhees saga. Miner served as a producer on the first film and had no qualms about going forward with a  Jason driven sequel.

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I WANNA GO SEE CAMP BLOOD

With Steve Miner in place as director and Screenwriter Ron Kurz delivering a script that made the execs at Paramount happy, the next step was to get the actors and actresses to bring the horny teens to Jason’s slaughter. Due to the success of the first film, casting directors decided not to tell those auditioning for roles the title of the movie right away… mainly out of concern that the actors might demand more money for their services.

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This would become a standard practice in casting all the Friday the 13th films, as well the eventual false titles using the late, great David Bowie song titles. Originally, Adrienne King was asked to reprise her role as Alice from the original film. However, she asked for a smaller part. Unfortunately, Adrienne drew the attention of a stalker who would menace and threaten her in real life. So her role as hero was cut to the opening scene of the sequel.

That meant the filmmakers still needed a strong female lead, an actress that would be believable going toe to toe with Jason. Enter Amy Steel. Steel’s performance as the feisty Ginny has become one of the most popular heroes in the franchise — widely considered one of the top Final Girls of all time. Ginny was different from Alice, as Alice seemed a bit more innocent and thrust into the hero role, where Ginny was tough, smart and seemed adaptable to any situation.

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THE YOUNG EXECUTIVE

Cast, crew and locations were in place, and filming of Jason’s first cinematic rampage was under way. To ensure that everything went smoothly, the head of Paramount sent his young son to the set. A young, recent college graduate showed up on set… and Friday the 13th history was made. Frank Mancuso Jr. would become the driving force in keeping the franchise going during the Paramount years. If it were not for Mancuso Jr., the franchise would’ve ended sooner… and Jason might not have become the pop icon horror villain he is known as to this day.

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NO SECONDS ON DESSERT

Friday the 13th Part 2 opened on May 1, 1981, a year after the original film. Audiences flocked to see what the next gory chapter in the Voorhees saga had to offer. The opening prologue, that reveals the fate of original survivor girl Alice, is one of the longest pre-credits scenes in cinematic history.
[Interesting side note, Adrienne King was not given a script when she came to the set. She ad libbed and improvised all her dialogue and actions. She was also unaware of Alice’s fate until that same day of shooting. King has gone on record as saying she really wishes she would’ve agreed to a bigger part in the sequel.]

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The film opened #1 at the box office, however it didn’t quite match it’s predecessor’s numbers. None of that mattered. as audiences loved the film. A majority of fans have even claimed that it is superior to the original. It more than made its budget back during opening weekend, turning it into something of a box office hit for Paramount. It is a bit ironic as the studio was always embarrassed about the films. Of course, critics tore the movie apart. But that only fueled people’s  interest in seeing the movie, which equaled dollar signs for Paramount.

YOU’RE ALL DOOMED

The film was definitely a step up from the original, as the kill scenes came fast and furious. Bill Randolph and Marta Kober hold the distinction of having a true fan favorite death scene with the double impalement, and the machete to the face that poor Mark suffers is even more sympathetic because he is in a wheelchair. As said before, Amy Steel’s Ginny is truly the glue that holds the film together. Her performance as Ginny is fantastic, as you truly root for her to survive and defeat Jason. Plus, she has one of the most iconic lines in the franchise: “THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE FUCKING ROOM!”

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Ginny is the first Final Girl in the franchise to not only survive her long night at Camp Blood, but also outsmart Jason in the most clever way possible. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention that Ted (played by 80s character actor Stu Charno) is the SMARTEST CHARACTER IN THE ENTIRE FRIDAY THE 13TH FRANCHISE!  Yes that needed to be in all caps… and here’s why. When asked if he wanted to return to the camp or stay behind at the bar, he wisely chooses to stay at the bar, thus ensuring his survival.

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WILL THE REAL JASON VOORHEES PLEASE STAND UP?

While the movie was a hit and is definitely a fan favorite, that doesn’t mean it’s flawless by any means — or free from controversy.

The infamous Jason Voorhees Controversy is one that is still a sensitive subject to this very day.  On screen credit for who actually plays Jason goes to Warrington Gillette. Gillette actually auditioned for the role of Paul, Ginny’s boyfriend and head counselor. He didn’t get it. However, the filmmakers felt he would make a better Jason. Considering, in this film, Jason doesn’t have his signature hockey mask and instead wore the burlap sack to cover his face, Gillette was the chosen one.

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Here’s where things get a little dicey. Gillette had trouble wearing the sack and doing the necessary stunts. The filmmakers decided to hire a stuntman from The Bronx named Steve Dash. Dash was brought in to perform the stunts that Gillette couldn’t, and he ended up physically playing Jason every time he wears the sack over his head. In fact, there was an injury Dash suffered unintentionally at the hands of Amy Steel during the climax. A machete split his finger open during the scene. Dash was rushed to a local hospital  (in full Jason gear), got stitches, covered it with a condom and finished the scene all in the same night.

Gillette’s only scene in the film, ironically, is  the scene where Jason appears without the sack. Jason was revealed to be a redheaded hillbilly as he jumped through the glass to try and get Ginny. So, it is up in the air as to who actually gets credit for playing Jason in the sequel. Warrington Gillette claims it is him, while Steve Dash signs “THE REAL JASON” when he attends  horror cons. Now, if you meet either of these gentlemen at a con, tread lightly. As I stated earlier, it is an extremely sensitive subject.

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THE VOORHEES LEGACY

It’s been 35 years since the film’s release, and it is still just as important now as it was then. It’s a favorite among the fans, and it’s actually the first chapter in a 3 part series of films. The other two fan favorite films, Friday the 13th 3D and The Final Chapter all stem from the success of this movie. If this movie didn’t click with audiences, it would not have become the franchise it is now.

You wanna talk long lasting? How about merchandise? This film has spawned action figures from Sideshow Toys and NECA as a Cult Classic figure and a retro real cloth figure. Perhaps NECA’s most ambitious action figure from the film includes Sackhead Jason and Pamela Voorhees to commemorate the 25th of the sequel. Waxwork Records recently released a special edition vinyl of the film’s original score. In fact, the 2009 remake has Sackhead Jason for the start of the movie, up until he acquires his iconic hockey mask.

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The Body Count continued after this film, and (barring the current lawsuit) will continue next year with another stab at Jason. All is right at Crystal Lake, except for one thing…Where is Paul?

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1 Comment

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  1. on October 8, 2016 at 3:21 am
    Anita E wrote:

    Friday the 13th, parts 1 and 2, are two of my favourite horror films. While I am a John Carpenter “Halloween” devotee, when I saw the first film, and then this one, I was hooked. Yes, cheesy in parts, an as the sequels continued, the plots got worse, but I still love parts 1 and 2. Great article.

    Reply

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