Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / Horror-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, nudity, sexuality, and language
Running Time: 87 min.
Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Warrington Gillette, Walt Gorney, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Russell Todd, Betsy Palmer
Director: Steve Miner
Screenplay: Ron Kurz
Review published March 1, 2005
Although it is second film in the series, this is the first film that featured Jason Voorhees, the masked homicidal maniac of all future entries. As such, this is the one that set the formula for all the films to follow, where a new group of teens enters "Camp Blood" and are picked off one by one, usually after showing that they have come to engage in drinking and debauchery, or some other immoral act. Steve Miner (Halloween H2O, Lake Placid) takes over the directing chores and actually makes this a better movie than the first in terms of the effectiveness of the thrills, chills and kills. However, there's little more to the movie than just waiting for the teens to get dispatched in some rather unsavory ways, which is a gimmick that wears off rather quickly. Add to this some bad acting and terrible dialogue, making this a sequel that delivers on body count but further cements the franchise into routine slash and gash.
After a lengthy recap of the events of the first Friday the 13th, as well as a first victim, the story moves ahead five years to the present day, where a group of camp counselors have set up camp near Camp Crystal Lake, the site of many grisly murders. The legends still abound that Jason Voorhies, the young boy drowned in the lake that saw his mother beheaded by the last group of teens in the area, still inhabits the grounds there, and the local authorities are taking no chances on letting the body count rise. Camp Crystal Lake is now closed, but the current camp counselors think the rumors are absurd, so they heed little the warnings and cross into the taboo territory. Unfortunately, they presumed wrong, as there is a mysterious machete wielding man that is now stalking them, killing them off one by one in the most sadistic of fashions.
For all of the faults of Part 2, and there are many, there are moments where the film actually does work quite well. Most of these moments involve Amy Steel (April Fool's Day, Walk Like a Man), who is not only a better actress than most of the rest of the cast by a longshot, but her character is also the most interesting. Unlike the other teenagers, she is actually more well-rounded -- a part of the clan but still separate. Unlike other heroines in films like this, she isn't virginal or pure. She is strong-willed, brave, and resourceful, and we actually do root for her to succeed, unlike the others that just happen to thwart Jason by dumb luck.
Part 2 isn't a good film as a whole, but if you're into slasher movies, it actually is one of the more tolerable examples of the mini-genre. Perhaps it is the best of the Friday the 13th series, although that's not saying much, but it does give the most psychological background as to Jason's motives than any of the other films, which makes the rest of the film seem far less mindless than future chapters would be.
-- Followed by Friday the 13th Part III.
©2005 Vince Leo