“These kids smoke better dope than I do.”
The sequel almost never lives up to the original. Except in the case of Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), which might just be the best installment of the infamous slasher horror series. Yes, it clearly rivals Friday the 13th (1980) in terms of scares, fun, and over-the-top gore. Actually one can easily argue the sequel is basically a remake with different actors and slightly different kills. But who cares? The Friday the 13th movies are all about crazy fun, and we finally get Jason on the loose.
Before the hockey mask, before Jason grew several inches and gained about a hundred pounds of Beefcake 4000 muscle, there was the grain sack wearing boy avenging the death of his mother.
Wait? Wasn’t his mother avenging Jason’s death in the first movie?
Forget it. It doesn’t matter. It’s Friday the 13th, for crying out loud. Butter up the popcorn and strap yourself in for a helluva roller coaster ride.
When last we saw Mrs. Vorhees, she was being beheaded on the shores of Camp Crystal Lake. Body bags full of camp counselors were being driven away, and the sole survivor in the canoe had just gotten attacked by a boy living at the bottom of the lake. Seems to me like a good reason to shut the camp down permanently and burn the blood-stained cabins to the ground. But this is a movie, and for reasons no one will ever adequately answer, Camp Crystal Lake slowly collects cobwebs, while another camp just a hop and a skip away in the woods opens to campers five years later.
The hijinks immediately kicks off with counselors Jeff and Sandra running into Crazy Ralph in town. Ralph reprises his big line from last year’s movie, declaring, “You’re all doooooooomed!” Then he rides away on his bike, because that is what crazy loons do after issuing a dire warning. Jeff and Sandra pick up Ted, the camp prankster, and the trio heads off to their summer doom jobs.
At camp the counselors gather around leader Paul, who talks about the dangers of sharp implements and the importance of feminine hygiene when in the midst of forest animals. Yes, apparently bears are attracted to women during their special time of the month. Ginny (Amy Steele) arrives in her broken down Volkswagon, much to boyfriend Paul’s consternation.
Just in case there is anyone in the audience who has no idea what happened in the first Friday the 13th movie, Paul gathers the counselors around the campfire for a scary story about the previous murders, and how nobody ever found the boy, Jason. So as you might guess, bad things are about to start happening.
We get all of the classic slasher tropes – the moonlit skinny dipping scene, the prankster leaping out of the woods to scare everyone, the sex equals gruesome death conundrum.
The kills come fast and furious in Friday the 13th Part 2. In one particularly memorable and shocking scene, a counselor in a wheelchair takes a machete to the head and bounces down the cabin stairs, into the woods. Two sex-starved counselors get impaled – yes, at the same time.
In between the mayhem, there are plenty of genuine scares to be found. The “jump scares” in Friday the 13th Part 2 are some of the best the slasher sub-genre ever produced. One particular swerve near the end always makes me leap off the couch. Word to the wise: whenever the soothing it’s-all-gonna-be-all-right music starts, run!
If ever there was a perfect weapon of a slasher movie, Friday the 13th Part 2 is it.
The film excels not just in the gore but also in its atmospheric dread. Set in the familiar surroundings of Camp Crystal Lake, the ambiance is thick with tension. Every rustle, every shadow becomes a potential hiding spot for Jason Voorhees, who makes his full debut here as the series’ iconic killer. This installment, unlike its predecessor, delves deeper into the mythos of Jason. With his burlap sack hood – a departure from the infamous hockey mask he’d later adopt – Jason’s appearance is arguably more raw and disturbing. This choice of disguise serves as a visceral reminder of his tormented past and eerie legend.
Character development is a feature often overlooked in slasher films, yet this installment ensures the audience establishes a connection with some of the ill-fated counselors. Ginny, played adeptly by Amy Steel, is the standout. She’s resourceful and intuitive, and her psychological face-offs with Jason add layers of depth to the cat-and-mouse game that ensues. However, what truly sets Friday the 13th Part 2 apart from its contemporaries is its commitment to unbridled suspense. The film lingers in the quiet moments, allowing tension to build. The palpable sense of doom is always present, reminding viewers that in the world of Camp Crystal Lake, no one is ever truly safe.
Amy Steele’s character of Ginny establishes herself as a true leader, a combination of grit, brains, and beauty. I know it seems like heresy to suggest there is any final girl superior to Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. But I would argue Steele’s Ginny surpasses good ole Laurie, and many hardcore horror fans happen to agree with me on this point.
Ginny’s intellect is immediately apparent, not just in her survival instincts, but also in her ability to psychoanalyze Jason, a trait further emphasized by her studies in child psychology. Throughout the film, she uses her wit and knowledge to outmaneuver Jason at critical moments, turning the tables in a genre that too often renders its heroines as mere victims.
While Laurie Strode set the gold standard for final girls with her vulnerability and resilience, Ginny brings a cerebral edge to the table, deploying both physical and psychological tactics to battle her relentless pursuer. Moreover, Steele’s portrayal injects Ginny with a palpable humanity and depth, making her struggles all the more relatable and her triumphs even more satisfying. It’s this unique blend of brainpower, resourcefulness, and emotional depth that cements Ginny’s status as one of the most compelling final girls in horror cinema history.
Sean Cunningham and director Steve Minor hit the ball out of the park for a grand slam in Friday the 13th Part 2. I can’t think of anything about this movie that I would change. At once suspenseful, gruesome, and funny, Friday the 13th Part 2 is a movie which never takes itself too seriously. And neither should you. If you do, you’re completely missing the point.
Grab Friday the 13th Part 2 on DVD at Amazon, and have a blast!