Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2004)
Nowadays any horror flick that makes more than 27 cents at the box office engenders an endless supply of sequels. That was the case back in the early Eighties, when “slasher” movies remained in their infancy. 1978’s Halloween became a substantial hit and produced imitators, but the trend for sequels hadn’t quite started yet. Heck, we wouldn’t see Halloween II until 1981, three years after the release of the first movie.
The Friday the 13th films moved along so quickly that they appeared to come from an assembly line. 1981’s Friday the 13th Part 2 hit the screens less than a year after the original, and most of its follow-ups followed a similar pattern. That would eventually affect the quality of the movies, but it doesn’t cause problems for the surprisingly good Part 2.
Only Alice (Adrienne King) survived the earlier flick’s slaughter at Camp Crystal Lake. She remains haunted by her experience and hides from the world. However, she doesn’t have to deal with this pain for long, as a hulking figure soon stabs her in the side of the head and kills her.
Five years after the action over at Camp Crystal Lake, Paul (John Furey) launches a counselor training camp near that bloodied locale. Paul runs the joint along with assistants Ginny (Amy Steel) and Ted (Stu Charno) plus a boatload of counselors. Paul tells them the story of Jason, the boy who drowned at the Camp decades earlier and whose spirit allegedly haunts the place. However, he does so for wicked laughs, as no one takes the tales seriously.
Big mistake! Blood and mayhem ensue in a variety of graphic ways as Jason Voorhees (Warrington Gillette) stalks the community.
Most people think that the character of Jason emerged as a killer in the first Friday flick, but that didn’t happen. 2 is where we see him become the deadly force behind the movies. Despite that twist, don’t expect 2 to offer an experience that notably differs from the first flick. Really, it does little more than remake its predecessor, as it tells an extremely similar story. That doesn’t cause any problems, though. It’s not like the first movie was particularly original, as it mixed together bits and pieces of Halloween and Psycho.
Arguably, 2 improves upon the first Friday, at least in some small ways. It attempts slightly greater character definition and makes its killer a more forceful factor. The first flick’s murderer existed mainly as a shadowy presence, but here we see Jason take charge and act strongly. Sex plays a much stronger part here, as the film includes many more hook-ups and also tosses in some full-frontal female nudity, a rarity for this series; we often find topless women, but we don’t usually see them go all the way.
Although the story retells the same plot, 2 works better because of its direction and momentum. The first film moved in a bland and plodding way, while 2 actually demonstrates some flair at times. For example, the opening killing of Alice packs more tension than virtually any scene in the first movie, and some others work nicely as well.
One fun aspect of watching the Friday movies one after another: we get to see Jason develop. He played literally no role in the first film, so 2 offers our first look at him. He lacks his trademark hockey mask, and he comes across more like a troubled psycho than the supernatural force of evil he would become.
Overall, Friday the 13th Part 2 is a more dynamic and tight film than its predecessor. It lacks some creativity, I suppose, but it’s not like the original presented an inventive tale. It stole from prior horror flicks, and that factor minimizes the negative impact of the sequel’s repetitiveness. I wouldn’t call 2 a great film, but it presents a minor improvement over the first one.