WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
After cementing itself a spot in film history and raking in a fortune, it was no surprise that FRIDAY THE 13TH quickly generated a sequel. Within five months of the original film’s release, principal photography began on FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 with Steve Miner making his directorial debut. Though initially planned by Sean S. Cunningham to be an anthology series where each subsequent film would have a different story (taking place on the date of Friday the 13th), the decision was eventually made to introduce Jason Voorhees as the new antagonist.
This was slightly problematic because Jason’s brief appearance in the first FRIDAY THE 13TH was a last-minute jump scare added by Cunningham, meant only to serve as an “it was just a dream” epilogue to the film. But where there’s a will (i.e. millions in profit to be had) there’s a way, and on April 30, 1981, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 premiered in theaters across America, simultaneously earning nearly 6.5 million dollars in its opening weekend, and establishing one of the most iconic and beloved Horror film characters of all time!
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 kicks-off several months after the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake. The lone survivor, Alice (Adrienne King), wakes up after having a five-minute flashback to the climax of previous film. She takes a shower and decides to make some tea to shake off the heebie-jeebies. One spring-loaded cat later, Alice opens her fridge to find the severed head of Pamela Voorhees and immediately has an ice-pick shoved into her skull!
Fast forward another five years and we find that a fellow named Paul Holt (John Furey) is setting up a camp counselor training center right next-door to the remnants of Camp Crystal Lake (now referred to by locals as “Camp Blood”) at Packanack Lodge. As he does morning roll-call, we get to meet our cast of victims: There’s an adventurous couple made up of Sandra (Marta Kober) and Jeff (Bill Randolph), a good-natured paraplegic named Mark (Tom McBride), his would-be girlfriend Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor), a ‘pretty boy’ named Scott (Russell Todd), the object of his infatuation, Terry (Kirsten Baker), and Ted (Stu Charno) the comedian of the group and lover of poop jokes.
We also meet Paul’s assistant Ginny (Amy Steel) who arrives late in her beat-up Volkswagen Beetle. From their brief interaction we learn that a.) they’ve got a thing going on, b.) her car is a piece of junk, and c.) she is majoring in child psychology at college. (And if you deduced that at least two of those facts will become pertinent to the climax of the film, then pat yourself on the back!) That night, as everyone is gathered around a campfire, Paul tells the chilling story of Camp Blood and suggests that Jason could be out there in the woods, watching them all at that very moment. That’s when Ted leaps out in a caveman costume and sends everyone running!
Having successfully pulled off the prank, Paul assures everyone that Jason is long dead, and declares that Camp Blood is off limits. After they all call it a night, Paul sneaks into Ginny’s bunk for a bit of alone time as local loony Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney reprising his memorable role) watches silently in the shadows. But in an unexpected twist, the doomsayer finds that he himself is doomed when he is garroted from behind with a strand of barbed wire!
The following day both Sandra and Jeff are picked up by a police officer after trespassing onto Camp Crystal Lake. After dropping them off at the lodge and exchanging a few words with Paul, the cop heads back on patrol. And as he slowly drives through the woods, Jason brazenly dashes across the road, leading to a chase through the forest. Huffing and puffing, the cop eventually arrives at a dilapidated shack in the woods and enters it. For trespassing into Jason’s domain, the nameless officer receives the claw-end of a hammer to the back of his skull. Back at Packanack, Sandra and Jeff and are forced to stay behind as punishment while everyone else gets the option of heading to the local watering hole.
Paul, Ginny, Ted, and a bunch of nameless trainees drive into town to throw back a few, while the remaining six break off into pairs and get picked off by Jason. Scott is caught in a snare and has his throat slashed with a machete, Terry is killed offscreen, poor Mark gets the blunt side of Jason’s machete to the face and rolls down a few flights of stairs (easily the best kill in the movie!), Sandra and Jeff are impaled with a spear while basking in the afterglow of sex, and Vickie is stabbed with a butcher knife.
