FRIDAY THE 13TH Part II (1981)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Directed by: Steve Miner

Written by: Ron Kurz & Phil Scuderi

Starring: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Warrington Gillette, Walt Gorney, Stu Charno, Bill Randolph & Kirsten Baker

Believe it or not, FRIDAY THE 13TH was never intended to be a high-profile slasher series. The original 1980 film was a cheap slasher that was basically made so a few filmmakers could pay the bills, but brought in a surprising amount of bank at the box office. Where there is financial success in Hollywood, there will almost always be sequels. Production immediately began on a second installment in the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. While ideas of an anthology of horror films all set on Friday the 13th (the unluckiest day of the year) floated around, everyone eventually settled on a sequel that would feature a returning character that was originally intended serve as a last-minute scare in the first film: the soon-to-be-iconic slasher Jason Voorhees!

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Five years after the first film’s massacre, a group of nine upbeat teenagers are attending a camp counselor training camp (sounds a little convoluted, doesn’t it?) next to the notorious Camp Crystal Lake. While murderess Pamela Voorhees was beheaded by sole survivor Alice at the end of the first movie, it appears that someone else is stalking around the woods. Jason Voorhees was thought to be dead and gone, but he’s very much alive and creeping around the isolated campgrounds. When Jason spots new teenage prey, he gathers a variety of weapons and the body count begins.

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Clocking in at under 90 minutes, FRIDAY THE 13TH Part 2 doesn’t exactly have a lot of room to spare for boredom. Still, the main plot (as simple and by-the-numbers as it may be) only takes up about 75 minutes of screen time, because the filmmakers decided to add a 12-minute prologue that details Alice’s fate and recaps the previous film through long flashbacks. These moments might serve as a welcome refresher for someone who has never sat through the first FRIDAY. For fans, these bits seem tedious to sit through and were clearly included simply for the sake of padding out the running time. However, the Alice prologue does have a good enough pay-off (as little logical sense as it makes) and even throws in a laughable clichéd jump scare as well.

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Though it very much follows a by-the-numbers “dead teenagers at camp” storyline, Part 2 actually takes some time to set up the characters in a way that lets you tell one person apart from the other…as generic as most of them seem. There are attempts made to vary these victims. One wheelchair-bound counselor even receives a bit of exposition, while final girl Ginny (Amy Steel) is among the best characters in this long-running series. This might be the faintest of praise, but it still counts for something. As we all know, you don’t necessarily walk into a FRIDAY THE 13TH film for the acting or writing. The viewer is here to watch Jason Voorhees do what he does best: mercilessly slaughter a bunch of dumbass teenagers and other victims. In that sense, FRIDAY THE 13TH Part 2 is on the higher end of the series and easily surpasses the so-so first installment.

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Warrington Gillette is solid as the silent, but deadly Jason. There’s a bit of Elephant Man syndrome going on as the Mongoloid-looking Jason Voorhees wears a sack over his face for 99% of his on-screen scenes, but his unmasked appearance is remarkably disturbing. It’s a shame that we only get a full-on look of unmasked Jason during one masterfully handled jump scare that’s compromised by a sudden ending. This conclusion was apparently much better in the script than it was on the screen. For the most part, Jason is given to the viewer from a first-person perspective (in a similar vein to the first film) until the final third when we get full-on chases and confrontations.

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FRIDAY THE 13TH Part 2 doesn’t contain thirteen deaths (a goal that later films in the series would strive for), but more than delivers in its ten kills. Some of these deaths are more generic than others (a simple stabbing seems like a bit of a letdown in comparison), but a few demises are executed with an extra “ouch!” factor aided by a few seconds afterwards. You wouldn’t think the wheelchair-bound teenager would receive a particularly brutal death, but Jason Voorhees isn’t one to discriminate. Also, a love-making couple receive my favorite kill in this entire film. Even if this memorable moment was stolen from a Mario Bava’s BAY OF BLOOD, this scene is one of the best FRIDAY deaths in the series (which is saying a lot).

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FRIDAY THE 13TH Part 2 is a typical 80’s slasher in that it contains: bad acting, dumb characters, little story, and fake out jump scares. Still, this sequel manages to remain fun for its silly “dumb teenagers get killed in creative ways” sensibilities. This is definitely a film that’s made for slasher fans as I can’t imagine too many non-horror fans taking much enjoyment out of it. This sequel is brainless bloody entertainment. FRIDAY THE 13TH Part 2 stands as one of the better films in the long-running, mixed bag slasher franchise.

Grade: B-

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