Whenever I'm asked which movie is my favorite from the catalog of films within the Friday the 13th franchise, I usually say it's a tie between parts two and four. But I tend to lean a little more towards part two. The reason being is because of the look of Jason in this film. Yeah, I know that the hockey mask is iconic and it was the best idea the filmmakers of part three ever came up with, but somehow the burlap sack over the head is more frightening to me. Both films have their merits, but I'll go with 1981's Friday the 13th Part 2.
One big plus this sequel has is that it ties up loose ends with the survivor of the last film, Alice, as we are sort of introduced to Jason for the first time...well...his feet and hands anyway. But at least we know what happened to Alice after her ordeal in the first movie. And it's a rarity in this franchise. Think about it. Do we ever see Ginny again after this film? How about Chris in part three? None of the survivor girls are ever seen again and we're just supposed to just use our imagination as to what had happened to them. I guess it's pretty easy to see that Chris went bonkers at the end of part three and probably spent the rest of her life in an institution, but how about the rest? What ever happened to Trish from part four? Reggie the Reckless and Pam from part five? And even though we see Tommy Jarvis in parts four through six, what happened to him and Megan afterwards? Did Tina Shepard from part seven ever use her telekinetic powers again? From part eight, did Rennie and Jim get married? All these survivors and the filmmakers who'd made sequels over the years never thought to bring them back for a sequel? Oh well.
Back to Friday the 13th Part 2.
After the original movie, it looked like it would be impossible to have a sequel to it, seeing that Pamela Voorhees was beheaded. It took a bit of cheating by saying Jason's body was never found after he drowned in the lake (I say cheating because if a young boy was able to swim to shore, wouldn't he seek out his mother? It's highly unlikely he'd decide to live on his own in the woods), but if you can overlook that, they had a great idea to have an adult Jason be the killer. It made sense in a way and gave this franchise legs to stand up and run, creating an icon to go on and on for another eight sequels.
Now I've mentioned before how I like to play a marathon of all the Friday the 13th films in a row, but usually stop after the first four films. One of the reasons is that Jason is just a normal guy who acts human, makes noises (albeit, grunts), gets hurt, and almost dies a few times (nobody, at the time, knew about the Zombieland "Double-Tap" rule). With all the movies after part five, you knew no one had a chance against Jason because he was a supernatural force by then. But in parts two, three and four, the victims had chances.
So, here we are in Friday the 13th Part 2, where the film opens up with Alice (Adrienne King) sleeping and having a bad dream; this was a clever way to recap what happened in part one. She wakes up, talks to her mother, takes a shower, and is quickly killed by a mysterious man. After going through the opening credits, the film then takes place within a counselor training center at Crystal Lake, led by Paul Holt (John Furey). The condemned area of Camp Crystal Lake is adjacent to the training center and all the trainees have been told to avoid the area due to what had happened there five years before. Of course, a couple of the trainees, Sandra and Jeffrey (Marta Kober and Bill Randolph), get their curiosity piqued and decide to wander off in that direction, only to get caught by the local sheriff. But Jason is out there and the training center is too close, as Jason decides to pay the trainees a visit.
Steve Miner takes the directing reigns in this one and, in my opinion, made a better movie than the first. The film has better cinematography and has much better performances from the actors and actresses.
Besides the prologue to this film, showing what happened to Alice, I love the campfire scene where Paul talks about what happened at Camp Crystal Lake and how Jason Voorhees is out waiting to get revenge. It added the right touch to the film foreshadowing what was to come. Also, the comic relief of Ted (Stuart Charno) is funny and adds a bit of levity to the film.
Also, the film has quite an array of different characters making us identify with them a little more. The main character the film focuses on, Ginny (Amy Steel), is not as delicate and distressed as Alice in the first film. Of course, as most 80s movies included, you've got to have a girl, Terry (Kirsten Baker), who walks around in skimpy outfits and performs in the gratuitous nude scene. And the bravest casting decision in the Friday the 13th franchise was to include a wheelchair-confined character, Mark (Tom McBride), who is showcased in the most memorable kill in this flick.
Although Tom Savini wasn't involved in this project, the practical effects were pretty good, but just not up to Savini's standards. But they brought the point home and actually had some cool gags. As I mentioned above, Mark's death is most remembered for getting the machete to the face and falling down the stairs, backwards, in his wheelchair. I really don't know how they did that, as it's very apparent he's a real person sitting there with a machete suddenly slamming into his face. It's shot from behind, but to do that effect, he must've had some pad in front of his face or something...I don't know. And the decapitated head of Mrs. Voorhees on the table of Jason's shrine is notable as well. I remember watching the very end as a kid, thinking that Mrs. Voorhees's head looked so real that it looked like the eyes would open at any second. Years later, to my amazement, I'd heard that that was what they had filmed. There was actually an actress who sat underneath the table, face made up to look dead, and she was supposed to open her eyes at the very end for a little jump scare. They actually filmed it and decided to cut it out before releasing the movie; that's why the scene freezes before fading out to credits. I think the right decision was made, because that would've had an air of cheesiness to it.
I'd mentioned that the burlap-sack-headed Jason is the scariest, but there's a bit of controversy as to who actually played him in the movie. IMDb has Warrington Gillette credited as playing him, but during interviews with Steve Dash, a stuntman, he says that he did most of the scenes as Jason.
My final "bit" on Friday the 13th Part 2?
The film is a superior sequel, giving life to this franchise, and sowing the seeds to make it grow to the monster it became. Yes, as I think more and more about this film, I really believe that this is the best of the lot. Better acting and a better idea makes this top the original. But you couldn't have this, or the sequels, unless you had the first film, so I've got to give props to the first one. As I'd mentioned, the first four films are the best, so do yourself a favor and have yourself a marathon tonight.