The original Friday the 13th was such a big hit with teens and the box office, that one year later, Friday the 13th Part II was unleashed as well. Following the story of the original, the soon to be mega moneymaking franchiseís first sequel would earn little over 20,000,000 in theaters, practically half of the originalís profit. But Paramount was content, and thus, Part III was made one year after. I remember browsing the cover arts of the first eight Friday the 13thís, where Part IIís eerie silhouette with an axe in hand caught my immediate young attention. Looking on the back, I saw a picture of a boy, chopped to bits on a table. I was even more hooked! It wasnít until I finally saw the movie, two years later, that I figured out that I was really looking at the back of Part IIIís video box. So, yes, the films lumped together in my mind before I even watched them. But nonetheless, Part II was creeping me out. A picture of a couple being impaled; a shrine with candles and a rotted head; the knowledge that horror icon Jason Voorhees was somewhere inside. It was life changing in my own horror universe, as I was impacted by the expectancy of Ďthe 80s slasher filmí, full of excitement, ambition, and joy. And I was not let down in the least.
Part I survivor Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) is having nightmares about that fateful night at Camp Crystal Lake, two months before, when all of her fellow camp counselors were slaughtered like pigs. She has returned to the town of Crystal Lake, in hopes of overcoming her fears and getting back to reality. But a stranger enters her home and stabs Alice to death with her own icepick! Five years later, Camp Blood opens up, with Paul Holt (John Furey) as the chief in staff. His girlfriend Ginny (Amy Steel of April Foolís Day), along with multiple other new counselors, are fixing up the place, getting to know each other. Nobody listens to the warnings of death by Ralph (Walt Gorney), the doomsayer of Part I. After all, heís crazy, right? According to legend, the camp is cursed, and Paul tells the story about how the survivor of the previous killing spree was brutally murdered two months after. Some say the killerís child, mongoloid hermit Jason Voorhees, still roams the area, searching for human victims. Everyone thinks of it as just another stupid scary story, until one by one, each of the new counselors are butchered to pieces, leaving once again, another young adult to save the day and figure out who is killing who. In Friday the 13th Part II...íthe body count continues...í
This has got to be one of the best horror sequels ever. Not only does it stay true to the first, and continue with the storyline, itís full of life, likable faces, and spooky camp atmosphere. You get to know every counselor that matters, like Ginny, a child psychologist, and our lead heroin. Sheís probably the best final girl of the series, being tough, but pretty too, playing both the screaming damsel and fighter to the end. Her boyfriend Paul could be more of a catch. Heís funny and smart, but a bit obnoxious. Crazy Ralph is just as lovably insane as in Part I, but geek character Ted (Stu Charno) is the one person you just want to strangle for annoyance sake. Meanwhile, Sandra and Jeff (Marta Kober and Bill Randolph) are two lovebirds, curious about the camp legend, and explorers of their surroundings (along with each other). Terri (Kirsten Baker) is a skinny beauty with her dog Muffin, who seems to have caught the eye of cheeky devil Scott (Russell Todd of Chopping Mall). The last of our extremely charismatic cast is wheelchair bound Mark (Tom McBride) and happy camper Vicky (Lauren-Marie Taylor). As you can see, nearly everybody has a special someone for them, whether they like it or not.
The new camp is more modernized than Part Iís, but still a good spot for a maniac to kill at. The atmosphere is hot off the 80s nostalgia bus, but Iím afraid the perfected tone of the original is not duplicated, as would it never again be for the many sequels to come. The opening with Alice in her home is a nice touch to bringing us back to the mind set of the original, and would be fantastic if it not for being a bit too long. Twelve minutes in, we finally receive the explosive title screen. Throughout Part II, we have a collection of jokes thrown in for some reason, most being unfunny but good for character development. ďWhatís green, red, and goes 100 miles an hour?Ē Why, a frog in a blender of course! Luckily, the non-joke funnies are pretty good, like when Paul observes Vickyís stash: ďThese kids smoke better dope than I do.Ē Everybody who is knocked out of the competition is eligible to be cared for. I think it has to do with the cast just having fun, and not worrying about anything other than what is for dinner. A true camp this is. We have a campfire and its ghost story, swimming, hot dogs, jogs, and creepy shacks. All accounted for!
