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Friday the 13th Part 2
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kristen Baker, Stuart Charno, Marta Kober

Written By: Ron Kurz Directed By: Steve Miner

The Short Version

The story started in the first movie, but the franchise starts here.

They spent twice as much money on this movie as they did on the original; you don’t see that value on the screen.

Wow, I missed Tom Savini and Sean S. Cunningham here.

That ending sure was… forced.

For genre completists, historical value makes Friday the 13th Part 2 required viewing, but only once.  For everyone else, meh.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


It wants to be real cheese, and it’s marketed as real cheese, but there’s a reason that it’s popularly known as “wax.”  No flavor, little substance, and just overall inferior stuff.

Pairs Well With...


This time, our camp counselor wannabes actually have at least four different beers to choose from on screen, but this one still represents them best.  It’s the most unimaginative, boring beer in America.

“This place is starting to look like a Burger King.”

The original Friday the 13th film was never meant to spawn any sequels, but when all was said and done on the screen, it’s easy to see why it did.

This first Friday the 13th sequel marks the actual start of the franchise, but when all is said and done on the screen, it’s amazing that anyone wanted to bother.

Until you see the box office receipts, that is.  Then the whole “profit” thing comes into play and it becomes a no-brainer.  Rather like this movie, really.  With that in mind, I am thoroughly convinced that if this movie had not carried the Friday the 13th name or had it been the one to come out first, it wouldn’t have done nearly as well and there wouldn’t have been any more sequels.  (Did I just hear a few of you cheering at that thought?  Pipe down back there.  Some of the sequels were actually good, and most are better than this.  Oh, I think I just heard another section of the audience start to growl.  I’ll be with you folks in a minute.  Thanks.)

I should warn you now, by the way, that there is absolutely no way to discuss Friday the 13th Part 2 without completely spoiling some major points from the original Friday the 13th, including the ending.  So if you still haven’t seen the original and don’t want it spoiled, turn back now, and go get it already so you can catch up.  That one is worth it. 

I mean it.  I’m about to spoil the original Friday the 13th, and will continue to do so from here on in. 

Okay.  You’ve been warned.  On we go.

The timeline won’t be made clear until later, but our story picks up two months after the events of the original Friday the 13th.  The only survivor of the massacre, Alice (Adrienne King, who stopped screen acting for a long time after this because of some stalker issues), is safe in her suburban home.  She doesn’t feel safe, though.  As we catch her asleep on her bed, we find her dreaming of the horrible events that happened at Camp Crystal Lake; or, in layman’s terms, we get flashbacks to the end of the first movie.  We hear Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) telling her about how her son Jason had drowned in the lake because some camp counselors were fornicating instead of doing their jobs.  We then see her come after Alice, just as she already has everyone else in the camp, because at this point, all counselors past and present are to blame, right?  We see Alice turn the tables and lop off the madwoman’s head with a machete, and then we see her imagine – imagine? – the drowned boy Jason coming up from the lake to drag Alice in.  But then Alice awakens, finding herself still safe at home and wearing a really hideous outfit.

We see a figure cross the street toward her house.  A moment later, we see the ice pick go into Alice’s skull.  Jason has his revenge.

Let’s pause for moment.

At this point, Friday the 13th Part 2 comes as close as it will ever get to firing on all cylinders.  The story for the opening is actually very clever and is a fabulous tie-in and wrap-up of what happened before.  Sure, we can already see that Steve Miner isn’t going to be the equal of Sean S. Cunningham as a director, but there’s still a decent amount of genuine tension that builds up while we’re waiting for Jason to do his dirty work (we know he’s coming for quite a while), even considering the cheap “cat jumping through the window” gag.  (Jumping.  Right.)  Fans could look at this opening sequence and legitimately think, “Yeah; this should be all right!”

Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.

Roll opening credits.  (At over twelve minutes in, that took a while to happen, don’t you think?)

