When I first wanted to check out the Friday the 13th series in the early ’00s, the first film wasn’t available on DVD yet. When I scoured the racks of the Edinburgh branch of HMV (online shopping wasn’t a big thing yet in those days!), I could only ever find Parts 2 and 3. As such, it’s Part 2 that was the one I watched over and over in my late teens.
We start with a kid splashing in puddles and singing Itsy Bitsy Spider horribly out of tune. His mother calls him inside, hopefully to remove him from the public domain forever for offences to music. The puddles are then splashed through by a grown man’s feet with some accompanying ominous music, so we assume this is Jason Voorhees (who’s the killer in this film – that’s not exactly a secret, so let’s go with it from the off). He approaches a building with a lit window.
Inside, Alice from the first film is having flashbacks to the events of Part 1, meaning the filmmakers get to reuse a whole load of footage. It’s mainly about Mrs Voorhees telling the story of Jason. We also get a repeat of the Jason-out-of-the-water scare just to drive the point home.
Alice wakes up and the phone rings – it’s her mother trying to get her to move nearer home (presumably – we only hear Alice’s side of the conversation). Alice is painting scary paintings, which is a nice callback to the hobby that was mentioned once and then forgotten about in Part 1. She goes for a shower and there’s some ominous POV shots of someone stalking around the house. The phone rings again, but the line goes dead as Alice answers. We then get a tense sequence, with Alice realising someone is there and grabbing a knife, culminating in a classic cat-jumps-out moment. Miaow! Alice puts the knife down, which is a bad idea. Deciding to feed the cat, she finds Mrs Voorhees’ head in the fridge and gets killed with the discarded knife. The cat miaows again, still wanting food, because cats don’t care if you’ve got problems like being dead. Jason, for some reason, then takes the boiling kettle off the hob (insert standard complaint about Americans ignoring the highly useful invention of the electric kettle – Wikipedia tells me this is due to voltage differences) to stop it whistling before leaving. Roll opening credits!
There are loads of actors credited in this film – the Friday the 13th series became notorious for an increasingly high body count with every entry.
Starting the story proper, Jeff and Sandra are driving to the camp in an obnoxiously big truck – they’re sort of the Jack and Marcie of this entry (complete with a friend called Ted, rather than Ned), except they’re more idiotic, and neither of them are played by a future big star. Crazy Ralph shows up while they’re on the phone to Ted and says they’re doomed – nice to see he’s still parroting the same stuff from the first film. Ted pulls a prank by getting a friend to tow Jeff’s truck round the corner, which is not really relevant to anything else but is a nice character touch. It’s shown to be a lovely enticing summer day as they drive to the camp – when they come across a fallen branch and have to get out of the truck to move it, Sandra says, ‘This place is spooky,’ but there’s nothing that really indicates that’s the case at this point. However, exploring the roadside, she finds a sign for Camp Crystal Lake. Ted, who knows all about the camp due to being an assistant for the project, says they don’t want to hear about ‘Camp Blood’. As they drive off, we see Jason watching from the woods.
Cut to chief counselor Paul ringing a bell, and we see lots of counselors wandering up to the main cabin, telling the viewer who’s going to be flirting with whom. This is apparently a counselor training camp – all the counselors have worked at camps before. We see Crazy Ralph on his bike as a backfiring car goes past, driven by Ginny, who soon arrives at camp with her car still backfiring away. Paul is angry about her being late, and there’s some really corny dialogue here (‘I promise I will never, ever be late for anything ever again’), which stands out in a film where the dialogue is generally written very well. Ginny turns out to be Paul’s girlfriend as well as his assistant, ’cause that’s not a professional conflict of interest at all. She’s also a graduate student doing child psychology, which is important later.
‘Put your car in the lot, okay? This place is starting to look like a Burger King,’ says Paul to Ginny when they get back to the meeting. ‘Where was I?’
‘You were about to give your “let’s keep our s**t together” speech,’ replies Ted, who’s probably one of the best characters in this film. Paul’s speech includes the bear-avoiding advice that ‘if you’re a woman, don’t use perfume, and keep clean during your menstrual cycle,’ which I’ve always found as awkward as the female counselors listening to the speech obviously do.