Paul and Ginny eventually return to a seemingly empty Packanack Lodge, only to be ambushed by “Lollipop Jason.” The sack-headed slasher manages to subdue Paul then turns his attention to Ginny, who proves to be a worthy adversary. Although completely terrified, Ginny repeatedly escapes certain death and turn the tables on her attacker several times. Eventually their game of cat and mouse culminates into a stand-off within Jason’s lair, where Ginny must employ her wits (and child psych knowledge) to defeat Jason Voorhees.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is arguably the most important film in the entire franchise (after the original of course). It builds upon the mythology created by its predecessor, making Jason a sort of local folk legend that only exists in tales told around campfires, much like Cropsy from THE BURNING, or Madman Marz from MADMAN! But unlike those two unrepentant monsters, Jason’s tragic backstory makes him almost sympathetic. (Key word: Almost.)
There’s a brief scene in a bar where Amy Steel’s Ginny ponders the possible existence and mental state of Jason Voorhees. She surmises that he may have seen his mother’s death, and survived alone in the wilderness throughout his formative years. And if that was all true, what would he be like? Is he a psychopath? A simple-minded and frightened boy trapped in a man’s body? (Yes, and yes.) That’s some real food for thought, and adds a tiny amount of emotional depth to an otherwise one-dimensional character that runs around with a sack on his head and murders horny “teens.”
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 was the directorial debut of Steve Miner (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D, HOUSE, WARLOCK, LAKE PLACID), and it was real trial by fire for the young film maker. He replaced Sean S. Cunningham who evacuated the director’s seat because he was not happy with the direction the series was taking, a feeling shared by Tom Savini, who also left the project to go work on John A. Russo’s MIDNIGHT. To take Savini’s place, Stan Winston was enlisted to handle the effects, but soon had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts.
So the job of creating the illusion of violent death fell upon the shoulders of Carl Fullerton, whose previous film credits consisted of RITUALS, THE WIZ, and Ken Russell’s ALTERED STATES. Carl had some big shoes to fill, but he had plenty of backup. Assisting him with the makeup and gore effects were two other young gents named Steven Kirshoff and John Caglione Jr.
Kirshoff had previously worked on the original FRIDAY THE 13TH on “atmospheric effects” (Is that a nice way of saying “fog machine operator?”), and would go on to work behind the scenes on C.H.U.D., EXTERMINATOR 2, DAY OF THE DEAD, and KING KONG LIVES before springboarding into a lengthy career of A-list Hollywood productions. The feature film debut of Jason Voorhees was also the starting point for John Caglione Jr., who would continue working on Horror films throughout the 80s.
After cutting his teeth on FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, he would go on to do effects in BASKET CASE, THE HUNGER, AMITYVILLE 3D, C.H.U.D., MY DEMON LOVER, POLTERGEIST III, and THE BLOB remake! Together, this triumvirate would successfully surpass the carnage depicted in (the relatively bloodless) FRIDAY THE 13TH, but unfortunately the MPAA (cinema’s greatest villain) stepped in and forced edits to their work.
Troubled by the “accumulation of violence throughout the film” (plus it surely didn’t help that an assassination attempt was made on President Reagan a month before the movie opened) the end result was the deletion of forty-eight seconds from the film’s final cut. In particular, the demise of Sandra and Jeff was heavily re-edited. The shots featuring any full frontal nudity of actress Marta Kober had to go because it turns out that she was underage at the time (Whoops!), and the footage of Jason piercing both young lovers with a spear was deemed too graphic and is now seemingly lost to the annals of history.
The cast of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is filled with mostly new faces, though three characters from the original make brief appearances: Adrienne King reprises her role of Alice in the film’s opening moments, before being unceremoniously killed off, Walt Gorney returns as “Crazy Ralph,” who is shockingly murdered before he can warn/spook the residents of Packanack Lodge, and Betsy Palmer briefly appears as an apparition to a very confused Jason. Most of the sequel’s new victims are likeable, but don’t rise above the material in the script. Thankfully that’s not the case with Amy Steel who is fantastic as Ginny Field!
She is strong, intelligent, sensitive, resilient, and earns her survival in the final act of the movie. While she may wax sympathetic over the horrifying childhood Jason may have had, she has no problem with kicking him in the nuts, assaulting him with a chainsaw, or pretending to be the reincarnation of his mother in order to bury a rusty machete in his skull. As for Jason, he is a silent engine of destruction and played throughout most of the film by late actor/stuntman Steve Daskawisz (aka Steve Dash).
