Five years may have elapsed since people last set foot in Camp Crystal Lake, but it only took a year in the real world for Paramount to capitalize on the success of FRIDAY THE 13TH and launch a sequel. Working on the same things that made the first such a success (scantily clad women, gory and gruesome deaths involving creating uses of various tools), FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 is a prime example of what's become a sort of staple for horror sequels: namely, "second verse, same as the first."
For those not familiar with the first film, it's nicely summarized in a quick prologue. Alice, the lone survivor from the first movie, has a nightmare where she relives all the key moments from the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. Sweet old Mrs. Voorhees, after seeing her mentally-handicapped son Jason drown at camp Crystal Lake a few years before, the victim of camp counselor neglect, goes on a killing spree until Alice finally decapitates her with a machete. Alice retreats to the middle of the lake, where the film and her dream closes: a misshapen and very much alive Jason Voorhies jumping out of the water to pull her down.
Was it real or just a dream? The police think the latter, and Alice is inclined to believe them. Now trying to get her life back together, she's living alone with her cat, odd David Bowie-ish sketches lining her apartment. This lasts for about two minutes, when Jason creeps into her apartment and drives a thin awl into the side of her head. Cue the credits, and we're off.
It's five years later, "Camp Blood" as it's now called has been condemned, and a new batch of counselors are in training at the camp across the lake. Everyone knows the story of what happened, and the rumors of Jason, the "beast-boy" supposedly still running wild in the grounds. But hey! We're all young, sexy kids...what's the worse that could happen.
Oh, ripe, juicy pickings.
Steve Miner, the production assistant on the first film and future director of horror flicks like HOUSE, WARLOCK, and the third FRIDAY film makes his directorial debut here, and he does a nice job, using long, steady takes, misdirection, and careful lighting to give the film a nice, polished look. The script by Ron Kurz (uncredited on the first film) is descent, giving us some characters we like, a little more humor, and ample opportunities for women to take their clothes off. There's one nice transition where a screaming woman, about to be killed by Jason, is suddenly cut to a wailing guitar, being played by the band where a large portion of the campers are. They also keep most of the blood off-screen: with Tom "Man-God" Savini not doing the makeup effects this time around and some serious MPAA restrictions, a lot of the horror of the movie is implied rather than direct, often cutting away right as the violence begins.
We don't get our first real glimpse of Jason until after an hour into the movie. His arrival, under the sheets of next to one of the women he's killed (using the old "spear through the copulating couples" trick we saw back in BAY OF BLOOD a few days ago) is pretty horrific. Although missing the iconic hockey mask he's most famous for (he gets that in PART 3), he's still a towering figure, wearing dirty blue overalls and a torn white pillowcase over his head. He's fast, too - certainly not the lumbering behemoth we're used to in later films.
The climax of the movie, a prolonged chase sequence between Jason and Ginny, the heroine of the movie shows a lot of imagination. After escaping numerous attempts at death by pitchfork, Ginny makes her way to a dilapidated old shack. She goes in and finds Mrs. Voorhees head on a table surrounded by candles, an alter her son worships at. Putting her child psychology skills to use, she puts on a ratty old sweater and impersonates her, causing Jason to stop and bow down before her so she can deliver a killing blow. She misses, and the film continues on until it oddly runs out of steam, but this section was pretty unique for a schlock horror film.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 has some definite problems: The cuts imposed from the MPAA makes a lot of the editing feel a bit choppy, causing some of the kills to lack a visceral punch, and completely confusing the climax, ending the film on a deflated note. We never learn what happens to some of the characters, including Ted, the comic relief of the movie, who I assume is still drinking at the bar he was left at. But it does what it has to do: by the movie's end we have a Jason who seemingly cannot be killed, paving the way for nine movies (as of this date, anyway), and creating the template for clone after clone after clone.