In 1981, sequels weren’t necessarily considered good. Sure, we were a year removed from Empire Strikes Back–arguably the greatest sequel ever–but in the teen slasher genre, a sequel didn’t mean much. Especially when a movie is put together and released not even a year after the first film. That kind of hastiness is usually a sign of a rushed project, but Friday the 13th Part 2 is a step above its predecessor in almost every way.
The film opens up with a great sequence which takes place 2 months after the events of the first film. Alice Hardy, the sole survivor of the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake is being stalked at her home by a mysterious person who is presumably getting revenge on her for beheading Pamela Voorhees. We’re reminded of everything that took place that in the last film via flashbacks. And Alice eventually meets her fate, so we fast forward 5 years. After being closed for some time, a campground next to Camp Crystal Lake is being opened back up for a counselor training session. Some dozen or so twenty-somethings show up and are mixing and mingling amongst themselves. Mrs. Voorhees is dead, but a killer is still out there.
Okay, you know who it is. It’s Jason, Pamela’s son, who drowned in the lake years ago when counselors were too busy hooking up to keep an eye on the boy. He’s in adult form now, and is seeking revenge for his mother’s murder.
The kids at the camp are given more distinct features this time around. Mostly separated into couples, the main pair are the cool head counselor, Paul (John Furey) and his girlfriend, Ginny (Amy Steel)–the only one who tries to empathize with Jason. There’s also this Yogi Bear-sounding dude named Ted (Stu Charno), who director Steve Miner really wants to be the jokester, but Charno hasn’t really left behind his kids-on-stage tendencies.
1980’s Friday the 13th is pretty bare bones, but Part 2 just feels a bit fuller. This one has the added benefit of learning from its predecessor’s (many) mistakes. Largely a facsimile of the first film, it loosely copies the formula. However, the sequel actually gives the villain a personality and successfully makes us feel sorry for him. In Part 1 we don’t even know who the killer is until the very end.
Unfortunately we get possibly the worst final girl ever. Ginny, again the only person to empathize with Jason, is given the weakest moments in the film. Several times she has Jason in her grasp, but just ends up standing there as he’s attacking her boyfriend, unwilling to help, or at times just runs away instead of going through with her (fairly) easy task. She doesn’t even look believable when she panics.
While the final sequence is just barely a step below that of the last, every other element in Part 2 is much more put together. The dialogue is tighter, the acting is better, everything about the film is just a lot cleaner and slicker. Ultimately, it still feels a little too cut and dried, despite trying to develop more of our antagonist’s story. But the ride is enjoyable.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is likely the film most people think of when referencing this iconic series, but not even close to the best slasher film out there. Though it does have its charms.