Dash truly suffered for his art as he got pretty banged-up during production, reportedly breaking a few ribs, getting knocked out cold, receiving a rug-burn around his eye from the mask he constantly wore, and getting thirteen stitches on his middle finger while shooting the final duel in Jason’s cabin. Although Dash is the man behind the mask for the lion’s share of the film, it’s Warrington Gillette that gets top billing as Jason. This is especially surprising as he only portrayed the character onscreen in the film’s final jump scare moment, where “Deliverance Voorhees” bursts through a window to snag Ginny.
This didn’t really bother Steve Dash until Warrington Gillette started doing appearances at horror conventions and took full credit for portraying Jason in the film. The controversy grew and apparently came to a head at a show that both men were guests at in 2005. Dash, angered that Warrington was signing photos of scenes he did not portray Jason in, confronted the pretender to the bag-head throne. Warrington later apologized, and offered a lame excuse that he forgot Steve did most of the stuntwork in the film because he had developed amnesia after a skiing accident.
Sadly in December 2018, Steve Dash passed away due to complications from diabetes. Warrington however is still making his rounds on the convention scene and supposedly raising funds for a film based upon his life called BLOODY SOCIAL. I say supposedly because fifteen years have passed and the movie still isn’t out of pre-production. (Hmmm…. Sounds kind of fishy, no?)
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is a solid followup to the original, but I must admit that there are two things about this movie that still bug me (and many other fans) to this very day: The opening and ending sequences! In the beginning of the film, Jason somehow manages to track down Alice, two months after she beheaded his mother. HOW?! Jason can’t talk (or at least has never shown that he can), kills the vast majority of the people he meets, and probably can’t read, so it is pretty doubtful that he looked her up in a phone book or hired a private detective.
So again I ask: HOW DID HE FIND HER?! I’ve heard fans explain it away as a dream sequence, but that doesn’t hold water because you can clearly see Alice’s desiccated corpse (complete with cranial ice pick accessory) slumped at the base of Jason’s “momma altar.” The only honest answer I could come up with is that Adrienne King had to go, and this was likely the best the film makers could do on short notice. Why? Well it was either because she was traumatized by a crazed fan and wanted out of the motion picture business, or because Paramount refused to pay her a higher salary. (Or both.) Regardless, we are forever left with this glaring plot hole at the start of this film.
As for the ending, the big puzzle is the fate of Paul Holt. After Ginny buries a machete deep into Jason’s shoulder, she is carried back to Packanack by Paul (who somehow survived going two rounds toe-to-toe with Jason). They settle into a cabin, relieved that they have survived the ordeal, but they instantly tense up and arm themselves when they hear a noise at the door. Paul carefully opens the door and discovers Terry’s dog “Muffin” that we all assumed was dead and half-eaten earlier in the movie.
That moment of relief is short-lived however, as Jason suddenly bursts through the window behind Ginny, and grabs her. Paul races to the rescue and the screen goes completely white before cutting to the following morning. Ginny is being loaded into an ambulance, and her beau is nowhere to be found. Since this franchise is all about utilizing “thank god it was all just a dream” endings, I guess you could write off the unmasked Jason scare as a nightmare. But then that raises the question: Where is Paul?
We all assume he’s dead, but was he killed at Packanack or did he just never escape Jason’s shack? If that’s the case, then perhaps Ginny stumbled back to Packanack on her own and hallucinated ole “one-scene Warrington” bursting through the window? But that doesn’t make sense because as the film ends, and the camera zooms in on the disembodied head of Pamela Voorhees (which was originally supposed to open its eyes and smile), you can clearly see Jason’s lifeless body on the floor to the right of the altar. So perhaps Paul left to get help and is sitting back in town at the police station? Or maybe Jason made a pit stop to murder Paul before obtaining some new duds and hiding out at Higgins Haven? I guess we’ll never truly know.
Minor scripting and pacing issues aside, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is a pretty good slasher sequel that deserves more love from fans. Steve Miner and his team worked through a turbulent production and ran the MPAA’s censorship gauntlet! And when it was all over, they still managed to release a successful movie ($21,722,776 at the box office!) with a decent cast, several inventive kills, a great heroine, a brutal villain, and an atmospheric score by Harry Manfredini!
And while it’s not my favorite entry into the series, I definitely look upon FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 with much kinder eyes these days, and feel comfortable with giving it a rating of: