Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

In Friday the 13th Jason was just a legend and the trigger for Pamela Voorhees - not Jason - to kill counselors at Camp Crystal Lake.  The film provided a way for producer and director Sean S. Cunningham to print money, as the movie was made on an extremely low budget and became one of the biggest movies of 1980.  Predictably, critics hated it, but it had enough going for it to entertain young audiences of the time.

Problem was final girl Alice (Adrienne King) lopped off Pamela's head at the end of the movie, thus getting rid of the killer.  It wasn't a problem for Cunningham or writer Victor Miller because everyone involved saw an opportunity to make a quick buck and get out.  Paramount, the studio that released it, wanted to rake in more cash.  Originally there had been plans to make it an anthology series based around the date, much like John Carpenter wanted to do with Halloween, but just like the movie it copied audience and financial expectations won out.  However, unlike with Halloween, which made it clear Michael was still alive at the end, there was no killer to continue the Friday the 13th series.

That is, until Ron Kurz was asked to drum up a script which made the final scene in the first movie, where Jason comes up out of the water to grab Alice, an actual event rather than the dream sequence it was supposed to be.  Paramount wanted Jason alive and hacking up teenagers, and Cunningham, Miller and makeup artist Tom Savini wanted none of it despite the financial gains they stood to reap.  There was just no way to make that plot twist make sense, but Cunningham's co-producer Steve Miner figured it was going to happen one way or another, and, with Frank Mancuso, Jr. joining as the series runner, part two was made.

Five years after the events of Friday the 13th Camp Crystal Lake is permanently closed and fenced off.  However, Paul (John Furey), his girlfriend Ginny (Amy Steel) and his friend Ted (Stuart Charno) have decided to use one of the adjacent camps as a counselor training center.  As everyone is getting settled in Paul makes it clear that Camp Crystal Lake is off limits, something that lovers Jeff (Bill Randolph) and Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor) choose to ignore. 

What they don't know is that their presence at the lake itself has got the attention of Jason Voorhees (Steve Dash, Warrington Gillette).  When a majority of the counselors decide to have a night on the town at a local watering hole, Jason takes advantage of the diminished numbers to start picking them off.  When Paul and Ginny return they find the camp deserted and themselves the target of the unwanted guest. 

Friday the 13th Part 2 is my favorite movie in the series, but before I get into why I am going to admit there is a lot wrong with it.  The beginning is almost five minutes of Alice having a nightmare about the ending of the first movie so that we can get a recap, and then the next five minutes or so is Adrienne King wandering around improvising until she gets an icepick through the skull.  King was reluctant to continue acting because of a real-life stalker she picked up as a result of the first film, but was still disappointed to find out that her role was little more than an extended cameo in order to stretch the movie out a bit.  I also have some questions on how the Jason we are shown in this movie makes it all the way to wherever Alice lives. 

I also have to agree with Tom Savini about how ridiculous it is that Jason should still be alive and his mother never knew about it for close to 30 years.  A large, muscle-bound kid with a flour sack on his head living in a makeshift shack in the woods is not hard to miss, especially when the local police seem to be spending a lot of time making sure people aren't poking around "Camp Blood".  He obviously cared about his mother and at some point should have alerted her to the fact that he was a better swimmer than she thought.  There are also plenty of people wandering around the woods being stupid, but to their credit Jason, in this movie at least, relies on the element of surprise.  

The look of Jason was an overt homage to The Town That Dreaded Sundown, in which the killer also wore a flour sack over his head.  The hockey mask, for those only familiar with the popular image of Jason, did not show up until the third movie.  Personally, I think the sack is better.  He's a crazed, not-so-bright deformed man living as a hermit and, at this point, killing people he sees as trespassing on his land.  While one of the deaths does happen while a couple is having sex, and there is plenty of nudity including a famous scene with Kirsten Baker, sex does not seem to be Jason's biggest motivation.  He is also quite human, with Paul able to almost overcome him at one point.  Jason doesn't specifically become an undead creature until the sixth film, so it's appropriate that when he doesn't get a chance to sneak up on people most of his advantage is gone. 

Sean S. Cunningham is a decent, workman-like director, but Steve Miner was a bit better behind the camera.  The work done in Part 2 is superior, including the cinematography by Peter Stein, but Miner is not content with just pointing and shooting, and keeping the camera dynamic helps breathe some life into what could have been a rote horror flick.  While there are a number of fake jump scares throughout this is the only film in the entire series with some legitimate fright scenes that work.  The first time we see more than hands and feet on Jason to the full reveal of him (with Warrington Gillette sporting Peter Calhoun's makeup work), as well as some other scenes enhanced by Amy Steel's great job as Ginny, all work in a way nothing else in the series does.  

This is good enough that it is where the series should have stopped.  The end of the film gets a bit jumbled, but it was obvious for part three - which Miner also directed - that the first sequel took things as far as they could go without throwing in gimmicks, like the humor in part six, the psychic girl in part seven or the horrible 3-D of part three.  After this movie Jason became a Halloween costume and, with a few exceptions, the movies became cynical cash grabs that didn't even have the makeup work of Savini or Calhoun to fall back on.  This may also at its heart have been a cash grab, but at least it's an entertaining one. 

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Time: 87 minutes
Starring: Amy Steel, John Furey, Bill Randolph, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Steve Dash, Warrington Gillette
Director: Steve Miner



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