Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Steve Miner
Writer: Ron Kurz
Producer: Steve Miner
Stars: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Warrington Gillette, Walt Gorney, Marta Kober, Tom McBride
A new group of camp counselors is stalked by Jason Voorhees as he seeks revenge for the death of his mother.
“Friday the 13th Part 2” is a quick 80 minutes of old school horror, the first six of which are comprised mainly of a clip montage from part one. The next seven are Jason tying up a loose end from the original before moving on to new business. That business being the usual agenda of any territorial slasher, which is to brutally butcher a new crop of teenagers participating in counselor training at a lodge adjacent to Camp Crystal Lake. While not exactly intruding on his domain, they are close enough for motivating Jason to put a bag on his head and pick up a machete.
Like its predecessor, “Friday the 13th” is so light on plot that it defies gravity. Once again, usual screenplay staples such as story and character depth are pushed aside to play in a sandbox whose primary purpose is to set up blood soaked kills. How the movie moves things from death to death is irrelevant. This is a true slasher film focused on straightforward scares and scenes of mayhem, and it makes no apologies for that fact.
Improving a bit over the original, the sequel at least makes more of an effort to inject its future corpses with some personality. The wheelchair bound athlete is given a few personal moments to feel sorry for himself. Prankster Ted provides his pals with a couple of yuk-yuks. And camp operator Paul mixes jovial boss with stern professionalism to round out a cast that is easier to describe than the group that populated Camp Crystal Lake the first time around.
Amy Steel’s Ginny is perhaps the series’ best Final Girl with her balanced blend of attractive girl next door, clever minded brain, and able-bodied heroine. Taking her limited knowledge of Jason’s backstory and the legend of Camp Crystal Lake and using it to think on her feet when Mrs. Voorhees’ sweater is the only thing standing between her and a dead end is the smartest thing that anyone in the franchise has ever done. Her relatable resourcefulness and irresistible charm put her at the top of the list for “Friday the 13th” protagonists.
Something “Part 2” has that no other “Friday the 13th” movie does is a unique depiction of the franchise’s star Jason Voorhees. As the series continued throughout the 80’s and 90’s, Jason’s iconic visage would become synonymous with a hockey masked hulking monstrosity that was little more than an invincible murder machine. In addition to being the first film featuring Jason as the main villain picking up where his mother left off, “Friday the 13th Part 2” portrays Jason as a human being, who is arguably sympathetic in a certain light given the tragic conditions of his upbringing and feral lifestyle. He displays a legitimate emotional connection to his beloved mother, emoted simply with a cock of the head while his face is obscured by sackcloth.
Far removed from the time when he would evolve into a zombified supernatural force resurrected by lightning bolts and shot into outer space, Jason is a much more down to earth antagonist in his first full outing. With the hockey mask not entering the picture until “Part III,” Jason spends the second movie terrorizing teens while wearing a plain sack on his head with one lone eyehole cut out for sight. Later movies would make Jason intimidating by appearance alone. Here, Jason puts fear into his victims through action, gait, and genuine menace.
The Jason Voorhees of “Friday the 13th Part 2” runs, shattering the myth of him having always been a casually ambling stalker with the miraculous ability to stay ahead of those moving at five times the speed. This Jason Voorhees is smart and calculating in his vengeance. To track down his mother’s killer to her new home, set up a preplanned fright involving a severed head in the refrigerator, and only then finally stabbing an ice pick through her skull takes ingenuity, creativity, and an ice-cold heart. The question of how he could manage to pull this off, much less devise the plan in the first place, is better left unasked.
Which is essential advice for squeezing maximum enjoyment out of this sequel. Raised expectations and inquiring minds will come face to face with the shortcomings of the movie’s longevity. It is important to bear in mind that “Friday the 13th Part 2” is a product of its time, rooted in the days when simple slashers were kings of the horror box office. And realizing it for its simple intentions and as the true birth of a universally recognized symbol of horror, “Part 2” successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do, much like Jason himself.
Review Score: 75