Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
★★ / ★★★★
“Friday the 13th: Part II” might have had the chance to surpass the original had screenwriter Ron Kurz decided to take on a more psychological approach alongside repeating the mad spatterfest of the original. There is a character in this sequel, Ginny (Amy Steel), assistant to the lead camp counselor Paul (John Furey), who has a background in child psychology. What better heroine to pit against a serial killer with serious mommy issues than someone who can offer insight on how a deranged mind works? But the movie is not interested in psychology, just cheap thrills. While entertaining in parts, nearly nothing of importance unfolds in the first hour. (The recap of the first movie during the first ten minutes is downright awful.) That’s a lot to ask for a slasher film in which creative kills, gore, and body count matter.
This group of counselors is slightly more entertaining than in the original. Individually, they do not receive the same amount screen time as their predecessors, but they are memorable enough because the writing’s approach to humor is more overt. Some examples: the tow truck, a recurring gag involving a dog named Muffin, Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor) constantly throwing herself on wheelchair-bound Mark (Tom McBride) who seems more interested in arm wrestling other guys. There is even a couple from the city who wish to visit Camp Crystal Lake, also known as Camp Blood, because it is infamous for the murders that occurred there five years prior—the massacre in the first film. This time around, the story takes place in Packanack Lodge, a short walk away from Camp Crystal Lake.
Speaking of the first picture, sole survivor Alice (Adrienne King) makes an appearance. It is interesting that she is brought back not because of what is to be done with the character—which is predictable—but seeing her is a good reminder that Alice is not anything special. In the original, I failed to see what was so great about her. She is not especially strong, smart, or resourceful. It felt like Alice was the final girl just because the other cast members possess less star power than King. Now, compared King to Steel, the difference is night and day. I wished that Ginny had been on screen more because from the moment she pulled her sputtering car up (late) to the first camp counselor meeting, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. It is no wonder Paul is enamored with her. The performers share chemistry.
The kills are not necessarily bigger but more in-your-face. Perhaps it has something to do with editing that is more skilled, urgent. The machete-to-the-face scene actually made me flinch. It is frustrating, however, that director Steve Miner is even more fond of close-ups compared to “Friday the 13th” director Sean S. Cunningham. It is so commonly used, it cheapens an already schlocky material. Why not simply trust the violence or death on screen without having to result to such tactics? It looks like an approach made for TV movies.
Is it worth sitting through “Friday the 13th Part 2” even though it takes quite a while to take off? I think it is, especially if you consider yourself to be a horror aficionado, if only for the sole reason of the killer actually being Jason Voorhees (Warrington Gillette) this time around. As far as slashers go, it isn’t anything special but it’s tolerable.