Five years have gone by since the events of the original Friday the 13th.  Camp Crystal Lake, or “Camp Blood,” as it’s still called locally, remains shut down, but Paul Holt (John Furey) has decided to open a different summer camp (“Packanack”) on the plot of land right next door to the old Camp Crystal Lake property!  The sheriff, of course, would rather he didn’t, and we all know what Crazy Ralph has to say:

“I told the others.  They didn’t believe me.  You’re all doomed.  You’re all doomed!”

But, of course, Paul pays such advice no heed, and is set to go ahead with training a new gaggle of counselors.

I’d say he should have listened to Ralph, but even Ralph doesn’t listen to Ralph this time, so it’s really hard to blame Paul, either.  In any case, I really don’t have to spell out what happens next plotwise, do I?

Whackity-whack!  Look who’s back!

Or not back, really, because Jason Voorhees wasn’t the killer the first time around.  The only reason we can say that Jason is “back” here is because we find out through dialogue that the opening sequence we saw before the credits rolled was itself a flashback.  (Hang on for a minute before you start applying logic.  We’ll get there soon.)  But anyway.

For series completists or for slasher aficionados of any kind, the historical importance of Friday the 13th Part 2 to its series and to the character of Jason Voorhees makes it essential, “can’t miss” viewing.  But really, folks, it’s only worth watching once.  However important this story may be to the evolution of Jason Voorhees overall, the fact is that Friday the 13th Part 2 is… well… kind of boring, actually.

The packaging for recent blu ray editions of Friday the 13th Part 2 promises “2X The Fear… 2X The Carnage… 2X The Terror!”  Even with the benefit of an excellent hi def transfer, it still fails to deliver on any of those promises, just as it didn’t on DVD, just as didn’t on VHS, and just as it didn’t in the theatre.  The two primary reasons for these failures can be summed up in the absence of the two primary reasons for the success of the first film: Sean S. Cunningham and Tom Savini.

Sean S. Cunningham directed the first film as straight up thriller.  His pacing was fantastic, and he was able to maintain genuine tension throughout, even during otherwise completely innocuous sequences.  Steve Miner, however, is simply not up to the same task in Friday the 13th Part 2.  He flirts with it during the opening sequence, but from that point forward (and even with an uh-oh hint during that overall decent sequence), there’s essentially nothing left in his tank.  Steve Miner’s idea of a scare here is tossing something through a window.  Tension through direction?  Forget it.  Everything after the credits is just point and shoot.  Even the “killer POV” shots that were so effective the first time around carry nothing here, further showing why filmmaking is considered an art and not a science: you can aim the camera, but there’s a lot more than aim involved when it comes to coaxing that camera into making some magic. 

Nor does Miner have the option of capitalizing on what in the end was the first movie’s greatest asset: amazing gore effects.  Tom Savini and his box of tricks are not back for this installment, and hot damn does it show.  Blood and gore just don’t happen in this movie; I’d seriously question if more than two gallons of red stuff was necessary for the entire film.  (And when you do see blood in any quantity, it’s not on a person; it’s on an empty bedsheet or a pant leg whose owner you can’t see; wounds are either bloodless or close enough.  An excellent comparison point would be the throat slashes in each movie; same kill, totally different impact.)  Not that you’d have time to enjoy them even if they were any good, mind; you sneeze once, and you miss almost any of the kills on screen.  The camera either cuts away immediately or flash fades to white.  (This is especially heinous during the stairway kill; the kill itself is quick and bloodless, but what follows had the potential to work until that dumbass fade.)  It’s a complete 180 degree turn from what made the first movie great, and Friday the 13th Part 2 suffers mightily from this incredibly poor choice.  If a franchise flick that’s had only one movie come before can be said to be building on a legacy, this one has already betrayed its legacy.

On the other hand, in a very real sense, Friday the 13th Part 2 is the establishing piece of the franchise legacy much more so than the original film.  This is the movie that actually brings Jason to the fore as the killer, and this is the movie that, for good or ill, dumbs down and / distills the formula.  If we go on that assumption, we can truthfully say that things only started to improve from here.

Jason himself certainly did.