That night, around the campfire, Paul tells a scary story about Jason Voorhees, complete with Ted jumping out in a mask to scare everyone at the end, in order to get it ‘out of our system’. ‘The second act needs work,’ Ginny says to Paul.
Paul’s story reveals that this film is set five years after the first one, which leads to the same timeline problem as the five-year setting gap between the made-one-year-apart first and second Nightmare on Elm Street films. Similarly to the way you can’t convince anyone who’s familiar with ’80s fashions and decor that films made in 1984 and 1985 with contemporary costuming and set design are actually set five years apart, you also can’t do this with films made in 1980 and 1981. As I explained in my post on the first Friday the 13th, the date given onscreen confirmed it was set in 1980, meaning this one is supposed to be 1985, but as ever, nobody’s crystal ball is powerful enough to predict future fashions, so the clothes and hairstyles in this film are all emphatically 1981.
However, this story is much tighter than the first and zips along really nicely, so I think this is actually the better film story-wise.
After the campfire, there’s a good party atmosphere back at the main cabin, although Muffin the dog sees Jason out of the window and is not impressed. Ginny beats Paul at chess and is so bored she decides to go to bed. Meanwhile, Sandra, dancing with Jeff, tells him that she wants to sneak off to go and see ‘Camp Blood’.
While getting ready for bed, Ginny hears a noise outside her cabin, but it turns out to be Paul, wanting to join her. Crazy Ralph is watching them creepily from beside a tree, but suddenly gets garrotted by Jason (which is a shame, as he could have livened up all the other parts of this franchise).
The next day, Mark, a wheelchair-using counselor, is making the most of not having to take part in the group run by criticising everybody else’s performance. Muffin wanders off and bumps into Jason’s feet, which doesn’t seem to be a good sign.
At the lunchtime barbeque, Terry, Muffin’s owner, is wandering around looking around for her, but is easily distracted by Ted announcing that the food’s ready. Poor Muffin deserves better! There’s then an obligatory everyone-goes-swimming-and-sunbathing scene at the lake, but Sandra drags Jeff off to see ‘Camp Blood’. Jason is wandering around in the same area, so you kind of expect them to get offed for being idiots at this point, but instead they find a dead animal, possibly a dog but it’s too mangled for them to be sure, and then get caught by a policeman.
Back at the camp, having delivered the hapless Jeff and Sandra, the policeman tells Paul he ‘should have located in the next county’, which to be fair is true, but Paul doesn’t take much notice. On the drive back, the policeman sees Jason running across the road and chases him. He finds a hut with something appalling in it, but gets immediately killed (we don’t see what he sees).
That night, most counselors go off on a final night on the town before the training starts properly, but a few stay behind to watch the camp (the partygoers only seem to have access to Ginny’s car and Jeff’s truck, so Paul says there’s not enough room for everyone to go). There’s some tedious pairing-off stuff with Jeff and Sandra heading upstairs to work off their hard day of rules-disobeying and Mark playing some kind of primitive electronic game with fellow counselor Vickie.
Terry, while out looking for Muffin again, randomly decides to go skinny dipping. Another counselor, Scott, is being a gross perv and steals her clothes while she’s in the water. However, while running away, he gets caught in a classic rope trap and starts yelling for help. ‘I ought to let you hang, you pervert,’ says Terry, but eventually agrees to go get a knife to cut him down. However, Scott gets killed while hanging in the trap. Terry finds him dead and starts screaming, but immediately seemingly meets up with Jason (her death’s not shown and we never see her corpse, so maybe she ran away and survived – who knows?)
Cut to the party bar in the nearby town, which is a real early ’80s small-town Americana bar with people in cowboy hats, a band playing in Hawaiian shirts, lots of beer bottles everywhere, and a drunk Ted hitting on the barmaid. Ginny lowers the mood by speculating about the resident maniac. ‘What if there is a Jason?’ She starts child psychoanalysing, but Paul and Ted just think she’s drunk.
