After not enjoying the first film, I was not particularly enthused as I popped Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) into my blu-ray player. I have no real issue with bad films. I watch plenty of them and enjoy writing about a lot of them too. I have real problems both watching and writing about boring films though, and Friday the 13th (1980) was certainly that, at least for me.
Thankfully though, this sequel is a definite improvement on the first film, even if it perhaps never reaches the heights of many of its slasher brethren. The setup is essentially the exact same as the first film. Set five years later, a group of camp counsellors again gather for training. Whilst not at Camp Crystal Lake, the new camp is a short distance away, actually on the same lake that Jason jumped out of at the end of the first film, scaring the utter shit out of absolutely everyone. You know the drill, the counsellors start to get knocked off, generally whilst either about to have sex, or having just finished up. Like the first film, though possibly even more so, there is little character development of the counsellors before they meet their doom. I am not really sure why they persist with this approach and utilising a much larger number of characters than they really need to. Especially since on the occasions they actually build up a character, it greatly improves the story. Thankfully though, this time the dialogue and interrelationships between the counsellors is much improved. You can actually buy the connections between them and they are able to convey the lust or love they are feeling a lot better in this film. This is equally down to an improved script and also the fact that the film is generally quite well acted. I really liked the ending to this film. There were some really original moments that actually worked, especially the ‘child psychology’ bits. It was good to see something new. I was also pretty excited to learn that the next film in the series is a straight sequel to this film, because the ending genuinely did leave me wanting more. Turns out I won’t have the same dread of putting part III on as I did with this film.
Oftentimes with sequels to successful low budget films, you find they are rushed out to cash in on the success of the first and there are no improvements in terms of production values. Whilst you can still see that this is a cheap film, there is a definite step up in terms of the production. There is a lot of tight in camerawork used that helps to create a heap of atmosphere. You are always wondering what lies just beyond the edge of the frame, which is really effective. Unfortunately though, the film still relies on cheap ‘jump’ scares, rather than building to the kills through actual narrative, like better horror films do. Perhaps this will change in the series going forward, given that the identity of the killer is really set in stone now and there is not as much need to keep a sense of mystery around that fact. Most of the film takes place in a pretty stock standard camp setting, but there are small amounts of really cool set design in this as well, another improvement on the first film. The grimy, decrepit, homemade vibe of Jason’s shanty style shack in the forest looks great and like a place you would most certainly not want to find yourself. The score continues to riff on Psycho (1960), indeed there are again multiple allusions to Hitch’s film in this one, but overall it is better than the first, helping to set the tone and hitting all of the right beats.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is a marked improvement over the first film and a rare franchise entry that actually leaves you both satisfied and hanging out for the next film. It is still not a particularly scary film at all, but much improved writing and a slightly more committed approach to building a plot made this a far less boring watch than its predecessor.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
Just like with the Nightmare on Elm Street films, I will be keeping an updated ranking with links to the earlier reviews:
1. Friday the 13th Part 2
2. Friday the 13th