He hasn’t picked up his signature hockey mask yet in this movie; instead, he wears a burlap bag over his head.  This could have worked well enough; it’s the classic executioner look, after all.  However, the physicality of Jason just isn’t there yet.  Eventually, we’d come to know Jason as an angry, purposeful stalker; a misshapen mass of muscle and disturbed clarity.  This Jason, though, moves pretty much like any ordinary middle-aged guy with bad knees and an oversized butt.  I’m not kidding or exaggerating in the slightest; if you pay attention, it’s the easiest thing in the world to spot.  He actually cowers at one point.  This Jason isn’t a monster; he’s just a hillbilly with a grudge, and he generates very little potential to scare at all, save for his one redeeming horror quality: the single good eye you see through the hole in the burlap mask is kind of creepy.

When that hood comes off, by the way, you’ll really miss the make-up work of Tom Savini.  This is one shot that should not have been shown in slow motion.

I have to keep reminding myself that this movie cost double the amount of the first, and it’s just one year later.  What did they spend it on, exactly?

Hopefully it wasn’t the set, which looks less like a camp than a cheap Northwoods motel.  [Actually, it is a camp, but I stand by my characterization, including the hope that they didn’t pay much to use it.]

I don’t think it was the cast, either; there aren’t any marquee names, anyway.  Whatever they did cost, I also don’t want to blame them for the fact that I couldn’t sympathize with a single one of them; I seriously didn’t care one way or another if any of them turned into Jason bait.  Personally, I’m going to keep blaming Steve Miner, because I think that in the end, it was just that I was already so turned off by the lackluster direction that nothing else mattered, either.  (And why the hell even have all of those miscellaneous counselors if you’re going to conveniently shuck half of them into total irrelevance off site anyway?  Seriously; half the counselors go away to party in town before the major slashfest starts, and are never heard from again, including a character who’s been given some reasonable development.)

Amy Steel has tended to be called out as a fan favorite in her role as Ginny, who is our heroine despite not actually being on site for half of the main action, but I just can’t make that leap.  To me, Ginny is just kind of there, and Steel’s best opportunity to act comes from a completely surreal moment at a bar – away from the camp – where she speculates on the psychology of Jason.  What is he?  “Some out of control psychopath?  A frightened retard?  A child trapped in a man’s body?”  (She doesn’t bother noting that if, as everyone in this movie speculates, Jason saw his mother get killed, that means that whether he drowned and came back or never drowned at all, he never told his mother he was alive; or, of course, if he rose from the deep after his mother died, then that speculation is wrong.  Realistically, this question was probably best never brought up.  But anyway.)  Ginny will use this psychology later in a very creative way to try and save her own skin, but because of how that scene plays out, Steel’s acting doesn’t really come into it.  The creativity of that scene is also ruined by the senseless arrival of another person to the party; so much for the climactic duel.

As for what follows… it makes no sense at all.  When Tom Savini convinced Sean S. Cunningham to thrown in that one extra trick at the end of the first Friday the 13th film (a trick which made everything else possible), it was creative and effective and it had a point.  Here, the “extra trick” thrown in at the end is forced and senseless and just plain fails. 

And since everyone asks about such things in slasher flicks, I admit being vexed when people applaud the skin in this movie.  They seem to remember a lot more than is there.  There’s a nude scene you’ll be expecting to appear for most of the movie; it will never happen.  (Dammit.)  You get a nice bikini top shot of the young lady you're expecting to see go naked, and that’s it.  There’s a sex scene, but you see nothing.  (You do see an orgasm face, but it’s a close up with no action before, and what follows is just afterglow with no naughty bits.)  One actress does go full nude from a medium distance and does a quick skinnydip; enjoy that, because it is all you’ll get without having to use your imagination.

Oh well; just one more category for this movie to fall short in.  (Oh, and all that “2X” stuff the marketing promised?  The body count is either equal to or smaller than that in the first film, depending how you count.)

Bottom line, Friday the 13th Part 2 is important enough to the establishment of the lore of Jason Voorhees and the overall Friday the 13th franchise that it is a must-view for any real slasher fan, but really, it only needs to be viewed once.  Overall, Friday the 13th Part 2 is a glaring disappointment in most other areas, and a flop as an immediate follow up to a great horror movie.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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