After Part I made it through the MPAA with nary a cut in sight, the ratings board reevaluated their decision. They now thought that the original should have been rated ĎXí, and since they could not take back their word, they took out revenge on Friday the 13th Part II. Yes, itís still pretty gory, but the R-rated version could be so much more. A neck is garroted by barbed wire, a throat is slashed with a machete, a woman is knifed in the leg, a guy is bashed in the face with a machete, and two counselors are speared together on top of each other in bed after making love. Most of these, especially the spear kill, are cut of their gruesome impact. Where in the original version, you see the two bodies impaled by the spear and gushing blood, the new art form simply shows the head of the spear going down, and the bottom of the bed receiving it. A disappointment, but donít let that get you down. Itís one hell of a party film, and well made too! A couple of the kills, however, such as the spearing and the machete to the face, are almost direct lifts from the 1971 Italian giallo/slasher epic, A Bay of Blood. That film is available completely uncut, so you can see where the makers of Friday the 13th Part II were going when they thought of it. Both films also have somebody clowning around with a spear to scare their friends.
The scoring is basically the originalís used over again, which works for the best. Thereís a couple chase scenes which keeps you going, first with the local cop. Deputy Winslow (Jack Marks) spots killer Jason running across the road into trespassed zone, in a very startling shot, where a game of cat and mouse pursues. After the workout, we see where Jason has been living all of these years. Winslow comes upon a rusty shack, filthy and broken down. It has a lot of character. Once inside, he searches around, where in one room he sees something only ďOh my GodĒ can explain. Well, that and a shrine to his dead mother, complete with Aliceís body. Great decorating skills there, Jason! Needless to say, Voorhees must get rid of this nuisance ASAP. So many weapons to choose from! Oh, the life of a serial killer. Friday the 13th Part II then moves on to the evening where most of the counselors, save for the only ones weíve learned about, go out to get drunk at the town bar. Now we see Terri skinny dip, and Scott play a cruel joke on her. What a jerk. Yet, his company is enjoyable. Thatís all that matters. The only other real fault of Friday the 13th Part II, not counting Sandraís questionable acting skills, is the toggle back and forth between the bar and the camp. In the original, focus was on the camp for the most part, and the darker area at the diner. Here, we have a load of townies freeloading with Ginny, Ted and Paul, while at times, we skip back to see who has been offed next at the camp. It takes away from the isolation. If only the bar scene was only shown once, but then again, Ginny and Paulís characterization would not have been as fleshed out. And we never would have heard Ginny say she thought of Jason as a ďfrightened retard.Ē Important speech indeed.
The final chase is, of course, at the end, when Paul and Ginny find a bloody mess in the upstairs bedroom, and a killer in a pillow sac...or, wrapped up bed sheet thing with a hole cut out. If youíve taken a look at The Town That Dreaded Sundown, you know what Iím talking about. Yes, hockey mask killer icon Jason Voorhees appears in Friday the 13th Part II as the killer, but not without another hitch. Heís not quite as fashionable, and settles for a cheaper mask instead...or bag, I guess. Sometimes it makes him look weaker, but you feel him as a human and not a mindless zombie. It depends on how he wears it, but the different disguise style can work both to and against his advantage. The chase scene travels from cabin to cabin, to kitchen to car, to woods to cabin, back to woods and ending at the infamous shack. Itís not a Part III chase scene, but itís grand too. Ginny defends herself with a chainsaw, showing the killer just who is boss. One of the best scenes is when Ginny hides under a bed to escape Jasonís clutches, but a rat scurries up next to her, scaring the piss out of her...literally! Jason sees the mess she has made, and waits for her with his pitchfork in hand on a chair. Does she make it out alive? Oh, the drama! That scene with the pitchfork and the bed was actually duplicated in the 1981 slasher The Prowler, shot for shot. Or maybe, it was the other way around! The final showdown puts Ginnyís child psychology to good use, and brings back Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees, Jasonís mother, in a cameo. The film ends, and we can all rest safely in our beds, knowing Jason is only in movies.
Wait! Itís not over! Has Jason survived? Whatís that scratching at the door? Who will be left standing when the ambulance arrives? And did Terriís dog Muffin turn into mushy Voorhees food? A jump ending, in the tradition of the originalís, can still shock to this day, what with its abruptness. We also get to see exactly why Jason wears his bed sheet mask, with come excellent deformed makeup. Overall, with some few exceptions, Friday the 13th Part II does little wrong and thrills to no end. Itís an uplifting slasher from a golden year and age of horror, and it is also the beginning of an influential movie character for tons of fanboy discussions to come. With Amy Steel as your amazing Scream Queen, and a definitive setting with colorful kills, Friday the 13th Part II is one of the best in the series. In my opinion, it is second only to the gloriously famous (but underrated) natural stalker classic, the original Friday the 13th. Find this sequel on a nearly barebones 1999 DVD from Paramount with its trailer, or pick up the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan collection with the first eight films. Thereís interviews, spotlights, and much more galore gore to be seen. The DVDís video is a bit pixelled being 1999, and the colors arenít as vibrant as on the single disc, but itís the best you are probably going to find for now. Return back to a time when horror was simpler, and oh so brilliant. Essential!