In 1981 movie sequels were uncommon, and horror sequels even more so. With Friday the 13th part 2, Steve Miner and Ron Kurz started what would prove to be one of the most resilient movie franchises in cinema history—and created one of the most recognizable movie villains.
Friday the 13th part 2 is largely known for the introduction of Jason Voorhees as a killer, genuinely fun kills, and a strong Final Girl.
Oh, and of course . . .
In the first Friday the 13th, the Final Girl, Alice, beheads the killer, Mrs Voorhees, but, in a brief epilogue that may or may not have been a dream, Alice is attacked by young Jason, back from the bottom of Crystal Lake. In Friday the 13th 2, we learn that Jason is well and truly alive as he somehow makes his way from Camp Crystal Lake (where he’s evidently been living on raw fish and berries for a couple decades) to Alice’s home.
This opening, and the premise that Jason is still alive, was not universally adored by the creators of the original Friday. Sean Cunningham, the first’s director, deemed the idea of a sequel featuring Jason ridiculous, as did Tom Savini, who passed on Friday 2 to do The Burning.
Once one gets past these lapses in logic, however, Friday the 13th 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable film. It sticks to the structure outlined in the first film—coming close to being as much remake as sequel—but a larger budget ($1.25 million, as opposed to Friday the 13th’s $500 grand) ensures a slicker look and a larger body-count.
Though Jason still being alive may not make much sense, it’s difficult to argue with the phenomenon the homicidal momma’s boy with poor swimming skills has become. He wouldn’t adopt his famous goalie mask until part 3, wearing here a burlap sac that is just as creepy if not as cool, but his talents for creative murder are in early evidence.
Even without Savini, Friday the 13th 2 features fantastic kills, including a double-spearing and—everyone’s favorite—a machete blade to the face that sends wheelchair-bound Mark on a clattering ride down a set of stairs.
The movie wasn’t as gory as the creators would have liked, given that the MPAA was cracking down on violence in movies, and especially in Slasher films; their heightened alert had actually been set off by the dismaying (to them) popularity of the first Friday.
The plot is pure Slasher boilerplate, but among the usual throng of good-looking teenagers is a single stand out: Ginny. Ginny is our Final Girl and manages to subvert many of the Final Girl clichés even before they’d managed to become clichés. Even as she is introduced Ginny is shown to be independent and a bit of a wise-ass. She’s dating the boss but arrives late and shows him up when he tries to teach her a little something about cars. Later we see her beat him at chess and, though the couple don’t get a sex scene, it is clear that they have slept together.
That’s right; this Final Girl is not a virgin.
We also see Ginny handle a chainsaw (so as to allow one of the boys to get on with the cooking) and learn that she is a psychology major specializing in child psychology. All of these skills of Ginny’s will, of course, come in handy soon enough as she faces off—both physically and psychologically—with our favorite deformed drowning survivor. Ginny is easily my favorite Final Girl of the series and remains one of my favorite Final Girls overall.
Illogical opening (and confusing ending*) aside, Friday the 13th part 2 is a quintessential ’Eighties Slasher film. It’s fun, with likable characters that resembled the movie’s target audience but weren’t too well developed, so as not to sadden viewers with their eventual demise; it has nudity that is gratuitous without being gross or demeaning; it includes true tension leading to imaginative kills; and it features a genuinely intelligent, capable heroine that anyone—guy or girl—can and will root for.
And, as mentioned, it has a history-altering killer.
Like its predecessor, Friday the 13th part 2 is a key Slasher film and a must-see.
* The ending of the film caused some consternation for the creators. Originally, the filmmakers had wanted the camera to zoom in on Pamela’s severed and desiccated head and, at the last moment, have her eyes pop open, indicating that the story was not over. The effect, however, never quite looked right. Instead, the movie simply ends with a close-up of Pam’s face; the intention is still to indicate that Paul is dead and that Jason is out there, but most find the scene a little confusing.
Length: 87 min