Our editor-in-chief Nate Yapp is proud to have contributed to the new book Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks, edited by Aaron Christensen. Another contributors include Anthony Timpone, B.J. Colangelo, Dave Alexander, Classic-Horror.com's own Robert C. Ring and John W. Bowen. Pick up a copy today from Amazon.com!
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
The first of many sub-par follow-ups to a movie that was only average to begin with, Friday the 13th Part 2 purports to take place five years after the events of the original. While this is mainly due to logic (who would start another camp right next to Crystal Lake only a year after a dozen people got slaughtered there?), it can't disguise the fact that this sequel was thrown together half-assed in order to hit theaters in summer of 1981, less than a year after the first installment was a huge surprise hit.
The filmmakers knew they could throw any old piece of garbage on the screen and people would see it. It's the type of lazy filmmaking that openly insults the audience while making it abundantly clear the film's only purpose is to rake in the dough based on the reputation of its predecessor. That type of opportunism and indifference to quality is shameful, even in a cut-rate exploitation sequel.
The film's story is basically a re-hash of Part I, only with bloodier deaths and more nudity. Which is about the only thing you can say for director/producer Steve Miner: He knows what his audience wants and he gives it to them.
Despite the warnings of Crazy Ralph (who's not helping his case by wearing the exact same clothes as five years ago), another group of non-descript counselors comes to Crystal Lake to open a summer camp. This one isn't at Camp Crystal Lake, it's located down the shore. Which is apparently too close for Jason Voorhees's taste, as he's soon sharpening up his collection of machetes and pitchforks to kill an even hornier batch of teens.
This is Jason's first real appearance in the series, though what we know to be Jason (an indestructable monster who hides his deformed face behind a hockey mask) doesn't start to take shape until Part 3. In this installment Jason dresses like a lumberjack and covers his face with a burlap bag, a mixture of ripping off The Town That Dreaded Sundown and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The movie actually begins with an extremely extended flashack sequence in which Part I survivor Adrienne King dreams about the events of the first film. She wakes up and is literally screwed to death by Jason (watch the movie and you'll see I made a funny). What does dispatching King have to do with the rest of the movie? Absolutely nothing, other than raise the question that if Jason is this half-retarded man child who lives in the woods of Camp Crystal Lake, how the hell did he find King in the first place? Did he somehow discover her name and then call information for the address? Or perhaps he walked up to someone on the street, machete in hand and face covered by a burlap sack, and asked where King lived. It makes no sense, but it does take up about 15 minutes of screen time in an 87-minute movie.
This time around there are a lot more campers to choose from, but in a negligent waste of resources Miner sends half the camp to a bar on the night of the murders. Which cuts the body count down to nine people and a dog, one less than the original.
The exposition is a little more elaborate (again, probably to pad the running time) as we get to know the slightly more detailed characters. There's head counselor Paul and his girlfriend Ginny, horny and dimwitted couple Sandra and Jeff (a sure sign they won't last long), super hot Terri and creepy Scott (whose peeping tom perversity is more disturbing than any of the murders) and the wheelchair bound Mark and his love interest Vicki.
It's nice of the filmmakers not to exclude the handicapped, showing they too can be murdered just as brutally as everyone else. In fact, just to show there's no discrimination, they reserve the most vicious and visually gruesome death for Mark, who also gets to utters the immortal line, "Nothing spoils a party faster than a drunk guy in a wheelchair." An African-American and an Asian counselor are tossed in to fill the necessary quotas, though neither of them gets a single line of dialogue.
Apparently the filmmakers figured if they threw enough boobs, blood and barbarism at the target teen audience they wouldn't be able to pay attention to all the logical gaps. At some point every major female character decides to change shirts, pretty much just so we glimpse her in a bra. In another scene a distraught and mid-riff baring Teri searches in the woods for her beloved dog when she comes upon the lake. For some reason she decides to take a dip alone, in the middle of the night, in a lake that is rumored to have a monster living in it. And for good measure she decides "Ah, what the hell, I might as well go in naked."
They probably figured the young male thought process would go something like this. "Hey, why is she going skinny dipping in this lake in the middle of the….wait a second, I just saw boobies. What was I saying before?" And thus the unsuspecting male teen lets it slide.
But even jiggling hooters can't distract from some of the gaping errors. The two surviving characters (I won't say which, but you can probably figure it out yourself five minutes in) have locked themselves in a cabin. The film then rips off the ending of the original, as one of the survivors wakes the next day in a haze and asks where Jason is. A better question would be "Where the hell is the other guy from the cabin?" The answer is that he quit the production before he shot his final scenes, and simply disappears from the movie without explanation.
In another scene the local sheriff sees a figure running through the woods and gives chase. Granted, hayseed sheriffs are never depicted as being particularly smart in any movie, but this guy takes it to a new level. Without ever drawing his gun, he chases a crazy looking guy with a burlap bag on his head into a small, ramshackle shed in the middle of a stretch of woods known for murders. He deserves to get chopped up into pieces.
But the mother of all errors is a blunder of such gigantic proportions that it pokes holes in the very fabric of the film's premise. Here's my question: Why would this little kid PRETEND to drown?
Mind you this is before the later movies gave Jason superhuman powers. At this point in the series he's just a kid who was thought to have drowned but somehow survived.
Young Jason then had two options. Option 1: He can go home to his grieving mother, who he loves so much he keeps her severed head as a souvenir, and say "Hey, look I'm OK. Didn't really drown. What's for supper."
Option 2: He could hide in the woods and never see his mother again, though she lived another twenty years before being decapitated at the end of the original (don't worry, I didn't spoil anything for you. The flashbacks in Part II pretty much ruin the entire first installment by giving away all the plot twists at the end).
The movie goes with option two.
By now you've probably noticed that this is an insultingly negative review. You're right, it is. I tend to give movies the benefit of the doubt if it looks like the people who made them had honest intentions. But Friday the 13 Part II has only one goal: to trick viewers who enjoy the genre and liked the first Friday the 13th into wasting their time and money on a movie in which the filmmakers didn't even bother to try. It insults us, the audience, with its mocking incompetence and for that rampant commercialism, the movie earns my contempt.