After the explosive success of the first Friday The 13th it was inevitable that a sequel was going to happen. Even though sequels back in the time were not as prevalent as they are now, Paramount would have been foolish to not have further events at Camp Crystal Lake unfold on the screen. But the question remained, what do you do when almost no one from the first film wants to return, and your villain also has been beheaded? This task fell to writer Ron Kurz who had done some uncredited polish on the first film, most notably adding in the scene with the motorcycle cop, much to the dismay of the original’s writer Victor Miller. Replacing Sean S. Cunningham was his right hand man, Steve Miner, who took the opportunity to create his own film when Cunningham turned the project down. Another big blow came to the production when “Master of Gore” Tom Savini declined to return, instead opting to work on The Burning, which was nothing more than a Friday The 13th rip off at its core.
Miner chose to follow the same basic template of the original film, which would be the same thing that the rest of the series would do for the most part going forward. Many people have complained that one of the biggest issue with the Friday The 13th series is that it is essentially a series of remakes with a new cast subbing in to be murdered in various ways. This is obviously true, but I say who the hell cares. Nobody goes into Friday The 13th looking for a movie like The Godfather. You watch to have a good time, and see young, horny nubile teens get slaughtered in different methods. If you come into it looking for anything else, you’re a fool.
The first big issue that needed to be dealt with is who would be behind the murders in this installment? Mrs. Voorhees was obviously beheaded in the closing of the original film, so having her return was out of the question. So why not take the dream sequence from that provided the film with its Carrie scare, and expand upon it. Let’s have the reason behind Mrs. Voorhees’ crazed killing spree now go on one of his own. At the time it may have seemed like a risky venture, but resurrecting the “drowned” Jason Voorhees was something that helped change the landscape of horror forever. Jason would obviously go on to become an iconic boogeyman on par with characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man, as well as his contemporaries Michael Myers from Halloween, Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare On Elm Street and Pinhead from Hellraiser. It is arguable that Jason may even overshadow all of those mentioned, depending on your view of things. So with a new killer in place, the filmmakers set out with a larger budget to ensure that the body count would continue.
The film begins with Alice, the survivor of the first film’s massacre, once again played by Adrienne King, dreaming of the events that had happened in the first film, and spending some time in her apartment. Miner chooses to slowly ratchet up the suspense before Alice opens her fridge only to be greeted by the decrepit head of Mrs. Voorhees, before having an ice pick driven into her skull by an unseen assailant. Post-credits the film moves to another camp based on good ol’ Crystal Lake, where a new group of counsellors is set to start training for a new camp to open. The head counsellor Paul (John Furey) even tells the tale of Pamela and Jason Voorhees over a campfire to the group of nubile young victims to be. A few characters are picked off before the full mayhem ensues, including good ol’ Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) and a police officer (Jack Marks). Half of the counsellors, including Paul and his girlfriend Ginny (Amy Steel) go into town to a local bar for a fun night, while the other half of the group stay back at the camp. Of course, the mostly unseen Jason picks them off one by one, until Paul and Ginny return to find the mayhem, and proceed to battle with Jason. At one point Ginny finds the shack Jason lives in, where he has a vigil set up containing his mother’s head. Using her knowledge of child psychology Ginny puts on his mother’s sweater and plays mind games with Jason that almost work. In the end, Ginny embeds his own machete in his shoulder, putting him out of commission….or does it?
The original Friday The 13th changed the name of the game for the horror genre way back in 1980. Many Hollywood studios and basically anyone with a camera and a cast started making low budget slasher films, many of them completely and utterly forgettable. Even though it was only a year later, Friday The 13th Part 2 would need to up the ante, and unfortunately for the most part it fails in that regard. Director Steve Miner essentially remakes the first film, as if he was unsure of his own abilities as a director.
Another thing that hurts the film is the fact that many of the films murder sequences are heavily edited. While the original Friday The 13th film passed under the watchful eyes of the MPAA, they were not going to let the sequel get through without sacrificing some of the films grislier elements. In no sequence is this more apparent than the impaling of Jeff (Bill Randolph) and Sandra (Marta Kober) while they are having sex on a bed. On the flip side however, the killing of wheelchair-bound Mark (Tom McBride) more than makes up for it, as it has long been considered not only one of the best kills in the series, but also one of the most controversial.
The acting in the film is what you expect from an early 80s slasher flick, with Amy Steel being a standout, so much so that fans have long considered one of Jason’s most formidable foes. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well, but credit should be given to Stu Charno who plays Ted, the resident prankster who escapes the business end of Jason’s machete due to being super drunk and staying at the bar. Then there is the controversy over who actually played Jason. This has long been a sore spot for a hardcore Friday fan such as myself. Warrington Gilette was originally cast in the role, but couldn’t handle the stunts and much of what was expected of him as the iconic killer. He was then replaced by veteran stunt man Steve Dash who would play the masked killer. From everything I have read through the years, as well as in the phenomenal book Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th by Peter M. Bracke, Gillette filmed the scene where an unmasked Jason bursts through the window to attack Ginny for the films ending jump scare scene. Given how little he actually played the role, Gillette has long been considered to be the man who played Jason in the second entry while the man who did almost all the work, Steve Dash has received no credit. It just seems unfair, but I suppose that is how it goes.
Friday The 13th Part 2 has always been a polarizing entry (not to the extent of Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning or Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday however) with many loving it and considering it one of the strongest entries in the series, while others find it to be too similar to the first film and not offering very much. Jason would not get his iconic hockey mask until the next entry, instead using a pillow sack with the eye cut out, similar to what the killer wore in 1976’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Besides that similarity, the film has also been accused of ripping off Mario Bava‘s Twitch Of The Death Nerve (also known as A Bay Of Blood) for the aforementioned bed impaling.
But much like the first film in the series, Friday The 13th Part 2 is far from being the worst entry in the series or the best. I feel the films biggest flaw is that it just seems to drag and becomes boring at times. And with a slasher film, you simply can’t be boring. And those are the very reasons that the film just seems to exist in the very up and down Friday The 13th series. It’s too bad, because the character of Ginny really is one of the best to come out of the series, and she deserved better.
Stay tuned as we will soon be revisiting the only three-dimensional entry in the series, Friday The 13th Part 3-D!
9 or 10 (depending on if you feel Paul was killed as it is never made clear)
Wheelchair bound Mark getting a machete to the face sending him down a long flight of stairs.