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Friday the 13th Part 2 Might Be the Best of A Very Long Series


Friday the 13th Part 2 (Paramount, 1981)
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Ron Kurz

Friday the 13th Part 2 can be summed up fairly simple: Same Verse, A Hell of A Lot Better Than the First! And while I could stop the review there, I feel like I should at least try to indulge myself to come up with a little bit more to say about this second chapter.

From the opening frame, you can tell there is a huge difference in this film vs. the first one, and that would be they actually got a competent director. Now, granted, Steve Miner is not what I would consider to be an auteur by any means; the man’s other credits include the next film in this franchise, Warlock, Forever Young, and Halloween H20. However, compared to Sean Cunningham, the guy might as well be Scorsese.

Miner knows how to use dark contrast for other reasons than to simply make the screen go black. I don’t know how many times in the original F13 there were just scenes of blackness with a random beam of white from a flashlight moving around aimlessly. I seriously lost count about 20 minutes into the film. In F13II, the blackness is used to gradually reveal our killer or whatever nastiness looms in the dark; while there really isn’t a single slasher film, with the exception of Halloween, that is remotely scary, F13II comes as close as any other one that I can think of.

The film starts off with a silly recap of the last few minutes of the first film in case you didn’t remember what happened an entire year before. We are then taken to a rainy street at night, and we see two large feet step into the frame and head hastily to the first house. We are then in the home of our previous film’s final girl, Alice (Adrienne King) as she prepares to take a shower; what the hell else is there to open up a slasher film with?

Alice hears some noises, and decides to investigate. The scene unfolds rather well, for this series of films, and actually gives us a few nice fake scares before the big whammy; Alice opens the refrigerator door to see Mrs. Voorhees’ decapitated head resting in it. Shortly after that she gets an ice pick to the skull, and we now have the transfer from Mrs. Voorhees to her son Jason as the main killer in the series.

As I mentioned in the last review, the sequel originally was created to have Mrs. Voorhees be the killer again, but Betsy Palmer refused to be in it (I guess she got her car.), so it was quickly rewritten to have Jason as the main killer. Tom Savini also decided not to come back to do the F/X after this change of direction because he thought it was a stupid idea to revolve the film around a character that was only created for a twist at the end of the previous installment; he would eventually come back a couple of films later.

Cut to summer, five years later, and two generic youngsters in the same town as the first film. We soon learn that a young man named Paul Holt (John Furey) has decided to hold a camp counselor training session at Crystal Lake, a mile or so down from the site of the infamous Camp Blood murders.

The batch of counselor wannabes ends up being just as bland as our first crew for the most part. There’s Jeff the Blond (Bill Randolph); he has a girlfriend named Sandra (Marta Kober). We have a practical joker (There’s always one in the crowd) named Ted (Stu Charno) who is at one point called Ned. We have a hot girl, Terri (Kirsten Baker), who is most notable for giving the series its first official nudity; a horny guy named Scott (Russell Todd); a slut who dresses conservatively named Vicky (Lauren Maine-Taylor); a guy in a wheelchair named Mark (Tom McBride); and a sarcastic babe named Ginny (Amy Steel) who has a car that doesn’t start most of the time. We also learn that she is a student of child psychology, and for that simple aspect that gives her more depth than anyone else, she has “Final Girl” written all over her face.

It should also be noted that six other counselors exist; two of which are black to meet a slasher status quo, I assume. They are referred to in the credits as Extra Counselors, but you have to start somewhere, I guess. To their credit, they have just as much depth as everyone else with the exception of maybe Ginny.

The first night there, Paul tells the story of Jason Voorhees setting up the fun to come. One problem that Paul’s story initiates is that apparently Jason has been alive this whole time and walking the woods along with his mom, but I guess they never met up. This also makes the zombie kid coming out of the lake in the first film even stranger, but I’m probably looking a little too deeply here; sue me, I have to write about something.

While the story is being told, we soon learn that someone is watching the proceedings. And as Miner pulls us back we see that it is Crazy (Death Curse!!!) Ralph (Walter Gorney); he is just as quickly killed off as he is revealed. Between him and Alice, no one is still alive from the first film now.

That night, the Extra Counselors, Ted, Ginny, and Paul all go to town leaving the other six behind to be killed off rather quickly. We get a couple of decent death scenes here. Mark gets a machete to the face, and Jeff and Sandra get speared while fucking. These scenes are once again very reminiscent of the Italian shockers by the likes of Mario Bava (In fact both of these deaths are very similar to scenes in Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve). If you’re going to steal, steal from the best I guess.

Eventually, Paul and Ginny head back to camp leaving Ted, the practical joker if you’ve already forgotten, behind to be spared which is rather annoying since I wanted him to die more than anyone else in the cast. And once Paul is dispatched, we get a “Final Girl” sequence that almost makes the film worthwhile.

The last twenty minutes or so is simply Jason chasing around Ginny, but Miner pulls it off rather nicely. Credit should also be given to the screenplay writer, Ron Kurz, who the same year wrote another fun slasher film called Eyes of a Stranger. Ginny is very smart in her actions, and there is actually quite a bit of tension in the proceedings. Amy Steele is by no means of Oscar caliber here, but she is believable in the situation at hand, and that is a hell of a lot more than you can say for Adrienne King’s slow paced frantic nature in the first film.

Warrington Gillette, the actor playing Jason, is also very good in these final minutes; he makes Jason a pretty interesting villain, and Jason’s look in this film with the simple sack over his head (a rip-off of The Town that Dreaded Sundown, but still rather effective) is much more intimidating than the hockey masks to come. He is essentially some sort of crazed man-child, and Gillette gives him a fun head tilt, eerily reminiscent of Mr. Michael Myers, but as I said, steal from the best.

Ginny eventually ends up in Jason’s lair where he keeps his mom’s head and a candle vigil to boot. She somehow makes Jason think she is her mom (By putting on a ratty sweater) and eventually gets his machete from him and plants it in his head. Paul pops back up as well (I guess he only had a flesh wound), and they run away. Jason’s not quite dead yet, and he follows them; we don’t really know exactly what happens next, but it is all of a sudden morning, Ginny is fine, and Paul’s body is missing. Whatever.

F13II is not a very good film, but in this series, good is a relative term. The best you can do is compare these films to other films in the series, and other slashers of the time, and this one holds up as well if not better than all of them. It’s arguable that this is the best early eighties, post-Halloween slasher film.

The build-up to the final thirty minutes is not very exciting, and is flat out boring most of the time, but the last third is for the most part well done and it almost makes up for everything that came before it. It should be noted that Amy Steele is the only actress I can think of that got to be the Final Girl in two different slasher films in the eighties. She would pop up in the 1986 clever gem, April Fool’s Day. Although, anyone that remembers the ending of that film, can attest to the possible disqualifications she has as a Final Girl, but close enough.

If you’re going to watch an F13 film, this is as good of one to watch as any.

Follows: Friday the 13th

Next: Friday the 13th Part III


Sam Loomis


Comment from Doc
Time: June 6, 2008, 12:48 pm

“…we don’t really know exactly what happens next, but it is all of a sudden morning, Ginny is fine, and Paul’s body is missing. Whatever.”

Genius. Great review. I’ll have to check this out when I’m really bored.

Comment from Sam Loomis
Time: June 6, 2008, 4:27 pm

Probably wouldn’t hurt to be stoned or drunk as well. Just a suggestion.

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