The Plot: Moving just up the road from camp Crystal Lake, our story focuses on a counselor training camp for young people. Having many who have served as counselor’s before, the team is a tight knit group of young people looking to party down. As is the case with almost every Friday film. However, things get spooky once the teens find out about the myth of Jason Voorhees, who was never found after the incidents of the first film and Ralph the drunk shows up once again to tell everyone that they are indeed DOOMED! On a night meant for partying down and getting loose, the mysterious presence in the woods who has been keeping an eye on the young counselors decides to strike out against them! Who will survive this massacre?
The Review: I guess if you were going to pin down one thing that ultimately helped kill the Friday the 13th series, it wouldn’t just be how elaborate the later series got or how strange they started to become. I think the simplest answer would be that after so many films, new filmmakers just abandoned the whole concept of keeping up with the continuity of the series. The sense that these movies had to remain connected was lost and the idea then became “how do we keep these ideas fresh”; and what came back was the simple answer of changing the backstory or changing the environment. From there on out the series would continue to shell out misfire after misfire. With this second entry into the Friday series, it proved to be one of the few times that the series tried to keep continuity firmly in check. They tried to actually continue the story that was built upon in the first film and kept the logic that building on what had already been done wasn’t such a bad thing. For this reason, among many, it has always been one of my favorites from the series. From the introduction we are taken directly to what happened after the credits closed on that first Friday the 13th. Although the sequence may be long and take up a considerable amount of time in such a short movie, it’s perfect for adding a sense of closure to that first film and continuing the feel of one continued story.
We start with Alice, who was the lead in the original, as we get the direct continuation of her story. This sequence takes place around two months after the events of the first film if the timeline is exact. The rest of the movie is based around five years after the last incident at Camp Crystal Lake. Setting aside the first ten minutes of the running time in order to add closure to the original running narrative really does make for a great start, when they could have just as easily started our movie off with the new camp counselors arriving. There’s a lot of tension as we follow Alice around her apartment. She’s still keeping up with her artwork as it was alluded to in the original film (a VERY subtle reference that most audiences probably wouldn’t get) and a Hitchcock-ian shower sequence that throws the audience off completely. Speaking of other very subtle references to the first film, the first death scene taking place in modern time also features the same fade to white as was seen in the neck slashing in the first movie! Very subtle, but it shows the devotion and belief in the first film. Unfortunately, as the series would go along that same respect and appreciation for the work done on previous entries in the series would be lost.
The great thing about the continuity not being ignored this go around is that it uses the first film as a foundation in order to set up many new additions to the series. It’s an incredibly crucial sequel within, which is no doubt the reason so many of us enjoy it. As many new additions as there are to scare the audience, Friday the 13th Part 2 works so well because in some ways we as an audience know what to expect. I know that sounds about like the opposite of what you would expect to enjoy from a film, but knowing what to expect doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily GET what we expect. The movie opens a whole slew of new doors for us to explore. While keeping a similar tone as the original Friday, it essentially defines what the entire series would soon go on to become. The combination of similarities and new blocks to build on makes for one of the best films in the series. It has has been said about the first film, that it set the tone by starting off with very minimal violence and slowly escalating the bloodletting in order to keep the film shocking all the way until it’s conclusion. For example, the first two deaths in Friday the 13th were all but without blood. A couple of screams and teens falling over. However, here with this second film we have new and different expectations as a viewer. So in this second Friday, needless to say, it starts off with a bang!… or, more appropriately, a stab! In a knifing very similar to the screw driver to the head in Dawn of the Dead, we are welcome to an entirely new appreciation for onscreen violence within the Slasher genre.
Although the film brings back a lot of familiar ideas and motifs, from the original as well as other slasher pictures of the era, it does feature a good number of “Firsts” for this series that would later go on to be replicated in many of the sequels. Friday the 13th Part II is the first film in the series to actually refer to Camp Crystal Lake as “Camp Blood”. A title that would go on to stick around for many years. It is also the first in the series to feature the glorious “skinny dipping” scene that would go on to be repeated so very often, most notably in Friday Part 4 where Crispin Glover stole the show with his “We have no suits!” line. Although not the first film to feature characters that were pretty clear archetypes, this one helped define a lot of similar characters that we would come to love or hate later on in the series. For instance there’s Ted the red headed practical joker, the comic relief character that became customary in most of the Friday films that would follow. There always has to be that one character who doesn’t get to hook up with any girls (the chubby kid with the hockey mask in Part III) or instead serves as comic relief (Glover in Part IV). Unfortunately, much the same as the rest of the series (aside from Glover), Ted really isn’t all that funny.
Changing the scenery to another campground a little up the road from the original Camp Crystal Lake was definitely one of the better ideas of the series. As things would go along and teens would show up to the camp where hundreds had been slaughtered off, it seems only obvious to move Jason a little out of his way and it’s unfortunate so many entries into the series would have rather asked us to suspend disbelief. Even though the camp has changed, we’re still treated to familiar territory as the night turns into a rainy mess while counselors turn up brutalized in various ways. Although, believe it or not there’s actually a little artistry at work in this sequel. Including a few long takes and some very fluid camera movement. Amazing set decorations from the sprawling campgrounds to our killer’s lair, which has become another visual staple of the series. Pitch perfect in design, this “lair” with it’s ground littered with dirt, the walls peeling and falling apart encapsulates the mood of the killer perfectly. There are also some really great uses of silhouette visuals to show the killer’s constant watching over of these kids. So believe it or not there’s still a little tension to the kills here, although at this point we know it’s just a waiting game. When are these characters going to die becomes the only really valid question.
Amongst the classic scenes we’re introduced to in Friday the 13th Part 2 we have the camp fire sequence. The scene, which is nothing more than a rehashing of the Jason Voorhees mythos, has become legendary due to its subsequent usage in other films within the series and the reinterpretation of it in future slashers that would attempt to emulate its momentum. Although it might be a bit contrived, it works extremely well in the context of the movie and actually adds a bit of spookiness in the midst of the story. Now, I don’t think I should go out and say whether or not Jason is the killer here, as we the viewer don’t really know for sure who the killer is until the finale, but the allusion is that the killer is indeed the drowned young man. With the killer not being shown as a physical presence on screen until the sixty five minute mark, leaving us with only twenty minutes left in the film, I figure it’s best if I just avoid spoiling anything for newer fans. For those who haven’t seen this entry though, I will say don’t go expecting hockey masks and machetes. The killer here wears a burlap sack over his head for nearly the entire length that he is onscreen. At this point the killer in the Friday films still remains offscreen until the final moments, just as in the first movie. Taking a very Jaws-esque approach to the situation, we may get the body count started but we won’t know who’s doing the actual killing until the final moments. With just a little over eighty minutes of run-time in the film, the pace is extremely brisk so it’s almost not even a wait.
With just nine deaths (plus at least one dog), it may not have a much larger bodycount than the original but the deaths are certainly more dramatic and violent. With that, the performance and visual representation of our killer amongst many other things, this second Friday may be my favorite of the entire series. It’s certainly not perfect, after all it is a slasher movie, but for what it is it’s one of the best. I have to give it a five out of five. We have a great cast full of interesting characters, many epic scenes that essentially redefined the American slasher, a chase sequence that is as tense as any “final survivor” has ever had in a Friday film and some impressive brutality. Everything you could want from a Friday the 13th movie – this one has. Absolutely a must see for every horror fan.