The original Friday the 13th, released in 1980, was really nothing more than a cash grab to piggyback off the success of Halloween. And even though critics savaged it, times have changed and it’s more praised now.
And Friday the 13th Part 2 wasn’t much different and citics were just as bad. But times have changed on this one as well. I’ll admit, it’s basically a retread of the original. A group of camp counselors at a secluded camp on a lake fall prey to a killer during a rainstorm. But there’s something about this one that makes it good despite its cookie-cutter premise.
The beginning opens two months after the events of the first one where Alice (Adrienne King) is still suffering trauma from the events. And almost as soon as she is introduced, she is brutally killed by a man whose face we don’t see. This actually is a nice twist as the first few minutes seem to be setting up that Alice is the main protagonist again and in a Hitchcockian Pscyho twist, she is brutally murdered.
This has been a storm of controversy to rival Rashomon with the different stories that have been released. Initial stories indicated that King had been stalked by an obsessed fan and asked for her role to be reduced. However, in Crystal Lake Memories, a documentary about the franchise, it was reported that her agent asked for a higher salary. It’s also been reported that this part was produced with a skeleton crew after much of the principal photography had wrapped and it was done as afterthought to explain why Alice wasn’t in the movie. King was given no script and ad-libbed all her dialogue. They even used a woman from the waist down to film what we would soon realize is Jason Vorhees, now an adult.
But, why is Jason even alive? Didn’t he drown back in the 1950s? Ok, so it really doesn’t explain why someone who reportedly drowned on Camp Crystal Lake as a young boy is now a grown adult. I mean, they basically “Yadda-Yadda-Yadda” all this by saying Jason survived, but actually witnessed his mother, Pamela (Betsy Palmer) get killed. It all makes no sense, but some would say the same thing about David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick movies and they’re loved by critics.
So, flash forward to five years after the events at Camp Crystal Lake and another summer camp has opened a few miles away operated by Paul Holt (John Furey) and his assistant and girlfriend, Ginny Field (Amy Steel). They’re training a whole group of counselors before the summer season begins and then Jason pops up and kills most of them.
This sequel actually tries to make Jason his most human as we find out he’s able to assemble a run-down shack out of multiple materials with a toilet among anything else. He’s also found his mother’s decapitated head which he keeps in another room. And Jason soons goes into the next camp to start killing off the counselors on a dark and stormy night.
But there is some twists this time around. I like how the only black character at the camp is smart enough to leave to go for a night on the town. And the prankster Ted Bowen (Stu Charno) stays away from the camp and Jason’s killing spree. This is an early switch on what would become tropes in the slasher genre.
However, Steve Miner, in his first director role, blends some homages to Italian horror with some of the kill scenes such as when Jeff Dunsberry (Bill Randolph) and his girlfriend, Sandra Dier (Marta Kober) are killed with a spear while having sex. This is similar to A Bay of Blood directed by Mario Bava.
Some fans of the franchise have called it a superior movie. While the first one works as a tense thriller with a twist, the second one draws up more similarities with Halloween as we see Jason, who wears a burlap sack over his head as his face is horribly disfigured. He also wears denim overalls and a flannel shirt. While this is nothing like the hockey mask look he has in subsequent movies, it still makes him menacing. I have to admit I like this sequel too but I still like the first one better.
What’s interesting is that they originally intended to do with the sequels what Halloween III:Season of the Witch did. Instead of focusing on a slasher, they would have annual movies that would focus on the superstition of Friday the 13th. But as we all saw what happened with Halloween III, it was a good idea they didn’t stray from the formula. But it also led to the franchise taking off with Jason returning as the killer.
But then again, when you deal with a person running around a wooded area killing people who are engaging in premarital sex, there’s not much character depth you can look for. This would also set up a trilogy with the second, third and fourth movies inside the franchise of events that take place over the course of a week in 1984 culminating in Jason’s death at the end of the fourth movie, which was supposed to end the franchise once and for all.
But when that movie made a lot of money, Paramount Pictures, which distributed the movies revived the series and there’s been more movies like it. But Friday the 13th Part 2 still has that early 1980s look that made these movies feel so unique. And it also gave us the icon that was Jason Vorhees. What’s not to like about this movie?
What do you think? Please comment.