When I reviewed the first Friday the 13th film, Fogs asked when I would “turn” and start rooting for Jason to kill the teenagers. I put the over/under at #3, and that seems so far to have been a pretty good bet. Because while it hasn’t quite happened yet, Friday the 13th Part 2 certainly doesn’t go out of its way to generate sympathy for the young adults who make their way to Crystal Lake. In this case, it’s actually the other side of the lake — the actual Camp Crystal Lake is closed — but it’s still a camp on the same lake, and the same basic plot unfolds.
The film actually opens with a flashback, of surviving girl Alice (Adrienne King) from the first film reliving the events of that day in a nightmare. This sequence takes about ten minutes and feels like it takes about thirty, as it is (obviously) familiar and mostly redundant. Everything about it could have been left out and simply included in the narration given in the head counselor’s story at the camp. Even the present-day part of it winds up feeling predictable and redundant.
Of course, without it we wouldn’t have gotten this awesome cat scare. Oh wait, there’s no such thing as an awesome cat scare.
The story is set five years after the events of the first film (though the film itself was released only one year later). Once again, somebody is opening camp on Crystal Lake, and the story again starts a few weeks before camp opens, with the counselors arriving. In charge of the camp are Paul (John Furey) and Ginny (Amy Steel). Paul is practical and down-to-earth; he tells the younger counselors the story of Jason as a campfire ghost story to get it out of their system. Ginny is a bit more of a believer, and even ponders what effect the events may have had on Jason’s psyche. It’s pretty obvious from early on who our final girl is going to be. Filling the vacated role of practical joker is Ted (Stuart Charno), who even dresses up as a tribal warrior the way now-dead Ned did in the first film. The rest of the counselors are your standard sex-crazed young adults with little in personality to distinguish them. As the poster says, “the body count continues”, and they’re here solely to raise the body count, so I’ll just list the names of the actors real quick (I couldn’t be bothered to remember their characters’ names): Kirsten Baker, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Lauren-Marie Taylor, and Russell Todd. Most of them had a few other horror roles after this film, and little else of note, though Taylor did play the part of John Belushi’s daughter in Neighbors.
There are a few nods to the previous film, besides the flashback above. Walt Gorney has a cameo as Crazy Ralph, and during a scene late in the movie, Jason hallucinates the appearance of his mother, with Betsy Palmer again lending her face and voice to the role.
The film also follows a very similar structure, with Jason slowly killing off kids one-by-one, out of sight so that the counselors never know the danger they’re in. And as before, the counselors split up for some intimate time, and others go into town to stagger out the body count. Somehow it didn’t interest me as much this time around; perhaps because it was so similar to the first film, it just seemed slow this time around. Also, the killings weren’t particularly inventive, and while quick, seemed to lack the sudden impact of the original. It doesn’t help that one character is saved purely by a lucky break; it’s hard to be intimidated of a horror villain who stumbles off a broken chair.
Maybe the mask is to hide his shame.
Jason doesn’t appear on screen much until the last act of the film; he’s played by Steve Dash for most of it, and Warrington Gilette for the last part. The sack-mask design works fairly well, and I have to wonder why most of the film simply shows Jason’s feet. We all know it’s not Pamela this time, we saw her beheaded; similarly, it seems unlikely that the film is trying to convince the audience it’s someone else, as there are no red herrings in the film. So the fact that we don’t see most of him for most of the film just seems to be for the sake of aping the original, but without any of the purpose to it the original had.
There’s also a problem in that the intelligence of the counselors appears to have been downgraded. At one point, seeing a blood-stained bed, Paul assures Ginny that nothing is going on. Really? This guy is honestly so dumb he can look at a copious amount of blood and assume nothing is going on? There’s also the usual problem with the victims not being very good at defending themselves even once they know they’re in trouble. At one point, Ginny goes after Jason with a chainsaw, but drops it in order to beat him over the head with a chair, which, as you might presume, is noticeably less effective.
Ash Williams would know better.
There’s also a problem with the continuity of the film. One character is killed completely off screen, with her death never implied other than the fact that she simply doesn’t show up again until her corpse is found about 40 minutes later. Another character is in a fight with Jason and when the lights come back on, Jason goes after another potential victim; the implication is that character lost the fight, but he turns up alive and well afterward. And at the end, another character is rescued from the final attack without her rescue being shown. It’s also not shown whether the other character with her at the time (who was not shown being attacked in that incident) survived or not, though she calls out his name and asks where he is as she’s loaded into the ambulance. For that matter, there’s another character who appears to have escaped harm by virtue of staying in town and drinking the night away. It’s as if the movie forgot all about him after that point. It all adds up to a fairly unsatisfying end to a movie that wound up being a lot more pedestrian than its predecessor.
Since I know that Jason acquires his iconic hockey mask in the third film, I’m staying with the franchise at least until then, just for the sake of experiencing the film that inspires so many pop culture references. But unless the enjoyment factor of the series picks up in some way, that might be it for me. (I also will have to figure out exactly when I’ll be viewing that film and any others I choose to view. I scheduled my reviews of the first two to coincide with Friday the 13th, but the next one isn’t until September 2013, 14 months from now.) Regardless, while I’ll be watching the third, if it’s not markedly more enjoyable than the second, that is likely to be where I stop with this series.