‘I’ll be right back,’ says Vickie to Mark, breaking Scream‘s Rule 3, and goes to change into a highly seductive big ’80s jumper (those things are wonderful and cosy, but I would not describe them as sexy) and put on tons of perfume, contrary to Paul’s advice earlier about not attracting bears. She then goes out to her car to look for something in her underwear, which is annoying for two reasons: (a) female characters in this series are always wandering outside in their underwear for no reason; and (b) the counselors did have access to at least one other car, so that excuse for not taking everyone along to the bar doesn’t fly!
A classic Friday the 13th thunderstorm starts up, and so Mark goes out to look for Vickie, presumably worried she’ll get soaked. Unfortunately, he gets a machete to the face for his trouble.
Jason then picks up Ted’s spear from earlier. Why on earth did Ted have a real spear? It was only meant to be a joke prop to scare people at the campfire! Anyway, it gives Jason a two-for-one spearing opportunity on the post-coital Sandra and Jeff.
Meanwhile, Ginny and Paul decide to go back to camp. Ted asks some locals about after-hours places nearby, indicating that the rest of the counselors are going to be out all night.
Vickie comes looking for Mark, but only finds a bunch of corpses. There’s then a really annoying scene where Jason approaches her with a knife and she doesn’t even try to run, just letting him kill her instead! We do however get a good creepy dragging-the-body-down-the-stairs shot after this.
Ginny and Paul arrive back at camp and find it deserted. ‘Paul, they wouldn’t have left the place like this,’ says Ginny, despite only having known the counselors for a day or so. Paul has more pressing concerns. ‘These kids smoke better dope than I do,’ he says, on finding someone’s discarded joint.
Upstairs, they find some blood-covered bedsheets, but Paul still thinks nothing out of the ordinary’s going on. The power is out, but the rain’s stopping, so he suggests they go look for everyone else. However, Ginny realises there’s someone else in the room, and Paul is attacked and knocked out. Jason shows his not-super-scary pillowcase face, and Ginny runs away.
There’s then a very, very long chase sequence, a really classic ‘final girl’ example. These long sequences are quite characteristic of Friday the 13th movies, where there’s often a good twenty minutes of the last surviving character trying to evade the killer. We get all the cliches during this sequence – the killer suddenly smashing through a window, the victim playing find-the-body, a car that won’t start (although at least this plot point has been seeded properly in this film!), the killer attacking the victim in the car, and one of my favourites, a chainsaw that runs out of fuel before the person wielding it can properly kill the killer!
There’s also a horrible scene with Ginny having to avoid making any noise while hiding, even though some rats are scurrying right in front of her face! I have an awful phobia of rodents, and I would probably have wet myself too. Truth. Unfortunately, Ginny’s fear puddle is noticed by Jason, so she’s not out of the woods yet (no pun intended).
Escaping through the woods, Ginny finds the hut where the policeman was killed earlier. It’s a creepy shrine with Mrs Voorhees’ shrivelled head and old jumper, which Jason has presumably looted from her grave (or possibly grabbed five years ago before the authorities found the body). Ginny uses her child psychology knowledge to pretend to be Mrs Voorhees, meaning we get Betsy Palmer playing the real Mrs Voorhees again as we’re shown what’s going on in Jason’s confused mind. Unfortunately it only works for so long, as he sees his mother’s head behind Ginny before she can kill him, and stabs her in the leg. However, Paul shows up and attacks Jason before he can kill Ginny. Between the two of them, they seemingly manage to kill him (complete with a reprise of the Mrs Voorhees beheading music from Part 1), and Paul carries Ginny back to camp.
Back in Ginny’s cabin, there’s a scary noise at the door, but it turns out to be the not-dead-after-all Muffin in a very silly, cheesy scene that is only mitigated by Jason smashing through the window to grab Ginny in Part 2’s version of the Jason-out-of-the-water scare (pretty much all the entries in the series have a version of this scare, which obviously gets less and less effective as the series goes on).
The next morning, Ginny is driven off in an ambulance, but it’s not clear whether Paul or Muffin (or indeed Terry!) have survived. Roll credits.
I still stand by this film being better than Part 1. A tighter story, better characters, and Jason taking over as the killer. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series sometime soon, as there are a couple of them I’ve not seen!
Back to the old stuff tomorrow.