Friday the 13th Part 2
Dir. Steve Miner (1981)
Camp Crystal Lake opens again after the massacre that took place five years earlier, and mommy's little boy wants to attend the reopening.
Friday the 13th Part 2 opens by creating yet another (though admittedly less frequently used) slasher trope, that in which the returning "final girl" from the previous installment is immediately killed to usher in a new set of victims for the villain to torment and impale. Adrienne King's brief stay in the first sequel of the Friday the 13th series seeks to show that things are a bit different this time and that all bets are off. Unfortunately, this is also made evident by the disappearance of director Sean S. Cunningham and effects master Tom Savini, both of whose absence takes a toll on the quality of the followup to the cult classic original film.
A new camp is opening up across the water from the original Camp Crystal Lake, complete with new counselors and the reappearance of the dead Jason, all grown up and looking to start his bodycount. F13 2 keeps the camp location and much of the same ambience of the original, making consistent (and persistent) use of Manfredini's chilling "ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma" theme whenever the new killer is making an appearance. The actors all give adequate, if at times subdued, performances, believable as young adults who have no future outside of the camp if nothing else. Amy Steel, who stars as final girl Ginny, is naturally better than the others, though nobody is noticeably bad at any particular point in the film (a blessed change from many other 80's slashers).
Friday the 13th Part 2 continues setting the pace for other slashers when it comes to the rules of engagement, with many of the counselors partaking in naughty activities that naturally draw them into the crosshairs of the newly emerged Jason. All slasher villains need a mask, of course, and this first iteration of Jason Voorhees steals the burlap sack veil of the killer from the cult classic, though eventually much less popular, The Town That Dreaded Sundown. While the hockey mask became synonymous with the undead killer in later installments of the franchise, many F13 fans prefer the simple sack to the more famous facial covering. Why? Who knows, because those people are wrong.
The second film in the franchise is indicative that the series had not yet found it's way, struggling to create a lore that never completely gets established throughout its many (many) films. Jason's story is one of the more bizarre of any slasher villain, and while he has a relatively simple origin, he's really just a beastly monster who quickly outwears any sympathy the audience may have for his ghastly beginnings. He's also a behemoth who doesn't hesitate to show his face at times, with his ghoulish appearance having as much in common with the monster at the heart of The Funhouse as he does with his more famous serial slasher kin. While it would be easy to feel bad for the guy, once the pitchforks come out, any goodwill has been stamped out due to the brutality.
One of the (few) great things about this film is its refusal to limit Jason's reliance on any particular weapon. Of course fans know him as a machete-wielding maniac, but he's just as likely to use a spear, an ice pick, or the aforementioned pitchfork in his attempts to main and dismember all that have the poor fortune to confront him. The creativity is important: it fails to put the creature in a box while also allowing for a smorgasbord of death scenes that would come to represent the series. However, by personifying Jason as an alive killer rather than the zombie freak he would become, Friday Part 2 veers into the weird shit that eventually would characterize the rest of the films.
While Friday the 13th Part 2 is far from the worst entry, it makes the original film seem like a masterpiece. It's a relatively cookie-cutter slasher film with little more to add other than a new (though admittedly improved) villain. Much like the first film, the victims seem random, just wheat to be harvested by whatever farm tool Jason happened upon next. Director Steve Miner does his best to let Friday fans know that this is perhaps the series with the greatest diminishment of returns right off the bat, and despite his competent filmmaking abilities, he turns in a film that does little more than advance the plot to when Jason becomes badass as all hell in the followup films.
Who this movie is for: Slasher nuts, Franchise fans, Farmers looking for their tools
Bottom line: Friday the 13th Part 2 is a lackluster sequel for a lackluster series that has failed, at this point, to find its footing. Jason makes his first appearance, which is great because of the character he becomes, not the version he is right off the bat. The acting is adequate but nothing more, the kills are relatively generic, and the series is lucky to not have died off with the second film in the franchise. Thankfully, once Jason finds his iconic hockey mask, things start to take a turn by becoming a fun series with much more interesting forms of bloodshed rather than a bland, tedious rehash of the original.