This review contains spoilers for Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2.
Friday the 13th was a financial success in 1980, and set up the theme we still see to this day: when an original horror movie makes money, rush out the sequel! Friday the 13th Part 2 feels exactly that – rushed – and fails to live up to the original in terms of gore, scares, or lasting appeal.
Taking place five years after the events of Friday the 13th, Part 2 focuses on a new group of college-aged kids at a counselor training center located near Camp Crystal Lake, which has now been condemned. The training center is lead by Paul Holt (John Furey), who, one night, tells his trainees the story of Jason Voorhees: years after he was believed to have drowned in Crystal Lake (the same lake that this training center is located), Alice discovered that Jason’s mother was the assailant behind the infamous murders at “Camp Blood”, and beheaded her. Alice disappeared three months later, and no one knows what happened to her. Paul goes on to explain that some locals believe Jason never actually drowned, and that he witnessed his mother’s murder by Alice, filling him with rage. Those same people also believe that Jason still haunts the woods near “Camp Blood” in order to kill anyone who trespasses on his turf.
The counselors, including Paul, believe that the story is bogus, and Paul only tells it to “get it out of their system”. The counselors soon discover that no matter what they believe, there is someone hunting them from the woods, and the killer won’t stop until they’re all victims.
Although the budget for Part 2 was around $1.25M, almost double the original, no amount of money can change the fact that Carl Fullerton is not Tom Savini. Fullerton – who has an excellent resume that includes such classics as Silence of the Lambs, Goodfellas, and Training Day, among others – is unable to nail the details that Savini managed in the original, and the director (Steve Miner) relies on camera tricks to hide the lack of cringe-worthy special effects. This is fine, but not at all what fans of the original must’ve expected when they packed movie theatres back in 1981, or what I wanted when I popped in the DVD.
The acting in Part 2 is more typical of 80s slasher films than the original, and the only standouts are Warrington Gillette playing Jason Voorhees, and Amy Steel playing Ginny, the leading lady. Though Gillette has no lines, his mask work is great and he lumbers around the forest about as well as any non-speaking stalker can. As for Steel, she plays one of the few likable characters in the movie, and does a nice job handling the mediocre script. The flesh hounds will appreciate this sequel because the gorgeous Kirsten Baker goes skinny-dipping in the middle of the night.
Aside from this nude scene, the first half of the film moves at a snails pace even though there is little character development. I had no desire to spend as much time with these characters as the film forced us to do because they’re uninteresting, simple, and/or annoying. By the time the murders started picking up, I wanted some of them to die. Luckily once that happens, the pace also gains momentum and the final 20-25 minutes are a fun ride. Getting to that point, however, is a chore that I won’t want to repeat anytime soon.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is not a terrible movie, or a bad sequel, but it does not live up to the expectations set by the original. It does bring to life the man that will live in cinematic infamy and probably deserves some credit for that. It would have been interesting to see how things were handled if Savini would have worked the sequel. The kills might have been more creative, and less may have happened off-screen. As it is, Friday the 13th Part 2 is a mediocre slasher film that will be remembered only because it contains Jason’s first kills.